Greetings to all!

Sorry for the long update; frankly speaking I've had a few issues with both this chapter and with life. I won't bore you with the details, just know that I'm still alive and aim to please all those who are looking forward to this piece of work I created. Anyways, enough of this, on with chapter 10 of A Certain World of Darkness!

This was supposed to be a cut-and-dry assignment; easy money for them and with few problems. That had been what their backer had stated, what they were all implied to believe, what should have been. She knew better though, how could she not after surviving this gritty side of the world for so long? She, of course, wasn't alone in thinking that; instinctively all of ITEM should have known that there was more to this situation than just a random group of Espers causing mayhem. They all knew it; they were all subconsciously pondering the deeper purpose behind the scenes, but did not vocally question it aloud. Paranoia wasn't the reason for their reluctance; hesitance wasn't what was maintaining their silence. It was because delving deeper into the black void that made up this world not yield a good outcome, nor would it serve any real purpose.

There was no reward for curiosity, all that would be gained from that was death or a fate far worse than it.

No fool would willingly jump into that, or at least no one whom she knew of personally. Self-preservation took precedence before anything else; and while many would deny such a statement, it didn't make it any less true. Many would say the lives of others stand before their own, but such a belief was quick to be overturned once it became clear that their lives were in jeopardy. It was a hypocritical belief, one she had watch time and again crumble in the instant that death stared them in the face. She, of course, was no exception to this rule herself really. It was human nature to preserve one's existence from being extinguished by another and she felt no shame in admitting that she was willing to do whatever it took to maintain her existence in this world for as long as possible.

Unashamed to admitting that, indignity was not the primary reason she never openly spoke about it. She personally didn't care about something so petty as honor or respect, so those reasons were not the cause of her unwillingness to speak. No, it was out of pure fear that ensured her silence regarding this matter, the fear of losing her life should a certain individual ever discover how far she was willing to go to stay alive. Was that desire to survive worth being killed for? In the eyes of a certain person; yes, it was more than reason enough to have her killed for. Trust was a difficult thing to obtain, it was even harder to maintain once it is given; and once that trust is lost than it is nearly impossible to regain. However, in this life, trust was something that was not given to just anyone; you only had yourself to depend on and trusting others would only end with a knife in your back.

It was trust in yourself and your instincts which kept you alive in this world; anything more and you were just plain gullible and an easy target to those who would manipulate you to do more than just grunt work.

For that reason, when ITEM's provided means of transportation had reached its destination, skepticism was clearly seen on the blonde girl garbed in black as she stepped out of the vehicle and surveyed her surroundings. The tall multi-level building that the truck had parked in front of stood proudly in her visage, her blue eyes only taking in the minimal amount of details for the sake of gaining some useful information that would benefit her. Though, the place she was planning to enter from was not the main entrance; rather it was a maintenance entrance for staff who worked inside the building. Usually, these doors were always locked or required a key or even a swipe-card to gain entry and always had a camera surveying the entrance.

Said camera was no longer functioning if the smoke it was emitting due to fried circuitry was of any indication. The door leading into the building was also ajar, though not due to someone being careless in leaving it open. Her proof appearing in the form of a large dent that was present next to the locking mechanism on the door. While it was true that just about anyone could break down these doors if they were an Esper, it still troubled her that there was no form of indication as to what was used to break in. Nothing within the area was solid enough to allow a dent of that size to be formed from just hitting a sturdy metal door like this. From what she was currently looking at, it would seem as though someone had hit it with a sledge-hammer; but the likelihood of that being what caused this seemed unlikely.

What she was able to conclude from this was that, whoever did this, did not use a subtle method for breaking in. That meant that someone inside the facility had disabled the alarm system that would have otherwise been blaring due to the forced entry. What bothered her, however, was that she hadn't received a status report from Mugino or Takitsubo yet. This made her curious and, at the same time, made her wonder if was more to what ITEM had originally been told about this group. Frenda was already aware that they had little to no information regarding ORDER or what they were capable of, but being left in the dark about certain details happened all the time in their line of work. It wouldn't have been too far outside the realm of possibility that their backer was keeping things from them; she was a member among the Board of Directors after all.

So what could she be hiding from them; what kind of crucial information could have been tucked away that could jeopardize this entire job's overall success?

Frenda didn't know, nor was she willing to chalk up the lack of information given due to lack of knowledge on the liaison part. She may be narrow-minded at times, she may act unprofessional and make mistakes, but she wasn't a damn fool either. Something was wrong with this situation, something that she didn't like and was half tempted to call Mugino to try and convince her to pry more information out of the person who was backing them. But, after pondering the pros and cons of that, she deduced that calling Mugino over that would not be a wise choice to make until more evidence of foul play was gained. Thus, when she approached the door, she cautiously peeked her head in and surveyed the interior before making her way inside.

The maintenance area was mainly filled with massive generators and several fuse boxes which powered the facility, electrical equipment, and security system. Even with casual observation, Frenda was able to take note that none of the circuitry was damaged; meaning nothing had been shut down since entry. Of course, she wasn't the best person in the world to ask in regards as to how electrical systems functioned, so she wasn't too willing to mess with anything in this area. However, just because she didn't know how they worked didn't mean she couldn't inspect them to see if any of them had been tampered with. Of course, checking them all was not option if the intruders were already inside the building, so she checked what she assumed were the vital fuse-boxes; finding nothing amiss amongst those she had checked.

Performing these actions did not quell her skepticism in the slightest though; if anything it heightened her caution even more. ORDER's goal was known to them, so it would explain why they wouldn't wish for the power of the facility to go out. Even if she were to shut down the entire building, the windmills which powered most of the city would kick in and reboot anything anyway; not to mention that a facility of this size and possessing significant importance would have back-up generators somewhere else.

Clearly ORDER had thought this out more thoroughly than ITEM had anticipated.

"Basically, setting up traps won't solve much if their already inside." Grumbled Frenda to herself, sighing as her hand reached for the small pistol that was hidden at the small of her back and hidden beneath her clothes. "At the very least, I can use the tape; so it's not a complete-"

Before the statement could be completed, something in the air had been detected as she breathed. It was a scent, a very familiar scent at that, of something that no one her age should normally be familiar with. Due to the amount of lighting in this particular area, it would not be difficult to locate the source of the smell, thus she hastened her pace; the pistol she had been reaching for now firmly in her hand as she paced forward. Blue eyes darted in every direction as she moved, her ears listening out for even the slightest disturbance, and her nose slowly leading her towards the source of the odor. She only needed to walk eight feet before she saw it; the small indention about half an inch in diameter with a small hole directly in the center of it. The shell casing that was laying lifelessly on the ground only further proved what she already knew; and that was someone had fired a gun recently.

Once she reached a certain point in her advancement, her blue eyes eventually fell onto the person whom had most likely fired the shot. Said owner was lying on his stomach on the ground, his attire consisting of a black suit that was unfitting for the location he was located in. It was clear that he was dead, but the evidence that lead to that immediate conclusion wasn't based on blood; rather it was the unnatural angle of his head. Killed by breaking his neck; a simple yet effective means to eliminate a hostile obstacle without creating too much of a disturbance. This only further proved that this had been the intruders point of entry into the facility and would have been a effective means to entering undetected had the gun-shot not gone off. Had she been normal, a clear indication of murder would have left her a panicking mess of a person. But, as indicated by her actions reaching to this point, she was not and thus only viewed the body as just another nuisance that needed to be cleaned up once the job was over.

At face value, he would have appeared to have been just a victim who was at wrong place at the wrong time, but she wasn't chalking anything up to circumstance or coincidence. Someone who was dressed in the manner that he was should not have been here, thus leading her to assume he belonged to a private party of some sort hired for this job. In addition to this, Academy City followed the same anti-gun laws as Japan, meaning civilians weren't even legally allow to hold a gun, much less possess one. The only firearms that were legally allowed to possess rifles and shotguns, and even that took no small amount of time and paper work to sift through in order to get it.

That only meant one of two things; either a member of ORDER had misfired, which was unlikely, or this man was a part of an independent party; which was obvious at this point. After all, the liaison had stated that ITEM would be providing assistance to keep ORDER from their objectives, so the man here could have very well been a part of that group which they were to assist. But, despite all of this, one question still remained at the forefront of Frenda's mind; something which made her reach for the phone in her skirt-pocket.

"Basically, why hasn't Mugino called yet?"

As Frenda flipped the mobile device open to call the individual in question, a sudden and startling noise erupted not far from her current position. The noise in question was yet another familiar element to this world, one that should not have honestly invoked surprise upon hearing it. To be fair, however, it was mainly due to how sudden it was that caused her to jerk at attention. Once the initial shock died away, a soft-spoken curse slipped off her tongue as she quickened her pace towards the source of the disturbance.

Said disturbance was gunfire, and it was coming from the floor above her; which confirmed that ORDER was indeed present and being pursued at this very moment.

During the course of these assignments, it was required to expect abnormalities to present themselves at any time and from any place. It was required to adjust to changing conditions that may or may not occur on just about any job which was assigned to them. One may label these things as common sense, or maybe refer to them as a rule when one thrives in this life. The over-all success and survival rate drastically increased once one is capable of adjust their plans accordingly when things grow in intensity due to unexpected alternations that occur. Of course this wasn't an easy task to perform without experience; as a hastily made decision can ultimately lead to disastrous consequences that could potentially cost a person their life. Despite this, it was inevitable that someone somewhere may have perished as a result of that lacking experience or poor judgment, but that was the price one paid to gain experience in the long run.

The only sure-fire way to get something right is to get it wrong and reflect on those mistakes so as to avoid making them again in the future.

While exceptions to this did exist, the fact remained that those exceptions were too few in number and thus disregarded by the majority.

Mugino herself wasn't one of those exceptions, nor would she ever have claimed to have been to anyone who was daring enough to ask. She fumbled in the past, she made mistakes, poor decisions; but in the long run those failures are was lead to her eventual success. She wasn't a veteran soldier, she wasn't a tactical genius, but if circumstances allowed it she could re-devise her tactics to befit the situation accordingly. But that was only if circumstances called for it, if the situation was dire enough to warrant her to revise her plans to such an extent. It couldn't be said that occurrences like those were rare in number, rather she was often fond of changing things to sate her murderous tendencies. What was rare when it concerned adjusting her plans was her calling for support; which usually never bode well if all members of ITEM were called in to handle a situation. In the event that she would openly call for all the members of her group to converge on a single objective or target, any could guess of the severity of the situation and how quickly things could escalate should they not heed her call.

While this current situation wasn't as dire, Mugino was still at a disadvantage; something she was not pleased about in the slightest.

When she and Rikou first arrived at the facility nearly fifteen minutes ago, things had been relatively quiet. The militia that ITEM had come to 'assist' during this assignment had already set up a perimeter defense outside and evacuated everyone inside the facility. Essentially, the staff had long since been taken out of the equation and the interior was devoid of all life aside from those who were sent to guard it. All wore black suits with, each most likely baring protective gear underneath the attire; otherwise they would be considered fairly useless given their task and who they were up against. While it may have seemed rather petty and disorganized, the independent group was surprisingly well fortified and handled the situation like trained professional military force. She still pegged them all as cannon-fodder, but at least they knew what they were doing so she tolerated it. Because of the risk which could possibly surface during the course of this assignment, Takitsubo had been tasked to stay with her for protection and to provide information on their target's location whenever they arrived.

With the threat of other Espers being their targets, it was easy to assume that the best protection against them would be to have one in your company. Given the severity of the situation, leaving ITEM's tracker with a bunch of normal armed men and women, regardless of how professional they were, would not suffice.

As preparation neared completion and unaffiliated personnel was removed, all that remained was for Frenda to arrive and set up her own countermeasures for their 'guest's' arrival.

But, in the span of fifteen minutes, everything simply fell apart in a manner which Mugino could not have predicted.

For it had started with a single, distant, shot from a gun on the ground floor. That single bullet soon escalated into several more, though not a single person reported to have eliminated the hostile target. Security-feeds reported the intruder's location; but each time a group went to intercept them, the invading party would change their course to avoid them. The action itself wasn't entirely a problem, as the amount of armed individuals clearly outmatched the member's of ORDER significantly. What became a problem was that they continuously destroyed the security cameras wherever they went, slowly but surely making the security footage that was being monitored useless as time passed. Not only that, but it seemed that they were purposely remaining on the lower floors, backtracking through blind-spots created by destroying cameras and picking off anyone who they intercepted along the way before advancing up a floor.

The largest issue, however, came from a rather unusual source and the sole individual responsible for many of the mercenary's deaths whenever they tried to approach. The individual in question was a girl who was dressed like a track runner and was moving through the area on, what was reported to be, roller-skates. When reports of this reached her, she had honestly believed that someone was joking; but this notion was conclusive as she briefly witnessed the girl pass behind her.

It became perfectly clear she nor anyone in this building wasn't as prepared as they had originally thought; hence the mild annoyance. For even when Takitsubo had informed her that the girl's location was near, she had been unable to successfully hit her target. The fact that the girl had avoided it was troublesome; the fact that she did so as if knowing the attack was coming only made it unsettling. In that brief time-frame in which the two crossed paths, Mugino had been unable to successfully eliminate the hostile force. To make matters worse, pursuit was impossible given the pace which the girl was moving at. Roller-skates could not make a person that fast, not fast enough to travel down a long corridor in less time than it took for her to reach the corner while running. By the time Mugino had rounded the said corner, the girl was gone with the only traces of her being there being the skid-marks on the marble floor in the hallway. Rikou's report that she wasn't hiding in one of the office rooms solidified the assumption that ORDER had this building's layout memorized almost flawlessly.

To that, Mugino could not deny that this situation was not working in their favor; especially since ORDER was already killing off several of the armed forces which ranged from around twenty-five to thirty-two people. ORDER knew the building as like the back of their hands, they knew where to go to avoid the armed forces, and they knew where nearly every security camera was located. They thought this out, they were using their knowledge to the fullest; so much so that it was almost as if they were toying with them as they picked off their opposition one person at a time. In less than fifteen minutes since their arrival, seventeen of the armed unit who was sent here had been killed.

Though, Mugino did notice something about this group and the girl whom they had seen had been doing. From the moment ORDER was reported inside the building, Mugino had been constantly receiving information regarding the member's location via the small hands-free communication device in her ear or from Takitsubo herself. Yet, aside from that brief moment with the girl on the roller-skates, they had not encountered a single person from the invading party. Whenever they were reported to be near her, they would unexpectedly alter their route the moment they reached a certain proximity of herself and Rikou. Of course, it didn't take someone of her or Rikou's IQ to understand the meaning or the purpose behind this action. Mugino Shizuri was, after-all, a well known figure in the gritty underworld of this city and ITEM was a group that pretty much everyone knew of who was submerged in it as well.

ORDER was avoiding any sort of contact with her; most likely due to being aware of her status as the #4 Level 5 in Academy City.

A wise decision on their part, as taking out smaller and tedious targets first would serve a greater purpose in completing their object than to fend against her and risk failing to achieve their goal. She could only assume they were prolonging the inevitable conflict with her for as long as possible; dealing with her only when they no other choice but to retaliate against her. That method would be the course she would choose herself if she was in their shoes, so it was a logical assessment in her mind. That awareness, however, did little to relieve her ire as she continued to pursue her target's as more gunshots were fired in the distance. She had been following Rikou's directions since she was the only person around who could give accurate information portraying to ORDER's current whereabouts with all the security cameras being destroyed on this floor.

She was half tempted to bring down the entire building if it meant she could be rid of these annoying pests who could flawlessly avoid her to this degree.

"...There's a signal on the floor below us," One wouldn't think of it by looking at her, but despite all the running they were doing in this job, Takitsubo was doing a good job at keeping up with Mugino's pace and not appearing completely exhausted; though she was a bit winded from the amount of exercise she was getting today. "…I think it's Frenda."

"You think or you know; which is it?" Mugino's tone, though filled with mild annoyance, did bare a bit of concern within it as she regarded the girl running beside her as they gradually came to a stop for the moment. While it most certainly wasn't the most heartwarming way of addressing her comrade, it was very hard to blame her given how things had spiraled out of control in such little time.

"I'm not sure…" The vacant response which Takitsubo responded with didn't help matters either, given that her ability was not as precise as it could be at the moment. There was a means to remedy that lack of precision, but that would not all that necessary at the moment. They could only do so much damage to this facility and Mugino was still confident that they could take care of this problem without having to reveal their aces just yet. "…do you want me to call her?"

Instead of responding directly, Mugino chose to retort to the girl's inquiry by clicking her tongue as she reached into her pocket to retrieve her phone and quickly dialed the number. Since the phone was still new, she had neglected to set up her speed-dial function to all the members of ITEM; having been too distracted with the events going on around them at the time. As time consuming as it was, she was still glad she had gotten a replacement before all of this had occurred. Her number was the same, her contacts had been transferred over to the new device, so nothing was lost and no one among the group would have to change her number on their phones either.

But, in spite of that, Frenda seemed to be taking her time in answering her call; having gone through almost three ringing cycles before she had finally decided to answer.

"Frenda, what the hell are you doing?" Even though Mugino's patience was being tested more than she liked today, her tone was still relatively calm so long as those hearing it excluded the faint traces of annoyance in it as she spoke. "Now is not the time for you to be screwing around. I need you upstairs ASAP, take out the stairs leading on your way u-"

"Um..M-Mugino-san." Normally the interruption would have erected a lengthy verbal lashing from her given her state of annoyance, regardless of how well she was doing in hiding it in her tone. But usual conditions didn't apply when she was faced with a situation where, having called a specific individual, someone else answered in their steed. This person's voice certainly wasn't that of Frenda's, in fact the voice was actually someone whom she had recently come to know of within the past week. It was during that same and brief moment of confusion which allowed the person on the opposite end to finish speaking. "This may be a bad time to mention this but, um, I may have…accidentally grabbed the wrong phone when I left earlier."

She couldn't see his face, but she was sure if she had he would be looking rather sheepish at the moment.

If he could see her own expression, he would find himself fearing for his life given how her annoyance had practically skyrocketed to greater heights.

"Kaaamiiiiijouuuuu!" Growled out the young woman, her phone currently head in a manner similar to that of someone being throttled; which was most likely the action she would have taken had the boy in question been present. "I was wrong; you are definitely an annoying little pest! Calling you a rodent was giving you more credit than you deserve!"

"I knew it; I shouldn't have answered the call."

"I can still hear you, so stop sounding like some tired old man you fucking piss-ant!"

Had circumstances been different, the scene could have been a rather humorous one to look at from a distance. More than anything, one would feel relieved to have not been on the receiving end of Mugino's words at this given moment. Of course, anyone would want to avoid upsetting her in the first place given her reputation, but it could still be viewed with mild amusement if viewed from a certain perspective. Admittedly, though appearing in a daze half the time, Takitsubo would have possibly given an indication to such amusement had Mugino and herself not been busy with a job at the moment. In spite of that awareness, the girl in the track suit could not help but note how easily the girl had been aggravated just from hearing Kamijou's voice.

Perhaps it wasn't him though; maybe he was just the trigger that had caused her to finally snap?

But that was an answer she doubted she would receive any time in the future. As things were, they had a job to do and her mind was still trying to work her head around the fact that Kamijou had Frenda's phone. It wasn't so much of her eavesdropping on Mugino's conversation, but more so the volume on her new phone was at its maximum and thus allowed her to hear what was being said from the person on the opposite end of the line.

"Bah, I don't have time for this." Frustrated and her patience growing past its exceeded limit, Mugino clicked her tongue as she re-adjusted her hands so as not to appear to be choking the device nor run the risk of breaking it with her bare hands….again. "If you have her phone, hurry up and give me your number now!"


"Do you always need someone to repeat themselves!? Are you really that fucking slow you fucking pest!?"

"Mugino-san?" Attest to moments ago, Touma honestly sounded confused when he spoke. It wasn't the same level of confusion as someone who had misheard a statement. Rather, it was on a level of curiosity that was befitting to someone who hadn't heard the statement at all. "Hello, can you hear me?"

"What the hell are you playing at now? Of course I can hea-"

"I'm….-othing but stati….-ino-san?"

Pulling the phone was again away from her ear, she stared hard at the screen of her phone to determine the signal strength. Such a thing should not have been necessary, as they were in a communication facility in District 15, the district which primarily focused in communications and mass-media. As it turned out, however, the signal was slowly growing weaker and weaker as the seconds ticked by; something which made her glance over at Takitsubo. No verbal commands were spoken, yet Rikou already knew what was being asked of her. As her hand went to retrieve her own mobile device, she scanned the immediate area for any indications on this floor portraying to their target's current whereabouts. She could faintly detect one person within the area moving at a specific pace while another three signatures could be found in a stationary position; though only two of them seemed to have stayed together. In that span of time, she silently opened her phone to view her settings and noted that her device was also loosing its signal strength with each passing second.


She didn't even bother to answer, mainly because he wouldn't hear her anymore at this point anyway. For that reason, Mugino's phone was snapped shut before pocketing the devise and tapping on the small device within her ear. When nothing but static filled her ear, she could do nothing but guess as to what was causing these problems. Someone was jamming their signals from inside the facility; that much went without saying really. Whether or not it was just the phones or all their equipment was unknown; given that their target's could have taken down the remaining armed forces inside the building. Regardless of what the issue at hand was, one thing was still very clear to her right now.

ORDER was not as green as the girl's had expected.

Even so, regardless of how annoyed she was with the situation, she was slowly growing more interested in this little group of Espers. They proved to be competent in spite of the very little knowledge about them; having already taken out a majority of their opposition in less than half an hour. That warranted her attention to say the least, but not enough to merit leveling the building over. That was the fundamental difference between killing normal people and killing Espers. Normal people would automatically resign themselves and would be instantly be suffocated by their own fear. With an Esper, you could always expect a bit more defiance in them than in a Level 0; for they always had a bit more resolve to either survive or kill her. It was just fulfilling to see that resolve in their eyes during those moments and equally satisfying to watch it vanish when all their efforts proved to be in vain. Witnessing that was the true thrill of these jobs and acted as the real reward she savored in these assignments; not the money.

"Someone's approaching..."

At that, Mugino's attention returned back to the situation at hand as her attention went back towards Rikou as she stared blankly in the direction the person was approaching from. Again, while there was a means to improve her tracking abilities, the costs for excessive use was not a preferable option at the moment. While most members that made up ITEM were disposable if necessary, regardless of how unfortunate their loss would be, Rikou was someone who's talents were worth preserving for as long as possible. Trackers were easy to attain easily enough, even if their accuracy was lousy or limited to only one field. Takitsubo, however, was not only accurate but also capable of much more when her ability was used to its fullest. The only issue was that, achieving this gradually deteriorated her health and made her more reliant on it for her ability to surface. Mugino may care less about the girl, but there was a time and place for these things and, regardless of how bad the situation could become, she couldn't find it in herself to go that far just yet.

Having a general idea of the approaching individual's location via following Rikou's line of vision, Mugino chose to continue her advancement down the corridor. The heels of her boots clacking as her foot-falls echoed through the vacant hallway as she moved, whilst the beginnings of a smile gradually began to surface on her lips. The knowledge that someone amongst the individual's present in this building had finally taken the inititive to confront her could not have excited her more. While some would be formulating a strategy when dealing with an unknown opponent, she had no real reason nor desire to do so.

She was Academy City's #4 Level 5.

She was the Meltdowner.

Forming a complex strategy was only necessary when confronting an opponent that required such a thing. But let it not be said that she was mindlessly advancing into the unknown; that would be an insult to her character. Mugino was indeed planning something, but not a strategy to fend off this foe. What she was formulating was how she was to toy with this one, how far she should allow them to struggle before putting them out of their misery. Those were the musings of this particular young woman as she rounded the corner; with the only thing that could possibly ruin her mood being if the person approaching was Frenda.

That thought was dashed away into oblivion as a distant form was seen standing in the intersection in the far end of the right-side corridor. The person in question was a male and appeared to stand at an impressive height, not much taller than your average Japanese male, but still taller than what was commonly seen. He was not moving, his hands in the pockets of the faded jeans he was wearing while his half-lidded eyes stared back at her with an expression that was identical to Takitsubo's most of the time. His forest green colored T-shirt didn't appear to have any outlines underneath it, indicating that he wasn't wearing a bullet-proof vest underneath; though it was still hard to confirm given the distance between the two of them. Hell, the only real thing that stood out on the person facing her was that he was wearing a bulky pair of headphones over the messy mop-top medium length brown hair.

In spite of distance between the two of them, two sets of eyes found themselves staring back at the other. Wheither or not either party was aware of this was unknown, but what was known was that the person who stood on the opposite end of the spectrum was their enemy. One was based on assumption, while the other simply viewed everyone in this building as a threat, excluding the people that came with them. It didn't need to be said who the enemy was at this point, for each one was staring back at their respected targets in this very hallway. What neither party did, however, was react hastily. If anything, they were regarding this a bit too loosely considering the situation. One didn't wish to react while the other didn't feel inclined to; but both were intentionally stalling to see precisely who would be the first to make a move.

The first amongst the two of them to move was the young man across from her, though it was not in a hostile manner. Rather, he only moved his lips; yet despite being nearly thirty feet apart from one another, his voice was heard so clearly that he may as well have been standing next to her. His words had been simple, so simple that it was almost been a waste of air to utter them aloud. But he spoke them regardless in a tone that was easy to misinterpret for boredom; something which reminded her far too much of a certain other individual who used a tone similar to this person's. Unlike the boy who would remain nameless at the present moment, this person's tone bore with it not only an edge, but a feeling of indifference as he spoke those very simple words; thus the reason for her misinterpretation in the first place since both sounded largely the same.

Again, his words had been simple: his statement taking the form in a less-than-exuberant acknowledgment of her presence.

"Yo, Meltdowner…"

When it came down to it, jobs which often divided the group tended to end with one party feeling largely dissatisfied. Some jobs were more fulfilling than others sure, but like any other occupation there was always that one job everyone detests and does their best to avoid doing unless they are forced into it. You could complain to your heart's content, you could go against the orders and do what you pleased, but those actions ultimately had long-standing consequences that you would eventually need to be held accountable for. That was how things worked, that was the way everything in life worked; thus you were given two immediate options. Either you can suck it up and do the job or you can push those responsibilities onto someone who would do them in your steed. The latter, of course, hardly ever an option and quitting solved nothing thus it was an excluded choice.

With that being said, Kinuhata was often forced to choose the former given how irresponsible her co-worker could be at times. Outside of these assignments, Frenda was an okay person to be around so she had very few issues about her. They got along, they often bantered like any normal group of girls would do, and they both shared a few interests. But when it came to work, she saw the issues and the problems which were a direct result of Frenda's mishaps. A friend wouldn't say anything about it and ignore the faults; a good friend would tell you where you fucked up and how to amend the problem. It was similar to how Mugino often dealt with the blonde's mistakes, but handled in a much tamer manner than their Level 5 leader tended to do it.

Still, it had annoyed her to be stuck on, basically, guard duty until someone tried to invade. That had been the initial plan from the start, having already came to the conclusion that they would most likely target the research facility as well as the communications building. But all that had been intended by this portion of ITEM's assignment had been quickly shot to hell long after Frenda's departure from the research facility. Kinuhata, patient as she was in wait for the inevitable to occur, received a call from ITEM's backer and disclosed some rather troubling information that wasn't known during the briefing. Apparently, there was a project that had come before the prototype weapon she had was originally sent to guard. Ichijirou Yuuji's development plans wasn't just limited on heavy weaponry, but went to a much larger scale than previous imagined. Upon reflection, it made sense as to why he was selected to further develop the weapon she was sent to protect in the first place.

For he had already made a design for a different weapon; something much larger than a mere tool that any soldier with a working trigger-finger and decent aiming could use. Even if the project he had been working on was different in scale and functionality, it was still similar on a fundamental level. Ichijirou Yuuji's track record showed that he had taken part in a large-scale project that revolved around using white-light waves to produce a ground-based defensive countermeasure that could exceed past the earth's atmosphere. Missiles were largely considered useless against satellites from different countries eavesdropping on Academy City, so they had to create an alternative that was both effective and could easily be concealed within the city limits. Loosely translated, it meant that Ichijirou had played a part in developing a solar-powered laser used to eliminate any threat to the security of keeping all information of Academy City's technology from being leaked.

The project had been referred to as Limelight and was located within District 23 where most of the astronomic research was performed.

What made gaining this information so vital was that the facility which was used to operate that device was under siege. Privately armed groups had already reported that the security officer at the front gate had been shot and killed. That part didn't bother either female at all really; but what was troubling was that reports continuously stated that it was a single individual who was practically decimating the entire building; no one else aside from him was sighted meaning that it was someone working alone. Knowledge of that was what disturbed her, not so much for the fact that it was impossible, as she had done several similar jobs in the past. Rather, it seemed far too reckless of an action to proceed with unless properly prepared.

Evidently, that wasn't a problem for the individual who had broken into the facility; having been well prepared to handle whatever that was thrown at them with stride. Whatever his purpose there was, it was clear to all parties involved that he wasn't there for the sake of causing a little domestic disturbance. He was there to use Limelight, this much there was no doubt in anyone's mind at all. How he would go about using it was anyone's guess, but that was his intention and that was something that could not be ignored. Hence the reason she had been told to head to the facility herself; something that was taking far longer than either of the women would have liked. It couldn't be helped though, as there were few means to amend the issue of traveling from District 2 to 23 quickly given the distance between those two districts.

Saiai couldn't drive, her original method of transportation would take too long to return, and a public tram or a bus would take just as long to reach her destination.

Thankfully, the research facility she had previously been sent to protect was filled with adults who could drive. She didn't need anyone specific for the task, so she simply grabbed the nearest person she could find who owned a vehicle and demanded them to take her where she needed to go. That process had honestly saved her a lot of time in moving towards her destination, but at the cost of dealing with someone who was not affiliated with the job in the slightest. That mattered little in the grand scheme of things, so long as the lady providing the lift didn't ask too many questions regarding what was going on. That being said, when her phone received an incoming call, she had been skeptical in answering but ultimately decided that it was necessary.

"Kinuhata, what's your location." The girl in question didn't even have time to answer the mobile device properly before the woman's words immediately addressed the issue at hand. Saiai could understand given exactly how troublesome the situation was becoming, but it was still annoying nonetheless.

"I'm on the interstate right now, so I'll super be there soon if things hold up the way they are right now." Responded the girl, her eyes glancing over at the driver as she spoke. "What's super happening at the facility?"

"The conditions are getting worse; though I imagine you had already suspected it to go sour quickly." Informed the woman on the opposite end of the line; the tension evident in her tone even through the phone even though she didn't appear to be trying to conceal it. "It seems that the individual who's responsible has taken one of the operators of Project Limelight as a hostage. But we both know at this point that this isn't just a hostage situation we're dealing with. It's just too coincidental to have someone like that plucked from a crowd of people."

"Did Ichijirou-san still super have ties with that facility?"

"He would occasionally be called in to perform tests for a means to improve Limelight's energy consumption rate. Even with his assistance, the thing can only fire once an hour due to the massive amount of energy it requires to power it. That must have been the real reason why ORDER kept him alive for as long as they did, using him to provide information on the VIP staff that took part in that project. It also explains the reason why one of their members was able to navigate through the building with such ease."

"By why only one person; did they super think that was going to be enough?"

"At this point, I'm not even sure which of their objectives is the more important to them." Admittedly, neither did Saiai at this point, given how things were progressing. "I can't contact Meltdowner and Frenda has already been dropped off at the communication center. I can't get a signal to any of the operatives sent there either; so at the moment we're in the dark as to what's going on over there. What I do know is that, whatever the case may be, ORDER cannot be allowed to fulfill whatever objectives they are committing to."

Kinuhata had to refrain from commenting that was precisely the reason behind hiring ITEM to prevent such a thing from occurring. It had nearly slipped from her, but she was able to catch herself before she could say it; something she was grateful for. Still, there were too many things wrong with this situation, too many factors that were still shrouded in mystery regarding this assignment. ITEM had been caught completely off guard by the events that were taking place around them and ORDER was doing a damn good job at throwing fork-balls while ITEM and those supporting them were left swinging mindlessly trying to hit it. They were fumbling, but that was mainly due to the lack of information which was accessible to them portraying to ORDER as a whole. Had they been provided more information, had the group's movements been less sporadic, then it was possible that ITEM could have handled the situation well before things went out of hand.

"I guess being a lesser known group has its super benefits." This statement could not have been repressed even if she tried; it was just a fact that held too much truth in it to avoid admitting. "People like us don't tend to know what to expect from them."

"Normally I would say 'now is not the time to say that' but I can't help but agree." Let it not be said that ITEM and their backer didn't have moments where they could agree with one another to some degree. "For that reason, I'm going to call in a favor to take care of Limelight; I've received the green-light to do what needs to be done to ensure that it does not come into ORDER's possession. We don't know what they're planning to do with it, but the Board of Directors has come to agree that destroying it would be a far better option at this point than to let it go into someone else's hands. If we're lucky, we'll be able to take out two birds with one stone and take care of the individual within the facility as well."

"What are you going to send?"

"Something expensive, but in the meantime just step up your pace and get there anyway. Even if all you end up doing is identifying a body, I'd rather have you there and secure the facility rather than leave it vulnerable any longer."

The call ended just before Saiai could attain any real information regarding what was being sent to the facility. She could help but curse as she snapped her phone shut and put it away in her pocket. Receiving such a vague statement like that was precisely the reason why things had escalated to this extent. If the bitch had just told them the truth from the beginning, they would know what to expect and properly prepare for whatever is to come. But no, they were given information on a need-to-know basis; leaving ITEM completely in the dark most of the time while they sit in their office buildings and watch as everything unfolds from afar. By all accounts, someone like her should be used to this sort of thing, but that was far from the case. The client wants ITEM to do a job, then they couldn't afford to be stingy with the information that was at their disposal when it could lead to the overall success of the entire operation.

Such a fucking annoyance, that's what Kinuhata mentally spat as she fixed her gaze out into the distance from the window on her side of the car.

"Super drive faster."

"I can't, the spee-"

The metallic clacking of a something in the girl's smaller hands had been what interrupted her words shortly after hearing the disturbance. After the woman's eyes shifted towards the source of that noise, she let out a surprised gasp as her eyes consistently shifted from the road to the barrel of the small gun in the girl's hand. So startled by this new development, she nearly veered into another vehicle beside her; the poor woman's hands trembling heavily as she held the steering wheel with such intensity that her knuckles began to turn white.

"I said: drive faster."

Clearly, this girl was not in the best of moods and would not allow something like the speed limit to stop her from getting where she needed to be. That said, the innocent woman in this situation could do nothing but push down further on the gas as the car accelerated faster down the interstate; all the while doing her best not to divert her attention away from the road even for a second.

Bottom floor, everyone off!

Now, um, I'm gonna say that I'm not particularly happy with this chapter. I don't like it, I really don't, so if any of you feel inclined to shoot me for this chapter feel free to use the shot-gun on the table behind you. Seriously, I had so much trouble getting this out and I feel disgusted with it. I don't even know why, but something about it just feels so off that it's driving me nuts. Anyway, I'll take the flames of anyone who feels inclined to burn me to pieces, just be sure to put out those flames with constructional criticism and I'll be fine. Not much else to say here really; other than the fact that I still just don't like this chapter.

As usual, if there are any inquiries, thoughts, or concerns that arise in your mind, feel free to address them to me and I'll do what I can to answer them. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my little piece of work.

Goodbye for now.