Greetings to all!
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone's honest feedback in regards to that embarrassment of a chapter I put out last time. I'm still not happy with it, but at least I not everyone found it as terrible as I believed it to be. In regards to my life issues mentioned last chapter, I'm pleased to say that it has been resolved and ended on a relatively good note, so I should be out of that funk that had a grip on me before. But, enough with this, onward with the eleventh chapter of A Certain World of Darkness!
For every assignment, be it large or small in scale, there was always to be a set order of events that are to be followed to ensure the success of the task in question. There are simple objectives which one must follow, steps to check off as one proceeds to further on down the chain that ultimately leads to the final objective. Each objective, be it primary or secondary, would yield differing results dependent on the number of steps that had been achieved successfully. Among those steps, Time is but one of the many verity of factors which can cause an operation to end with satisfactory results, or cause the operation to fail. There were several things which can dictate how good or bad the end result is, but time was among one of the most critical aspects that can either make or break an operation.
It all depended on the scale of the operation, but for assignments which dealt in a single area and weren't so wide-spread, speed and precision was a critical to seeing an operation ending successfully. For every second that was wasted, the opposition became increasingly more aware of what you were capable of. With every minute that was not being used to fulfill an objective, the enemy was coming closer to discovering the true intentions of operation. As the time reaches its thirty-minute mark, the chances of success grow dimmer and dimmer. By the hour, the operation has been deemed a failure or the person attempting to carry out the assignment is eliminated by the opposition. Time, no matter what, meant everything; no wasted movements, no fancy footwork, no glorious gun-fights with an entire squad of heavily armed individuals. These jobs were similar to walking on a tight-rope with no net to catch you; one fuck-up can lead you to your death. That was how these life-and-death situations worked, that was what separated them from those shounen manga antagonists who seemed to have all the time in the world to do their dirty little deeds.
That didn't stop Sakurai from reading them of course, but he seriously wished, just once, he had as much time to kill like those guys did.
But that was just the way things went in a 3-Dimensional world like this; a world which constantly restricted him and others to just the boundaries of this plain of existence. While Espers were a nice little bonus to the whole package deal that came with this life, just because he had power did not mean he was a excluded from the rules and laws of existence. Time still played a large role in this world, in this city, in this constant struggle of dog-eat-dog society. There was no escaping it, no eluding time, because time was a consistent enemy that would always be hounding at your heels the moment you slowed your advance. To Sakurai, armed men or women weren't his enemy, technology wasn't his enemy, people weren't his enemy; even the Board of Directors weren't his true enemy. In his eyes, all of the things listed and many more were just obstacles that needed to be moved aside to defeat the true enemy of man as a whole.
Time was his enemy and should a reason was required it was because it was never on his side; not even once.
For that reason, upon his intrusion into the Limelight Facility; Sakurai went straight to work with locating his primary objective. Though, he didn't choose to go gun's blazing and kill every person who was unfortunate enough to cross him as he traversed deeper into the facility. Performing such an action would have been a waste of bullets and time; not to mention it would trigger a station wide alarm which would provide his prey the opportunity to escape. So no, he didn't perform that action; rather he simply chose to walk as any normal person would down a hallway, reached the elevator, climb to the desired floor, and located his target's office. His actions weren't flashy, not stealthy, not with any of the characteristics someone would expect to find in a spy flick when an agent infiltrates a structure. Sakurai simply walked into the building like he belonged there and moved through it as if he was always familiar with it; nothing complex or tactical about it.
Of course, his Esper ability did play a large part in getting him here in the first place; considering what it did.
But, like usual, nothing seemed to go right from then onward. For the moment he entered the room and made his demands, the alarm was triggered in which most of the civilian staff began to evacuate and security entered the picture. Again, time was not his friend, and it seemed as though the little dirty business upon entry into the facility had finally found. Either that or the man had his own alarm in the room like in movies and fictional works; but he didn't have time to ponder those things. Things only got worse when the simple infiltration portion of the job escalated into a hostage situation; an improvised decision on his part but he had few options. He would have no way of knowing how to use Limelight without the man, and extracting the information out of him regarding how to use it would take too long.
Dry gunshots were somehow able to pierce through the loud siren when was still blaring throughout the structure. Following these gunshots, concrete dust burst from the walls near the corner of the hallway which Sakurai was using as cover to avoid the gunshots. Crouched to his left, a single average looking adult male coward beside him as his body trembled and shook upon hearing the gunfire.
"They're gonna kill us!" If Sakurai had a hundred yen for every time this guy said those words; he wouldn't need to do these kinds of jobs for money ever again.
"Kill me, more than anything." Muttered the well-groomed lad, his pistol having long since been brandished as his back was pressed against the wall; his gaze never leaving the corner as he watched more bullet-holes form onto the surrounding walls with more dust shooting up after each new hole was formed. "So long as you shut the hell up and stop saying that; you'll get to go home and see your family, or your dog, or whatever you have to live for."
The gunshots were fired in a synchronized pattern; one person was always sending shots out to prevent Sakurai from peeking out of cover to retaliate. During that time, someone else would most likely be reloading his weapon and proceed to cover the next person who needed to reload. With the amount of bullet holes in the wall, it was safe to assume that the people firing at him were at least a group of three or four but did not seem to be carrying anything other than pistols at the moment. He had no evidence to prove this, for all he knew there could be someone else who had yet to fire who would once the other gunman ran out of bullets. Regardless of how many there were or how many bullets they had, one thing certain at this point. They were stalling him for something and exploiting the fact that he had a hostage to keep him from moving too freely since this 'hostage' had some value to him.
Clearly these guys were well informed and if they were as well informed as he was to believe than killing the man beside him would benefit them all the same.
Unfortunately, the chances of them being too well informed were slim; thanks to the efforts of their previous benefactor's connections.
To the innocent bystander in this life-or-death situation, it was an odd sight to see the well-groomed lad reach into his pocket and retrieve a silver pocket-watch hanging from a long thin chain of matching color. With a tap of his thumb, the standard face of a clock was briefly noticed whilst the teen spared it a glance before snapping the lid shut once more. Using the same hand that was holding the watch, he unclipped the chain from the belt-loop on his trousers; using his index and thumb to hold the end of the chain and allowing the weight of the watch fall lifelessly to the ground. With a small tug, Sakurai began to twirl the watch like a flail just slightly above his person; before flinging the object past the corner he was using for cover and out into the corridor where the bullets were still coming from; all the while maintaining a firm hold on the end of the thin chain attached to it.
The instant that action was made, the bullets seemed to have ceased; with the reason why being pretty clear even if it was a mystery as to how it had happened. One moment the lad was beside him with his back against the wall. The next, he was standing at full height while three bullet-shells casings were clearly visible by his feet. It didn't take a person of high intelligence to determine that those didn't belong to the people shooting at them. But what was confusing to him was why he was standing out in the open where those bullets were originating from? Mind you, he would have been glad if the men firing at them had killed his attacker, guilty as he was admitting that. So long as they didn't kill him than he wouldn't have really cared; morality be damned at this point. But the way the lad stood made him seem calm, as if the problem was solve; something which both confused and terrified him.
It was only made worse when the teen turned his attention back onto him and pointed the still hot muzzle down at his head; gesturing with his head to stand up; which he proceeded to follow.
As Sakurai moved his hand to retrieve the case he had still been carrying on his person this entire time, the innocent man took a moment to try and peek past the corner. All he was able to see were two grown men in black suits lying on the ground and were not moving. Horrified and still largely confused as to what had transpired in that single moment, frantic eyes shot back towards the young man who had just retrieved his case and was still pointing his gun towards him with an expression of pure boredom.
"Move along." Even his tone sounded bored! Why was he so calm? What had happened to the continued barrage of bullets end long enough for some kid to retaliate? Did they run out of ammo? Were they just so surprised by his actions prior-…no, that couldn't have been it. If those two men were dressed in that manner and wielding firearms than they must be professionals. It would just be too amateurish of a thing to be distracted by a silver pocket watch. "I said move along, or do I need to shoot a finger off to get you to budge?"
"H-h-how did you-" He couldn't even finish his question; too horror struck and perplexed to formulate a proper pattern of words.
"Huh?" Confusion briefly replaced boredom as he took his hostage's words, before his eyes followed where the terrified man was looking and realized what he was inquiring about. "Oh, that, right, right. Well, I take this shiny thing here in my hand, squeeze the trigger, and BOOM; bad people go away."
It was of no surprise that Sakurai wasn't answering the man's inquiry on a serious level, given the response that was provided. How the action of killing was done wasn't what man was asking about and anyone with half of a brain could deduce that much. But one thing this innocent man was failing to grasp was that Sakurai was not inclined to answer anything unless he felt the desire to do so. He wasn't going to just answer questions that could potentially leave him at a disadvantage in the long run.
Clearly this man didn't know how hostage situations worked; a thought which absentmindedly entered Sakurai's psyche.
"You're not one of those bad people, are you?" Now it seemed he was getting agitated, and rightfully so since they had already lost a bit of time during this half-ass shootout. Even if he addressed the man with a question of such a degree, it didn't take much effort to notice the irritation in Sakurai's voice. Nor did he bother to wait for a response from his 'hostage' either; having decided to continue speaking to move things along in a timely manner. "If not, then get your ass up and move; we've got shit to do and I'd like to avoid wasting any more time and bullets on you."
Between the events that had just now taken place and the unspoken threat the teen had made, it was a no-brainer in what action this particular hostage had taken.
Time wasn't all that was necessary to ensure the overall success of an assignment; though speed was still a large contributor to achieving it. Preparation was also an equally large provider which determined the job's progress is not hindered as one advances towards their next objective. Blueprints of the area, possible locations where resistance can most likely be present, gaps in security where one could slipped through undetected. Those sorts of things and much more were to be taken into account when performing these jobs and were usually done prior to actually performing the task. If one was skilled enough, though preparations were still necessary, the one organizing the entire event could improvise with only limited information and still achieve success. It wasn't advised to follow through with this sort of operation due to the large number of variables that existed; but it was still possible if it truly came down to it.
Then again, improvising was pretty easy when you knew exactly where your enemy was constantly located and what they were thinking throughout the job.
It was for this reason that, when Chouka's form raced passed an intersection in the corridor, two shots from her own smaller pistol rang out as she passed; followed by the pain-filled cries of the person who was struck by the projectiles fired. That was the problem with Chouka when it came to guns; it wasn't that she was unable to use them or hit her targets. If she had been stationary than she could land a fatal shot four times out seven; but having to shoot while on roller-skates was no easy feat. Even if she knew exactly where the target was located to an extent, she still had to see them, aim, and shoot all in the span of a few seconds. Doing all of that in such a short timeframe was just too difficult a thing for her; even if she did get lucky a few times and dispatched her target's with a single shot. Those times had been scarce during the entire course of this operation, so it was only luck which enabled her to succeed in that task and not skill.
Close range, however, was a different case all together.
Instead of choosing to continue down the corridor she was previous venturing down, Chouka had instead adjusted herself accordingly to turn around back towards the intersection she had just passed. As she approached the corner, her body began to lower until she was crouching whilst the skates continued to move her forwards thanks to the gathered momentum she had used to turn herself around. By the time she reached the intersection, one of the individuals she had shot at stepped out in front of her person; his gun already raised but was left unaware her posture. By the time he had fired, Chouka had already rolled passed him, though not before grabbing the suited man's ankle with her free hand as she passed him. With that action, she proceeded to pull the man's leg along with her as she passed him, which inevitably resulted in the man losing his footing and collapsing to the ground, which was the only reason Chouma's advancement forward had ceased.
But here eyes were not focused on the downed individual behind her; rather it was the woman who was not too far behind him. While it was indeed true her advancement forward was stopped, it did not imply that she was motionless in that moment. Instead, with the man's ankle still gripped firmly, she used that as a means to redirect herself to where she could face this woman; caring little for the sickening crack that had followed as the man's bones were not meant to go in that direction so suddenly. Yet instead of using this momentum as a means to attain speed, she instead extended her left leg whilst properly adjusting her feet to allow the slender limb to spread out in a wide arch across the marble floor while keeping her remaining leg bent yet angling it in the same manner as the opposite foot. The sweeping motion of her leg combined with the element of surprise, the woman who had been hasty in her approach had both of her feet swept out from under her and thus joining her comrade on the ground.
Unfortunately, she didn't even have time to register what had occurred before another dry gunshot rang out through the corridor. With Chouka now stationary and the angle in which the woman had fallen, it was pretty safe to assume that the bullet fired from the gun still firmly in her free hand had left its mark the woman's forehead. It wasn't a high caliber round so her head didn't shatter to pieces upon bullet-entry, the end result was still not a pretty sight to look at given the amount of blood seeping out from the hole just a few inches short of her temple. She, however, wasn't keen on criticizing her own work so she proceeded with the other hostile who's ankle was being held at the moment. Without altering her posture in the slightest, and after releasing his ankle, Chouka had rotated her hips counter-clockwise to spin herself back around and face the man still on the ground. The only difference here was that his gun was raised and aimed at her properly this time.
Unfortunately for him, that didn't matter to her since she was already aware of this. Hence why, in an impressive display of agility, the very same extended leg rose up from off the ground as her body continued its rotation using the still retracted leg to both balance and provide movement in the same direction she was intending to go.
This action caused the heel of her foot to connect with the metallic material of the man's pistol and effectively knocked the weapon out of the man's grasp. By the time her extended leg touched back down onto the solid ground, the pistol in her hand was aimed right back at the man who was planning to shoot her. She did not hesitate in the slightest; there was no room to be hesitant at this point in time. She had no reason to, didn't want to, didn't need to, and thus she hardly ever did on these jobs. Hence why, after the three repetitive gunshots rang out and the smell of gunpowder wafted into her nostrils, she was not in the least bit concerned about the blood that had splattered on her. If anything, the smell that was filling the air bothered her more-so than the sight of a now deceased corpse with a head full of bullet-holes; her displeasure of the smell being indicated by the wrinkling of her nose, squinted eye-lids, furrowed brows, and the displeased frown that formed on her lips.
"Pew," Muttered the girl as she began the process of replacing the empty magazine from her gun. "At least I won't need to deal with this smell too much longer."
By all accounts, this operation was going along surprisingly well in her eyes. While the other's would more than likely believe it was going along too well for their liking; Chouka wasn't among that minority who's thought processes were more sophisticated than her own. She didn't need to look at the finer details or the search for the underlining meanings behind certain things that did and didn't occur. Paranoia wasn't her driving force during events similar to what was occurring now. For she was satisfied so long as things went accordingly and she carried out her tasks in a manner that would not put any more stress on anyone else. Over thinking a matter invited just too much trouble in her mind; for if you expect the worst to happen and are consistently perturbed about it than the worst case scenario was to happen. That was what she believed anyway, so she chose to simply not think about it at all and just move along.
Given, she was no fool herself despite having this mindset. While Chouka may not have been generously gifted in terms of intellect, she was smart enough to know when shit hit the proverbial and what she needed to do when that time came.
(Chou-chan, Kurou-kun's intercepted one of the Esper's in the building.)
Though the mental statement was heard, Chouka's gaze remained firmly on the ground as she continued the task of reloading her weapon. By appearances alone, she didn't show any sort of recognition in regards to what was being said to her. As previously stated, Chouka knew what she needed to do when the time came for her to take action. That statement was just one of the indications that informed her of her new task, something she was now aware of and preparing herself for at the present moment. While every member of ORDER had their uses, the Twins acted as the critical factors which dictated the overall success of the operation. They were the important one's here, they were what made their jobs much easier to accomplish, the true reason to ORDER's success. While she, Kurou, and Sakurai were the major pieces who actually performed the necessary actions, the Twins were the ones constantly feeding them the information that they needed. Information which was constantly being provided, which constantly gave ORDER the details they needed when they needed them.
(Fuck this hurts, damn brat!) This was one such accession, in which the person whom she had originally struck in her previous pass had survived and was seeking to retaliate now that her guard appeared to be lowered.
As a result of gaining this mental feed-back from the opposing party, not just Chouka but all of ORDER were all but immune to tactics from ordinary individuals who would attempt to interfere or intercept them. That was what made ORDER so dangerous, what made them so successful, what made them good at their job, and what made ORDER truly last as a group in this fucked up world. Hence the reason behind Chouka's calm nature regarding these people, her ability to move and act without caution, and what made her and Kurou the two most dangerous people in this building at the present time. With a loud click, the pistol was reloaded while the chamber was fed its first bullet from the fresh magazine.
With her weapon now rearmed, the girl in question simply align her sights with the individual who's thoughts had been made known and pulled the trigger. Unlike before, given her stationary position and her close proximity, Chouka's bullet hit its target in a noticeably fatal location. While it wasn't exactly the location she had intending to hit, the results still ended largely the same way; as the man's form dropped to the ground in a heap whilst clutching the side of his neck.
This was a less than prettier sight which Chouka couldn't bring herself to watch. Unfortunately though, she couldn't stop herself from hearing the man's gurgling cries as he tried to suppress the amount of blood pouring through his fingers from the wound inflicted on his neck. In the basic sense, he was drowning and, even if she wanted to, saving his life would be next to impossible in a few more minutes. She was smart enough to know that much and enough logic to know when it was okay to admit there was nothing that could be done to help. Even still, as the gurgling eventually ceased and the man's body finally lost all movement, she couldn't bring herself to look at the sight in which she had created. This was a rather hypocritical of her considering what she had done to the man's partners, but those were different in her mind. They had died without suffering any sort of pain; their deaths had been quick and painless. They didn't suffer, they didn't cry out like this man had, they hadn't even been capable of offering up any final words before she executed them.
They just died quickly, painlessly, and silently; and to her that was fine.
Killing someone in the manner in which she had just now only served as a reminder that she was still not completely used to this life.
(You okay Chouka?) Noboro's concerned voice was what eventually broke the spell that was binding her to this location; having caused the red-head to snap her head up to face the ceiling briefly. But even if his tone illustrated concern, Chouka was very aware that he knew why she was troubled.
"Don't worry about me, how are you holding up?" While the inquiry had been made through the mental connection, it did not mean she had to answer him mentally. She could speak what she wished to say as her thoughts would directly mimic her words the instant she spoke them anyway. This was actually a much better thing to do since it prevented unwanted thoughts that cropped up in a person's mind from being sent through the connection that was established. It was still bound to happen of course, but between listening to what was being said mentally and speaking aloud did a good job at minimizing unnecessary thoughts to be relayed back to Noboro.
(…it's getting easier, though it's still unpleasant.)
What Noboro was referring to of course was the lingering thoughts of those whose life was about to end. The many questions which they pondered, the panic as they attempted to struggled to maintain their grasp on life, the outrage they felt for the person who had slain them. These were just some of the countless thoughts that were forced upon both himself and others who were still bound to that person's thoughts. Fortunately, Noboro was able to disconnect them from those people so as not to hear everything that their victims were thinking in their final moments. In exchange, however, both of the twins were forced to endure those thoughts before they eventually faded away. In some ways, being the most valuable aspect of ORDER had its consequences and this was just one of those things which could not be avoided. But the one who almost all members of the group felt for was Noboro's sister, Nibiki.
You see, Noboro was not the individual who actually read people's thoughts, though he was able to do so with those that were connected to him. While the twins were both telepathic, their abilities worked in very different ways. Noboro's ability was referred to as Mind Jack, and allowed him to convey messages to the members of ORDER directly into their minds. His ability, however, could only be achieved by establishing a connection to the person whose mind he intends to relay information too. These 'links' only extend so far before the process of transferring information became difficult and causing a delay in the message he wished to send, while the closer proximity provides a much faster feedback rate. While it was indeed a very useful ability to have, there weren't any offensive capabilities that could be used to defend himself, thus making him vulnerable to opposing parties.
Nibiki, on the other hand, was not as restricted as Noboro was in terms of how her telepathic ability worked. Her variation was largely considered a standard form of telepathy which was dubbed as Notion Chaser; an individual who could detect and read the thoughts of others within a certain area. Said area of effect was limited to ten yards in total; though, if necessary and with enough effort, this range could extend a full yard wider for a short period of time. However useful Nibiki's ability was, she was incapable of 'touching' these minds and thus was reduced to only hearing and locating them. In addition to this, in situations similar to the one they were currently experiencing, too many thoughts coming in at one time could be stressful on the poor girl, especially if they are less than pleasant ones which she would rather not listen to. With the consistent thought-process occurring all at once, determining which thoughts belonged to which target was not so simple task for Nibiki achieve on her own.
Though, many of the issues that usually surfaced with this ability were eliminated from the equation thanks to the efforts of her brother and her own development since attaining this ability.
While it was true that her maximum range was ten yards in diameter, Nibiki had developed a means to avoid too much unnecessary thought-traffic from overloading her brain. While range was still a factor that played into account, but once a target was within that range she could concentrate solely on that particular individual or group by decreasing her entire field and focus purely on that particular target. In her mind, around her was a giant bubble that, once entered, she could hear all thoughts from all individuals within it. However, if she were to focus on a particular group of individuals, all she would need to do was shrink that bubble to only surround that particular group, thus allowing her to hear only their thoughts and not any other outside parties still within her ten yard radius. While this action does prevent her from having information on all targets within her field, it makes the task of relaying critical information to the corresponding individual's of ORDER much easier.
This is where Noboro's influence takes over, fully aware of Nibiki's inability to communicate directly with anyone on a mental scale. He acted as an operator, her voice, a relay device that would traffic the thoughts of those whose mind his sister was listening in on. By establishing his connection with his sister and the rest of ORDER, he would act as a hands-free, silent, thought-reading radio transmitter. By connecting himself to Nibiki, he would relay not only the thoughts of their opposition, but their general location as well. The timeframe which this information was disturbed being sent in the time it would take for a person blink; making it virtually instantaneous so long as the individual is not too far away from his current location.
While it was true that neither one of the twins was perfect, they made do with what they had and no one in ORDER was complaining about the results. The system they provided was, without a doubt, one of the most effective methods to dispatching their targets efficiently and effectively with fewer concerns in regards to what surprises were in store for them. After all, when you already knew what your opposition was planning and where they were going to appear, being taken by surprise was not very likely to happen very often. There were exceptions to this of course, but those encounters were not as common as one would expect; though Kurou and Sakurai certainly believed they shouldn't push their luck by relying solely on the twins for everything all the time.
With all that being said, there was key issue that was always a priority no matter what the situation may be. That issue being the protection of the twins themselves; having fallen short in terms of offensive capabilities and neither possessing the skill to wield a gun. It was hard to blame them really, they were still in middle-school for god's sake and no twelve or thirteen year old kid should ever be forced to carry a gun. That wasn't the reason they didn't carry one, though they never really came around to explain themselves in that regard. Sakurai was the one who introduced them into ORDER in the first place, and he had made it very clear that he personally didn't want to ever see them forced to kill someone. Hypocritical as it may be, given the amount of death they were forced to deal with in the first place, they at least had the luxury of keeping their hands clean from shedding blood directly.
Chouka couldn't speak on behalf of the twins or Kurou, but she personally agreed with Sakurai on the matter of keeping them away from actually performing the deed like herself and the others.
"I don't think it should ever get easier." Were the honest words of a lively young woman who didn't appear so lively as she uttered those words. Even so, she had been quick to dismiss it as she began moving back down the corridor leading her towards the twins location. With Kurou now keeping one of the Espers in the building busy, she had to do her part and ensure that they remained safe from any hostiles that may be within the area. "You're one floor up, right?"
(Yes, I already activated the jamming device Sakurai gave me; so most of their communications are down for now.) Responded the boy, silently glad for the change of topic as he stared at the monitor of the laptop in front of him. (Now all I need to do is upload the data-file Kurou-kun gave me and our work in this place is over.)
"Good." Despite the pace she was moving, the sigh that escaped from her lips wasn't one that came from fatigue; rather it was one created out of relief. It was odd how she could move at the pace she was and seemingly not appear winded in the slightest. Then again, the possibility existed that the roller-skates played a large part in keeping her from feeling too tired. "I'll be there soon, so just stay hidden until I get there."
While it had been previously stated that it was difficult to surprise anyone amongst ORDER thanks to the Twins, that didn't particularly mean that they couldn't be caught off guard if someone was not within Nibiki's range. That being said, when someone suddenly did appear inside the girl's region of effect, opportunities which the opposing force could exploit did sometimes surface. Hence the reason why Kurou and Sakurai had tried to avoid relying on their mental abilities when performing jobs such as these. Unfortunately, Chouka had a bad habit of relying on it too much depending on the severity of the job they were carrying out. It was a bad habit she knew, but given her circumstances it was understandable since her ability wasn't as versatile as she would have liked it to be. There was potential for it to be as such, but there were certain consequences that could be dire if squandered too extensively.
That said, just as Chouka received this mental statement along with that person's location, the trap had already been sprung. For in that moment, the low hissing sound could be heard directly behind her person. Still in a state of confusion, Chouka spared a glance behind her person, only to find not one, but five small orange and red flames advancing quickly upon her person. That much wasn't what bothered her, rather it was the engravings they left in their wake as they continued to follow after her; cutting straight through the marble floor as if it was made of paper. That wasn't the worst of it either, though it did inspire her to hasten her pace. As they continued to follow her down the corridor, these five fuses chasing after her developed into nine, all of which had branched off into several different directions but ultimately leading to one glaringly obvious location.
She herself had came down these halls several times since her arrival; not once during her runs through here did she see small dolls that were scattered about near the elevators on this floor.
When the fuses finally reached their destination, nine consecutive explosions erupted through the building; the force behind the said action being more than enough to cause the surroundings to rattle, glass to shatter, and fill the corridor with enough dust and rubble to nearly cause the floor to cave in on itself. Thankfully Academy City's buildings were typically built to be sturdy and endure lots of punishment. But the structural integrity of the building was not the biggest thought on Chouka's mind at the moment, having found herself in a coughing mess as she tried to shake off the lightheadedness caused by both the loud volume of the explosions and with the aftershock of nearly being blown to pieces. She was at least glad that she could move as fast as she could, otherwise she very well might have been caught up in the actual blast or impaled by the shrapnel. Instead, she had only fallen victim of the kinetic force of the explosion knocking her clean off her feet and rolling across the ground until finally being forced to a stop by the wall.
Though not everything on her person survived the blast, as her sweatshirt tied around her waste was now a singed, tattered, and overall ruined image of what it once was. While there were several light cuts on her body along with a few tears on her actual clothing, she had come out of it far better off than most people would have. About the only thing aside from her sweatshirt that was damaged were the skate-wheels on her left foot. But none of these really mattered to her at this point, for she was too busy clutching her head in an attempt to shake away the double-vision she was experiencing. By the time her vision had returned back to normal, the cloud of dust and dirt had finally settled; allowing her the time to analyze precisely who was most likely responsible for this occurrence.
The individual she found was honestly not the person she was expecting to see here of all places. Needless to say, when her offender had finally taken in Chouka's appearance, she too did not appear to have been expecting her to be there. For a moment, and only for a moment, two individuals of opposite sides shared a moment of unity as they acted in a synchronized manner that would have lead many to question if it had been scripted with the way it turned out. The said action consisted of both girl's, mouths slightly agape, rose one arm up with their index fingers extended towards the opposing individual across from them. While the two of them did react in a precisely similar manner as the other, Chouka had been the first amongst the two of them to speak first.
"You're that girl who was about to kiss her boyfriend at the mall!"
"Basically, that's not what was happening!"
All things considered, today was supposed to be another day at work for him. Things were to go about as they normally would, research results that required his attention, files that needed to be documented, status reports on the satellites in orbit, things of that nature. That's what Hirajima Yusuke was expecting of his daily life here in this facility, what he had come to expect in everyday life in Academy City.
But today's events did not follow that same repetitive procedure which he went through day in and day out. If anything, the events which were taking place now were so far outlandish and unexpected that he could not possibly fathom why they were occurring in the first place. Sure, he knew the real reason for him being forced to stay here, he knew of Project Limelight and how to operate it on his own. Such a thing wasn't hard, but it did not come without a price; said price being in the form of lot of surveillance. While uncomfortable at first, it was justified given that he was being entrusted with such a thing and it had possibly been the single reason he hadn't been killed on sight by the suited young man.
Said young man was currently pressing the barrel of his gun against his head whilst Yusuke's fingers practically danced across the controls belonging to the Limelight system. Currently, they were in the observation tower that served as the operation controls for the aforementioned project. All four sides of the room were covered in tented glass, as the solar panels that were used to power the device would otherwise blind anyone inside the room from the sun's rays reflecting off the panels. But none of those things seemed to matter at this point, as he could not have willed his head to move upwards even if he wanted to. He was too stricken with the fear of what was to become of him should he not abide by the suited teen's orders; and one could not particularly blame him really. With the muzzle of a gun hovering a few inches near your head, the very same gun used to kill several armed men and women who had tried to intercept them on their way here. Yeah, that same instrument of death was now being pointed at him and there was little doubt in his mind that the teen would use it on him if he didn't do exactly as he was told when he told to do it.
"Hey, you're twitchin's starting to make me nervous." If Yusuke had the guts and a death-wish, he could have called the lad out right then and there since his voice did not waver at all as he spoke. "Relax…deep breaths…count to three…don't fuck up now, I'm counting on you here."
Sadly, Yusuke did not have the backbone nor a death-wish to speak out against the lad who had made him into a hostage. It didn't stop him from mentally screaming at the lad for all the negative shit that had happened since he showed up. How was he supposed to stay calm or relax with a gun nearly pressed against his head? How in any way was this teen feeling nervous when, not long ago, he had casually dispatched any armed forces that tried to intercept them? That part he was still in the dark about in regards to how he had done that; more specifically how he had killed them all without getting injured at all throughout the entire time he had been inside the facility. Yusuke wasn't given the privilege to ask again, mainly because he was too scared to, but it was clear to him that suited young man was an Esper. That was the only conclusion he could really reach at this point, though he hadn't really seen an Esper demonstrate their abilities up close before; having been satisfied from watching them do their own thing from a safe distance.
With that assumption long since been made, the real mystery that remained was what kind of ability did this young man have?
"There you go, see?" The satisfaction in Sakurai's tone was not missed by Yusuke as he spoke, and had he been looking at him then one would have seen the brief sightings of a smirk present on his lips. "I told you, all you needed to do was relax a bit. Now, input these coordinates, fire this thing and you get to go home with all your pieces intact."
He didn't get a chance to look up, not even for a second, before a piece of paper was placed down in front of him, though in a place that was devoid of controls less Sakurai fucked anything up by accident. When the man read the information presented to him, hesitation in his actions became evident as his fingers remained motionless for a few moments. That changed when the muzzle of the gun pointed at him was harshly pushed up against his head. Needless to say, after that, he regained his dexterity and proceeded to follow through with his forcefully appointed task.
"Wise choice friend." Commended the lad, though the serious edge in his voice spoke volumes of how little of his patience remained. After several seconds of waiting, something in the distance suddenly caught his attention, something which caused his mood to improve despite knowing what was coming. "Well, it's about damn time that thing showed up."
While Yusuke couldn't actually see it, he could feel that Sakurai's gun was no longer pressed against his skull, taking note of the sound of his shoes as he moved away from him. Though that didn't reassure him much given the fact that there was only one way out of this room safely, which were the direction Sakurai's footfalls were heading towards. After a few moments, the distinct clicking sound of a case was heard, followed by the several more which almost caused the man to turn around and see what exactly Sakurai was retrieving from the metal case. It was a mixture of worry and confusion which almost made him act on the impulse to look after having noticed that, since his capture, Sakurai had never left that case out of sight and was constantly pulling it with him everywhere they went. Whatever was in there, it seemed to be important; possibly an a rifle or something of the sort. Whatever was inside it, however, seemed to need to be put together; as the several clicks of metal connecting and attaching themselves could be noted by him even if he couldn't see it.
"Hey buddy, since you work in this District, have you ever seen a HsAFH-11 before?" Unlike before, it seemed like a genuine question address to create conversation. Whether or not Yusuke answered, or was even felt implied to form a response, had not once entered the lad's mind when he made such an outlandish inquiry. "I mean, sure, helped develop Limelight and all, so I can only assume you've at least seen the specs for the Six-Wings before; right?"
"N-not…really." Honestly, he really didn't want to answer him, truly he didn't. But then again, he didn't really feel as though keeping silent would help his odds of getting out of this situation safely. It did, however, make him curious as to why the lad brought it up so out of the blue...along with precisely what he was talking about in general. While Limelight was military technology in some ways, it's purpose was used mainly as a precaution against other countries spying on them rather than to be used as a weapon. That was what he was told anyway, and he wasn't the type of person to ask questions unless they would affect his life in some way. While the situation was different here, he was far from comfortable with the situation to ask questions since his life could be taken away on a whim of the teen behind him.
"Really; you've never seen one of those Six-Wings before?" In response to his question, Yusuke merely shook his head having felt the gaze of the teen staring at him. Though his response didn't seem to bother Sakurai at all since he carried on with his words after receiving the non-verbal response. "Well, damn, you're a kill-joy."
Several gun-shots soon fired after this statement was made, which was made Yusuke duck down further and clasp his hands over his head to avoid the falling glass hitting him in the face. Whatever the lad was doing, he was choosing not to look up just in case another hail of bullets was about to tear through the now opened window. Had he looked up, he would have seen something far more dangerous than just a group of armed men and women with guns approaching. In that span of time, Sakurai had finished assembling the weapon inside the case and had already propped the shaft of the weapon onto the ledge of the now broken window. Based on its appearance, one would think it of it as a normal shoulder-mounted weapon like a rocket launcher. But appearances were meant to deceive, thus the reason why this particular weapon was special.
"Did you know that, in Greek mythology, there was a man named Icarus whose father made him a pair of wings out of wax and feathers? That must have been a bitch to do, but that was way back in the day, so I guess it sufficed at the time. Anyways, his father had done it so that him and Icarus could escape Crete via flight, but told him to not fly too close to the sun or the sea." Stated Sakurai as he peered into the side-positioned scope on the gun, his target already in his sights and approaching their general area at a pace that was honestly difficult to keep up with through the scope. Difficult, yes, but doable enough to not lose sight of it and still keep it in his sights. "But Icarus didn't listen his father's warning, curious as he was about the idea of flight; though I don't blame him since I'd be pretty hyped about fucking flying too. But then he got too close to the sun and those wings made of wax melted and he fell back down to earth and into the sea."
Without further warning, Sakurai pressed down on the trigger for a few moments and watched with anticipation as a single burst of bright orange light burst from the barrel and towards his target, tilting the barrel upwards shortly after firing it. It was only because of the scope's enhanced zooming feature which allowed him to bear witness to the sight of the approaching helicopter literally being cut in half from the left side and up. He must have struck the fuel-tank too, since the military vehicle did not even begin its decent back down to earth before exploding in mid-air. At the sight of that, Sakurai couldn't help but feel a rush of excitement go through his being as the explosion's volume was heard clear as day from where he was. Even Yusuke, who had only looked up having heard the weapon's firing mechanism go off, fell into awe at the destruction which was created from just a single shot of that gun.
"I think it's fitting that the Six-Wings suffered the same fate as Icarus." Uttered the young man, speaking mainly to himself rather than his company as he removed the shoulder-mounted weapon and left it where it was before standing back up. "But, that's beside the point; is that damn thing in position yet?"
"Um!" Forcefully snapped out of his stupor, the man hastily returned his attention back onto the monitor overlooking the control panel. After quickly tapping on a few of the controls, he found the results he was looking for and provided confirmation. "Y-yes, it's in place."
"Cool, now get me a visual." His demands were simple in words, and the equally hasty response that followed soon showed off the results as the monitor's display changed to show the image of their designated target. That was the additional factor about Project Limelight, in that it worked in conjunction with the other satellites in orbit to ensure that they didn't miss their intended target. However, when the display appeared and Yusuke's brain processed what was on the display, he couldn't contain himself from voicing his thoughts as the color of his skin began to pale until it was practically pure white all over.
"Yup, that's it." It was, oh so, clear now to Yusuke in regards to this young man's mental state. Clearly, this lad must be insane due to how casual he was making this out to be, given what was on display. "Academy City's over-ambitious nature in corporal form: The Tree Diagram."
End of the line, time to explain myself.
Now, as you see, this chapter is purely dedicated to the member's of ORDER, since the last chapter was dedicated to to ITEM. Before anyone starts complaining, which I'm sure some will, let me say that I did this because I wanted to actually delve into the minds of my characters this time around, seeing as how you guys know next to nothing about them. I mean, what's the point of making these characters if you don't see things from their perspective as well, you know? As such, this chapter is primarily based on explaining a few things in regards to how ORDER operates and to give a few explanations behind some of the group's abilities; though not going too far in terms of those who are actually going to be fighting soon. But until those fights pop up, I'll just leave you guessing as to what their abilities are or have you come up with your own conclusions.
While this chapter may have had a lot of 'gun-action' in it, you can at least be assured that next chapter you actually get to see some one-on-one experience between Chouka and Frenda. I may end up dedicating a whole chapter around that fight, but that all depends really.
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.