Step 1: Forward.


He poked his head around the corner, holding the children behind him back. When it looked clear, he ducked back down to crouch at their eye level. It was hard to miss the look of excitement in most of his students' eyes, but he could hardly fault them that. It had been his idea, after all. "Okay, there's no one this way. Let's be very, very quiet. We're going to head for the east exit, but if that one is blocked off, there is a window loose in the art classroom. Aki-kun, Emi-chan, lead the way. And remember everyone, stay with your buddy."

With barely suppressed giggles, the first pair of students stealthily crossed the empty hallway, tightly holding hands, their shoes held in their free hands. They waved back when they had made it to the other side, cueing the next pair to join them in a similar manner.

The teacher dragged a hand through his messy hair, watching the children and taking cautious glances down the hallways parallel their current location. Behind him, another teacher nervously chewed her lower lip, smiling half-heartedly at the toddler she had been paired with when the girl happily swung their clasped hands back and forth. Noticing her anxiety, the teacher took a moment from his position on guard to give her a nod that was meant to be reassuring.

Despite the lack of worry visible on his face, his hands tightened on his own shoes. He hoped the other students were safe.

"Aominecchi~! It was so intense this morning, but I finally have my pilot's license! Of course, I misread the altimeter again," there was a quiet huff, and the officer could just see his former teammate's effeminate pout, "but my instructor said that she was so impressed with how 'calm and collected' I was the whole time, even when…"

Aomine Daiki reclined lazily in his chair, stretching out his back and legs like a cat settling in for a pleasant nap, dark muscles rippling beneath his uniform. He sighed at the unnatural chirpiness of his friend's endless rambling. Of course his instructor would say she was impressed with Kise Ryouta. As a popular, young part-time model, it didn't matter what the blond did. He could've misread the altimeter, flipped out midair, nearly crashed the plane, crashed the plane and she wouldn't have noticed a single mistake in his final test. If the woman had managed to so much as unglue her eyes from Kise, he would have been honestly surprised.

"…and I'm going out with some of the stewardesses for the company that wants to recruit me, so I wanted to call to see if you wanted to come with us! Ne, ne?"

There had been a question in there, he was sure. "I'm on dayshift today, Kise. Ask Momoi. I'm sure she'll be happy to get out of the office." Momoi Satsuki, much like Kise, could charm her way out of any situation. Be it detention while they were in school or the last three hours of her workday, the pinkette knew just the right words to use. Unlike Kise, it was almost never an unconscious manipulation of her effect on others. He loved that girl like a sister, but damn, she could be downright evil when she wanted something. "If you call up Takao, I'm sure he can drag Midorima along with him if his horoscopes aren't too terrible. Now quit pestering me while I'm working, or my boss will kick my-"

"DAIKI!" A loud screech carried easily throughout the building, sending every pedestrian within a mile scurrying for their lives. The chief of police, Wakahisa Minori, was a frightening man. He was even more so when he sensed that one of his subordinates was slacking off on the job.

"See what you've done?" he grumbled. "Now Wakahisa's on the warpath again." With a palm covering the speaker of his cell phone, he shouted back, "I'M COMING!" Officers scrambled to get out of his path when he strode across the large room to the chief's office. As intimidating as the chief was, Aomine had spent his middle school years under the scrutiny of a man that could be ten thousand times scarier: Akashi Seijurou. To this day, he had never made anyone who could make him feel five years old with merely a look. The man was running the country or the world or something in-between under the guise of acting as a coach to professional shogi players. Every other authority figure he had run into couldn't so much as make him twitch.

Who knew that his years at Teiko would have paid off so well? Somehow, he doubted this was what the teachers had implied about the importance of regular school attendance.

"I've gotta go, Kise. Some of us can't spend our whole day chasing after skirts."

"I do not! They chase after me!" That was true, and he grunted in agreement. "Anyway, if you can make it, we're meeting up at that café, the one downtown where we normally see each other. Murasakibaracchi said he'd make our sweets personally, on the house! I'm going to call up Kurokocchi to see if he and Kagamicci want to hang out too!"

"Then why are you still talking to me?!" The officer rolled his eyes as he hung up without waiting for an answer. It wasn't fast enough to keep a loud "Ja ne~!" from reaching his ears. The blond could be such an airhead, but as much as his former teammates could grate on his nerves, it was impossible to escape them. Blowing through a group of nervously whispering officers, he leaned against his boss's desk. "Whaddya want, Wakahisa?"

"You could at least through an honorific in there, Daiki." The chief had his hands full with a cordless phone pinned to his shoulder and a pen quickly scribbling down what appeared to be an address and a name if the kanji was anything to go by, otherwise he would have given him his daily smack across his back of the head. He wasn't big on etiquette, but he wasn't a fan of Aomine, especially so soon after his lunch break.

"If I'd wanted to, it would've been there. What's the fuss about?" he asked, gesturing behind himself without turning to the gaggle of officers not two meters away. "Either something's going down, or Ueno finally got himself a date." He ignored the annoyed "HEY!" shouted from the cluster. "I guess that leaves only one possibility, then."

"Yeah, there's something going down. You aren't going to like it, either." The chief pointed over to where his officers were gathered in front of a television screen on the opposite wall. The screen was usually hooked up to a laptop to be used in presentations, few of which Aomine had stayed awake to listen to. At the moment, however, it was tuned into the local news. From the jerkiness of the picture and vantage point, he assumed it was being shot from one of the news choppers. The camera was unsteadily aimed at a large, two-story building. Nothing immediately jumped out at him besides the inordinate number of squad cars pulled up around the fence dividing the courtyard behind the structure from the busy street. He moved to get closer to the screen, unable to hear much or read the text scrolling across the bottom, but a hand pulled him back.

A scowl was spread thickly across his superior's face as he held the phone out with a soft, "Here. Deal with this for me."

"This is Officer Aomine."

"Daiki. Have you seen the news?"

Aomine did a double take, staring at the phone with wide eyes before returning it to his ear. "Akashi?"

"That would be correct, but you have not answered my question."

"Ah, not really. It's on, but I can't really hear what's going on. Are you involved?" Sure he'd expected his former captain and torturer to be conquering the world in a political sense, but it wouldn't be against Akashi's morals (assuming he had any in the first place) to run, say, the mafia.

"Of course, but not in the way you are undoubtedly considering. I will be concise for time purposes. There was a threat sent to my uncle this morning, demanding money and other…considerations in return for my younger cousin and other hostages. By the time it was received, my cousin had already been dropped off at his primary school." It was hard to tell if Akashi was in any way unnerved by this recent turn of events, because if one were to judge by his tone of voice, they would have to jump to the conclusion that he didn't particularly care about the safety of his cousin. Aomine knew better. After training at the police academy and with years of experience with the Generation of Miracles—who were all harder to read than any criminal or suspect he had ever come up against—he knew that it wasn't a matter of emotion with Akashi. The man didn't get angry or worried. He got even. When Akashi was in plotting mode, he feared for the health of anyone in-between the man and his goal.

"If you're calling me up, then I assume there's confirmation that these people are already at his school?"

"Yes. However, there have been no shots fired—" that was always a good sign "—and no proof that they in fact have my cousin. Ansho primary school has been locked down and I have a man inside, but I want insurance that no one is injured."

"Ah. Wait, you have someone inside? Already? How the hell did you manage that?"

"Hisoka would never be sent off on his own without protection. I had my own until my father felt I was proficient in martial arts and shooting," he stated with no inflection. Aomine felt a sweat drop travel down his forehead. What the hell was with this family? Scary… "Additionally, I personally know my cousin's teacher. I feel assured that no harm will come to him. If anything, I am more concerned for his teacher. He would risk his own safety to ensure his students'." For the second time in a single conversation, Aomine stared at the phone in his hand. Had Akashi really just expressed concern for someone? For that matter, it wasn't even his cousin! "I will call your cell phone after I direct Taiga to the school and put Shintarou on standby." With a click, the call was ended.

Akashi's words echoed in his head as he told the chief that he had orders to be on scene. Wakahisa waved him off reminding him to turn his scanner on. Kagami Taiga was another friend he had made through his years of basketball in school, though as a rival, not a teammate. He still met up with the redhead at one of the public courts for a few rounds of one-on-one before going out for burgers. Kagami had joined the fire department at the same time as he had finished his last year at the police academy, so it wasn't unusual for them to run into each other on the job every once in a while. That still didn't explain why Akashi was sending him over.

He snatched his car keys from his desk and muttered an explanation to his partner. It wasn't as hard to understand why Akashi was alerting Midorima Shintarou to the situation. After high school, he'd gone on to major in emergency care and surgery. His superstition had apparently carried over into the operating room, according to the nurses Kise had flirted with. Having a father as head of surgery and a major contributor to the hospital allowed him to get away with much more than other doctors. He hadn't seen the doctor since Akashi last called them together, but he could make the assumption that he was still taping his fingers.

Aomine's phone rung before he had even reached his car. "That was fast," he murmured, pulling it out of his belt. "Any new developments?"

"Aominecchi~!" Damn. The idiot wasn't satisfied with irritating him once a day anymore.

"Kise, I've got to hang up on you. Akashi's going to call me anytime now."

"But Aominecchi, Kurokocchi isn't answering his phone~! How am I supposed to invite him and Kagamicchi over to eat?"

"He's probably working," Aomine growled, starting the car up and shifting it into drive. "Seriously Kise, I've got a situation and Akashi will kill us both if I don't pick up his call the moment it rings."

"So you'll talk to Akashicchi but not me~?" he whined.

"Obviously. You're not as likely to kill me slowly by exsanguination." There was finally a break in the cars, allowing him to pull out into traffic. He was about to turn down the next street when he realized that he didn't know where Ansho was located. "Hey Kise, you wouldn't happen to be able to Ansho primary school is?"

"Of course! My niece is in her last year there, and I pick her up after school because she's the cutest thing in the whole world! Why?"

A cold shudder went down his spine, as if Kise had just telepathically dumped a bucket of ice water on him. "Ah," he quickly thought up an excuse, because there was no way that he was mentioning the hostage situation. "I'm picking up Akashi's cousin for a doctor's appointment." That was a terrible lie.

"Uwaa~! That's so sweet of Aominecchi~! I thought you were working?" Yeah, terrible lie.

"You know how Akashi is. It's impossible to say no when he wants something. I'm leaving from the downtown office. Ansho is in Kyoto prefecture, right?"

"Hai! Aominecchi is in luck, because it's only half an hour from your downtown branch. Do you know how to get to Kameoka? The school isn't far off the Kyotojukan expressway."

"Thanks, Kise."

"No problem!"

On the expressway, Aomine knew the officer working the tollbooth. He didn't even have to explain the situation for her to quickly wave him through. "You look like you're in a hurry. Go catch us some bad guys!" she said with a smile. He returned her wave with one of his own, thanking her before taking off. His phone rang a second time while he was looking for the Kameoka exit, and he tore his eyes off the kanji once he confirmed it wasn't the exit he needed to grab his cell from the passenger seat.


"How far out are you?" That would be Akashi, as blunt as ever.

"Not too far…" His voice trailed off as he passed another exit sign. "I found my exit. Traffic isn't too bad, so I shouldn't be more than eight minutes out."

"Turn on your sirens. We don't know what's going on inside, but shots have been fired."

In Aomine's mind, that was reason enough…but he still had a niggling suspicion that he was missing some vital piece of information. His two years as a detective were pulling recent conversations together to figure out how they fit. What were the chances that Kise and Akashi both had family members at the same primary school? They'd clearly gone out of their way to choose it, when it wasn't the best school in the prefecture nor the most convenient. And Kise was busy, much too busy to be picking up his cousin on a daily basis.

Moreover, how would Akashi get to know a teacher well enough to convince his family that Ansho would be preferable over older and better schools, much less be worried about their safety?

"What's going on? You aren't telling me something."

In the five seconds of silence that followed, Aomine realized something: he knew a teacher working in Kameoka, one with a nearly alarming amount of selflessness who would protect children with unusual ferocity, and in whom Akashi held the highest regard and trust. It wouldn't be too much of a jump to assume that if he were in trouble, any of the Generation of Miracles would jump to his aid, just as he would for them. The very thought made it feel like he had just turned the A/C up to full blast.

"Akashi, is Tetsu in there?!"

At the sound of a gunshot, the teacher's head whipped around to find the source of the noise while holding up a hand to stop the students from moving. There was shouting from another hallway, but it didn't sound familiar. Too loud and low to be a child's. He only hoped it wasn't one of the teachers he didn't know. "Kuroko-sensei?" a voice asked in a soft whisper, tugging on his trousers. He looked down, meeting the bright red eyes of Akashi Hisoka. Unlike his older cousin, Hisoka's eyes were full of emotion, especially now. "It sounds like another team is distracting them. Should we split up to take the advantage?" Even at eight years old, the child was just as tactically astute as the rest of his family.

"Hai. Actually…" Kuroko's eyes narrowed slightly in thought. "I think Tanaka-sensei could use some help with her students. Do you think you and Himura-sensei can get everyone to the exit?"

"For ice cream?" The child grinned. "I think we can manage. As a leader, can I have an extra scoop?"

Kuroko nodded, patting his fellow teacher's shoulder before diving down another corridor toward Tanaka's classroom. The poor woman was probably in tears by this point.