Unknown Field, Unknown World Line
The eventual trudge back to the table ensued the worst splitting ache to thunder his head. Swirling within him was a miasma of thoughts that even deep heaving breathing failed to cleanse.
This world line, his own world line, connected by a single measly strand of an individual. Himself. That one simple phone call ushered in a flood of questions beyond comprehension, stranding him without even a sliver of an answer in sight.
Two days in a world he was a stranger to, told to seek his friends that he has never met.
How was he ever going to do that?
"Nya, Okarin, welcome back! What kept you, nya?"
Feyris's eyes shimmered with happiness, at ease without a semblance of worry. Something he did his best to replicate.
"Ah nothing, nothing... just a little nervous, I guess." He said, straining short laughter as he took his place.
Quickly suppressing his thoughts, Okabe turned his gaze towards her, only to be greeted by her face, pouting a wordless "Hmmmm".
"Wh-what?" He asked.
"You nyow, you've been very sketchy lately. Nyaa, did something happen? Do you not like this restaurant? We can go to another if you want."
"No, Feyris, it's fine. We barely started eating anyway, I'm starved. Come, let's just eat."
Fork in hand, ready to partake and wanting to distract himself, he looked down to the large plate of spaghetti, that was already remnants of what it once was, sauce stains being all that remained.
"You finished it?" said an incredulous Okabe, eyes flickering between the plate and Feyris.
With a suppressed burp and a napkin barely hiding a sly smile, she relayed her answer.
"It was only six minutes! How?"
"Nyahaha, worry not my dear Okarin! You didn't think I'd let you starve did nya? Our favorite is already on its way and we can finally enjoy ourselves!"
A gleeful smile plastered every inch of her face, positively glowing with contentment.
"Well, what do nya think, Okarin?" She said, inching herself closer, "Don't nya think I've outdone myself tonight? Ordered your suit, booked the best table in the restaurant, I've even managed to get my best dress in time! Just like that, it's two for zero! Whatever you have planned for me this year, nya, I highly doubt it'd be as extravagant as mine. Nyahaha!"
Unraveling the context between her words proved a little tricky, as shown by the slight furrowing in his brow before he finally understood. He played along.
"Ah, well, my trap card has yet to be unveiled. Don't count me out just yet. Houou- I still have a few tricks up my sleeve."
The playful smirk she displayed had whimsical doubt, "Oh? That's what you said last year, nya, and we all know who's still the reigning champ, hehe."
"No, we'll see, we'll see. Be prepared to eat those words. Only a fool would doubt their opponent before they even begun."
"Hmmmm nya, now nya got me worried there. I'm very very curious now."
"As you should be, as you should be." He taunted.
They shared a smile, one that eased slightly the bubbly apprehension that plagued his stomach.
Alongside familiar company, the tension he felt loosen its hold, and he found himself conversing more, learning the minor details, the subtlety in her behavior as his apparent lover. Her mildly flushed cheeks, as he compliments her appearance. Slow batting eyelids, as they shared silence, with a soft tender gaze that made even his heart flutter.
After an end of a short talk, she stood up, still wearing her warm smile, "Mmm... I feel a little cough is coming up nyow. I'll be back soon."
"Alright, I'll wait right here," said Okabe.
"Nya better not let the food get cold." She said, a finger up in warning. "You better still eat it even if I take a while, otherwise I'll be quite upset you nyow?"
"I understand, I'll put it high up my priority list of things I must do."
After a quick nod of approval, Feyris then strode away, glimpsing back once for a wave goodbye before being obscured from sight.
The chair that fronted Okabe laid vacant, empty, yet a lingering presence kept him from enjoying the ambiance. He eyed his phone, dormant upon the table, wanting for the answers that will never come... at least just for now, he hoped.
Mayuri, Daru, Ruka, Moeka, Suzuha... Makise.
He counted them all, wherever they may be, whoever they may be now. Their names, their appearances, apart from that, nothing else may bear resemblance to their counterparts. For all Okabe knew, they were strangers whom walked the daily life, people to see but never really know.
He breathed. Snuffing the thought. He had to find them, unfeasible as it may sound, he needed to. But how?
A single word, a simple question, hindered everything. Where was he to start?
"Your meal, sir."
With a whiff that proved savory, Okabe once again returned to reality. A large plate now sat on the table, its contents a wide mix of vegetables stirred and fried.
This is our favorite food?
Okabe blinked back his confusion, turning instead to the server to offer his thanks. No sooner had he turned, did his words freeze in place, both eyes and mouth wide open.
The server spoke again, a deep snuffly voice.
Formal wear did absolutely nothing to hide his overly large demeanor. His usual bushy brown hair was now slicked back with an excessive coating of gel. But the stare, the look of mild bewilderment. That expression of his that would always follow after one of his Mad Scientist ramblings.
Okabe could have jumped a thousand world lines and still never forget that face.
Beta Attractor Field, Steins;Gate World Line
"Daru, are you ready to commence "Operation Heodenings?""
The luminous glow of the computer screen stained the lab's wall with a gargantuan shadow that was Daru, consuming most of everything in his shade.
"Operation is ready, set, and go at your command," Daru replied, a massive thumbs-up casting the wall.
"Mayushii isn't sure if we should be doing this with all the lights off," said Mayuri on the couch, hands held against her chest. "It doesn't feel safe."
She directed her qualms to the tall, lanky figure standing by the microwave, whom gave a reassuring smile. "Fear not, Mayuri, for the well-being of my lab members are always my number one priority. The great Hououin Kyouma guarantees you, we will be fine."
"Don't guarantee something you can't guarantee yourself," spoke Makise, right beside him with two pairs of headphones in hand. "This will be our first attempt and if it fails, I don't know what will happen."
"And yet despite that, here you are, already itching to try it out," said Okabe, scoffing. "As per usual, my lab assistant proving herself time and time again to be just as mad as I am."
In the corner, Suzuha, sensing a patience wearing thin, interjected before Makise could have a chance at deterrence.
"Okay, that's enough from you two," she said, walking towards them. "We need to be sure about this. Are you two all set? Are you sure you're ready for what's about to happen?"
A small slender hand rising from the couch, Ruka spoke out. "About that... umm... what exactly is going to happen?"
"Mayushii is curious as well," said Mayuri.
"That goes three for me, nya!" said Feyris, nearly rising from her seat.
"Four," Moeka simply said.
Suzuha felt the gaze of many scour every inch of her being, brimming with inquiries at a dozen that grew more and more every second. A dismal sigh escapes her lips, riddled with both exhaust and exasperation before she finally concedes to elaboration.
"Alright, I suppose I should start from the top then," she said, inhaling a deep breath. "Two things to keep track. One. The original Okabe switches to another world line only after returning back to this world line. Two, now that we hooked up the device to the microwave, we can now send a d-mail containing the divergence number of any world line listed in Makise's notes to switch world lines. Everyone understood that?"
All nodded in unison.
"But the problem that opposed this plan, is Okabe's Reading Steiner. If we are to send this Okabe to another world line and the Okabe of this world line isn't here to replace him, then it is safe to assume that none of us would ever remember Okabe at all."
A silence followed the statement, a silence that needn't words to convey the grievances that would occur, shall anything go amiss. Suzuha continued.
"The Reading Steiner. This is what enables us to retain our memories of Okabe. His memories and interactions of us are what allows us to keep our memories and interactions of him. This is why no one besides Makise could remember Okabe when he disappeared ten months ago and even then she barely did. No Okabe means no Reading Steiner.
"Thankfully all versions of Okabe possesses the Reading Steiner. But, let's just say, hypothetically, what if the next Okabe that leaps into this world line had no memories of us? What happens then? "
She allowed the question to be pondered, before speaking once more.
"Divergence number .214576. The "Negative" world line. This was supposed to be the next Okabe to switch here had we not prolonged this Okabe's stay. This switch was the longest and most affecting out of all the others. A week with that Okabe, a week where only you remembered him, Makise. And according to you, every world line then was pretty much the same thing.
"So with that in mind, I'm sure everyone understands how vital it is for this Okabe to remain here."
There was another tense silence, quickly broken, by a hunched figure sitting at the computer, raising an arm in question.
"Umm, I'm failing to see the problem," he said, eyebrows furrowed. "If that's the case, then we can just keep switching from our Okarin to this Okarin and vice versa since we have the divergence number and all."
An answer came, spoken not by Suzuha, but by Makise in her stead, nearing a solemn whisper, she spoke, "We interrupted the original switch from occurring, so if our Okabe switches back here, or if we send this Okabe back manually, there's no telling when he'll switch again, or what world line he will switch to. Right now, we're running blind. We can't take any risks, we need to prolong this Okabe's stay here until we figure out a solution."
"Nya, this is so confusing!" cried Feyris, ruffling her hair between her fingers.
"Mayushii doesn't really understand too well either," confessed Mayuri. "But it's okay, that means we'll just have to do our best to support you."
She smiled, a smile that was returned by everyone in that lab, in another silence that needn't words to convey anything.
Okabe watched, witnessing a moment he thought long ago impossible, one that resonated a nostalgic glow to fester. But he didn't belong, this isn't his and he accepted that. After all, someone else waits for him in the other world.
"So... if this Okabe can't switch world lines... what are we going to do?" Ruka asked.
"We're working on that right now," said Makise, placing one of the headphones on her head and passing the other to Okabe. "I'm going to borrow Okabe's Reading Steiner."
Author's Note: Decided to do something about my writer's block... so I decided to work on it with one chapter of my first ever fanfiction. I can't say if I will continue anything. But ah well, leave a review, tell me what'cha think and stuff... man, I'm tired.