Chapter 2

Momoki stood beside the empty well projector. The whole system was firing up as the team busied themselves at their stations. Bringing the Mizuhanome's connection up cold always took time. Somehow that wasn't shocking. He had to wonder how monstrous the computer servers that ran this part of the machine were. Certainly Kura was back to running in a solid groove and he was content enough. With Narihisago fully healed, the last wells hadn't been anywhere near as punishing as the Predator's. And that man was still alive in his cell—well away from Narihisago's lethal influence. He had quite the discussion with Kokufu concerning that near miss. Thankfully Soma had come up with a solution swiftly enough. Frankly, if he had his way Soma would have been made the replacement head of security instead of, Tsutomu Itoh, the transferred nitwit who'd taken those reins of overseeing the prison portion.

But of course there was bureaucracy to contend with, and Kokufu wasn't quite ready to make waves yet. Not that Momoki could blame him. Though he had a sound head on his shoulders, he was awfully young for an acting chief. Some scoffed at taking orders from a guy half their age, nitwit among them. They were going to have to get over that. Kokufu was showing aptitude for the position, the bureaucratic nonsense all that remained for him to master.

Togo observed the camera feed from the chamber. "Narihsago's in the cockpit."

"Good. We're not quite ready yet, stand by."

"Whatever." That melancholy tone seemed typical enough to Momoki.

Wakashika looked up from his readied station as they waited for the well to finish building. "Hey, can I ask Narihisago a question?"

Glancing over his shoulder Momoki waved him onward. Why not, there wasn't anything else going on.

Wakashika rubbed his chin. "So, when you're not in a dive what do you do with your time?"

Narihisago flatly replied, "Stare at the walls. Not much else to do."

"Really? That's gotta be rather boring."

"You've clearly never seen the cell blocks. Not much in the way of luxuries. There's a legit reason for that … "

Wakashika scratched his head as Momoki offered a wry grin. That was true, he hadn't been down there yet. Only Kokufu and Togo had entered those corridors, and mainly for the interrogation room closer to that guarded entrance.

" … when it only takes a simple bed sheet to end it all."

The color drained from Wakashika's face at that stark reply.

"Narihisago." Momoki cleared his throat. "That wasn't funny."

"Wasn't intended to be."

He sighed, and let it go. Not a topic he was particularly comfortable talking about as the memories of the Pyrotechnician's self-strangulated body played behind his closed eyes. He'd been shown the security feed. That was grizzly enough. How the guards on duty had neglected to watch the monitor long enough for that to happen still remained a mystery. However, they were no long employed in the security industry.

Habutae threw his hands in the air in front of his work station. "About time. Seriously, that took way too long. If this is any indication of how this day is going to go, man, I just don't think I want to deal with this shit."

"I'll switch places with you any day of the week."

Momoki cocked his head, there'd been a bit agitation in that reply. "You're in a mood today."

Narihisago sighed, "Sorry. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Fukuda is trying to make friends."

"Well, that doesn't sound so bad."

"He hasn't stopped yammering since he came out of the coma. Topic to topic to topic. I used to think the silence would driving me crazy … well, crazi-er. That was until he decided to strike up a conversation."

Momoki chuckled. "Why don't you try talking back for once, in a civil way."

"I got a better idea. Can you put him back in a coma please?"

Cracking a grin, he fought to keep the mirth from his reply. "No, we can't."

"Fine." That was an reply with exhaustive tones. "At least I discovered one way to shut him up. He hates it when I recite Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

"That's kind of mean. Do you get a kick of prodding people's psychoses?"

A marked silence stretched out overlong.

Momoki suddenly waved a hand in the air. "Wait! Don't answer that."

"I was gonna say, that's probably about the most ignorant question I have heard from you. As for Fukuda, hey, whatever works in a pinch. You have no idea how annoying his constant chatter gets. A dripping faucet would be more welcome company."

"I'd ask if you were up to this, but there really isn't a choice. So, you're just gonna have to get over we don't have time to waste on petty arguments."

A rather long sigh crackled over the speaker.

"What was that for?"

"Why ask if you don't care. Can we get on with this?"

Momoki shook his head, he really was surly today.

Togo cleared her throat. "All systems are online, Director."

"Alright, Narihisago, you ready?"

"Yeah, let's see what rescued me from auditory torture. With my luck it'll be some dick obsessed with talking parrots."

Momoki smirked and folded his arms across his chest. "Inject Sakaido."


Standing in the middle of the stainless steel room, Sakaido could have been watching a tennis match as he looked back and forth. At his feet Kearu's body lay in a spattering of blood. The cause of death some form of explosive, only a few burnt wires remained. Tethered to each of her wrists had been a bulky key. He now held one in each hand. The room was easily twenty feet wide. As he swung his head from one end to the other, he cocked an eyebrow.

In the center of the end wall a keyhole locked a large sliding panel, behind it a red button. At the other end, the exact same thing. Only, the moment he let go of the key to unlock the other one the panel slid closed. And of course there were no doors out of this place.

That being the case … how did I even get in here in the first place?

He reached up toward his forehead, loosely covering one eye as he let the information he'd gathered roll around. "Hitting one button does nothing. Doesn't seem to be a sequence, either. Trying that did nothing. It takes two hands to operate one side, one to hold the spring loaded locking mechanism and one to hit the button. I can't reach the other one unless I let go of the first. Nothing in this room to make it work simultaneous. That's it though, it has to be. Both panels and buttons have to operate in tandem." His brow furrowed. "But how?"

Stretching his arms out he huffed a breath, disturbing the shock of hair that hung down. "Yeah, I'm a little short on arm length for this one."