Part 72: Kid - Sixth Day - Part 1
After breakfast we all gathered in the Conference Room. More accurately, we gathered because Sora had called us together. Tsugumi also made a rare appearance.
"There is an important reason why I've called all of you here. There is something that I wanted to inform you about as soon as possible. I know it is difficult, but it is important for you to accurately realize the full gravity of this situation. Please don't panic, settle down...and listen carefully."
Sora paused for a second. Sora looked at all five of us in turn - You, Tsugumi, Sara, Takeshi and then me - before continuing. The Conference Room was silent. But I could hear the sound of water faintly from somewhere. Was it water lapping in the corridors...? Moments later I couldn't hear it anymore. As if Sora was waiting for this cue, she slowly opened her mouth.
"The situation...is not good."
Sora extended her hand and a holographic window appeared in the space in front of us. I felt like I hadn't seen her do that for a while.
"Since the flooding of the Cosmic Whale area in Dritte stock last night, there have been no further reports of significant damage. The burden being placed on LeMU's support columns has increased, due to the flooding. The structural distortion between floors is increasing. If this continues, LeMU will eventually lose its equilibrium and tilt dramatically. If the damage to the areas connecting the floors of different sectors increases, there is the possibility that pipe leaks could flood the dry sectors.
In other words...we can't afford to be careless. Things are critical. I think that I told you this before... Implosion of LeMU is estimated to occur at 4:30 a.m. on May 7. This calculation has a margin of error of +/- 12 hours. There has been no significant change in this prediction. In one area, the strength limits of partitions have already been exceeded. Destruction of LeMU will be gradual, but it will inevitably and steadily occur. It is...only a matter of time."
We all swallowed and held our breath as we listened. We knew we were reaching our time limit. We had no choice but to accept that reality. There was no avoiding the situation.
"Presently, the generator facilities are functioning normally. However, if by chance there is a blackout...we will switch to the emergency power source battery. This is generally meant for supporting the emergency lighting and maintenance on LeMU's system...it should last for about two hours."
Sora's matter-of-fact way of speaking only raised the tension in our minds. For Takeshi and Sara and Tsugumi. And for You. I could not get the image of You, burned into my brain the night before, out of my mind. I still felt as if our lips were touching. From the morning, You and I had avoided one another's eyes. I wasn't sure if we had even exchanged words. You looked straight ahead. I was more conscious of You than of anything else. I didn't know how I should act around her from then on. But... I had other things to worry about. I listened to the conversation.
"The normal communication channels are still not functioning. Neither have I found an escape route. However... I have made protecting you my top priority and LeMMIH is devoting all of its resources to that objective. I am also using all sensors, lights, manipulators and means at my disposal outside of the complex... And I am still investigating whether there are any means of communicating with the outside using light, radio or sound."
Sora nodded her head, straightened her back, and surveyed the room. We were all silent. There was a look of determination in her eyes.
"Let me say one thing more... That as long as I...Sora Akanegasaki exist... And while my powers are limited, as long as you are here... I will do my utmost to find a way for you to escape to safety. We do not have much longer together, but I, Sora Akanegasaki, am at your service."
She concluded with a serious nod. We all nodded.
"We must wait...and believe that help is on its way."
Sora's serious expression gave way to a smile.
"Everyone, let's pray for a safe rescue."
The gloomy atmosphere that had been hanging over the gathering lightened and everyone started thinking about how they should spend their time. Sora's smile instilled everyone with courage. I was grateful for that piece of code in Sora's AI programthe function that allowed her to be calm in times of trouble.
"Now let's end this meeting. Until there is new information available, please do what you will. However, if you do discover anything, please inform me immediately via LeMMIH..."
"Excuse me, Sora?"
Tsugumi suddenly stood in front of Sora. Her smile seemed just a little forced.
"There is something I want to talk with you about. Alone..."
"Yes...please. Actually I have a proposal, an idea of how to escape from here."
"Yes, really? Have you come up with a good method?"
"Yeah. One that you don't know. Only I know about it. I heard from Sara that your operating priorities have been changed. That you are not as stubborn about protecting Leiblich as before."
"Y-yes...and what about it?"
"Maybe you can work with me now."
"Huh?...Hey, Tsugumi hold on. Sora is..."
"You be quiet."
Tsugumi held up her hand as if silencing Takeshi.
"I want to talk with Sora alone."
"Surely, you don't mind?"
"...Of course. Then we will speak in the Central Control Room."
And dont call me Shirley.
"Alright. Let's go then."
With serious looks on their faces, the two of them headed out of the room.
"Hey, wait you two! What about us? If it's important, then we should talk about it here."
Tsugumi glared back at Takeshi. Her eyes were like ice.
"I told you to be quiet."
She turned her back on Takeshi again and the two of them left the Conference Room. The room suddenly fell silent.
"Geez. What's that all about...?"
Those of us left stared at the hologram in the Conference Room and settled down to plotting a strategy to save ourselves. The four of us - You, Sara, Takeshi and I - gathered around the table.
"There's really nothing we can do."
"We'll just have to wait for a report from Tsugumi and Sora."
"Yeah, but Tsugumi hasn't even come back yet."
"Hmm...she is kind of taking a long time..."
"Maybe there's a reason."
"Hey, should I go see how things are going?"
"Huh? Uh... Yeah. You go do that."
"You're okay alone?"
"Yeah, fine. I'll just go take a peek."
With the situation the way it was, no matter how much we worried about it we weren't going to find a solution. That was clear. So we would have to take control of the situation. But how could we do that? We couldn't just rely on thinking. We needed to act. The key to the first step down that path was in the hands of Tsugumi and Sora. That was what I believed.
I pushed the intercom buzzer, but there was no answer. My only choice was to open the door.
"Don't make me keep repeating the same thing!"
Tsugumi and Sora were in the middle of an argument so intense that it seemed they might start going at it hand-to-hand. Neither one would give an inch. They just glared at one another. It looked as though they had been fighting for several minutes. The room was filled with tension. The two glanced at me for only an instant before launching back into their argument.
"Like I've been telling you, that place just does not exist!"
"Sora, please don't make me any angrier. You might be able to trick the others, but lies won't work on me."
"It's not a lie!"
"You still sticking to that line?"
It was a bad scene. Something about the whole thing screamed danger. It wouldn't do to let the two go at it like that. I retraced my steps, hurrying to the Conference Room.
Without waiting for the door to completely open, I bounded into the room.
"Huh? That was quick... Sounds like something big is going down."
"Trouble? What kind of trouble?"
"C-come on! We've gotta go and stop it!"
I told them this as I struggled to get my breath back.
"Stop what? Hey, explain what's going on."
"The Central Control Room...! Sora and Tsugumi... I found them fighting!!"
"I just couldn't watch, so I..."
"This is bad news...at a time like this."
"L-let's go! We've got to stop them!"
"Y-yeah! We'd better hurry!"
The room was full of sharp words and barbed looks. The atmosphere was tense. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Nothing had changed at all. It might be safer to say that things had gotten worse.
"There aren't any floors underneath Dritte stock. We can't go down any further."
"Liar... You're lying! I know.... Oh, how I know. I know that there is another floor under LeMU. I know about the other facilities under here... way under LeMU. I'm right, aren't I?"
"...There is only one answer...to your question. No such facilities exist."
"There have to be! Then what about that room? What is that Himmel about?"
Himmel? I thought I had heard...no, I had seen it before. The name of a room...?
(...Where have I seen it...?)
But my memory was vague and I couldn't connect it with any information in my brain.
Suddenly, Takeshi got between them.
"Tsugumi...why don't you tell me about that?"
"If we've all heard this much, you can't have anything more to hide, right?"
Takeshi stared intently at Tsugumi.
Takeshi turned back to us.
"Hey, if you don't mind... I'll take care of this."
"Are you telling us to leave?"
"Yeah. With this many people arguing, nothing'll get settled. So...just leave this to me, Sora and Tsugumi. Leave us alone for a bit."
"...Alright...let's leave this to Takeshi."
"K...Kid? Why should the three of us be excluded from such an important discussion?"
"I trust Takeshi. And Takeshi has trust in us."
"Takeshi has his own take on things. And I think we should go with what he thinks."
"Oh, whatever.... Fine, Takeshi, we'll leave it up to you, okay?"
"Alright. I got it."
We left the three of them in the Control Room.
The estimated time until LeMU's implosion was steadily approaching. We decided to run a visual check of the complex to see how everything was. Of course, LeMMIH had already checked everything, so it was a meaningless action. But we felt that we had to do something.
Rather, near what used to be the Whale Room. The Cosmic Whale Room was already filled with water.
TrackTraum In Der Dunkelheit
I wondered what the girl I had seen around here was? Where had she gone? Who was the girl singing that lonely children's song? Was she a ghost or something else? Just as I was thinking that...
Suddenly I was hit with a bout of dizziness. My vision contorted and I couldn't stand. I leaned against a wall and slowly crouched on the floor. I was unable to focus my mind. I felt cold... My joints were throbbing.
My stomach felt like it was contracting in on itself....
I threw up everything in my stomach.
It was a stew of half digested chunks of chicken sandwich. I looked at it indifferently and put my hand on my forehead. I wasn't feverish. But I felt terrible.
I headed toward the infirmary intending to get some medicine. Along the way I saw Takeshi. Takeshi was leaning against a wall muttering. He was probably just talking to himself, but I heard what he was saying.
TrackTraum In Der Dunkelheit
"Damn. Nothing's happening...that lying woman...! We don't have the time for this...!"
Lying? Woman? He seemed to be in a bad mood.
"H-hey there, Takeshi."
"Huh? Oh, hey Kid. What's up?"
"Uh...how was the talk with Tsugumi and Sora?"
"Oh, that... It was no good. Nothing there."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Tsugumi's got it all wrong. She doesn't know what she's talking about."
"So the escape route..."
"Nah, we're back to square one."
"Oh, I see..."
I had held out hope that he could pull us through. It was a bitter disappointment.
"Oh, that's right! I can't be standing around."
"I've gotta run. I've got things to do. Later."
Looking stiff, Takeshi headed off. I was left alone.
It seemed the two of them were having a complicated discussion.
"So you can get into the Leiblich company database through this network, right?"
"Yes, it is theoretically possible. But the database at headquarters has security that makes what we have here look simple in comparison. Not only is it hard to break into, it will hack back at you. Besides, there are no open communication channels with the outside..."
"But it's not like the cable connecting us to the group is cut off, right?"
"So even if we can't receive communications we might be able to send them."
"There is that possibility."
"In that case..."
"Huh? Hey, Kid. When did you get here?"
"I've been here for a bit."
"Oh, really? I didn't even notice."
"Is something wrong? You don't look so well."
"Yeah...that escape route that Tsugumi was talking about... So, she turned out to be wrong?"
"Yes, it would appear so."
"Please do not let it dampen your spirits. You can't give up hope. Like I said this morning, LeMMIH and I are doing all we can to get you out of here."
"Yeah. I know. I'm sorry..."
"So what are you doing here, Kid?"
"Oh, yeah. I came to get some medicine. Or some vitamin supplements."
"Huh? Are you feeling bad, too?"
"Huh? You too Sara?"
"Everyone seems fairly fatigued...don't overdo it."
"Nakkyu was just here as well. I guess it is stress. Or lack of sleep, maybe. And all we've been eating is chicken sandwiches... And all of those things...are bad for my skin."
As she complained Sara took a jar filled with tablets from the medicine shelf.
"Here you go."
"So, I guess You took the same ones..."
I drank down the tablets that Sara gave me.
"Where did You go?"
"To the changing room."
"Huh? Why? She's going to change?"
"Yeah. I don't know the details though."
At that point Tsugumi came into the room. Both Sara's and Sora's expressions tensed.
"You too, Tsugumi?"
"It's weird, but everyone seems to be feeling ill today... So I thought that you might be feeling bad, too."
"...Not me. I just... I came to check things out."
"Speaking of weird. I think that guy's lost his mind."
"Do you mean Takeshi?"
"He's been acting pretty strange. His eyes are all bloodshot and he went into one of the emergency corridors. He was breathing funny and acting strange, too."
(Huh? He seemed in a bad mood...but was he that out of it?)
"He was kind of like that from the start, but I think maybe he's lost it."
"Huh? What do you mean he was acting strange?"
"I don't think it could be this, but..."
"Let me see...right now...Takeshi...is...um...Now he is just in the corridor above the changing room..."
"H-hey! Maybe we should go take a look?"
"I think you're right!"
Sara and I hurried out of the room.
"Oh, everyone! He's in the changing room."
There we heard You give an ear-splitting scream.
"Aaaah...noooo...! What is this!?"
I didn't believe it...! It couldn't be!
"Damn! That Takeshi!"
The door was shut. We thought it might be locked from the inside. I knew it wouldn't work, but I was going to try to kick open the door. But, Sara stopped me. Sara went to work on the ten-key next to the door. It seemed that she had a code for emergencies like this. The door opened up. I immediately burst into the room.
You was alone in the room... She had already finished changing. What?
"Who do you think you are bursting in here? Idiot!"
The magazine You had thrown at me hit me full on in the face. I felt a piercing pain in my nose.
"Huh? What're you talking about?"
"Takeshi? What about him?"
Takeshi wasn't anywhere in the room. Come to mention it there were no emergency exits in the room at all. There was no way for him to enter in from an emergency corridor.
"What about that scream just a minute ago... what was that?"
I rubbed my nose as I said this.
You took the collar of her jacket and showed it to us.
"Look at this...it's got a coffee stain on it...do you believe that...?"
There did seem to be a little black stain.
"You screamed because of that...?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, this is my favorite jacket."
"Y-you don't just freak out like that...and if you're done changing, why'd you throw that at me...?"
"What're you talking about!? You're the one who broke into a room where a girl might be changing!"
I looked again at the magazine You had thrown at me. On the cover of the magazine was a glossy picture of a screw and screwdriver. It was a copy of "Monthly Toolbox" magazine.
(What is something like this doing in the girl's changing room.)
Something red dripped on the floor...I had a nosebleed.
"Yuck! Why'd you have to go and get a nosebleed? Leave it to someone named 'Kid' to get a nosebleed. Talk about ironic."
"It...it's because you threw this magazine at me."
I plugged my nose with tissues handed to me by Sara, as I fumbled for an explanation.
"Don't tell me...you looked at that magazine and...?"
"Yuck! You are gross!"
"That's not it!"
"*Sigh*...I guess we didn't have anything to worry about to start with..."
With that, Sara left the room.
"What? Are you leaving?"
"Yup. I've got things to do."
"Lots. There are things I've got to take care of."
I thought...that I detected a gleam of determination in Sara's eyes.
"So I'll leave the rest to you."
Sara waved to me as she left. But an instant later she had poked her face back in the room.
"Oh, you two..."
"Take your own sweet time."
This time she didn't come back.
Finally, the two of us were alone. It was a situation I had been trying to avoid... I fidgeted as I thought of the touch of her lips the day before. I wondered why we had stayed there. It was because You didn't try to go anywhere. With what Sara had said, I couldn't just say 'see you' and leave. If I did that, she'd be able to tell that I was still hung up on the day before. I tried not to think about it.
But the more I tried not to think about it, the more I did. There was a part of me that knew all of this, and pretended I wasn't thinking about it and acted like I was actually thinking about it, but then doing that actually did make me think about it. So I tried to pretend not to think about it, as I was pretending to think about it... Huh? Then I realized that it was all meaningless! The more I thought about it, the more confused I got.
I sat down next to You and stared at the ceiling.
(Oh, that's right...this silence is bad. I better break it somehow.)
I thought I would try to say something and calm myself down.
"Uh...um... Th-those clothes really suit you."
"N-no, I mean...why did you change?"
Unfortunately my mind was still in a state of confusion and wouldn't follow orders.
"Hmmm...I guess maybe you could call it an expression of my resolution."
"The reason that I changed! You asked me, right?"
"I decided to dump the LeMU uniform...for the clothes I normally wear. It's a way of saying goodbye to my LeMU self and hello to the normal me. I just wanna get out of here and get back to my regular life. That's what I decided."
"Hmmm...so that's why."
At that rate I figured the conversation was sure to fizzle out. Uh, I needed something to talk about...
Choosing "You look it." only has the grand difference of...two lines.
"You look it."
It goes right back to Kid backpedaling into "You don't look it." and everything's the same from there on.