Part 133: Clover
I listened with rapt attention, at a complete loss for words.
Here is what she said.
999 OST: [Digital Root]
Alice and I are agents of the SOIS, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense. SOIS stands for "Special Office of Internal Security," and we're an elite intelligence division that investigates potentially disruptive or dangerous elements, such as domestic or foreign terrorists, radical political splinter groups, and religious organizations with extreme agendas that could pose a threat to the state or citizenry. Our existence hasn't been made public, so there are only a few people who even know we exist.
You're probably wondering how I even got involved in something like that, huh? Well, it started when I met Alice.
I told you that I've played the Nonary Game twice before, right? Well, this was after the second time... So, about a year ago.
We'd just escaped, and we were all stuffed into this SUV barreling across the desert. I was driving... And that's when I saw her.
Alice. She was standing next to the road with her thumb out.
She was already working for the SOIS, and she'd been on her way to the building we'd been trapped in as part of her investigation. But on the way there her car had broken down...
We offered to give her a ride, of course.
After she got in we started talking and it turned out that Alice had gotten a tip that the terrorists she was after were in the building we'd been trapped in. We couldn't see how us playing the Nonary Game had anything to do with the terrorists... But Alice had a suggestion.
"Maybe the two people who trapped you in there are the terrorists..."
That didn't seem very likely to us, but we were chasing after them anyway, so we decided to bring Alice with us.
Unfortunately, we didn't find them.
As far as we know, they're still out there now, on the run.
Anyway, we were taken back to SOIS headquarters and put into custody. I guess they thought there had to be some kind of connection between us being kidnapped and the terrorist group they were investigating.
But they must not have found anything, because after a few days of questioning they let us go. We all went home and returned to our lives...
But things didn't go back to the way they'd been. My mom got real worried about me and my brother, since we'd gotten kidnapped twice now, so she hired bodyguards for us.
Oh, I haven't told you about my brother, have I? He's super awesome, for one.
And he was in both of the last two Nonary Games, too. So anyway, we'd been grabbed twice... But the people behind the two Nonary Games were totally different.
That didn't matter to my mom though, so after that all these huge men in black suits followed me and my brother everywhere.
It was awful. We were always being watched. People would look at us funny because we were being followed around by a bunch of creepy-looking guys. I couldn't stand it.
Just when I'd thought I'd finally be free, all that was waiting for me was another kind of prison.
The only time I was really happy was when I was hanging out with my brother. So we were talking it over one day, and we decided to leave. Like, run away.
So we did it! After that we lived on our own.
I worked in a cafe, and he composed music.
He plays the harp, and he started writing this kind of new-agey music. It got kinda popular, so we didn't have to worry too much about surviving.
Sometimes he'd play at little venues like coffee houses and stuff, and his fans would show up and listen to him play and cry. Or some of them would meet on their own and recite stuff from the book he'd written and play his songs. I know that sounds kind of, like, weird and cult-y, but they just do that stuff on their own, okay? My brother doesn't have anything to do with it.
Anyway, we did that for a while, and then one day Alice showed up. "I need your help," she told us. "We need people who can do what you can do."
So we went to the location she gave us, and it turned out to be the headquarters of the SOIS, where they'd taken us after the second Nonary Game.
They put us in a room with about a dozen or so other people who were all about the same age as us.
A bunch of them looked familiar, too.
It only took a moment to realize how we knew each other... They were the kids from the first Nonary Game.
We were all excited to see each other again, and we were hugging and shaking hands and stuff... And then Alice walked in.
The whole room went quiet. She walked up to the podium and looked around the room, making eye contact with each one of us.
"Right now a terrorist organization is preparing for a major attack. They plan to trigger a viral pandemic. If they succeed, they will strike a massive blow against all of humanitynot just any one country. It's possible that we, as a species, will die out completely. We are doing our best to prevent this, but we need your help. You are what we call 'espers.' You have the ability to access the morphogenetic field. We need that."
VLR OST: [Clarification]
I'm guessing you don't know what any of that is, but basically we can do this thing that's kind of like telepathy. I mean, it isn't really telepathy, but that's probably the closest thing, okay? Espers can resonate their consciousness with another person through this thing called the morphogenetic field.
The purpose of the first Nonary Game was to research that ability. So they kidnapped kids who had the potential to do it, and threw them into the game...
Alice had gathered up all the kids from that experiment. Well, I mean, it had been nine years since it happened, so we weren't really kids anymore... Anyway, everybody she'd brought in was an esper.
That included me and my brother, of course.
I bet you think I'm just making all this up, huh? I don't blame you. It is pretty crazy. I mean, I was even starting to forget I could do that stuff...
So when I heard Alice's story I was like "Screw that!" I was trying to move on with my life and now some shady government creeps wanted me to use some weird ability I had for them? No way. I wasn't even sure I could do it anymore.
Some of the others felt differently, though, and they told Alice they'd do it. It was a job, after all, and most people wouldn't turn down a salary like that.
Oh, right, I forgot to tell you, she told us how much they'd pay us if we helped. It was a lot. More wealth than you can imagine.
But I was still totally against doing it. My brother told me he'd go along with whatever I decided, so I decided we were leaving.
A couple days passed, and then Alice showed up at our apartment.
She didn't waste time.
The people behind the first Nonary Game might have been part of the terrorist organization Alice and the SOIS were after. Wasn't that, she asked, something that I might want to know more about?
That got me curious. My brother too.
But the clincher was what Seven said to us. He was one of the guys that got abducted with us for the second Nonary Game. She called him on her phone right then and there, and handed it to us.
Seven was a Japanese policeman, which was probably how Alice got in touch with him.
Anyway, that did it. My brother and I agreed to join the SOIS.
For the next couple months, all we did was train. Half of the time it was general knowledge and technical skills an SOIS agent needed, and the other half was learning to strengthen our esper abilities.
They'd actually known about espers for quite a while, and had a lot of techniques that helped us get better and stronger.
After several months of hard work, we were finally ready for our first field missions.
Mine was an infiltration. My brother stayed at the base, so I could relay information back through him. I was supposed to sneak into a research facility, posing as one of their workers, and then use the morphogenetic field to transmit what I found back to my brother.
VLR OST: [Confession]
Everything went wrong. It was a trap. The whole research facility was fake, and I got captured.
Alice had to come and rescue me. I'd been sending information about the inside of the facility to my brother, and Alice used that information to come and find me.
As soon as she got there, she picked me up and carried me out.
I was relieved and happy to be alive and free, but I also felt ashamed and miserable... While she was carrying me back out, I started to cry. She was just so cool, and I wasn't... I wanted to be just like her. So from that day onward, I did everything I could to be more like Alice.
Our infiltration ended in failure, but we did manage to get something useful. In fact, we were able to figure out where their headquarters was.
The directors decided that December 25th, 2028 would be the day we would strike.
This time, I promised myself, we wouldn't screw it up. I was finally going to get some answers about something that had been with me for most of my life.
But then, on December 22nd, three days before the raid... Alice and I were attacked by people in gas masks while we were going over our plans.
999 OST: [Imaginary]
Listen in: [English/Japanese]
All of that talking seemed to have tired Clover out.
She sighed, and her long hair swayed as she moved.
Hey, uh, I've got a few questions...
What are they?
Well... First off...
Your, uh, powers, I guess.
I'm guessing you can't use them right now?
Yeah... I'm not really sure why.
I've been sending my brother messages ever since I woke up, but...
If there was another esper here, they could make me stronger, but that's just wishful thinking.
No, never mind. That's probably not it.
I think I understand what Alice was talking about now.
They were trying to spread that virus, right?
Okay. So who are they?
I can't tell you that.
What?! Why not!?
You told me all that other stuff, but this is too much?!
Well...Alice would be mad at me...
I already told you I wouldn't tell her!
Fine. Let me rephrase.
When are they going to do it?
Well, if we knew that we wouldn't have gone to all that trouble...
So you don't know?
No... All we know is "soon."
But that could mean just about anything.
It could be next week, or next month, or even next year...
Wait. You mean they might have already released the virus?
Wouldn't that make the most sense?
Or that newspaper article? And...
The three people who were put in cold sleep...
Are you saying you, me, and Alice were frozen, and the pandemic happened while we were on ice?
Wait... No, that doesn't make sense.
Nobody else has heard of Radical-6 either.
Maybe they're lying...
Really? All six of them?
Well, if K really does have memory loss, then it's only five.
Quark is out too.
So you're saying Tenmyouji, Dio, Phi, and Luna are all lying?
Hmm... I guess they are a little suspicious...
For lying? How would I know?
Then what's the motive for a terrorist organization to start a pandemic?
I heard it was something about...purifying the unclean...
[Music fades out]
Unclean... Unclean... Unclean... Unclean...
Wh-What...? What are you doing?
Shut up! Just...hold on a minute!
I'm this close to remembering!
Unclean... Clean... Ean... Ean...
She leapt up, suddenly excited!
Ugh! Did you forget it already?! I'm talking about this stuff!
As she spoke, she pulled something out of her pocket.
VLR OST: [Demise]
Oh, right, I remember that.
It was in the safe in the treatment center, right?
I didn't have any idea what it was, though, so I gave it to you.
Are you saying you've heard about this neostigmine stuff before?
Yeah! That's what I'm saying! I just remembered!
My brother told me about that.
Neostigmine is a type of cholinesterase inhibitor!
Um... Sorry, but I still don't get it.
How easy do I have to make it?!
Ugh! Okay, fine!
I'll start at the top, all right?
The stuff I've got in here is neostigmine, which counteracts the muscle relaxant tubocurarine!
Tubocurarine is the poison in our bracelets, right?
Right. It's the second thing we get injected with if we're penalized.
I guess you could say it'll really take your breath away!
So you're saying this neostigmine keeps it from working?
So we can just inject ourselves with this if we get penalized!
Yeah! We don't have to die! We're gonna be okay!
We can only pull the trigger once, though...
That means we can only use it on one person.
This means one of us can break the rules, once.
If somebody gets 9 points, they can open it, right?
With this stuff, somebody who doesn't have 9 points could still leave with them.
Anyway, I'm gonna go tell Alice!
[Music fades out]
Hey! Clover, wait!
It was too late.
Clover was already on the lift and gone.
I was, I think understandably, upset.
With no stairs, my only choice was to wait for the lift to come back down.
As soon as it was back, I jumped on and headed upstairs.