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shaking his head, in disgrace with me

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Junpei stopped in his tracks as he saw Sigma coming down the hall, dressed in a simple suit with a red tie.

“Are you wearing that to the raid?”

“What raid?”

Sigma looked like he had no idea what he was talking about.  He pulled a small file drive out of his shirt pocket.

“Diana and I have a theory.  I had a job interview today and I figured I’d drop in to run it by Akane, but she’s not here.”

Junpei pointed to a small white stain on Sigma’s shoulder.  “Was that there when you interviewed?”

“Shit.  Luna spit up while I was feeding her.  I thought it only got on the blanket.” 

He smirked at Sigma, but only for a moment.  He was sure he remembered the conversation with Akane correctly.  She had been studying the information Sigma and Phi had given them for hours, carefully plotting out a path in her notebook.  She hadn’t even come to bed last night; he had found her at the kitchen table that morning, still working.

“She said the raid was tonight.  I thought you were coming with us.”

He shook his head slowly.  “No.  She told me we didn’t have enough information and any infiltration would have to wait.”

Both men seemed to have the same realization at the same time and they took off down the hall.  When they made it to the elevator, Sigma punched the down button so hard Junpei was afraid it might crack.  The elevator took forever to arrive and when it did, the door didn’t open quickly enough for Junpei.  They got inside and Junpei repeatedly jabbed the button to take them to the basement.

“That doesn’t make it actually move faster.”

“Shut up, Sigma.”

The second the doors opened, they bolted out and made a beeline for the command center.  The light outside the door was red, indicating that the room was in use and nobody was supposed to enter. 

They barged in anyway.

“The fuck, Phi?” Sigma exclaimed.  “What the fuck are you doing here?”

She sighed heavily and covered the microphone on her headset as she turned to glare at the intruders.  “Going colorblind, grandpa?  Red means stop.”

“You both need to get the fuck out of here,” Aoi commanded.  Sigma started to argue, but Junpei wasn’t listening.  The image on the screen looked like an overhead view of the same office building that Sigma and Phi had run reconnaissance on last week, only put through an infrared filter.  There were over a dozen orange and red dots inside the building and another dozen around the perimeter.  Two more dots were in the bottom left corner of the screen.

“Which one of those is Akane?” Junpei demanded.

Aoi just stared at him and pointed at the door.

“Don’t fuck with me!”  He grabbed Akane’s brother by the shoulders and pulled him close enough to yell into the microphone on his headset.  “What the fuck is going on, Akane?”

Aoi shoved him back so hard Junpei fell on his ass.  Phi rolled back in her chair and handed Junpei a headset.  He promptly put it on and repeated his question.      

“Jumpy, what are you doing there?”

He relaxed slightly when he heard Akane’s voice.  “You promised me!  You promised me, no more lies, no more secrets.  What the fuck are you doing?”

Sigma, apparently not wanting to be left out of the conversation, snatched another headset off the counter.

“I’m sorry.  I couldn’t let you come.  I couldn't let you risk your life.”

“What about me?” Sigma interjected.  “I memorized the layout and the guard rotations.  I’m prepared for this.”

There was a long moment of silence before she answered.  “I couldn’t do that, either.  It’s too dangerous.”

“You’ve had him do plenty of dangerous shit!” Junpei shouted.

“But now he has a daughter.”

“Uh, hello?”  Phi made a face at the screen, even though Akane couldn’t see her.  “What am I, chopped liver?”

“You’re a grown woman, Phi.  I know his death would hurt you deeply, but you’re old enough to be able to process it and move on.  I … I know what it’s like to lose a parent at a young age.”

Aoi went stone-faced as he dropped his gaze to the floor.

“I’ve done a lot of things that … I know I’ve hurt people,” Akane continued.  “I know I’ve hurt you, Junpei. When I saw Luna with her parents ... I … I don’t want to be responsible for her growing up without a father.”

Sigma slammed his fist against the wall.  “Are you saying this is a suicide mission?”

“So you went off alone?” Junpei said.  “How do you think I’ll feel if you die out on –?”

“She’s not alone.  I promise you, we’re coming back alive.”

Everyone in the room stopped talking at the sound of Carlos’s voice over the headsets.

“You don’t understand.”  Sigma made an angry gesture at the screen.  “This could be more dangerous than you think, Akane.”

“I already talked to Diana.”

What the fucking fuck are you all talking about?

“Akane, we need to move,” Carlos said, ignoring Junpei’s question.

“No, someone is going to tell me what the fuck is going on!” Junpei roared.

“Secondary frequency, Carlos.”

“Copy that.”

Junpei saw Aoi and Phi tap buttons on the sides of their headset.  With that, he found himself cut off from Akane.  He yelled into the headset, but if she could hear him, she didn’t respond.  He turned to Sigma, grabbing him by the lapels on his suit as he tried to shove the larger man up against the wall.  Sigma barely budged and shoved Junpei back like he was nothing.

“What do you know, Sigma?  What do you and Diana know?”

“We’re not certain –”

“Take it outside, guys,” Phi snapped at them.  “We’re trying to concentrate here.”

“Spill it!”

The taller man’s eyes were trained on the screen and Junpei followed his gaze.  The two orange spots that he suspected were Akane and Carlos were moving towards the building.

“You tell me now, or I swear to God, I will –”

Sigma grabbed the finger Junpei was waving in his face and bent it back just enough to be painful.

“Gah!  Asshole, just –”

“Do you remember the clinical trials at Olympic Memorial?” he asked as he released Junpei’s finger.


“They were engaging in genome editing.  When she showed me the sequences they were inserting, I recognized some of them.  I had to sequence my own genome as part of the AB Project.”

Phi had been muttering into the headset, but she turned her head to look at them when she heard that.  “You can’t possibly have memorized your entire genome.”

“Only parts of it.”  He turned back to Junpei.  “Diana and I think they were inserting genes in an attempt to create espers.”

Phi seemed as stunned as Junpei was, but Aoi didn’t react, aside from snapping his fingers and gesturing for Phi to focus back on the task at hand.

“If … if they’re creating espers…”  He trailed off, staring at the screen in horror.

“Yeah,” Sigma said.  “If we’re lucky, maybe they’re just creating SHIFTers and they know we’re coming.  If they’re creating mind hackers, it’s going to be much, much worse.”

Junpei advanced on Aoi, fists raised.  “Get them out of there, now.”

“Fuck you.”

“So that’s why she asked for it.” Phi murmured, so softly that Junpei almost missed it.

“Asked for wh– ah!” 

He had turned towards her to demand an explanation, but as soon as he did, he felt a needle prick against the back of his neck.  Sigma swiftly moved forward to catch him as he started to fall. 

“Should have let the fucker hit the floor.”

“Fuck … fuck you, Aoi…”

Sigma’s face, looking just as distressed as he felt, was the last thing Junpei saw before he fell unconscious.