Chapter 1: Into the Looking Glass
The sound of his heartbeat roared within his ears, pounding in fear. Monsters of twisted flesh and sprawling nightmares spun into life in a sea of terror.
This is not real.
The world was pulling apart at the seams, crumbling like ash in the palm of a hand. Flams seared from the cracks of destabilization, threatening to incinerate anyone that dares fall into them.
This is not real.
Faces passed by. Faces of The Lost. Faces of those lost. The worlds had claimed what was due to them, twisted perversions of life itself, created as a means to rule and swiftly destroyed as the abominations they were.
This is not fucking real.
The world paused, earth floating upwards as it tore apart. Beasts of hate and agony suspended themselves, everything opening a path to the form of a small child. Her eyes peered to her feet, and he could see the faint outline of tears falling. His feet moved forward, but his body was made of lead. His daughter. He had to keep his daughter safe.
Blue eyes were slowly cast upward as the arms of the small girl reached out. Her face was fully of terror, and a deep sadness. "Daddy!" she called again as the ground began to tear apart.
No. He had to reach her. He had to reach her and keep her safe. He had to move, but his body would not listen to what he wanted. It slowed, the very act of running a soon impossible task as he watched the world shatter.
"Daddy!" cried the sad, scared voice. He could only watch as the ground gave way under both of them, plunging them both to the flames of hell itself.
Sebastian Castellanos sat up with a jolt, gasping as he felt his heart pound in his chest. Sweet dripped from every pore, his frame trembling in an all to familiar terror. His man struggled to grasp to reality, so wary of existence that even now, Sebastian did not trust consciousness.
Ground yourself. He thought, forcing himself to take a deep breath. Do what Juli told you to do. Name something you feel.
His hands grasped, and he could feel the smoothness of the sheets below him, making him aware of the fact that he was in his bed.
Name something you smell.
The faint hint of dinner from the night before hit his nose, and a memory of enjoying dinner with his daughter came to mind, slowly calming Sebastian.
Name something you hear.
The ticking of his alarm clock, a faint sound in the otherwise silent house. The clock was old, but he refused to give it up.
Name something you can see.
He sat up.
Brown eyes met with blue.
“What the fuck?” Sebastian cursed, immediately reaching for his revolver. He had just barely managed to stop himself when he realized who he was about to aim it at.
“What the fuck is going on?” he cursed at her, his muscles tense. “I don’t see you in over a year, and now you’re in my goddamned house!” He studied her face, anger welling up, though not truly at her. Seeing her now, he could sense the feeling of dread.
Anytime she vanished, it was only a matter of time before she would show up again, and bad news always followed her.
“We never defeated Mobius.” She said bluntly. “We only stalled them.”
“What the hell do you mean?” Sebastian moved to get out of bed, making sure his revolver was in hand. If Juli was around, he would not be surprised if there were others nearby. “What about Myra’s plan?”
“Mobius is far larger than we thought, Sebastian.”
Dread filled the older man, eyes suddenly wide.
“Where is my daughter?” he yelled at Juli. He would worry about his attitude later, but if what she said was true, then his daughter was in danger.
“She’s safe, I promise you.” Juli assured, her voice a whisper. “I made that promise to both you and Myra. I am not about to let anything happen to your little girl.” Sebastian was still apprehensive, but he felt a small bit of relief. If there was anyone he could trust to keep Lily safe, it was Juli.
“Where did you take her?”
Juli merely held a finger to her lips, and Sebastian was quickly aware that someone may be listing in. He nodded. He wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his daughter’s life, even if he wanted answers in the moment.
He lowered his voice, eyes darting around the room now. “How do you know they are back?” he mouthed.
Juli offered a wry smile, raising her voice. “You know, sometimes your job wants to fire you, but they don’t have proof of any incident when you are... innocent ,” she chose her words carefully. “I was just fortunate enough to have my chip taken out for repair before the Union STEM system did the damage it did.”
Sebastian managed a dry laugh. “Shame you were never a detective.” he commented, impressed by her intelligence, then a frown pulled at his lips. “Why are you here then? Why are you telling me this?” the dread welled in his gut.
“We need your help again, Sebastian.”
Rage welled up in Sebastian once more. Rage at Mobius. Rage at himself. However, Juli was there, and he couldn’t feel the guilt he should when his ire was directed to her
“You expect me to come with you to clean up your mess again?” he growled through gritted teeth. “Why the fuck won’t you guys leave my family alone?”
“You’re the only one we can depend on for this.” Juli interjected. “You are the only one to have survived the collapse of two different STEM worlds.”
“And now you are having trouble with another one.” Sebastian added in. “You want me to go back into that hellhole because Mobius can’t learn their lesson to not fuck with people’s heads. I am too old for this shit, Kidman. I lost my wife because of you assholes. I just want to watch my little girl grow up.”
Juli’s voice lowered once more. “Please, Sebastian. They either take you, or they go after Lily again if you refuse.”
Rage boiled, then fizzled, and he could see the guilt in her eyes. Please help me stop this. She mouthed. For Myra.
Sebastian cupped his hands to his face, rubbing at his temples, a low growl of frustration. Myra, his wife, not just the woman of his dreams, but a hero in everything she had done for his family while he sat at the pub getting wasted two years ago.
He was not about to let her down again.
“Give me five minutes to get dressed.” he finally spat out. “Kidman, I swear to fuck, once we are done with this shit, you need a different job.”
“Trust me, I’m trying Sebastian.” Juli offered a dry laugh. “We’ll be waiting for you outside.”
True to his word, Sebastian was making his way out the door. Slacks, an old polo, boots and his gun holster hidden under an old windbreaker, he wasn’t looking to impress. He was just trying to get a job done, one he had done too many times before.
“Mr. Castellanos, I am glad you decided to agree.” Juli said with all the manner of someone under Mobius’ watchful eye. “I will fill you in on the project on your way to the facility.”
Two operatives stood at the black SUV, black suits and sunglasses dressing them in a manor that no one could really tell them apart. One opened the door to the back, and Sebastian kept a close eye on them.
He nearly laid one out as they grabbed his revolver from his holster, hands moving fast into the older man’s coat. “Give that back you asshole!” he cursed, but Juli just directed him to the SUV.
“It’s protocol, Sebastian.” she answered. “You will get it back when you are done with you mission.”
“If you guys don’t try to kill me again.” Sebastian glared as the operative pocketed his gun. Juli just gave him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. She protected him before, and she wasn’t about to let him die on a mission now.
There wasn’t much Sebastian could do but to get in, his nerves on fire with losing control. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t thinking of every way to kill these men, and their bosses, but he didn’t say a word. If he wanted to keep Lily safe, he would behave.
Juli got in beside him, door closing. Sebastian tried to look out the window, but was greeted with windows tinted to the point of blackness, and a divider between driver and back passengers that prevented him from seeing out the front. They really don’t want me seeing where they are going. he thought bitterly.
The vehicle roared to life, Sebastian not realizing their escorts had gotten in, and the vehicle started it’s steady path forward. He tried not to think about the fact that he was trapped. “This shit’s worse than the time you drugged me, Kidman.”
“Trust me. I think the only thing that makes anything about this not as messed up as last time is this isn’t your daughter we are trying to help.”
“What? Found someone else’s kid to take her place?”
“No, not exactly, but let me tell you that the dead generally don’t have living relatives to protest them being science experiments.” Juli pulled out a file, the off-yellow tint of the manilla folder visible in the darkness of the backseat. She hit a button, a low light illuminating her side.
“What are you saying? That the dead come back to life?” Sebastian mocked a little.
“A year after Union, after Mobius recovered from the damage of the incident at that facility, they started testing on genetics.” she started. “Some fo those genetics were taken from your daughter, but they showed little success in cloning her.”
“So, you can’t have my daughter, might as well try and create her in a tube, right?”
“That was the plan, pretty much.” Juli sighed, though she could not blame him for his anger. “Most subjects, however, were barely just a shadow of your daughter, and most died before we could bring them to age to be a suitable core, so we started testing on the DNA of those that have died.” she flipped through the pages of the file, coming across one listed as Project Concord.
“Resurrection through dead tissue showed more success than the DNA of someone that was still alive, though most people showed incapabilities to be cores.”
“Let me guess, bring them back, and then kill them when they don’t test out.” venom laced Sebastian’s voice.
“Not exactly, no.” Juli answered. “Even if they couldn’t be a core, they could still live in the STEM community, and considering how many people Mobius needed for their projects, it was a lot more efficient to keep them alive without having to worry about kidnapping people.” she continued flipping through the file. “It is a lot easier to keep these projects under wraps when you don’t have the feds breathing down your neck.”
“Why not just plant some of your men in with the feds.”
“That’s been rather hard to do since the Beacon incident, even more so after Union.” Juli explained. She stopped at a set of papers, the stapled booklet sporting a simple cover page of “Project - Hitokiri, Subproject of Concord”.
“We turned to other individuals, those that have been dead for over a century. Most had no living relatives, and even more of them were erased from the face of history.” she handed the booklet of papers to Sebastian. “I am sure you have heard all about samurai.”
“Yeah, I have. Don’t they hold a bit too much honor to be a core?” he answered.
“Absolutely, but Japan had another set of men, assassins. Called Hitokiri.” she watched as Sebastian looked through the file. “It was hard to find data on the lives of these men, let alone DNA, but the subjects we were able to bring back showed resistance to turning Lost, and possible compatibility to becoming Cores.”
“But shit went sideways.” Sebastian looked over at Juli, and all she could do was nod.
“Shit went very sideways about five days ago.” the affirmation felt like vindication to Sebastian. “We placed in a new subject as a core about that time, about two weeks after we placed a candidate into STEM for testing. It was fine for the first 12 hours, and then we started losing a stable signal.”
“Just like what happened with Union. Mobius doesn’t learn, do they?”
“They are just going to keep trying until they figure things out.”
“So what am I supposed to do? Couldn’t you send in your own operatives?” Sebastian felt as if though he already knew the answer to that.
“The objective is to find the subject we are testing, code name Project Hitokiri Battousai.” She cringed, the thought of calling a human a project made her ill. “We need to extract him. We feel the current core was far more corrupt than we thought, is making a bid for power, and may be after Project Battousai. We sent in a few operatives, but we either lost contact, or they died.”
Sebastian turned to her, handing back the file. “And I am here to clean up the mess.” he iterated again.
“Like I said, you’re the one with the most experience with this, and I think that is why Mobius hasn’t gone after your life.” the young Mobius agent re-filed the paperwork. “We need you to find and extract Project Battousai, and help any operatives you find.”
“So much for letting the dead rest in peace.”
The SUV came to a slow roll, and they could hear the window roll down in the front. There was talking amongst operatives before they moved forward once more.
We must be here.
It all felt like a blur. Stop. Wait. Climb out. Move forward. Eyes scanned a hallways of sterilized white and fluorescent lights that were all to familiar. Sebastian forced down the memories of the last time he had made his way down similar halls.
At least I am not strapped down to a wheelchair.
Few words were shared between Juli and himself. He knew what awaited him behind the metal automated doors.
It wasn’t any easier for him to see Mobius’ rebuilt well guarded secret. Memories rushed back of Union, of him entering STEM just two years ago to save his daughter.
Of his wife sacrificing herself to bring down an operation that had proven itself to be too large.
The machine was all to familiar, specialized tubs surrounding a centralized point, wires and cables leading to the “Core” of the machine. The Core of the machine labeled “Project Hitokiri”.
Sebastian remembered when his daughter had been in something similar. In ways, he couldn’t blame the soul trapped as the Core for going off the rails.
He took note of the bodies laying in several of the tubs. Mobius operatives, sent into STEM. “How long has this set been in the hellhole?” Sebastian asked.
“About four days now.” Juli answered. “They’re what is left of the current team.”
Sebastian counted four of them as Juli lead him to an empty tub. He stared at it with disdain. It was nothing but a portal into hell as far he was concerned.
A portal to a wretched dimension that he had to head into if he wanted to keep his family safe. Juli made her way to the computer connected to the STEM terminal, waiting for Sebastian to climb in.
This is too much like Union.
He climbed in, settling into the small bit of liquid in the bottom, his arms crossing against his waist. He looked over to her, then to the terminal next to him. He couldn’t see much, but he noted that the terminal was occupied. A thin wrist was restrained to the side. The former detective narrowed his eyes.
Not Mobius. Looks like the poor soul got forced in.
Juli pulled out a flash drive, plugging it into Sebastian’s terminal, typing away as she put into the data she needed to.
“Stay alive, Sebastian.” she commanded. “You need to make it out of here alive. Good luck.”
“Good luck would not be ending up in this mess again.”
“Glad to see your poor sense of humor is still in tact.” Sebastian turned his eyes forward. He expected a familiar form, even though he knew who expected to see was long dead, the target of Myra.
All he saw was the sheen of black glass, but Sebastian knew he was being observed by someone far more powerful than even the Administrator.
“Trust me Sebastian. I will keep you and Lily safe.”
A pause, and then the press of the button.
“STEM Entry in 3… 2… 1…”
Sebastian braced himself for the all too familiar sensation of falling, down from the facility, through the liquid, then down to the abyss.
This time, though, he would be prepared. The falling slowed down, came to a stop as he landed on his feet, eyes peering forward toward a single beam of light. He moved forward to it, almost acting on instinct by this point.
Just like Union.
He could hear the ringing of the com, pushing forward, finding himself thankful that past memories did not lead him. No fire. No Beacon. No Union. Just determination, and a mission, and a lone desk in the vast sea of darkness containing a single com unit.
Sturdy hands reached over to pick it up, and the darkness gave way to an all too familiar office. Hardwood floors, white walls, case files.
His Room. His former office as Senior detective.
“Good, you made it in alright.” he heard Juli’s voice over the com as he answered.
“Yeah, you get used to it after a while, Kidman.” there was a rough laugh. “Well, everything but the headache. I do wish my memories would pick something else to be my Room, though.”
“I guess there might be some memories too hard for you to let go, Sebastian.”
“Yeah, well, I would like to be able to move forward with my life for once. Let’s get on with it. Who is it that I am looking for?”
“The information should already be there.” the crackle of static made Sebastian’s head pound, but he tried to ignore it. He looked up from his desk, over to an all to familiar pinboard. Missing Persons pics adorned it, four of them linked with red string to a Mobius file in the center. “This is all of your lost team. What about Project Hitokiri?”
“I don’t have high enough clearance to access that information, let alone send it to you, unfortunately.” there was guilt in Juli’s voice. “Just be on the lookout for someone who-”
The communications cut out.
“Kidman? Hey, Kidman!” Sebastian shook the com, but all he could hear was the piercing static. “Shit. I thought we were suppose to keep communications in here.” He took a deep breath, and for a moment, wished he had a stiff glass of whiskey.
“Shit must be worse in here than they though.” he growled.
He took a moment to study the data of the missing Mobius operatives, commiting to memory each detail, face and name, then reached over to grab his revolver.
Only to find his holster empty.
Anger coursed through the former detective as he cursed., eyes scanning around his office for anything he could use. He found himself to be empty handed however.
“There has to be something out there.” he muttered. “Every fucking time. It would be a lot easier if these bastards gave me a weapon before sending me out.” he shook his head, lips pulling down in a frown of rage. There was a deep sigh, then he muttered. Sebastian turned, making his way forwards, his eyes catching a familiar sheen in the light.
Mirrors. The mirror.
A frown tugged at his lips, an uneasy feeling at how normal it felt to have the mirror be his way into the STEM. “Maybe one of these days my memories will decide doors are more effective.” he half joked as he made his way towards it. He could see the light pull him forward, blinding him as it illuminated.
Just as quickly as it came, the light faded, no longer blinding Sebastian. He took a moment for his sight to adjust and he found himself looking down the road, overgrown with brush, crumbling apart, leading to a deceptively quaint town into the distance.
“I don’t think I ever want to see another small town again after all this.”
Only thing to do now was to move forward.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two: Where We All Can be One
Warning: Chapter is currently unbeta'ed!
The faint filtering light of the early morning sun started to filter through the shoji, casting onto a drowsing form. There was a soft groan, and a small hiss of pain, red locks falling to the wayside while he shifted. His head was agony, not something he had experienced in a long time.
Still, he sat up, hands rubbing at his temples to try and ease it. He tried desperately to remember the night before, and what could have caused his head to hurt so.
Think, Kenshin, he thought to himself drearily. Was there any fights you got into last night?
It scared him a little that he didn’t remember.
He took a deep breath, daring his eyes to open. The wave of pain that hit him was almost unbearable, but he still forced himself up. It was late, especially for him, to be waking at this hour.
He spent the time waiting for the pain to ease by putting away the bedding, slow and methodical, not ready to face the full power of the morning sun. The ache went from agony to annoyance, slowly shifting to a dull, persistent ache as he placed the last of the bedding away.
He took a deep breath. It had been quite a while since he had experience a migraine quite like that, and Kenshin was thankful that it had faded quickly. He certainly had too much to do, and he had already lost enough time as it was.
Sleeping yukata was exchanged for his familiar hakama and simple, red men’s kimono. He took a moment to straighten out his hair, tying it back for the day, before going to grab his sakabato.
The familiar weight of the weapon was no there.
There was a sense of panic in the wanderer. If there was one constant in his life over the past ten years, it was that familiar weight of his sakabato. He felt as lost as he did when his shadow forge had broken.
It’s possible I set it somewhere else. Maybe Miss Kaoru might know where it is.
There was a pause. His thoughts felt… weird. Almost disjointed in a way.
He pushed the thought back, figuring it was likely from what had happened the night before. He was going to have to ask Sanosuke what had happened. It was likely his friend would know.
He made his way out to the main portion of the familiar dojo, the building ingrained into his mind like it was a part of him. “Kaoru-dono? Miss Kaoru?”
It didn’t hit him at first, the red-head first waiting for an answer where there was none.
“Miss Kaoru?” He paused, shaking his head a moment. Confusion seeped in. As far as he knew, he was not fluent in English. However, it had only been one word.
Maybe I just picked it up from somewhere, that I did.
That was the only possible explanation he had, but it was an explanation.
Kenshin went back to the task at hand, calling out, looking around the dojo. “Kaoru-dono? Are you here? Yahiko?” Silence.
“They must be at another dojo today.” he murmured to himself quietly. “They must have just let me sleep.” he ignored the slight flutter of emotions over the thought of Kaoru taking the time to ensure he had rest.
It still didn’t answer the question of where his trusted weapon was, however.
An hour later, he would still have no answers.
Kenshin had done his best to find his weapon, but it was nowhere to be found.
Worse still was the feeling in his gut telling him that he wouldn’t be able to find it.
He took a few moments to calm his nerves. Surely the others had seen it. He could handle a few hours without it, and it wasn’t like he had not improvised other items to weapons when the time called for it.
“I have to get to the market, that I do.” Kenshin whispered to himself. The weight of safety was not with him, but he would be able to take care of himself.
Frustrated, his head still aching, Kenshin made his way through the gates. He moved through the familiar pathway out from the dojo, down towards the markets like he had done many times in the past.
Until it was no longer familiar.
Kenshin didn’t notice it at first. It was small things that he had not paid attention to. Unfamiliar trees and flora. Sounds in the distant that did not seem familiar, but were too far away to be of any interest.
It was the slow, gradual smoothness of the road that made the rurouni pause.
Violet eyes looked down to see paved roads, rather than the dirt he was so used to. The color was strange, a dark grey that was far smoother than any paved walkway he had ever been on.
Confusion began to set in. He looked back, towards the familiarity, then forward. A shake of the head, and yet what he saw was still there.
Kenshin couldn’t form the words he wanted to truly describe his confusion, and yet this did not seem like a dream. In fact, there was something telling him that there was more to all of this, and he hate that he couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
Have the others seen this as well?
The wanderer steeled himself and moved forward. There was a bit of curiosity, and the man couldn’t help but to travel along new paths. Even if those paths
Without a doubt
Familiar molded into unfamiliar. Eastern turned into western buildings, and then even those turned into things that Kenshin would have never had dreamed about. Hard, smooth pathways, horseless carriages, and buildings constructed of materials he had ever seen.
This has to be a dream.
Once more, he looked back, but he had moved so far that Kenshin could no longer see the familiar. He forced himself to make note of his surroundings so he could make his way back. He kept moving, nervously waving at people in clothes he had never seen, holding small rectangular objects that were so very unfamiliar. Faces from places all around the world caught his eyes.
There is no way this is Japan. Kenshin thought, then paled.
That can’t be Kaoru’s dojo. Where am I?
The thought made him sick. Whatever happened last night, he had ended up here. Whatever happened last night, someone knew enough of the dojo to recreate it to the very last details.
Kenshin feared for his friends safety.
He broke out into a run, wishing that he had his sword with him. His heart was pounding as he raced forward, barely noticing where he was going as he ran past others, desperately trying to see if he could find his friends amongst the unfamiliar faces.
Hurried feet quickly came to a stop.
The wanderer had nearly run out into the road, not even noticing the traffic, or the lights. Eyes darted around, spinning around as he desperately tried to make sense of his surroundings. Everything seemed so very… Advanced.
There was not a familiar face in sight.
Kenshin’s eyes settled on a sign, and he paused.
Welcome to Concord, The Home Where We All Can Be One.
There was only problem.
As far as Kenshin knew, he shouldn’t have been able to read the English.
Two weeks with no answers.
Two weeks with no means of escape.
How he got here, Kenshin had no memory of it. He wondered, in a way, if he had simply lost his mind. It wasn’t just his home now in the middle of unfamiliar territory- his home seemed to be in the middle of a completely different era.
One that he was slowly learning how to navigate.
The wanderer had started by simply asking people where he was, in hopes he could at least pinpoint a means to get home, but the answers were all the same. Concord. There were no answers as to what country he was in, or how far from home he was. There was one particular instance, however, that made his skin crawl.
She was a young woman, mid twenties, one he had spotted tending to her garden as he passed by the white fence.
“Excuse me?” he called over to her, careful to not slip into Japanese. “Could you tell me where I am?”
The woman looked up from her gardening over to the red head, looking him over as she judged his choice of attire. “You’re in Concord, dear.” she seemed to say with a tone that suggested Kenshin should already know.
“I mean, I know that, that I do. I was just wondering where Concord was exactly. I am only trying to find my way back home.” he had managed to hide his mild irritation over yet another person telling him absolutely no information.
“But… you are home.” the woman simply answered with mild confusion. “That’s what Concord is.”
The day after, Kenshin found himself being followed.
Men, clearly geared up, trained. They made Kenshin nervous, especially since he had no weapon to defend himself with, though he wasn’t certain he could win with the guns they carried. It wasn’t like the wanderer hadn’t gone up against guns before, but if the technology on the ones the men carried were anything like the technology he saw everywhere else in Concord, Kenshin was sure that the weapons were far superior to any he had ever gone against.
Kenshin had tried to lose them. He had run across the street, barely managing to dodge the traffic of horseless carriages. He wandered the aisleways of the various shops he could find. He even tried to lose them in the library, but no matter how hard he tried, as soon as Kenshin lost one of the men, it seemed like another would show up.
He noted they were all of the same group. A symbol of a spike, and three stars, and the word Mobius, adorned their equipment.
It was… Familiar. Not familiar like his home and family and friends, but a familiarity that he knew there was more to all of this, and yet, no matter how hard he tried to remember, he couldn’t.
It was almost as if that part of his memory was locked away.
The days passed by. Kenshin tried to wander out of the town. He looked for any footpath away from Concord, away from the dojo that seemed so very wrong, but he was soon met with more men that would not let him leave.
They’re trying to keep me here. Why?
After a week, exhausted and weary, Kenshin decided to lay low. He spent more time at the dojo than in town, other than to get what he needed. He tried his best to blend in with the people of the city, but he was an oddity, and Kenshin didn’t understand half of what was going on.
But he was learning.
Kenshin observed the people that used the new technology as best he could, wondering how he could use it to his advantage to just leave this place. He began to notice that his followers seemed to have backed off, at least a little, and Kenshin was thankful for that breathing room.
It allowed him time and space just to think.
I could take one of those… Cars, I think someone called them. Kenshin mused. I could try to use that to at least get far enough away from here to where they couldn’t find me.
There was a pause in thought.
But those men probably have cars of their own, and they have experience that I don’t.
He took a deep breath. There had to be a way out.
Maybe I will try and sneak out at night. It’s easier to hide under the cover of darkness… But I need my sakabato, and those men might have it.
The thought of leaving his weapon behind was inconceivable. That sakabato, the true sakabato, was a parting gift from Shaku Arai, and irreplaceable. Not only that, he would not have a weapon on hand when he may need one.
I have to find it.
Kenshin had no idea where to even look.
Two weeks of being trapped.
Kenshin had managed to follow one of the men to what looked like a facility one night, keeping note of it before he slipped away. Night time provided him with cover enough cover to find it. It was well guarded, and he how well guarded the building was. The facility was decorated in that same symbol that he found on the uniforms, and Kenshin knew that if there were any answers, it was there..
The men that had followed him when he searched for answers had to have had his sword, and that was the only logical place it could have been.
So, Kenshin planned. He planned on finding a way into the building. He was certain it would be far harder to get into than any government building that he had ever managed to sneak into. He had learned about security cameras and access. He would have to move fast if he wanted to succeed.
He just hoped he would be fast enough.
The day of his planned escape, Kenshin couldn’t help but feel a shift in the world. It made his head ache nearly as much as when he woke up in this place, only the pain did not subside. He had to fight through it, staying out of the sun for most of the day, if only to not exacerbate the issue.
Kenshin forced his way through it. He had to escape tonight, or he may not get another chance.
He found his way back to the facility, careful to make sure that no one saw him. He cursed silently as he got there.
This time around, it seemed far more guarded. Something happened, and Kenshin didn’t know what.
The wanderer kept an eye out, moving slowly within the shadows. If there was ever a time he was thankful for his training, it was now.
Sirens blared, and lights flashed. Kenshin could feel his heart sink as his hand went to his ears to ease the pain of the shrill sound.
No, they couldn’t have been alerted to my presence… could they?
The world shifted once more.
There was screaming, sounds of terror and gunshots and gutterul sounds that made Kenshin’s gut twist and he had to fight the urge to run. If people were hurt, then he had to help, and he knew that the people of Concord may be in danger.
He had to help.
Even if he didn’t have a weapon.
The cool night sky began to twist, changing into a deep, sickly shade of crimson, the color of blood. There was a tremor, and Kenshin could hear the sound of land shifting far from where he stood.
The people of the town were in danger.
Kenshin turned around, making a dash back for Concord. As much as he wanted to leave this place, he couldn’t leave people in need.
Passing the sign, he couldn’t help the feeling of terror as he entered the town. It was so eerily...
Even at this hour, there had been noise. Activity of people up late, the occasional car, but now it was a level of silence that set the wanderer’s senses alight. Everything was so very wrong. Kenshin darted through the streets, looking for anyone.
Until he found a lone person standing in an intersection. The woman from before, that told him he was home.
“Excuse me, miss?” he moved over to her, watching her head dart back and forth in what seemed like confusion. “Miss, are you alright?”
She turned, and he froze.
No longer was it the sweet face of his temporary neighbor. It was twisted, eyes with a sickly glow, her face bloody, her lips turned into a snarl.
She growled as she turned, her movements twitchy, hostile. She stared at him, and she looked soulless, the blood of her face beginning to shift, slowly twisting the woman into a nightmare.
“I told you you were already HOME!”
She lunged. Kenshin barely had the time to react, so in shock at what he was seeing. He wasn’t about to hit her, but she lunged again, shoving him down to the pavement with inhuman strength.
Kenshin barely had the time to get up and run before she tried to attack again. He looked back, watching as she gave chase, thankful that he was faster than her.
Than the woman that was no longer human. He could hear her growling behind him, the wanderer managing to make a quick turn down a long alleyway, looking for anything that could help him.
Run. Hide. Look for a weapon…
He made another turn, hearing the corruption in the woman’s voice as she called for him to return. He could try and fight her, but the thought made him sick. Corrupted or not, he couldn’t find himself fighting against an unarmed neighbor.
Even if she was hardly human anymore.
He could hear her footsteps nearing the corner, and Kenshin’s eyes settled on one of the cars. He moved fast. He was small, and he knew he could fit. The wanderer barely managed to slip underneath as she turned the corner.
Seconds felt like hours. He could feel his heartbeat pounding in his ears. She growled, lurching back and forth as she tried to spot her target.
Finally, she turned, running in the other direction as she looked for him. Kenshin slowly, quietly pulled himself out from his hiding spot. He was certain there would be others, and he would need to try and defend himself if he were to get out of this place.
He would need to look for any survivors. He couldn’t leave innocents behind.
Kenshin prayed he could escape this town. His eyes caught the sight of a town sign, the motto making him sick.
Welcome to Concord, The Home Where We All Can Be One
Chapter 3: The Hell Within Our Minds
I just want to say THANK YOU to Mamoro for beta testing this chapter! You have been an amazing help with that as well as bouncing ideas at! Thank you!!
It was the first thing Sebastian noticed as his vision cleared, the former detective looking around as he saw the STEM world. It reminded him of Union, a small city meant to keep people at ease, but it was already showing the signs of destabilization. How long had it been since that started, in reference to the time of this world? He was once told that time worked differently here:, it was more fluid. A week in the real world could equal a week, or it could equal a day. Sebastian wondered if these worlds falling apart had an effect on time.
It also reminded him of his time in STEM. It wasn’t just a small town. There were hints of architecture that was older, or from other areas of the world. Like a jumbling of memories.
Sebastian patted at his holster, only to remember he was unarmed, and cursed. If the STEM world was crumbling, then there wereas certainly Lost, and the last thing he wanted to do was run into any of them unarmed. He took a moment, scanning the area for anything he could use.
The road led to a winding dirt path through a lightly wooded area in one direction, and towards the city in the other. The decision was quickly made;, Sebastian decided to take his chances with the city. He didn’t want to know what lurked beyond the dirt path. He walked slowly, cautiously, keeping an eye out for any movement, and a listening ear to any sound.
He was not going into this blindly.
He passed by a home,a simple two story home, painted green, with the typical white picket fence surrounding a now overgrown yard. Sebastian looked behind him, making sure that there was no one following him, before he made his way up the cobblestone path. He was slow and quiet.
He remembered the last time he had rushed into a home. He remembered the woman turned lLost as she chased him, as he shattered her skull with an aimed shot, as she got back up with tendrils of psychoplasm emerging from her face.
This time he was unarmed. He did not want to repeat that experience, not without a way to fight back.
The door gave a low squeak, hinges unoiled, and the floorboards creaked underneath his feet. Every movement was slow and deliberate, the former detective listening carefully.
He didn’t hear the sounds of Lost or of monsters. Not yet, anyway.
Each step was slow, and Sebastian peered around the threshold of the first doorway he came too. It held the gleam of stainless steel appliances, not yet corroded from the degradation of the town.
A kitchen. Good. There may be something here I can use.
He moved his way in, keeping his eyes on the doorway. ,He opened the drawers, taking care to keep any sounds low.
Sebastian couldn’t help the small sigh of relief as he found something.
A leather sheath that and a simple black handle. He pulled it out of the drawer, taking the hefty bowie knife out of the leather. The weapon had faint scratch marks on it, marks of light use, but it was still very clearly sharp.
He sheathed the weapon, attaching it to his belt, and continued his search. He made his way through each room, though most had nothing of interest.
That is, until he had made his way down into the basement.
There was that unforgettable scent of mustiness that was all too familiar with a basement, mixed with something else.
Sebastian felt his heart pound in his chest. The casualties were already being claimed. He moved silently, swiftly into that dark room, faint light filtering through the windows.
There lay a Mobius operative, face up in a pool of drying blood. Death lingered around the body, and Sebastian moved in to investigate the body.
It’s one of the missing operatives… Bennett. Hhe noted the name on the chest, and the face that looked...
Frozen in terror.
That was the only way Sebastian could describe it. A long, diagonal slash went from shoulder to torso. Bennett had bled out in seconds. Sebastian knew that even if he had been there, it would have been far too late for the operative.
“Either someone is out there, or the unlucky bastard couldn’t handle a monster.”
Sebastian paused, waiting to see if he could hear anything that would be after him, only to turn back to the body when he was certain that there was nothing around. He quickly searched the corpse.
He pulled a simple .9mm pistol from Bennett’s holster, inspecting it. He popped out the clip, and it seemed to only be missing a bullet or two. Sebastian reloaded the gun, quick to place it at the holster at his chest. It wasn’t a heavy weapon, but having the familiar weight at his chest put him at ease.
He patted down the body for anything else, but found nothing more than a piece of parchment. It was bloodstained, and held writing, but Sebastian couldn’t make it out. The symbols were some form of Asian language.
I wonder if Joseph would have known what this says…
He remembered his former partner, Joseph Oda. The man had been a fellow detective at the Krimson City Police department. He had also ended up in Beacon with Sebastian, had gone through the same hell, nearly succumbing to the madness of STEM.
Sebastian had thought Joseph dead, until Union, when Juli told him the truth.
Yet even now, he had yet to see the man again.
He can’t be here.
The former detective doubted he would have answers about Joseph any time soon.
Sebastian pocketed the note, and found a file underneath Bennett’s corpse. He picked it up, barely able to make out the logo of Mobius and the TOP SECRET underneath the blood stains.
He opened the file, but most of it was covered in blood, making much of the details illegible, but the final paragraph was still visible.
“-J0743 has shown proficiency over CORE candidacy, but evaluation by Dr. Kilian highly suggests possible sociopathy. Subject may possibly be linked to the disappearance and deaths of several Concord citizens. Possible termination for subject inevitable, but observation will continue for now.”
Sebastian frowned, then paused. He remembered the last time something like this had happened in a STEM world. Stefano Valentini had a knack for getting past the psych evaluations, and then had tried to use Sebastian’s daughter to create “art” out of the bodies of the victims.
If STEM was resurrecting the dead, was Stefano one of them?
No. This wasn’t his work. Bennett would be stuck in a time loop of his death. This wasn’t a monster of STEM making. This monster was human.
Sebastian knew that he would have to bring this man down. He had just hoped that whoever this was, it wasn’t the person he was after.
He made his way out of the basement, out of the home, soon making his way slowly down the road. Even though it was in the early stages of degradation, Concord still looked whole, for now anyways. It looked quaint, almost somewhere he would raise his daughter.
If it weren’t for the low growl of enemies nearby.
Sebastian paused, crouching down behind a bush. The voice was distinctly female, with a near feral quality.
“Where did you go?” Hr voice dripped with an odd, inhuman rasp. “I just wanted to show you that you’re home!”
She was looking for someone. Someone that likely had not turned Llost. She turned and the failing light illuminated her features The sickly glow of her eyes, the twisting of blood on her face, the snarl on her lips… it all told Sebastian what he needed to know.
She was Lost.
He waited patiently as she whipped her head back and forth, looking for her prey, before she turned around. Her movements were erratic, twitchy.
Sebastian moved silently, but as quickly as he could in his lowered position. His heart raced as he neared her, a hand slowly going for the blade on his belt. He would rather not waste bullets if he could help it. Ammo was in scarce supply any time he was in STEM, a very coveted commodity.
She moved to turn and he paused, feeling his heart in his throat, but she did not turn around. Instead, she moved a little forward, and so did Sebastian.
Until he was in range.
It was all a swift motion. She wasn’t aware he was there until his arm was around her neck. She howled in rage, reaching up to scratch at his arm, to pull it away and eviscerate her attacker. Her fingers ended in bloody claws, but before she could sink them into skin, the sickening sound of a knife sliding into her skull stopped her.
Sebastian felt her twisted form go slack, a final growl of death rasping from a frothing mouth before he lowered her to the ground. It made Sebastian sick, the turning, and then death, that awaited most of those that entered STEM.
He was fortunate to have survived twice. Hopefully his luck would hold out for a third time.
There was a sickening squealch as he pulled his knife out of her head, wiping what blood he could on the grass before placing it back into leather. He knew it was futile to try to clean it; the knife would see it’s fair share of brain matter before all of this was over.
Sebastian pushed forward, deciding to follow the path her footsteps had taken her. The bloody prints showed her erratic path. Sebastian wasn’t sure it would lead him to who she was trying to hunt down, but backtracking would be a start.
The streets held an air of danger, and the former detective was wary. His ears picked up the sounds of monsters and Lost in the distance.
If it weren’t for his skills within STEM, he would wonder if this time around was a suicide mission. They had made their point to try and get rid of him before. He did, after all, know too much.
He made his way down the empty roads, the eeriness of the emptiness weighing on his mind, when his eyes caught sight of something out of place.
It was a small detail, something most would have missed, but Sebastian had years of training as a detective and a cop. Even if he was no longer a detective, the training was something that would never leave him. A car sat at the curb, long since abandoned, with a small tear of white cloth caught on the wheel well. He looked under the car, but there was no one there.
The smear of oil underneath, however, testified that someone had hidden underneath.
Sebastian made his way around the car, and there was the faintest hint of old footsteps, the faint rainbow revealing a trail of someone desperate to survive the hellscape.
Or, it was possibly the path to an enemy lying in wait.
Still, Sebastian followed them. If someone needed help, he cwould try, and if it was an enemy, he would put them down.
The oil trail grew fainter with each step, then disappeared altogether, but flattened grass continued to show the path. Sebastian pulled out the pistol, feeling a small bit of comfort with the weight in his hands.
The path of footsteps lead the way , until Sebastian found his way to a park, then down a path to a baseball field. Sebastian noticed the footprints within the dirt, and he couldn’t help but to find them a little odd. The treads were a uniform woven pattern, almost as if the footwear was handmade.
He made his way toward the dugout, wondering if he could find any supplies when he heard a thump around the corner. The former detective was quick to crouch, moving slowly to round a corner.
He caught a glimpse of red, mussy hair, and an outfit that honestly seemed familiar to Sebastian.
Joseph wore something similar before… Sebastian quietly noted.
The former detective kept his eyes on the form. Human or Lost, he couldn’t tell. He kept his pistol out as he slowly inched forward. If he could just get a little closer, he would be able to tell.
Sebastian didn’t get very far. The figure froze, and stood straight up. He knew he was caught, and the pistol was out, ready to shoot as he stood up. The figure whipped around, a baseball bat held in an offensive stance.
The former detective caught the glimpse of violet, human eyes. Eyes filled with fear and terror and resolve. He took a quick study of the face. Male, though it initially had been hard to tell, with a cross shaped scar on the left cheek.
He’s young. He can’t be any older than his early twenties.
“I do not wish to fight, that I do not,.” the voice was soft, with the smallest tremor, but otherwise even. “I do not know who you are, but please, leave me be.”
Sebastian noticed the stance. I’ve seen Joseph do something similar. This kid is trained in Kendo. He paused for a moment, taking his aim away from the smaller form before him. He held his pistol in an inoffensive manner, the butt of it between his index and his thumb. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, and he started to kneel down to slowly place his weapon on the ground. Violet eyes watched him very carefully.
“I just wish to talk with you for a moment.”
The man before him, however, did not move from his offensive stance. “I do not wish to fight you, that I do not,” he reiterated. “However, I am not going to go with you.”
The kid doesn’t trust me. If it were anywhere other than here, I guess that would keep him alive, but I need to convince him to let me be an ally. Sebastian stood back up, his arms raised. “We don’t have to go anywhere. We can stay right here as long as it remains safe. I just want to talk to you.”
Still, the stance did not falter.
He’s scared. I need to show him I am not going to hurt him. I would rather not disarm him. Sebastian took a step forward, and the man before him shifted to prepare to strike.
“I would rather not fight you, but I will if I must. Please stand down and leave.” The voice was firm. “This is your last warning. Please leave.”
“Look, I get it, you’re scared.” Sebastian kept his movements slow and deliberate as he moved forward. He had been in similar situations before. He kept his hands up, but he could feel himself preparing to disarm the man before him. “I know thate life as you know it is fucked up, but I need you to hear me out.”
He was within arms length now. “I am sorry. I warned you,.” the other man said as Sebastian dodged the bat.
Only just barely.
The smaller man cursed quietly in Japanese, and Sebastian took that moment to disarm him.
The former detective may have gotten the bat, but he was not expecting the elbow to the face.
Sebastian growled in pain, but regained his composure quickly. He managed to block another attack, a fist, before grabbing a thin wrist. The man before him was taken by surprise, and tried to jerk back. He’s strong for someone so small.
He barely had enough time to dodge a kick while keeping his grip.
Okay. He needs to calm down.
The red-head was certainly faster than Sebastian was, and could read attacks just as well. Sebastian truly found himself struggling. Every time the former detective moved to pin the redhead down, the smaller man would avoid and attack.
It took some luck before Sebastian had both hands behind the man’s back, the smaller form pinned under a knee. As the dust settled, the former detective was soon aware of the smell of copper in his nose. It wasn’t broken, but there was a small amount of blood.
“You’re a scrappier bastard than I thought. No wonder the Lost haven’t taken you down yet.” Sebastian commented. The red-headed man struggled against him, though there were no demands to be let go. A quick glimpse showed that violet eyes were full of fear.
“Hey, hey, calm down. I’m not one of those freaks, and I’m not Mobius. Please calm down. I just want to talk. I want to help you survive this hellhole and get out of here.”
There was a pause, and Sebastian could see that the red-head was finally calming, as much as one could considering the situation, anyways. “Please, let me go. It would be appreciated, that it would.”
Sebastian complied, taking his knee off the man’s back and letting go of the hands that were pinned behind it. The smaller man sat up, rubbing at his wrists with a small glare that softened as Sebastian returned the bat.
Still, he listened.
“It’s better to not go alone in this place. I am sure you’ve seen how the people are turning. It’s only going to get worse from here.” Sebastian said, as he turned to grab his pistol. He showed the other that he wasn’t about to use it before holstering it. “I can’t stop you from going your own way, kid, but I don’t recommend it.”
Violet eyes looked up at the mentioning of getting out of Concord. “You said ‘out’. Do you mean out of what is going on, or out of this place?” The red-head asked.
“Out of this place. I don’t know how much you know of Concord, but it’s going to be a fight. I hope you’re ready for it, kid.”
There was a frown on the smaller man’s face. “Please don’t call me ‘kid’. I am nearly thirty years old, that I am. I have a name; it is ‘Kenshin Himura’. I would much rather you call me by that.”
Sebastian looked at the other, shocked. He would have never guessed such an age for Kenshin. “Sebastian Castellanos.” hHe offered a hand, and the rurouni took it and shook.
A loud growl cut Ttheir meeting short.l. Kenshin saw them first, a small group that was once human, like the neighbor he had seen. One let out a roar as it pointed towards them. Sebastian turned around to be met with the same horror Kenshin saw, only to watch the Lost charge.
“Go, move.” Sebastian demanded and Kenshin didn’t need to be told twice. He didn’t know where he was going, but he needed to find somewhere safe.
They both did.
Sebastian directed, covering the wanderer as they ran. He pulled his pistol out, turning to shoot. The sound resonated painfully against Kenshin’s ears, but he kept moving.
Kenshin knew he could outpace Sebastian, but he refused to do so. He was thankful that he wasn’t alone in all of this.
“There.” Sebastian pointed to a building. It looked to be a town hall of sorts. He shot a few more times at the group, and Kenshin looked back.
Only one or two of the group of Lost had fallen. The others were showing injuries, one even had a gunshot to the head, and yet they still followed.
It made him sick. He had wanted to yell at Sebastian for the violence, but there was no way that anything that was human could sustain those injuries and still pursue them.
Sebastian directed them around the building, both of them thankfully keeping a decent enough speed to perhaps loose their pursuers. Sebastian couldn’t help the amount of relief he felt as he spotted some bushes.
He motioned to hide, and Kenshin followed. Moments felt like an eternity, and they watched as the group of Lost followed them behind the building. The group paused, glowing eyes looking around to try and find what they had been hunting.
The sounds were horrid, warped and garbled and primal. Finally, they turned around, moving away from the two men. In that moment, Kenshin realized he had been holding his breath in fear. He quietly breathed a sigh of relief.
“This way,” Sebastian finally motioned. They crept from the bushes, moving silently back to the road. The former detective peared around the corner. The group could still be seen, but they were moving down the road. He made another motion to follow, carefully making his way up the steps to the building. Kenshin followed, his eyes trained on the group, expecting them to turn around and notice.
They didn’t however. Sebastian pushed on the doors, thankful to find them locked. Kenshin ducked inside, and the former detective closed the door behind them.
There was too little light to see much other than a small supply closet next to the entrance. Kenshin leaned against the wall, taking a moment to catch his breath and try to calm his nerves while Sebastian investigated the closet.
Kenshin didn’t like the darkness that surrounded them, but for now he didn’t hear the sound of those… things. He knew it wouldn’t be long, but he was thankful for the reprieve.
He felt something cold and metal touch his hand.
“Here. This should provide us with some light.” Sebastian noted. Kenshin noticed the odd object and took it, trying to inspect it in the small amount of light that he had. He turned it around, seeing the shine of glass at one end.
He felt something depress, and he was immediately blinded by a flash of light. Kenshin quickly turned it away, eyes shut at the suddeness of it. He couldn’t help but to frown at the small bit of laughter coming from Sebastian.
“You act like you haven’t seen a flashlight before,.” the other teased.
“Flashlight?” Kenshin paused, his eyes finally able to open again. He noticed that Sebastian had his own turned on. “Well, to be honest, I really haven’t.”
There was a moment of silence. He must be one of the ones that they brought back from the dead,. Sebastian thought.
He took a moment to look over the other man. Kenshin still looked closer to early twenties rather than late twenties, but he looked weary.
“Are you going to be alright?” the former detective asked.
“I… To be honest, I don’t know.” Kenshin took a deep breath. “I have no answers to what is going on, and now…” Hhis eyes turned to the door.
“Is this hell?”
“You could say that.” Sebastian answered. “But not the kind that you go to when you die.” The kind that is all in your head, in a way. Sebastian added quietly. “Come on, let’s get to somewhere safe so we can gather our bearings.”
Kenshin simply nodded, and followed his new ally into the dark.
Chapter 4: Ghosts of the Past
Hi everyone! I am back to updating this again! I am sorry that I vanished for a while. Dragoncon Prep got the best of me and I had a cosplay I needed to finish. Now that Dragoncon is over with, I will be back to updating!
I did have this chapter finished for a while, but I haven't gotten a chance to have it betaed, so please pardon the mistakes!
The hallways were eerily silent, the lack of sound filling both men within apprehensive dread. The monsters were terrifying, but fighting the former denizens of STEM at least made them both aware of the fact that they were in danger. It was when there was nothing that caused their senses to be raised.
Kenshin didn't like not knowing where danger could strike next.
The monsters, those I can handle.
He held his own flashlight tightly. Had the younger man not been in such a state of terror, he certainly could appreciate the ingenuity of the technology. For now, however, he was thankful for the light it provided. His eyes scanned over the walls, the building holding a more western design. Broken tile lined the floor, some of it chipped and broken away, some of it hidden under tattered and torn carpet runners of blue. The walls stood tall, off white with crown moulding trim. It was much unlike the architecture he was used to.
A long corridor could either trap them, or save them. Kenshin wasn't sure if he was willing to find out.
"Hey,” Sebastian spoke, voice low. Kenshin was still wary of the man, but so far the wanderer had been helped by this stranger. Still, he wondered how long it would be before the western man was like the others.
He did not remain in that thought for long, however, his view catching the other's gesturing. What caught his eyes made him ill, in ways that he had only felt since the end of the Bakamatsu.
"Whatever caused this carnage is probably still out there." Carnage, in a disgusting way, was an understatement. The hallway before them was covered in blood, the crimson dripping into the pool on the floor. A head turned and taupe eyes stared into truly terrified violet ones. "I know you're tough as shit, but try not to get yourself killed."
Sebastian turned forward once more, eyes focused before him while Kenshin tried to keep an eye for anything that may come from behind. Silence fell once more, save for the sounds of breathing and their heartbeat within their own ears. Kenshin had questions, questions since he woke up in this place that nobody was willing to answer before, people who were now dead or twisted. He had his doubts, but maybe Sebastian could at least give him something.
"Sebastian-san. What on earth is going on?"
Sebastian was not deaf to the honorific, though he didn't know enough Japanese to fully pinpoint the full meaning of it. "Just Sebastian." he corrected. He could hear the resolve in the Japanese man's voice, a resolve that betrayed the fact that Kenshin was far more versed in combat outside of mere self defense.
"It's... A long story.” The former detective started to move forward when he finally deemed it safe to do so, and Kenshin followed. Neither one tried to think about the growing pool of blood they were about to walk through. "Likely not one you are going to believe, truth to be told, but if we find a safe room, I will explain as much as I can."
"I'm not sure what I believe anymore, that I do not." Kenshin muttered quietly, though he was sure his new friend overheard. His eyes drifted over a door keypad, the soft, green glow flickering in and out as electricity tried to keep hold. "What year is it?"
Sebastian was silent as he kept moving forward. I wonder how much reprogramming they did on him if he isn't sure what year it is, he thought. Though Kidman did say that Mobius was finding ways to genetically resurrect people, and one of those is who I am looking for. He may just have been someone not fit to be a core that they deemed good enough to live in this hellhole.
"It's Twenty eighteen." he finally replied.
Kenshin had to stop, pausing a moment in the pool of blood, eyes narrow as he tried to figure out if the man before him was messing with his head.
If he is correct, then I should be long dead. Kenshin thought, trying to ignore the feeling of dread welling inside of him.
If that were the case, then that would mean everyone he knew was dead, as well.
He did not want to think of that. He needed to keep hope, but now he needed answers more than ever.
"If what you say is true, then you have a lot of explaining, that you do. There is no way I should be alive. It almost feels like this is all in my head"
“You're not wrong." Sebastian muttered back, mentally noting that this oddly clad person must truly be one of the "resurrected", as Juli so kindly put it. "You're also not the only one that shouldn't be alive, or stuck here, but I will explain later, and I promise I am not a figment of your imagination. Come on, we need to keep moving forward before any of those fucking bastards find us."
Others... Kenshin let the thought ease him as much as it filled him with dread. He hoped for the chance to see everyone, at least once more, but the thought of them being in this hell with him was nearly too much to bear.
He started stepping to move forward, and his legs felt like lead. No, it was more like trudging through a swamp. Had he been drugged? Kenshin tried to pull his foot forward.
He felt it get yanked back. Once more, terror took hold.
He looked down.
The blood was no longer a still pool. It was shifting, molding, forming as if it were sentient.
And it had a tight hold on Kenshin, scarlet rivulets beginning to take shape and wrap around his form, pulling his body down.
The rurouni scrambled for purchase, reaching out for anything to grab onto and pull himself out. His hands hit the smooth walls of the hall, but found nothing to pull him out of the danger he was sure he was in. As he struggled, he could feel himself being pulled further and further out of reach of safety, more and more of his body slipping into the writhing pool.
Finally, he couldn't handle the fear any longer. This was not like the deathmatches of the Bakamatsu. This wasn't like the fights he had with enemies such as Jine and Shishio. There was no hold for honor, or a fight to protect.
Just a desperate bid for survival in a hellscape that he saw no end to.
I am not going to die here I won't die here I can't die here please don't let me die here.
The former detective whipped around, feeling his heart drop as he watched animated liquid drag Kenshin down, the smaller frame slowly disappearing. A hand reached out, violet eyes filled with terror, begging.
Please don't let me die here.
In a heartbeat, Sebastian bolted towards Kenshin, grabbing hold and trying to pull. Kenshin once more scrambled for purchase, trying to reach forward with his other hand, only to find it restrained as crimson consumed him. Sebastian pulled once more, only to have Kenshin pulled back, out of his grasp.
Violet stared into taupe in terror, hand still reaching forward.
And then he was gone.
The older man watched as the pool pulled back, drifting back into stillness as if there had been no one there at all. He sat on the ground where he had fallen, trying to catch his breath. "No..."
His heart sank. Try as he might, he could not get over the dread feeling that he had failed. “Fuck… Damn it…” he couldn’t help the man before he was taken, and the all too familiar feeling of losing those he was trying to protect in STEM came back.
"I told you not to get yourself killed."
There wasn't a body.
There is no way he could have fucking survived.
This is STEM. There wasn't a body.
He has to be alive still. Sebastian held on to that bit of hope. He’s still here. I just have to find him. I have to get him out of here.
Juli pursed her lips as she watched the raised heart rate of the one labeled Project Hitokiri Battousai. She knew it all too well. Fear, terror, a heart pounding in a need for survival. The STEM was going to hell, and he was caught in the middle of it.
So much for resting in peace. Juli thought bitterly.
Sebastian's own heart rate had been raised. She had her suspicions that he had found the target... Battousai. She needed to have a name for the young man. He was more than just a nameless test subject.
From the looks of it, he seemed to be still rather young, no older than she was, though it could have very well have been the target age that Mobius was aiming for.
The heart rate spiked, and then began to go down, and dread filled the Mobius agent. Was he dying?
Another spike, and then it seemed calm, stabilize. He was still alive. So far, Sebastian had not failed in his mission.
"What happened in there?" she whispered to herself.
Sebastian's own heart rate was up, showing that similar terror. "Did you find him? What is going on in there Sebastian?" she wish she could ask, but communications had gone down over a half-hour ago, and it had yet to come back up. She was tired of this, tired of infiltrating Mobius. Tired of Sebastian getting caught in the middle to do their dirty work.
Damn it, Myra. We should have known they would come back. She couldn't blame Myra, however. Sebastian's wife had managed to deliver a blow to the operation. It was just too large to keep it down, and now they were messing with genetics to see through to their "One Mind One World Order".
Juli would keep fighting until Mobius was gone for good, or she was dead.
You have to hurry, Sebastian. The plan depends on you. People depend on you. Your daughter depends on you.
He wasn't sure if he was conscious. He wasn't sure if he was even alive. Kenshin's senses were dull, feeling as if though he were floating in the abyss. There wasn't much he could feel, wasn't sure if his eyes were open.
Wasn't sure if anything was real anymore. He just wanted to wake up from this nightmare, to find himself in Kaoru's dojo, to see his friends again.
The light blinded him for a moment, and then dimmed, but did not fade away. He looked toward it, finding a glowing tree within the distance.
A white plum tree.
I'm lying down. he realized, shifting to stand. He was in water, or so he thought. However, when he looked down at his hands to orient himself before standing, the sight made his stomach churn.
He could feel his heart race, the memories of being dragged down flooding his mind once more.
I'm dead. I'm dead and this is Hell.
Still, he stood, making his way towards the tree.
Another flash. Another white plum tree. A sign to keep moving forward.
He passed the first, and the scent flooded him with memories. Memories that soothed his mind from the fear, and caused his heart a great ache. More trees flashed and came into existence, guiding his path in the sea of blood, leading him until he finally saw why.
Amongst the sea of blood was a small island, oddly serene. It was a moment of peace in the hellscape, the outline of someone standing upon that island. Someone so very familiar, a ghost of the past.
He stood in disbelief. She had been long dead, and the thought flooded him with guilt. He moved forward, slowly, reaching out as if he was trying to confirm his own disbelief. "Tomoe..." he murmured.
She turned, and something within him expected dread and horror. Kenshin expected to see the rot and twisted flesh of so many he had found in this world. Relief flooded him when he was met with a face he had not seen in so long. The sad smile she offered, however, made his gut twist with that guilt once more.
He had so many things he so desperately wanted to say. He wanted to run to her, but he couldn't, his body feeling paralyzed.
"You have to let go," she said, her voice soft. So, so familiar. "You have to let go, and move forward."
He wanted to ask her what she meant. Oh, how he wished to apologize, for everything.
And then, she was gone.
Violet eyes shot open as Kenshin jolted to consciousness, his heart pounding in his ears. He could feel the warm tears against his face, and the ache he felt in his soul.
Was that real?
His sense returned to him, so it felt, one by one. Touch, smell, sight, hearing. He tried to orient himself as to where he was, and what had happened.
I was with... I was with Mr. Castellanos . His mind felt like sludge as it tried to sort through the memories. I followed him into a building. We... We got separated.
The wanderer didn't want to remember the details of how they got separated, trying hard to block it all out.
And then... Then I saw...
He sat up.
He didn't recall finding his way to where he was. The room was dimly, containing merely a small table and the bed he sat on. Walls were made of dirty grey. It was small, the only way out a steel door with a barred window. Kenshin felt a feeling of dread as he stood up, making his way to it. If this were a product of this place, he did not want to be trapped to rot in this room.
A tentative hand reached out, pushing on the door, testing it. Surprise and relief washed over him as the door gave way, leading him out to a hall that show the same wear and deterioration. A soft, gentle, soothing tune played down the dark hallways, a contrast to the dreariness the place held.
"You look like you've seen a ghost."
Kenshin jolted at the soft-spoken, monotonous voice. He turned, apprehensive, his nerves wired once more only to face a woman. White dress, red cardigan, she looked to be of a nurse, though the clothes were odd to Kenshin. She moved forward, walking past the small wanderer. Kenshin couldn't help but notice she had a few inches over him.
"If you don't mind me asking, who are you, and where is this place."
The woman did not turn around to face him as she continued to talk.
"I am who I always been, and who I always will be, though I am not someone you are looking for. As for this place, well, some new friends you gain may have some dark secrets."
There was a small amount of frustration over the riddles, Kenshin more confused now than ever before, but he followed her down the hall.
Still, she was in danger, as was anyone in this place.
"Miss... Uh... Miss. This place is dangerous." Kenshin started, pausing to wait for a name, continuing when he never received one. "I don't mean to impose, but you should find safety, that you should."
"Oh, is that so?" there was the faint tone of disbelief in her voice, but not much had changed. "I doubt this place will come under any harm. It's as it always has been, through Beacon. Through Union. Even now, here in Concord. Ah," she finally turned to face the rurouni. "But I suppose those first two were never your battles."
"What do you mean?" it was almost as if she was speaking in tongues. "Beacon? Union?" he knew of Concord. Concord, the place that was now falling apart at the seams.
Did those places suffer the same fate?
"It's nothing to worry your head over." she assured. "I think you have your own battles to fight. Your own challenges. After all, you have a brand new life. Maybe you should allow yourself a brand new start." she moved to make her way to a desk, and at that moment, Kenshin caught sight of a twisted chair, his thoughts of confusion over her words turning into a moment of fear. His heart was in his throat, the contraption looking as if an instrument of torment.
"Don't worry." it was as if the nurse sensed his fear. "You have no need to sit down. I doubt there was anything I could do to help anyways."
That is a sick way to help others. Kenshin could not help but think.
The nurse opened the half-door to the area behind her desk, making her way behind it as if though none of the horrors that were happening even existed. “Oh, I am sure you may need something for your battles. A weapon does wonders for survival, even if you are insistent on not holding a gun.” Kenshin watched her, eyes a little narrow at the soft-spoken insult.
With ease she reached under the desk, pulling a familiar item. A saya lacquered in black, and the familiar shape.
“Though I suppose a gun wouldn’t really do you any good. Not if you have a weapon you are trained with. I do believe this belongs to you.”
Kenshin was cautious, but he made his way over to pick up the katana. It was a familiar weight, and even the act of holding it made him feel secure. He finally had a means to fight, rather than trying to find whatever he could to just barely make it out alive.
“I suggest inspecting it, just to make sure it is up to your standards.”
He couldn’t tell if she was teasing him, or if she was truly making sure that it would do. Her voice gave little inflection of any emotion. Still, he reached to pull the katana out, wanting to gauge how he would have to adjust to using the new sword.
However, it wasn’t the feeling of a new sword. It was familiar, the weight, the resistance against the saya.
The inverse of the blade.
His sakabato. Not just any sakabato. His.
“How did you get this?”
"STEM has many ways of doing things that you will never have the answers to,” she answered, leaving him with more questions. “Now, if you will excuse me," she sat down behind the desk, pulling out a nail file as she tended to her new task. "I have a manicure to finish. It certainly was a pleasure chatting with you, Kenshin Himura."
How did she know my name?
"But I think it is time for you to catch up with someone else. Please do give Sebastian my regards."
Darkness quickly fell over him once more.