Clocks across the city were chiming the ten o'clock hour away when I got back to the dorm. In the morning. I squinted in the bright sunlight and entertained thoughts of blowing something up - I mean, fuck, this was about when I'd be getting up if I had my way. If the universe had even an ounce of justice in it.
I made a mental note to get some kind of message to Relena - yeah, her friend was very dead, but at least she could stop worry about vampires. I just wouldn't mention the part about it being some unknown, something worse. I'd save that little bit of anxiety all for myself, selfish bastard that I am.
The door to my dorm room was open when I got back. It just about stopped my heart for a moment, considering the mess I'd left behind in there. I did a tactical peek around the corner - ah, it was Wufei. That was right, with Heero gone, we'd agreed to make him my new room assignment, so I wouldn't have to worry about a civilian.
He took in my odd state - tie most of the way off, badge still clipped on - with a single glance. One sardonic eyebrow raised. "Productive morning... Han?"
I shut the door none too gently and yanked the tie the rest of the way off. "You wouldn't begin to believe, Wu."
He didn't respond immediately, continuing to transfer a pile of neatly folded shirts that he must have used a carpenter's square on to get the edges so precisely aligned into the dresser. When the drawer was full, he slid it shut with barely a sound. Still kneeling on the floor, he smoothed his hair back and pushed his glasses a bit higher up on his nose. "Try me."
It took a minute to sort out exactly what it was I wanted to say. I decided to not mention much about the Heero issue, since it was a more personal thing and I doubted Wu, in all of his ambivalently asexual glory, would really want to hear the gory details. I distilled it down to Heero and I having a little disagreement - look ma, my brain filter was working for once! - and launched right into the murder and the literally gory details thereof. "...and that's all she fucking wrote." I finished.
Wufei nodded. "What address did you give them for the lab results?"
"The Tokyo Station safe deposit box."
"Good choice. We'll see what they give us."
I threw myself face first down on my bed, rolling over onto my back when the ID badge succeeded in poking my nipple nice and hard. "What makes you think this is going to be an 'us' problem?" I asked. If anyone could talk some sense into me, it would be Wufei.
"Well, I'm forced to look at it thusly - you're certain it's not a vampire, right?"
"And not a werewolf either."
"Not one hundred percent, but I've always seen them do more of the 'rip you to shreds' kind of things."
"Since the vampires and the werewolves only seem immediately concerned about policing their own, this will not be their first priority. You also sound certain it was something supernatural in nature."
I shuddered, not even bothering to hide my revulsion. "While serial killers are pretty evil, I've yet to see one totally remove someone's soul before."
"So what alternatives are left? Not police, not vampires, not werewolves." ?" He ticked the points off on his fingers. "Unless you believe this is an isolated incident..."
My derisive snort was the only answer he needed.
"I didn't think so. If either of the master vampires actually do decide to involve themselves, who do you think will be the first card in their Rolodex?"
I pulled my pillow over my face like that could somehow protect me from a very unpleasant truth. "Mother fucker." I said into the synthetic feathers.
Wufei's only reply was the soft sound of another dresser drawer being pulled open and the rustle of fabric. I should have known better than to go looking for sympathy there. Wufei was all too aware that if it was my problem, it was his too. All for one and one for all. Yeah, that tired shit.
I finally gave up and threw the pillow at the closet, hard enough to almost knock the flimsy door off its hinges. The tie followed in a crumpled little ball.
"Done?" His look was most eloquent.
"Wu, I never thought I'd be saying shit like this, but do you ever find yourself longing for the simplicity of being just a terrorist?"
The drawer slid shut, full of boxers and undershirts. "All the time. Speaking of such..." Wufei pulled a film canister out of his pocket and tossed it onto my lap. "We received a new assignment while you were otherwise occupied, so I printed it out for you. The key is series seven."
I wished that I hadn't thrown my pillow already, because this was the perfect reason to do so. "Want to just summarize it for me?"
"You'll need to read it anyway."
"I know, I know, but I just don't feel like it quite yet."
The reproachful look was one of Wufei's best - it would have put my Jewish grandmother to shame, if I'd actually had one. "It sounds as if our personal mad scientists are worried that they may have competition - we're supposed to infiltrate one of the Oz weapons research facilities out by Kawasaki City."
"Great. What kind of weapons? Because if it gives me oozing pustules or makes my dick fall off, I'm going to be pretty upset."
He gave me a thin little smile. "It's all on the film, as well as the layout extrapolations. You might want to take a good look at those - you're first in."
"That, too." Pairs of knotted socks, were transferred one by one into another drawer. "I've started the public records crawl. We should swing by the post office before dinner and see if there's anything to print out."
"You're sure on the ball."
"Try it some time." He gave me a friendly grin when I flipped him off.
"Jerk-off." I grinned in return. When I opened the little canister, the coil of film unwound into my lap, clear except for the oil-slick sheen of data on its surface. There had to be eight meters at least. I sighed as I reached around my mattress to find the little plastic container with my laser film reader in it where I'd wedged it between bed frame and wall. This was going to take a while.
It was getting dark by the time I finished memorizing the layout extrapolations. Yeah, we still had three days before the actual mission, but getting ready early never hurt anyone. Wufei had long since finished moving his stuff into the room, though he had needed my help to wrestle his mattress across the hall. It concealed the largest knife collection I'd seen outside of the National Museum. He was writing up a supply list for the mission when I looked up, visions of black and white floor plans with possible routes marked in red dancing in front of my eyes.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"Definitely not the most difficult one we've ever had to do."
"My feelings precisely. Remember that data center in Amsterdam?"
I groaned. "Don't even remind me. What a shit storm. I never want to see another sonic alarm as long as I live." My stomach took that moment to interject its own opinion, namely that I'd skipped lunch in favor of the mission plan.
As if in response, Wufei's stomach growled back.
"Hostile little buggers, aren't they? Snarling at each other like that..."
Wufei laughed, "They're probably plotting to overthrow their abusive masters, I'd think."
"What, you've actually managed to master the stomach - Is that some kind of kung fu thing?"
"I was trained in many styles, you know, including Pie Chi and Fist of the Microwave Ramen Bowl."
"Only beef would be tough enough to withstand the training," he said so earnestly that I almost believed him for a second.
Almost. Then I collapsed into helpless snickering heap and rolled off the bed. "Okay, okay, you win. Let's go get some chow."
We decided to hit our favorite udon place, a little hole in the wall cafe in the fringes of Akasaka. On the way to the subway station, we hit a post office. I stood outside and concentrated on pulling the last few dead leaves off of a short little cherry tree while Wufei dealt with the office ladies in their lemon meringue colored uniforms. They liked him - he was very polite and knew exactly when to bow. Not to say they didn't like me, just last time I'd been in there I'd tried to walk through one of their windows instead of the glass door. Even I had my graceless moments.
We each got a bowl of mushroom udon, complete with a slice of fish cake edged by a neon pink you'd never find in nature. The shop was practically a closet with a little counter made from blonde oak - real wood. While we ate, I made small talk with an off-duty police officer while Wufei rubbed elbows with the middle-aged woman next to him, who had cobalt streaks dyed in her hair and worked at the local Condomania. She kept her eyes on her newspaper, and he kept his attention on the stack of print outs, somehow managing to slurp his noodles without splashing them. I'd never mastered that fine art.
The udon was just enough to make me comfortably full, sleepy, and toasty warm. When we left the restaurant, I could feel that goofy 'well-fed-kid' smile creeping across my face. Wufei had the same look, though, so I didn't feel bad. We allowed the crowd to carry us along, melting seamlessly into its rhythms until we were folded into a little pocket of privacy protected by hundreds of people.
"So was there anything interesting?"
"Nothing detailed, but that's to be expected. It looks like the lab is a biological containment facility, though, from what the records were so carefully not saying."
"Well, you just made my night." I hated biological weapons shit. Hated it more than anything else - but hey, watching a bunch of your friends dies from various genetically engineered plagues tends to leave an impression on a kid. "We're going to have to be really careful for insertion. I don't want to breach anything nasty."
"Of course. The rest is standard... a few research scientists here and there, but no mention of our particular interest."
"Yes. Formerly a husband and wife team from Germany, wife divorced him last year over crediting on academic papers."
"Oz brought him in on special retainer, it should be noted. There aren't very many Germans living in Japan."
"What is it with Germany? I swear, they've produced more than their fair share of evil scientists."
Wufei snorted. "One could definitely surmise that. Maybe it's the food."
"Or the beer. Suddenly tinkering with genetics or trying to bring the dead to life sounds like a good idea when you've had seven or eight brews."
Wu only shook his head and tried to drag us back onto the subject at hand. "Ah...and do you remember the mess up near Narita last year?"
"Oh yeah...the biological shipping container getting breached, right? Army guys running around in bunny suits and all that."
"That was the first incarnation of the lab. It used to be located next to the airport until new regulations were passed - the local government felt that it was too dangerous to have two such differently volatile environments coinciding."
"No shit. Just imagine what would happen if some pilot lost it -- " I never got to finish my sentence. The tone of the crowd suddenly shifted to one of alarm, and the sound of stumbling, frantic footsteps and pained breathing came bearing down on us. Before I even had a chance to turn around for a look, our tenuous little space in the crowd popped like a soap bubble as someone roughly two feet taller and twice as wide as me shoved in between Wufei and I. Wufei managed to keep his balance, but I wasn't so lucky, falling into a planter that contained skeletal bushes. Sharp sticks poked into my clothes and grabbed at skin and hair as I struggled to extricate myself, cursing all the while. "Watch where you're fucking going!"
Something was seriously wrong. The murmur of the crowd died altogether, replaced by a low note of fear. There were several muffled screams, gasps, people asking what was wrong. Then someone shouted for an ambulance.
Cursing fit to turn the air blue, I yanked myself out of the bush, leaving some hair and skin behind. I shoved my way through the crowd, ducking arms or elbowing at teenagers with punk haircuts. It was like fighting the tide, running through a sudden hurricane of claustrophobia, until I tore my way into the eye.
I stumbled forward, suddenly free of the pressure, and a strong hand grabbed my arm and yanked me back. I was pretty sure it was Wufei, but I didn't look. There were more important things to see.
The man was bigger than I'd initially thought, but now he was stretched across the sidewalk, scrabbling at it with broken, dirty fingernails. He was wearing jeans and a maroon t-shirt, but they were stained and torn. His skin was so pale it looked yellowish, and covered with sweat, as was his matted hair. Still clawing at the sidewalk, he threw his head back in a pantomime of agony and then let out the most blood-curdling scream I'd ever heard in my life, spraying pink flecked foam from his mouth.
That was enough for the mundanes. Almost as a mass, they backed away, covering their eyes. A few brave souls were trying to use their cell phones, probably to call an ambulance. I almost fancied I could hear sirens in the distance.
Wufei stepped forward, a soothing murmur of Chinese tumbling from his lips. I don't know what he was saying, and later, he said he didn't know, himself - he was just trying to calm someone so obviously in pain. For just a moment, the man stilled, breathing liked he'd just run a marathon. Wu knelt next to him, and reached out to touch him --
With another scream of inhuman pain and rage, he flung Wufei away, sending him flying into the crowd. He curled into a fetal ball, the muscles in his arms jumping around his veins, faster and faster. The sound of snapping bones echoed down the street and he screamed, arching out as his skin began to flow like water and rearrange itself...
I was shoved aside again, for the second time in as many minutes. Men in white containment suits, at least class three, filled the circle the crowd had made, hiding the man from view. He screamed and screamed behind the human barrier, and then suddenly he was strapped to a metal stretcher with a twelve lead monitor on and syringe sticking out of his left pectoral muscle as his skin continued to melt away, stretching his face out.
For one perfect moment of clarity, we locked gazes, and he flung one pain clawed hand in my direction as if in supplication. One of his eyes was beautiful, Japanese brown, and the other was bright green, its pupil a vertical slit.
Then he was gone, as were the white suits, into the back of an unmarked blue van that cut out into traffic like a knife.
I stood frozen for a long moment, simply listening to the receding hysteria of the crowd as they assured themselves that didn't just happen and it was all okay, and oh, wasn't there a train to catch? The udon hung in my gut like a mass of worms. Finally, I turned to find Wufei still sitting on the ground, his eyes wide and shocked. I offered him my hand up, and I guess it kind of said how stunned he was that he actually accepted the offer of help.
It was sensory overload. It was too much to take in all at once. He and I stood, looking into the sky and trying to collect the scattered pieces of the evening enough to form a coherent thought, and get started on the normal banter that would allow us to regain our comforting distance. Overhead, the fat, full moon stared down on us.