Author: Sunhawk

Death Takes A Mission (cont)

He just kept staring at me, from where he sat on the side of the bed.

I stopped and looked at him, hard; I really didn't want to have to kill him. "We're kinda under a time limit here, Gramps. Get moving."

I gave him a minute to work up to whatever question he was going to ask and finally he blurted,

"You're my rescue? All by yourself? You're just a child!"

I almost laughed out loud. I moved closer and bent down to look him in the eye, and let Shinigami speak through me, soft and cold, "I haven't been a child for a very long time."

He shivered, but his mouth popped open again anyway, I held up a finger and said, "One more question, Ito; make it good."

He worked at it, and I saw him pass over several of the obvious ones, until he arrived at, "How do you plan to get us out of here?"

I nodded; pleased that he hadn't wasted my time with the stupid questions, but all I could tell him was,

"There are several options, depending on what you are capable of. Now get dressed, the first of my distractions is scheduled to happen in about thirty minutes."

Finally, he seemed to come to the decision to throw his lot in with the crazy kid, and got up to find clothes.

"My first plan," I told him, "was dependant on you being able to come and go as you pleased." I made the half-assed effort to stuff pillows and the discarded dressing gown into the shape of a body in the bed and threw the blanket over the whole thing, "Plan two depends on whether you can move about the building as you like."

He stuck his head out of the closet and gave my artistic efforts a horrified look and I had to grin at him.

"Don't sneer." I said, "sometimes it's the little things that get you through. Can't hurt."

He looked only a little reassured, but didn't loose the thread of the conversation; good, his mind, at least was sharp.

"I can go down to the labs anytime I want." He quirked me an odd smile, "They do not have a problem with my working... over time."

He finally emerged from the closet, dressed in what almost looked like surgical scrubs, only in a dark hunter green. There was a Galitron logo on the left breast, and I moved to quickly inspect it; it would be easy to remove. They would work for getting us out of here, but once in the real world, they would stand out as... odd.

But Ito just smiled at me, and pulled the neckline down to reveal another shirt beneath the green one. I flashed him a full power grin, "Oh; you're going to be good at this."

He sat on the bed to put on his shoes, and I finally had to broach the subject I was afraid he was going to get pissy about, "Gramps, do you have any notes or data in this apartment?"

But I needn't have worried; he had obviously been thinking about this for awhile, and produced a CD case from under his mattress, turning it wordlessly in his fingers. "What... " he looked at me, really looked at me for a moment, "what do I call you?"

I noted that he hadn't asked me to tell him what my name was, and maybe that's why I went ahead and said, "Duo. Call me Duo."

"I wiped all the data off my system here in the apartment, and there never were any notes here. Everything is downloaded on this set of disks."

I sighed, and turned dead-on facing him, "I have to ask you to let me carry that."

He too heaved a tired sigh, and handed it over, looking away and just saying, "I know."

I took it, and made it disappear inside my vest of infinite holding, then I checked my watch and decided to take a minute to sit down beside him on the bed.

"Look Gramps, you're not stupid and neither am I. We both know that this data is my first objective, but you are my second, and I am not inclined toward failure. If I can get you out of here, I will do it."

He gave me a grateful, tired smile, but surprised me with, "But if you can't, my life is forfeit."

I couldn't lie to him, he knew already, and there wasn't any point, so I just nodded and told him, "I'll do the best I can to make sure it doesn't come to that."

Then he surprised me again by patting my knee.

"Ok, now quick, tell me everything you can about this laboratory you're going down to."

He gave me a brief, concise layout, thinking on his own to tell me where all the security cameras were located. The elevators would not stop on any floor but his and the basement at this hour, and he could not access the stairwells either.

I checked my watch again, "Time to go." I glanced around the place that had obviously been his home for some time, "If there's anything you can't live without, and it's small enough to fit in a pocket, get it now. You won't be coming back here."

He had been thinking about that as well, and produced a small paper packet that he started to put in his pocket and then hesitated and handed to me.

"If it... as you put it; comes to it, will you see that this gets to my granddaughter?"

I almost made him keep it, but the possibilities were too real, so I wordlessly took it and slipped it into one of my inner, zippered pockets.

I had to drag a kitchen chair out in order to climb back up to the air duct, instructing him to close the grate behind me and put the chair back.

He stared at me, unbelieving, "All the way up six floors?"

I grinned and shrugged as best I could as I slid into the ductwork again.

"Wait here and count to one hundred before you leave the apartment. I'll meet you in the lab."

He closed the grate behind me, watching me disappear like a drowning man watching a boat rowing the wrong direction.

I hurried as fast as I could, afraid that his fear would make him count faster than I had calculated, but I made it back to the elevator shaft before he got there, and was able to ride down this time, on top of the elevator car. I was profoundly glad, because my left hand felt weak and twitchy, and I don't know that I could have made that climb again.

I left the top of the car for the relative safety of an air duct as quickly as I could on the off chance that the elevator wouldn't stay on the lab level.

Now, it was gonna start to get interesting. According to Ito, there was a guard station on this floor, manned by a lone sentry. He was going to have to go.

I checked my watch again; the pizza should be here. Distantly, I heard Ito exchange a friendly greeting with the night watchman, their voices sounding tinny through the metal ductwork. I crept that way, wanting to get a look at the guard station if I could manage it. It wasn't far, probably in near the same position architecturally speaking, as Ito's spare room had been upstairs. I lay still as death and watched them through the grate.

"You got insomnia, Ito?" the guard grinned jovially, and as I compared him to tiny, ancient little Grandpa, I realized the man was freaking huge.

Ito chuckled along with the joke and said, "I guess I get some of my better ideas at night, is all." And I had to hand it to him for keeping his cool. His voice was calm and collected as if this were just any other night and the man in front of him was not going to die before it was over. But then, maybe he hadn't figured that part out yet.

I was just debating shooting the guard through the grate, when his phone buzzed and he picked it up with a frown as though this didn't happen very often. But then his face brightened, "No shit?"

Ah; the pizza was here.

"Really? We went that long?" You had to bless corporate morale building mechanisms; they're so similar from place to place.

"Come on, man, bring me some down." There was a pause, during which the man's eyes flicked in Ito's direction, and the gutsy old guy winked and grinned and whispered, "Go ahead; I won't tell."

"Fine then, you lazy shit; I'll come and get some." And he hung up the phone, returning Ito's wink and went for the elevator.

"Thanks, Ito. I'll bring an extra slice for you."

The guy was amazing, he actually called after the man, "Make it cheese, and make it two slices." I thought I would choke to death. I popped the grate as soon as the elevator noise indicated Mr. Nightwatchmanguy had disembarked on the first floor. I hopped down, and I thought Grandpa was going to jump a foot in the air.

"Relax, Gramps, it's just me." I hit him with one of the patented, blinding flare, Duo grins, "We have a date, remember?"

He just kinda sagged against the guard desk; I don't think he really believed he'd see me again.

I patted his arm as I moved around to get a better look at the monitoring equipment on the desk, "You're doin' great, Gramps; don't freak on me now."

"He... he won't stay gone long. How... how did you know... ?"

I grinned as I used the monitors to examine the floor we were on, "The pizza? I ordered it. I told you; sometimes it's the little things."

"But how could you have known... ?"

"I never know how it's going to work out, you just set things in motion and go with the flow." My fingers found the garrote in one of my many pockets, and his eyes widened even further.

"No more time for questions, Gramps. We have to get into position. Take me to where it would be logical for you to be when he gets back."

He led me to the lab, and I had him sit at a table, opposite side from the door, at a computer terminal, with a couple of large pieces of equipment between him and where the struggle would be. I could just shoot the guy, but I had not yet been discovered, and I really didn't want the mess, the longer I could drag this out without it turning into a firefight, the better.

"When I jump him, you get down. He may have orders to kill you before he lets you be taken by the enemy."

He nodded, and I don't think it was information he hadn't already thought of.

"Try not to look at me when I move, Ok." That garnered me a slight frown, and his eyes flicked from my to the garrote and back again.

"You can't be serious."

"Serious as death, Gramps." And I turned without another word and took up my position near the door, out of sight. I scanned the room, making sure there was no reflective surface that might betray me, and crouched low. I didn't have long to wait, he came barging into the room, balancing a paper plate of pizza in one hand, and carrying a can of soda in the other. Ito, had bent over his work, but smiled up at the man as he came in, calling, "Ah! Dinner arrives! Food is the fuel of the creative process!" Gramps got points again; he was trying to provide me with a little covering noise, and his eyes never so much as twitched in my direction.

I made my move, ghosting up behind the man just as he sat his burden down on the table. As I padded into position, I opened up and let Shinigami come out to play and we made the leap onto the guys back and had the garrote in place before he even knew we were in the room. We did our best to pin the man's arms to his sides with our legs wrapped around his middle, and managed to catch one. We saw Ito drop to the floor and scurry under the table, and then it got ugly. We hung on, hands twisting the garrote tighter as the panic stricken watchman scrabbled at his throat with frantic fingers. We had his gun hand trapped, and for a second, we thought he would just stand there and die, but then he finally seemed to realize where his real problem was located and turned around and rammed us into the wall as hard as he could. The breath went out of us, but our hands stayed tight on the metal wire biting into our quarries neck. He tried again, actually having enough mind left to aim at an angular piece of equipment, and we lost a couple chunks of skin from back and shoulder, but we noticed the impact was lessoned from the last one, and this time, when he rebounded, the momentum took him over sideways and we crashed to the floor. We held the wire in place until there was absolutely no doubt he was dead.

I climbed to my feet, and coiled the garrote and returned it to my pocket. I went through the man's pockets, coming away with a gun, some keys that went to Gods knew what, and a pass card. Then I took him by the heels and drug the body back out to the front lobby area. I saw Ito hesitantly come out from under the table and follow me.

I sent the elevator back up to the sixth floor, forced the doors open after I was sure it was there, and shoved the body into the empty shaft.

Then I went to go eat my pizza. I was rather surprised when Grandpa sat down across the table from me, and ate his slice. Though I noticed his hands were shaking, when he opened the can of soda, took a sip and passed the can to me.

"We need to wipe out whatever we can down here." I told him, around a mouthful of dinner.

"I was formatting the hard drive on this system, when... he came back." He told me, and I grunted in surprise.

"Young man, don't you think I have thought all this out?" he kind of frowned at me.

"I don't know you. I can't assume anything." I raised an eyebrow, "Did you think of backups?"

"Yes. I began altering the data months ago. What they have in their backup files is totally useless."

I let myself laugh out loud this time; there was no one down here to hear me, after all, "Damn Gramps, if you need a job after we get out of here; I can get you into my line of work."

He smiled, very faintly, but then his eyes flicked to where the body was hidden, and he said, "I don't think I would be very good at your line of work."

He finished the format, and shut the system down. It was more of a ruse than anything if the data wasn't accurate anyway. Let them think what they had was good enough that we had tried to destroy it.

"Ok," I tried to sound cheerful, "this is where the plan gets a little... fuzzy."

His eyes widened.

"Do you know anything about the sewer system in this place?"

"The... the... sewer system?" He was starting to look like he had just made the biggest mistake of his life and didn't know how to undo it.

"No going back now." I told him, not too unkindly, and pulled out the section of the blue print I had saved and brought with me. "Our road out of here is going to have to be underground." I showed him the blue print. "I want to go here." And pointed to the area on the map.

I rose and headed toward the door and I heard his voice, kind of small, hesitantly call my name, "D...Duo?" It was the first time he had used it, and no doubt he wasn't sure if it was even my real name.

He sounded odd, and I turned back, expecting him to suddenly try to tell me he couldn't do this. But it was me he was looking at, and he informed me, "You're bleeding."

I grunted, vaguely remembering hitting something sharp in my struggle with the watchman. And, of course, as soon as he drew my attention to it, I felt the sting in my shoulder and back.

"This way," he commanded, "there's a first aid kit in the bathroom."

I started to argue, but checked my watch, and realized that the guards were making their four o'clock rounds, and I really didn't want to make my next move until they were back at their stations, so I let him lead me there.

Once in the stark, white room, under the glaring lights, I took off the vest, and pulled the t-shirt over my head. It felt good to get my braid free; sweating had started to make it itch back there. I turned my back to the mirror and assessed the damage, a couple of nasty looking cuts, but nothing more, they really weren't even bleeding any more. What Ito had seen had been already starting to dry.

"It's nothing." I proclaimed, starting to pull my shirt back on, but Grandpa stopped me.

"If we're going into the sewer system, at least let me put some antibiotic cream on them." It made sense, so I let him smear the stinging crap all over my back and shoulder and then suited back up. I caught him looking at the still livid twelve-inch scar on my abdomen, but he didn't ask, and I didn't volunteer.

I took a minute to pull out the pack of caffeine pills, and swallowed another one. Wish I'd taken the time to read the label; wonder what an overdose consisted of? I pulled out Ito's little folded, paper packet, and sealed it inside the bag before I zipped the whole thing back up in my vest.

I turned to find him staring at me.

"Gramps, it's been a rough couple of ... days, Ok?" couple of months would be more like it, "It's just caffeine pills."

I headed for the door, had a thought, and dug through the first aide kit, pocketing the rest of the cream, the bottle of pain pills, and a roll of gauze. You never knew.

He gave me an odd look, but then smiled and said, "I know... it's the little things."

I had to grin back.

I checked my watch again as we came into the huge room that they must use in their ore refining experiments.

There was a central tank and a whole lot of really large equipment. It stank with what had to be the reek of raw gundanium ore. Who would have thought?

Ito went over with me what he knew about the workings of the system, and it gave me hope that this might actually work. The central tank was only half full, and I could see the top edge of a grate that looked suspiciously like the air ducts I had been moving through for most of the bloody night. After being told that the water in the tank wasn't caustic, but don't drink it, I went in. The grate opened a little harder than the air ducts, and the shaft was a little bigger, but I was able to swim forward with the aid of my little flashlight, and get the layout of the ductwork.

I returned, gasping for breath, to a near frantic Ito, but pretty sure this would work.

"Can we drain the tank?" I asked him as soon I had the breath, "Without setting off any alarms?"

He shook his head and I climbed out of the tank.

"Show me the alarm system." I commanded, and he led me there. The system was simplistic. I had it jumpered out in under five minutes, and set the water to draining away.

Grandpa shook his head in wonder, "Is there anything you can't do?"

"Cook." I smiled at him, "They tell me I can't cook."

He laughed, though it was shaky.

"This is what is going to happen." I told him, hoping to get him to focus a little, he seemed to be getting a little frayed. "I'm going to drain the water out of the tank. I'm gong to start it filling back up; we'll have a couple of minutes to get down to the shaft seal. We go through there into the lower system. I intend to hole up down there, if there is a likely place to do it, until pursuit is thrown off. When things settle down, we'll continue through the system until we come out at the culvert that leads to the city system. Understood."

He looked like he had swallowed something really vile, but nodded. I checked my watch again, and then the tank. It was time and it was empty. A sign from heaven that my plan was good, right? I helped Gramps climb down into the tank, then ran back to the control panel to start the process of filling the tank back up. I scurried back, and leaped into the tank, almost falling down next to Ito as my knee gave way. He didn't even notice, staring into the duct in front of him. I pulled out my little detonator, and keyed it open.

"What... ?" he blinked up at me.

"You didn't think I was just fondling your underwear earlier, did you?" and I pushed the button that set off the explosion in his bedroom on the sixth floor. Then I shoved Ito toward the hole in front of us. The water was swirling around our feet.

He grabbed my arm, "Duo... I'm not sure I can do this." And his eyes were wide and a little glazed, "I'm... I'm claustrophobic."

"Now is not a good time for this, Gramps!" I looked down at the water rising around us, "We're kind of committed!"

I went into the shaft feet first, and pulled him in after me. "Just... just shut your eyes!" I don't know if he did or not. We were running out of time, and going backwards was slowing me down. I kept banging my knees on the wet metal. I had his one wrist in a death grip, but he wasn't resisting, and finally I felt my foot hit the lip of the door seal, just as water started to trickle past us. "Hurry!" and I jerked us through the hatch as the water started coming in earnest, and we practically fell through into the unknown other side. The hatch sealed with a hiss behind us, and we were one hundred percent committed to this hair-brained scheme.

Shit.

I still had Gramps in a vise like grip, but felt around with my free hand. There was floor under us for a good distance, and the echoing sound indicated a large area. I could reach up and not touch anything. The air was close and dank, and things felt of concrete now, instead of metal.

Beside me, Ito made a tiny sound, a kind of whimpering.

"You Ok, Gramps?"

It took him a minute to get his voice under control, and I could hear him working at it. "Ok? Yes... maybe."

I chuckled, "You're doin' great. You're doin' just fine." I reached and took hold of his hand, letting go of his wrist, and maneuvered him to where he was holding on to my vest.

"Got me?" I asked, before letting go, and his answer was a grip that large bison could not have pulled free of.

I pulled out my little flashlight, and shone it around, getting my bearings. Comparing what I saw with the sketchy blue print in my head. We were faced with probably a quarter mile journey threw this labyrinth, before we saw daylight again. I wasn't sure Ito was going to make it. I looked at him, in the glow of the flashlight, and his eyes were squeezed tight shut, and his mouth was open in a hard pant.

"Gramps, I have a light. Would it help to see?" I reached up and patted his hand.

His eyes snapped open, and his mouth snapped shut. It did help; I could see it in his eyes, at least a little. It probably helped that the area we were in was not such a tight fit as the shaft had been, but we were still Gods only knew how far underground.

Well, I could certainly understand fear.

I pulled us up together, and started off in the direction that presented itself, limping hard, and trying not to show it. He was already scared; I didn't need him panicking, thinking that I couldn't do this.

"Come on, man," I told him, "just think of getting back to that little granddaughter of yours. What's her name, anyway?"

"Sarah." He bit out.

"Sarah? That doesn't sound Japanese?"

"Her mother is not... from Japan." A little panting, but he was working with me.

"I saw her picture," I confessed, "she's cute. Looks Japanese."

"She is... beautiful." He said softly, finally starting to sound as though the distraction was working. We had worked our way to where we needed to climb down to another level. I went first, so that I could hold his ankle, and not entirely break contact.

"Come on, Gramps. We're doing just fine." I tried to sound relaxed, like we were strolling through the park. He came down beside me and we stood for a second while he caught his breath.

"You are the most impertinent young man I have ever met." He chuckled wryly.

I grinned back, mostly at his effort, "They usually say I'm impossible. What'd I do?"

"I am not your Grandfather. My name is Makoto. Could you try using it?"

Well, this was an improvement, "Well, we never were actually properly introduced... Makoto."

He shook his head, reasserted his grip on my vest, and we started off again. I checked my watch; we weren't going to make it.

"Listen, Makoto. I have to tell you something, and you're not going to like it."

He went kind of still beside me, but didn't say anything.

"We have to leave under the cover of darkness. We're not going to get out of here in time. We're... we're going to have to stay down here for the day. Try again, tonight."

His breath went out in a sigh. "Duo... I can't, please... I can't." I could tell he was instantly ashamed of the admission, and I didn't know what to tell him.

I had one more ace, but I looked at my watch again, by the time we found our way to the culvert, people... civilians would be trickling into that second floor office area where my discarded jacket hung. The jacket lined with enough explosives to blow out the side of the building. I remembered the pictures of the kids on that desk I had sat at, ordering pizza. I wouldn't make those kids orphans.

"Gra... Makoto. There just isn't any way. I understand, and I'm sorry. It's going to be a long damned day for the both of us. But there is no way we're getting out of here tonight."

We had stopped moving while we hashed it out, and I pulled off the glove on my left hand to reach out and take hold of his hand. Skin to skin contact. A message that said, I'm here, in the only way I knew how to send it. I moved us on.

"So, are you joining the rest of your family after this?" I asked brightly, and I thought I heard a tight chuckle.

"I hope to. I... I'm partly afraid that I am just moving from one prison cell to another."

"It's not been my experience that the resistance works that way." I tried to reassure him.

"I... hope not."

I felt his thumb move across the back of my hand, "What are these scars?" he ventured after a bit.

"Had a mission go sour a couple of months ago." I grunted, "Banged it up pretty bad and had surgery."

"Is that why you limp so badly?"

So he had noticed. "Yeah, surgery there too."

"It seems a desperate move... to send an operative out in such a condition."

I had to stifle a bark of laughter, "Well... I sort of... over estimated my condition."

We were wading in grungy water nearly to our knees now, and the light from the flashlight was failing us. Ito's grip tightened convulsively.

"It's Ok, I've got spare batteries." I shifted his hand to my vest again, "shut your eyes while I change them. It'll be easier."

Careful of my hold on everything, I switch off the light, dumped the spent batteries into the slowly flowing water, and fished the fresh ones out of their place in the vest. When the light flared on again, I bid him open his eyes.

"Ok?" I queried, and he nodded sharply, taking my hand again, now that it was free. We moved on.

"Since... since we're in no hurry now," he said at length, "could we find a dry place and rest for a bit?"

I groaned softly, "That sounds like a great idea." And I shone the light around looking for a likely place. At the edge of my beam of light, I thought I saw something, and moved toward it, finding that our path lead to a wall, and our little creek of dirty water was flowing into a large round tunnel. Ito balked.

"We'll rest here." I told him and just waded over to sit on the edge of the channel we had been walking in, not caring any more if we rested with our feet dangling in the water. I slumped back against the wall and closed my eyes for a minute. I was getting extremely tired. Ito, still attached to me by one hand, sat beside me, but after a moment, he surprised me by letting go, and suddenly his hands were on my knee. My eyes snapped open, and I jerked, but he was just applying pressure to several places around my knee, fingers splayed wide.

"What the hell... " I began, but was stopped but the sudden absence of pain. I gasped with the abrupt relief.

"Acupressure." He told me, continuing to press down firmly.

"Damn... I've heard of that, but I always thought it was a crock."

He laughed, distracted from his own thoughts again, "Some practitioners are not... true to the art."

The lack of pain, however was making me feel how reelingly tired I was, and I reached into my vest for my little bag of magic pills. Ito caught my hand, "Duo, what are you doing?"

"I can't fall asleep." I told him, a hint of threat in my voice, that he chose to ignore.

"We aren't going anywhere for hours. Why not sleep if you can?" he wanted to know, hands shifting to a different position and pressing down some more.

"Look, Gramps." I grimaced at the look I was given, "... Makoto, we don't dare let me fall asleep. I have nightmares, Ok? Screaming-to-wake-the-dead, nightmares. You-don't-want-to-be-in-the-same-room-with-me, nightmares; understand?"

He looked at me kind of like he had suddenly found himself sitting next to that legendary alligator in the sewer, and I tried to smile for him.

He just shook his head at me. "How could you come out here, on a mission like this, knowing... "

I was getting a little irritated, "I thought I was over them, all right?"

"So you don't have them all the time? Perhaps it would be worth the risk... "

"No." I told him rather forcefully, and swallowed the caffeine pill under his glare. "There is... there are certain circumstances under which I do not have problems sleeping. This particular situation does not meet the... requirements."

He just said, "Oh." And let go of my leg. There was an ache that came back when the pressure let off, but the gnawing pain was gone.

"Thank you, Makoto." I said solemnly, rubbing lightly at my knee, trying to take the sting out of my other words.

He grunted, "You do have some manners."

"Are you ready to try the tunnel?"

He sighed, "You shame me, my friend."

That took me aback. "I didn't... " I objected.

"Not with your words, but with your strength. How can I not go on in the face of what you are willing to deal with?"

You could have pretty much knocked me right off the damned ledge with a breath. I blinked at him kinda owlishly in the dim light, and struggled with words that wouldn't form.

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