Beginning: Möbius rose

I didn't expect her to come back the very next day. Sprawled on the couch, it was probably a minute or so before I actually heard the door buzzer. Annoyed in a dreamy, pleasurable sort of way, I wandered to the intercom. "Yeah?"

"It's Nomi. We need to talk. Now."

"Umm. Ok. Come on up."

Which was the last thing I wanted her to do. She must've taken the stairs at a run, because I had barely unlocked the door when she burst in. "I saw him Benji! I saw him with my own goddamn eyes!" I cocked my head to the side, stupidly. She gazed narrowly. "Umm... saw who, Nomi?"

"Shikai Hitasura," she said with a testing look. Gauging my response. Evaluating the signs. I knew perfectly well that I was tripping a very dangerous wire, but kep dulled anything too fast or too powerful, thought or emotion. I couldn't summon the outrage I knew I should've been feeling. Merely, "Nomi, don't be an idiot."

"Look, I was leaving class today. This fucking bimbo was trying to ask Akatsuki-sensei out on a date or something, I don't know, but just as she left this guy came up to him. Trenchcoat. Smoker. I was sitting in a door frame reading, so they didn't see me, but-"

"Erm, Nomi, how did you see if you were reading a book?"

"Fer fuck's sake Benjamin that's not important. I know it's going to be a little fucking hard for you right now, but try to concentrate, huh? The guy said his name was Shikai. Shi-kai. Sensei had something, a pair of glasses, that this guy wanted. I don't know how the hell the air-head got his hands on them in the first place, but he was really nervous about it. The way they were talking, it had to be something nanotech. Wireless. Do I need to impress upon you how important this is?"

I couldn't think of anything to say, so I didn't.

She moved uncomfortably close and slapped me across the side of the head, "Benji, are you even fucking listening to me? Earth to Benji! Houston, we have a fucking problem, our uncle is too strung-out to establish contact at the moment,"

Now it was a little easier to be angry. "Naomi, what the fuck? I'm not your dad, but-"

"Right, you're not my dad, because my dad could've managed life without blowing his brains out on meds every time he encountered a mild amount of stress." I clumsily searched for a biting reply, then gave up. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I was right! Because I'm trying to prove it to you, so you'll just accept what's going on. You're too talented to waste away like this." She gestured across the mess of clothes, take-out food boxes, porn magazines, and miscellaneous broken things that spilled from tables and chairs to the floor of my apartment. "I want to know more about the Schism, Shikai, everything, and you should too. I'm tired of playing at being a hacker, reading about them as if they were knights of the middle ages or something. I wanna get my hands dirty. I wanna make a difference. I've got an idea, but I need your help."

She stepped back, assuming a gentler expression. Gesturing with open arms. "Like old times, huh? We could work together. There are uses for our skills. I know you're not as rusty as you claim to be."

"Nomi, whoever the hell it is that you're talking about, it isn't me. There is no super hero's underground layer that I'm hiding from you. There are no dark secrets. I was a petty criminal with a knack for finding things I wasn't supposed to. That's it. I helped people rob each other, kill each other, and fuck around with each other because I liked playing with the toys I got in return. I'm done with that. No more. After the Schism I decided it was time to do something worthwhile, namely raising you. I know my help was basically worth shit-all, but I tried, ok? And I don't want you dying or going to prison. And that's just what's gonna happen when you start playing around with this shit. No discoveries, no dramatic revelations, just a pack of federal agents at your door at two a.m. and a supermax cell for the rest of your life. They do not tolerate that shit any more, Nomi. Give it a rest, please, for both our sakes."

She wouldn't look at me. Her eyes were planted firmly on the floor. But the rage she emanated was perfectly palpable. It flooded the room. I had the sensation of drowning. The least painful of deaths. Slowly, with a tremble in her voice, she replied.

"You're a liar. You're a goddamn hypocrite and a liar." She let her arms drop and walked purposefully around me. Toward the bathroom. I sat down on the couch, resigned, not caring anymore. I just wanted her to leave. Whatever was going to happen next, I just wanted her to leave so I could return to staring at the ceiling and contemplating the delicious sense of nonexistence that you started to get after six or seven keps. She returned, holding my orange bottle in hand. Cap off. I sat up a little straighter.

"So, you'll fuck around with the network for drugs, but you're not willing to help me?"

I felt a chill of panic sweep through me. She was going to do something. "Nomi, come on, I'm trying to come off it, I swear, I just need some time-"

"Until you can conjure up another doctor to get you a new prescription, right? Must take some fancy footwork for that sort of hack. Medical records, government registries, always have to be careful, always keep up to date on all the new anti-abuse systems, huh?"

"Nomi, please, I'm sorry, I'll help you, please just... give me the bottle-"

"Really impressive. Must have stolen a dozen or so people's accounts. Maybe a doctor's herself? Quite the fucking score!"

"I'll tell you whatever you want to know Nomi, we can work together, it'll be fun, just please put the bottle down,"

"GO GET IT YOU SON OF A BITCH!" She hurled it toward the kitchen. The little pills flew everywhere as it hit the counter top and tumbled to the floor. I jumped from the couch, tripping over its back and smacking my head on something metal with a loud crack. I pushed up and crawled onward gathering pills, carefully, ignoring everything except finding those little perfect hexagons. Blood dripped into my hands, into my eyes, but I felt nothing so I kept gathering. I never even heard her leave.

Previous: Playground ruin, beware: live wires

Next: On your feet. Fast and free. Follow me.

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