Halo Zero: Gate:
In the wee hours of morning, a middle-aged Japanese man ran up the stairs of the clock tower in the main building Moscow State University. He held his thick black coat to his body as he ran. Behind him, three Russian men dressed like USSR officers ran up the stairs. Their target fled until he reached the top of the building. Moments earlier, he had just sent an e-mail to a colleague back in his home country and there was pounding on office door.
“Professor Yoemon!” a loud voice boomed. “We have a warrant for your arrest! Come out quietly!” The professor escaped out the window and ran across the lawn. He didn’t have much time to take anything with him. Even still, Yoemon knew that this was it.
Now, he ran over to the opening and looked down. What was he thinking coming up here? He supposed that his colleague’s words echoed in his head. “If you are ever caught, you have to be ready to take the final exit.” Professor Yoemon panted as he looked down. He could see the stone path and steps below. The man leaned his head against the wall as the footsteps drew closer. The three Russian man came to the top of the stairs. Their leader had an AK-47 strapped to his back.
“This is the end of the road!” he shouted. “Come with us!” Professor Yoemon didn’t budge. He didn’t even lift his head.
“You know better us than the English,” the leader soldier said. “Do you really keep that bastard Kitano is going to come save you now?”
“I know,” Professor Yoemon said. His foot slipped on the outside edge of the clock tower, but he gripped onto the wall.
“Hand over the Dis Program!” the soldier barked.
“I can’t do that,” the professor said. “You’re too late. I’ve only sent the program to them. If you and your men try to hack into my computer, it will kill itself. The hard drive will be fried and wiped. You cannot stop it, it’s already in motion. The only thing that you will do is spread my words.” He then let go of the wall and fell backwards. The three soldiers ran to the edge as Professor Yoemon to the stone steps below.
Back in the professor’s office, the computer wiped itself clean and malfunctioned.
-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan-
More people started to notice that something wasn’t right around the city. The opening of the third gate brought in more demons. But, this time is different.
“Mama, there’s a weird man in a mask staring at us,” a little boy said as he pointed across the street.
“Don’t point,” his mother said as she turned to look. However, a confused look covered her face.
“What are you talking about?” the mom asked. “I don’t see anyone over there.”
“But the man’s right there and he looks scary,” her son said. She would’ve brushed it off to his imagination, but his tone told her to panic.
“Okay…” the mother said. “Did you know that mama was the fastest girl on her track team?” She knelt down and took her son by his cheeks.
“Listen, keep your eyes down and we’re going to see how fast I can run, okay?” the mom told him. The little boy slowly nodded.
“Right,” she said. The mom picked up her son and started running down the darkened early morning street.
-Mikado and Masaomi-
Mikado awoke panting in his futon. Sweat covered his slender body.
“Dreams again?” Masaomi asked.
“Yes,” his friend said, slowly nodding.
“I think it’s getting worse.”
Mikado’s eyes shifted next to him. He had gotten used to hearing the city around him every night. Right now, he could hear his heart pounding against his chest. The tadpole boy tried to take his attention away from the blood rushing in his body.
“Masaomi-kun,” Mikado said.
“What?” his friend asked.
“Why are you still here?”
“You still need me.”
“But don’t you want to go home?”
“Because it I left, you would have another break down. You waking up screaming and panting in the middle of the night is reason enough for me to stay.”
“But when was the time you went home?”
“Did you hear me say I’m not leaving?”
“Okay, okay. Geez.”
Masaomi put his hand on Mikado’s shoulder. “We’ll get through this. I won’t let you end up like Satoshi.”
“Yes…” Mikado said. His eyes trailed up to the ceiling. He couldn’t get last night’s revelations out of his head. Witness to the apocalypse? As if that wasn’t bad enough, just hours earlier, the founder of the Dollars started to feel that things were getting worse in Ikebukuro. Part of him wished that he didn’t have these hyper senses that Tandeki “blessed” him with. If he had to hear Kitano’s voice one more time, he swore that he was going to snap. What else could he possibly do to him and others? Shinra and Shingen made it sound like there were more tadpoles out there in Japan right now. What if they were like Satoshi? Scared and alienated and looking for revenge?
“Masaomi-kun?” Mikado asked.
“Yeah?” the Yellow Scarves shogun replied.
“What would you do if I changed into a monster?”
“Change you back no matter the cost.”
“But what if there was no way to change me back?”
“I would still keep trying.”
“And after that? Would you try and kill me?”
Masaomi lifted his head, confused. “What are you talking about?”
Mikado shook his head. “It’s nothing.”
“No! We promised that we wouldn’t keep things from each other until we get through this. If there is something wrong, just go ahead and say it.”
His friend gave him a strange look. “I don’t remember promising you that.”
“Never mind that. Why are you asking me these questions? Did something happen tonight?”
“Not really. But I get the feeling things are going to get much worse.”
“What about you talking about?”
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just…” Mikado lowered his head. “Please… Be careful.”
Masaomi pressed his lips together. “Alright. But what about you?” Mikado’s eyes shifted away from his best friend.
“Mikado?” the blonde boy asked.
“I shouldn’t have said anything,” his friend muttered. Mikado rolled over, turning his back.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked again.
“We’ll talk in the morning,” Mikado said, closing his eyes. Masaomi opened his mouth to speak.
“Please!” the other boy pleaded. He knew it was pointless to sleep anymore, but he just needed to get his best friend to stop talking.
Etsuko pulled out her cell phone and made another call.
“Hello,” she said. “I know it’s late over there in Moscow, but I have a personal request for you. I think you’re going to love this one. I’ve always known you to enjoy a challenge. I have a good one for you here. Will you hear me out? Excellent.”
The doctor looked out the window of her second lab at Rampo Biotech.
“I a particular patient for you,” she continued. “He’s what I would call a minotaur. You are familiar with our game, correct? I thought so. Saves me time explaining everything. We see this minotaur as a vital threat to our game. What I want is for you to tame him with your ‘special’ training. I’ve heard that you’ve improved your techniques since last we spoke. Good to know. Anyway, I call you because we will need your skills. I am out of my league to hand him because I am a doctor of the body and not mind, as you already know. Kitano-sensei and Otomo-sensei could do it, but their focus is better spent on their respective branches. If they took time to deal with the minotaur, who knows what could blow up behind their backs? Saying that, I do trust our interns, but we haven’t told them what we want them to do in case something goes wrong. So, this is where you come in. Keep in mind, he’s not like your previous patients. He’s quite strong. In fact, we all call him Ikebukuro’s strongest man. Are you still up for the challenge?”
Etsuko’s lips curved into a little smirk.
“Excellent, that’s what I wanted to hear,” she said. “Your new patient’s name? Heiwajima Shizuo.”
The inner circle is free to move about as they like. That third gate opening gave the energy to get more productive.
-Ten Minutes Earlier-
Both Aya and Etsuko had proposals to take out two big obstacles in their progressing game. The doctor spoke with Kitano as he made his way to the glass doors of Rampo Biotech.
“Good morning, Asato-sensei,” he greeted her. “Did you stay over again?”
“Yes sir,” she said. “I think I might have found a way to deal with our minotaur friend.”
“Oh?” Kitano asked.
“Do you remember my friend in Moscow?”
“Which one is she again?”
“She the psychiatrist who’s known for her unorthodox methods in therapy. Moscow State University fired her because of them.”
“Ah, her. What about your extreme friend?”
“She’s not that extreme. Anyway, I think she could help him with the minotaur.”
Kitano tilted his head. “Can she handle him?”
His longtime partner broke into a little smile. “I think she would love this case. She has always loved a challenge.” The doctor-turned-psychiatrist did a little thinking at first.
“And you believe this will help us?” he asked.
“Yes,” Etsuko said.
“Make the call,” Kitano said.
“Thank you, sensei,” she said. The doctor bowed and wen ahead of him.
Kitano sat at his desk with his paperwork when he heard a knock on his door.
“Enter,” he said.
“Excuse me,” Aya said as she walked inside.
“Yes?” the older psychiatrist asked.
“I have been in touch with the nightcomers and they passed along a rather interesting idea to eliminate an enemy,” she spoke up. Kitano raised his eyebrow.
“Explain,” he said. The female psychiatrist didn’t miss a beat.
“I want to see if I can curse somebody to death,” she said.
“Do you have a particular target in mind?”
“Let me see what the spell is and I make my decision.”
“I mostly certainly will. I have it right here with me.” Aya reached into her bag and pulled out her small black notebook. She handed it over to Kitano. He opened it up to the bookmarked section and ran over the contents. Aya peeked over at her own book.
“How successful is this spell?” Kitano asked.
“Highly successful according to their mother,” the female psychiatrist said.
“And why do you want to use it?”
“I believe this target will stand in the way when we reach the mother.”
Kitano handed her back her book. “You can do this plan, but not yet. We are just about to start round two of our game. I want to make sure some of the pegs are nailed down before we do anything advanced like eliminating your target.”
“I understand,” Aya said. She bowed and headed out of Kitano’s office.
Kitano had just finished his lunch when his phone rang.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Is this Katsuhiro Kitano?” a man with a Russian accent asked on the other end of the line. The therapist raised his eyebrow.
“Yes?” he asked.
“I am calling you from the Embassy of the Russian Federation,” the man on the other line said. “I’m sorry to inform you, but your colleague, Kenji Yoemon, had passed away.” Kitano lowered his pen and froze.
“What happened to him?” he asked in a low voice.
“He jumped to his death from Moscow State University’s main building,” the man from the embassy said. “Two grad students found him this morning when they were walking into the building. The police wouldn’t give me any details of why he was up there in the first or the motive.”
Kitano rubbed his forehead. “Have you notified his wife yet?”
“We called her before you.”
“How did she take it?”
“Oddly stoic, actually.”
“I figured as much. They’ve been estranged for quite some time now.”
“Oh, that would explain it.”
“Yes. Anyway, thank you for informing me. Goodbye.” Kitano hung up the phone. He looked down at the paperwork on his desk before looking at his phone.
“It should hit right about… now,” he mumbled to himself.
Mari was running maintenance on the network through Rampo’s main supercomputer when her cell phone rang. She rolled her eyes as she tried to ignore it. When the ringing didn’t stop, the intern reached over and picked up her phone.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to call me at work?” Mari asked with clenched teeth.
“But I’m bored!” Izaya complained on the other line. “Shinra won’t pick up his phone and Namie’s still dead.”
“That isn’t my problem. I’m sorry you don’t have any other friends.”
“Aw, you don’t have to sound so harsh, Mari-tan.”
Mari sighed and rubbed her forehead. “What do you want, Izaya?”
“Are you doing anything this weekend?” the informant asked.
“Working, just like last weekend,” the intern said. Her eyes shifted the bottom right corner of the screen when a notification box popped up. “One new message” flashed in big red characters. Hm, what is this?
“Aw, you’re no fun, Mari-tan,” Izaya complained. “Why do you always have to be working?”
“I have to do so to earning a living,” she said. “That’s what most people do in the adult world.” The intern clicked on the notice box. The pop-up disappeared and took her into her work inbox. Mari raised her eyebrow at the single e-mail waiting for her. She didn’t recognize the sender’s address and she couldn’t make out most of the subject line.
“City of Dis?” the intern asked herself.
“Hm? Did you say something?” Izaya asked. Mari shook her head.
“No,” she said lied as she clicked on the e-mail. The body only contained one line of text and an attachment. “It’s done, you can use this to advance the game.” Mari rolled her eyes as she clicked on the attachment. The option to download popped up and she clicked yes. By this point, she toned out Izaya as he made his case for her to play hockey this weekend and how they didn’t spend enough time together. Mari rolled her eyes as she clicked on the download once it finished loading. Next, she unzipped the file and waited.
“Uh-huh,” she said to Izaya, half-listening. Looks like it would be time to come up with an excuse to get him off the phone again. What could she use this time? Izaya practically know every excuse in the book that she could come up with. Sometimes, he would go along with it. And other times, he would call her out on it. Judging by how he was rambling on over the phone, Izaya would probably call her out on her excuse if she tried to come up with one. Mari’s eyes trailed up to the ceiling as she did some thinking. She would probably would have to get creative today.
Mari was about to open her mouth when she noticed that the file had unzipped. She closed on the single. Her jaw dropped.
“What… Is this...?!” Mari asked. Her phone slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor.
“What happened?” Izaya asked. “Mari-tan? Hello? Hello?”
So what has come through the third gate?
Something is causing the children of Ikebukuro to pause and take notice. They now can see the bakeneko and hitei-oni like Celty, Mikado, and the other tadpoles. However, that was only the beginning of the first day. By sundown, stronger demons arrived in the city. That masked man in the alley that little boy saw wasn’t the only one on the loose.
One pale-looking woman wanders the streets looking for a lost child. Her long stringy black hair covered her face. She wipes and tries to ask those that see her where lost babe is. The best way to answer is to say, “I don’t know, but I will let you know when I see them.” She wasn’t the only one now roaming the living world. More demons look around for vessels to possess. Only, these shared no interested in the depressed or those with low self-esteem with the hitei-oni already in the living world.
Children. They looked so pure. Sure they had their mischief and foolishness, but most of them had no idea of the harsh adult world their families lived in. These newly arrived demons wanted to change that as soon as possible. They don’t care if they could be seen by their potential victims or not. Most of them loved a challenge. Just as long as children had that sweet orange smell as one of them claimed to have.
Still, they aren’t the only ones in the living world now.
Celty, Shiki, Akabayashi and Kazamoto had just walked outside after discussing a job when they noticed Akane and a friend of hers staring up at the sky.
“[What are they doing?]” Celty typed on her PDA.
“I have no idea,” Shiki said. The yakuza mean walked over to the little girls.
“Hey, girls, what are you looking at?” Akabayashi asked. Akane pointed towards the thick blue sky.
“What is that?” she asked. The men looked up.
“Uh… The sky?” Shiki offered up. Akane’s friend shook her head.
“No,” she said, pointing upwards. “That!” The men looked up at the sky, but saw nothing.
“Could describe to us what you see?” Shiki asked.
“It looks like a huge silver and blue dragon,” Akane said with her eyes still on the sky.
“A dragon, huh?” Shiki asked.
“And it’s all covered in eyes,” she added.
“Covered in eyes, huh?” he asked.
“Yes,” both girls said. When Celty looked up at the sky, she got a full view of what the little girls were talking about. A giant silver and blue dragon swam across the sky. Many eyes covered its fat body as it looked down and around the city. Some of the eyes looked down and spotted the little girls staring up at it.
“It can see us,” Akane whispered. Those same eyes spotted Celty staring up at it. That alone told her everything she needed to know about how bad things were getting.
And round two was just getting started.