Happy Wonderland

Angel

Halo Twenty-Four: Angel:

Mikado was looking up articles about memory online.

"Is it possible to alter someone's memory without their knowledge?" he asked on the phone. "Oh… my friends and I keep having strange memories. We don't know what to make of this." Mikado clicked on the first that he saw. His mind started to zone out at the explanation given to him on the other line. It was just the same tired game again, anyway. Mikado's eyes shifted to his phone.

"Excuse me?" he asked. Mikado nervously chuckled. "Of course not. What gave you that idea?" He began to suspect that the caller was starting to see through his prying questions.

"Okay, push against the bars," Junko said. Osamu frowned in Z's cage.

"Why I got to be in the cage with this loser?" he asked, motioning over to Izaya sitting next to him.

"Aw, Myojin-san, you're hurting my feelings," the information broker said with fake pain in his tone.

"Just do it," Junko complained. Osamu and Izaya started to push on the bars.

"No, no, no," she said. "You have to push together to get close to the strength that Z has."

"So why am I here with him?" Izaya asked. "Myojin-san is bulky enough to cover her strength."

"You just add on the extra kilograms," the nurse said. "Just push with all of your weight at the same time." The men began to push against the cage door with their weight. Junko looked at a mini-computer in her hand. The numbers of locked security system didn't change.

"Keep pushing," she said. Junko clocked them pushing for ten minutes and the numbers on her computer didn't change.

"Okay, you can stop pushing now," she said. Osamu and Izaya stop pushing and sat back for a rest. Junko looked at her small computer with an eyebrow raised.

"The security system is still intact," she said.

"Can we get out now?" Osamu asked. "I'm starting to feel claustrophobic in here."

"Alright," Junko said. She punched in the code on her mini-computer and the cage door slid open. Osamu crawled out, followed by Izaya. Junko turned to her intern.

"Okay, Yui," she said. "Tell me again what happened. How exactly did Z and D get out of their cages?" The petite intern shivered as she looked down at her feet.

"Uh… well…" she mumbled.

"Look up when you talk," she said, sternly. Yui lifted her head with big eyes.

"Naoki and I were feeding the angels like were normally were," she began.

"Go on…" Junko said.

Yui gulped. "I turned around for one minute and then I heard a clicking noise." She moved her hand as if to unlock a lock by pulling up the pin. "Before I knew it, Z rushed past me and ran out of the lab."

"And D just sat in his cage staring at the open door?"

"Yes."

"And you're sure that you accidentally punch in some code that unlocked the cages? Think hard now."

"Yes. I didn't even touch a computer." The intern looked at her with big eyes. "I'm not in trouble, am I?"

Junko rubbed her forehead. "No, no. We're just going to write up the report and work from there."

"Okay…"

"You think the boss' pets are evolving like F did?" Osamu asked. That question made his colleague freeze, looking over her shoulder.

"Who's F?" Izaya asked.

"That is none of your concern!" Junko snapped. The information broker put up his hands.

"Okay, okay," he said. "You don't have to yell, Chiba-san." The nurse snorted as Osamu mouthed at her to calm down.

10:00 p.m.

Junko knocked on Kitano's office door.

"Enter!" he shouted. Junko stepped back rather startled. Despite working for him for nine years, there were still little things that surprised her about him. The nurse cleared her throat.

"Excuse me," she said, pushing open the door. Kitano sat at his desk with a glass filled with melting ice in his hand. He took one glance at Junko.

"You're still here?" he asked.

"I could ask you the same thing," she said. Kitano chuckled.

"Fair enough," he said. "What's on your mind?" Junko pressed her lips together.

"I ran a test on the security system," she said.

"And?" he asked.

"It was working beautifully and my interns didn't screw up by accidentally unlocking the cages."

Kitano pressed his fingertips together. "So… how did Z get out?"

"I think she might be evolving."

Kitano's lips curved into a cat-like smile in the dark. "This is good."

"No. Project Angel's not ready to advance. It still needs more time. We're not sure how Tadpole and Heaven are progressing."

The boss put down his glass. "Come up to the roof with me." He rose to his feet and walked past her. Junko was unsure of what to say, but followed her boss out of the office. He had that strange power over the inner circle where if he told them to jump they did it with no questions asked.

Ikebukuro felt so cold on this Christmas Eve. Most of everyone was doing last minute shopping or sleeping. Kitano and Junko never really got fully into the Christmas spirit. Tonight was rather upsetting to the nurse. Kitano leaned over the railing on the roof.

"To be honest," he said. "I was kind of glad that Z escaped yesterday." Junko gave him a strange look.

"Why is that?" she asked, He turned to her with a gleam in his eye.

"Project Tadpole will be reawakened," Kitano said. "I already my protégée out to meet up with Chirin." He noticed the tinge of disappointment on Junko's face.

"May I ask what is the matter, my dear?" he asked. The nurse leaned over the rail.

"How long are we keeping that toad around?" she asked. "I don't trust that little bastard."

"Oh don't worry, we'll dispose of Izaya when the time is right. At the moment, he is a bit useful. But, we have more pressing issues to deal with."

"More pressing?"

"Yes."

Junko tilted her head. "Besides Chirin and Tadpole?"

"You see; Project Heaven might have another derailment."

"I thought we already took care of that cocktail waitress at the Red Rabbit."

"We did, but a friend of hers looks like he's taken up her cause and has their goddess in his care."

"Let me guess, the drugs are starting to ware off."

"So unfortunate."

Junko pressed her hand to her forehead. "God damn it and just when the boys were cultivating new flowers."

"There, there," Kitano said. "Keiichi's on our to-do list. Etsuko knows what she is doing after all." Junko sighed when he said that.

"What is it now?" the boss asked. "Do you have a problem with the way that she runs things?" The nurse shook her head.

"It's not that, I have no problems with Etsuko. It's just…"

"What?"

"Does she have to bring her along?"

"Why yes, she won't have it any other way."

Junko sighed and hung her head. "That's what I was afraid of."

"Why is that?"

"She's… a loose cannon. The last time she came along, we had to start over because she killed almost all of our players in our game."

Kitano patted her on the shoulders. "Rest assured, Etsuko will have her on a tighter leash this time."

"You said that last time."

"This time, I mean." Kitano turned towards the entrance. "Now if you will excuse, I have to go play Santa for my apartment complex."

"Still keeping up that tradition, huh?" Junko asked, smiling.

"Of course," Kitano said. "It's something I have to do." Junko watched him walk out the door.

Mikado was woken up with a phone call around three in the morning.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Mikado?" Masaomi asked on the other line. His best friend sat up.

"Masaomi?" he asked.

"Hey, is this a bad time?"

"No, what's the matter?" Mikado listened in as Masaomi paused on the other line. "Masaomi? Are you there? What's going on?"

"Mikado, I was going through the video files on the memory sticks in my box," Masaomi said in a careful tone.

"And?"

"Can you come over right now?"

"Wait, now?" His friend's next words made his stomach drop.

"There is something that you need to see," Masaomi said.

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