Halo Nine: Tadpoles:
The Tadpole branch called a meeting on January eighteenth. Kitano rose at the head of the table.
“The awakening portion of the Tadpole Project is complete,” he said. “We will now begin phase one of the experiments.” The therapist held out two baggies of gel tablets in his hands. He held a bag or red in his left and a bag of blue in his right.
“Asato-sensei and I developed these pills last night,” Kitano explained. “We are only allowed to pick one for this experiment. The other will be used for the next one.”
“What do they do?” Roc asked.
“You will see once we put them in,” Kitano said. “Now, raise your hands for red.” Roc and one of Etsuko’s interns raised their hands.
“Two,” Etsuko said after a count.
“Blue?” Kitano asked. The rest of the interns raised their hands. The doctor gave another count.
“Six,” she said. Kitano shoved the baggie of red tablets into his sweatshirt pocket.
“Okay, we will go with the blue pills,” he said. Yuka raised her hand.
“But how do we get the pills to the test subjects?” she asked. “Since they are starting to get their memories back, they won’t trust us to come near them.”
“Come with me,” Kitano said. He walked out of the conference room with the baggie of blue pills in his hand. Etsuko turned and followed close behind. Curious, both groups of interns followed their managers across the hall. Etsuko ushered them into a darkened room in single file. Kitano stood in the middle next to a table covered in a thick blanket.
“This is how,” he said. The psychiatrist threw back the sheet. The interns stared with their jaws to the floor at a giant glowing Heartseed plant sitting on the table. Little white flowers were in bloom like little mouths begging for food. Rumi moved her hand to her chest as she and the others could feel a vibrating pounding in the atmosphere.
“What is that?” Yuka asked.
“A special type of Heartseed plant,” Kitano answered. “This is our link to the tadpoles.” Everyone except Etsuko looked confused.
“Asato-sensei, please explain in the simplest of terms,” he said. His partner cleared her throat.
“This plant was a gift from a Shinto priest that was a former client of Kitano’s,” she said. “He put a special binding spell on it and we fed it the sample of the tadpoles’ blood.”
“And all we have to do is open the baggie and feed each pill to the flowers,” Kitano added. All eyes focused on his hands as he fed each flower with the blue gel tablets. The flowers closed up and went back into their pods. The light green glow changed into a hazy blue.
“Now what?” Yayoi asked.
“We wait,” the boss said. He pulled out his cell phone and set a timer. Etsuko reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of dice.
“Follow me back to the conference room,” she said. Etsuko led the interns back across the hall.
-Experiment #1 Begins-
Mikado with a strange sense of peace for a change. Still, he couldn’t help but get the feeling that something was missing from him. The founder of the Dollars looked beside him to see Masaomi sound asleep. Mikado looked down at his own body. Everything was still there, all his fingers, toes, and body parts. He and Masaomi were still in his apartment.
Mikado began to remember that Aoba can over last night to check out that web site, Deathvine. He shuddered as he remembered those videos of the Nitari twins. Thinking back, the founder of the Dollars started to share the same thoughts that Aoba had about the situation. But who was murdering members of the Blue Squares and why?
Despite his promise to help Aoba get to the root of the problem, more pressing matters began to take over.
At eight o’clock, Mikado’s cell phone rang. He looked at the screen to see that the caller’s id was blocked. Part of him didn’t want to even answer. Maybe if he ignored it long enough they would go away…
“Hello?” Mikado asked in a whisper.
“Good morning, tadpoles,” a pre-recorded voice said on the other line. Mikado felt his spine freeze. No…
“You are receiving this call because you are now in first new experiment in the Tadpole Project,” Kitano’s voice said in the recording. “For the next seventy-two hours, you will lose one sense. Which one you lose will be determined by the number that you will receive via voice message or text. Consider it a motive to strengthen your powers and evolve. I will you luck. Goodbye.” Mikado’s hand trembled and clutched the phone as the other line hung up. He began to remember Satoshi’s words.
Not again. Why can’t they just leave me alone?
Suddenly, his phone buzzed in his hand. The boy looked and saw the promised message. Mikado reluctantly opened the text.
“Congratulations, Chirin-kun,” the message read. “You have rolled a six. You will lose your tadpole instinct for the next seventy-two hours. You will not be able to sense your own kind and nor will they be able sense you. Good luck and survive.”
Mikado didn’t know whether to scream or cry. Good thing it was a Saturday today.
On that same morning, Shinra went back to doing more research on Project Tadpole. Every time he dove in, more details about Chou Mori began to surface. The underground doctor went over what he had put together so far.
Chou Mori opened with good intentions under Genji Kozue in 1965. For five years, the hospital was a place of healing and aiding the mentally ill. In fact, it was one of the top institutions in Japan. However, Genji died of heart disease July 10th, 1970. His death came a surprise to his colleagues and family. Chou Mori’s founder always bragged about his good health. In fact, there were rumors that he had been poisoned, but there were no known motives for it.
Because of his Genji’s death, Chou Mori faced financial problems and overcrowding. So far from what Shinra had read, the mental hospital had changed hands about eight times in the course of forty-five years before closing down for good last year.
Still, it wasn’t exactly what Shinra wanted.
Suddenly, the doctor got a notification for a new e-mail message. Shinra really became curious when he read that it was Izaya.
“Tadpole List, You’re REALLY going want to read this,” the doctor read to himself. Okay then. Shinra clicked on the message. At last, he had the list of patients in the Tadpole experiments. Three generations total. Forty-eight patients total. (One of them had recently died, hence why Aida Satoshi was crossed out in the third generation list. Shinra had to read over it three times. He froze in his tracks when he saw Mikado’s name on the list under the third generation list.
As if on cue, his cell phone rang, snapping him out of his shock. Shinra’s hand searched for his phone for a minute.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Hello, Shinra!” Izaya said on the other line.
“Izaya, what did you send me?”
“Just what your dad is looking for.”
“Why is Mikado’s name on the list?”
“He’s one of the tadpoles that your dad is looking for. Tell me, Shinra, have you ever ask your dad why he is so interested in the project?”
“No…” Shinra said as he turned his focus back to the computer screen.
-Forty-Five Minutes into the Experiment-
Mikado sat in his futon, trying to assess the situation. He couldn’t sense his own kind for the next seventy-two hours. That could play in his favor. He still had his powers, much to his dismay. (Mikado ran that test when he looked at Masaomi’s demon again. It still sat on his shoulder, staring at him. The rhythm of its speech didn’t change either.)
Still, Mikado had a problem.
Sure, they couldn’t tell that he was a tadpole, but that meant he couldn’t tell who was a tadpole or not either. Another Satoshi could be on the loose, looking for revenge and he might not know it. Mikado buried his head into his hands.
I think I’m going to be sick.
Mikado paused when he heard mumbling next to him. He turned to see Masaomi stirring awake.
“Morning,” he said, half-asleep. Mikado tried to act normal.
“G-G-Good morning,” he said. He already decided not to tell Masaomi about the little demon that he saw on his shoulder. His friend sat up with a strange look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Mikado?” he asked. “You look so pale.” The other boy rubbed his forehead.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m fine. In fact, I’m going to go out for a little bit.” The founder of the Dollars stood up and walked to his bathroom.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked. His friend came back out after he got dressed. Mikado walked out of his apartment as if in a daze.
“Mikado?” Masaomi asked again as the door swung shut.
Outside, Mikado breathed in the winter air. Masaomi couldn’t handle learning a secret that big. Still, he wouldn’t leave. His best friend learned around him being in Chou Mori and witnessed another tadpole that tried to kill him. Mikado shook his head and trembled.
I can’t drag Masaomi-kun further in than he already is. I don’t want him to know about my powers. Mikado looked down at his hand. Masaomi would probably think of him as a freak if he told him about that little demon on his shoulder. But, he couldn’t sit back and watch his friend suffer in his pain like that.
I have to do something to save Saki. But he would need to find out the whole story first. How do I ask without giving away what I saw?
His thoughts were interrupted by a crashing noise across the street.
Mikado looked up and saw a girl about Aoba’s age stumbling around in the streets. She swung her air around as if trying to feel around for something. The founder of the Dollars gave her a strange look.
Is she okay?
The girl stumbled around, still trying to feel out for something, anything. The more he watched, the more he became uneasy.
I should probably do something. She could fall or get hit by a car. Mikado looked around for anyone else. What if this girl was just like him? What if she was angry like Satoshi wanted to kill him too?
Strangely enough, Mikado didn’t think about all of that when he dashed across the street to the girl before she fell and hit the ground. He managed to grab her by the arm just in time.
“You okay?” he asked. The girl froze.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m fine now.” She stood up and turned around. A puzzled look came over Mikado’s face. The girl’s eyes looked brown and clouded over.
“Are you… blind?” he asked.
“I wasn’t born like this,” she said.
“It happened just a few minutes ago. I woke up and everything was pitch black. I asked my mom what time it was and she said it was eight in the morning. I waved my hand in front of my face and couldn’t see it.”
Mikado resisted saying that something similar happened to him this morning, but instead asked, “Did you get a phone call this morning?”
“Did it say you were part of some experiment where you would lose one sense for the next seventy-two hours?”
“How did you know?”
Mikado nervously shifted his eyes back and forth. “I got the same phone call too.”
“Really? What number did you roll?”
He wasn’t sure if either one should be talking about this. They had no way to tell if the other was lying or not. Mikado had no way to sense if she was like him or not. Still, it felt much better for some reason to come out and say this. Maybe he could have a new ally on his side through this hell unwinding around him and his friends.
“Six,” Mikado said. The blind tadpole girl tilted her head.
“What was that?” she asked.
“I can’t sense people like us,” he said. “You can’t sense me either. What number did you roll?”
“I got another phone message that said I got a one,” the girl said.
“And you lost your sight?”
Mikado didn’t sense any murderous intent from this blind tadpole girl. She was just as lost as he was in this mess. Maybe they could team up with her and come up with a way to beat Tandeki’s game and experiments.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Emily,” the girl said. “Akimoto Emily. What is your name?”
“Ryugamine Mikado,” the founder of the Dollars said. However, something else caught his attention. “Who is that guy next to you?”
“Guy… next to me?” Emily asked. She held out her arm to the right. “Oh, you mean Taiyou?”
“He’s some spirit being that does what I say.”
Mikado narrowed his eyes. “Is that what your power is?”
“Yes. What can you do?”
The older tadpole hung his head in shame. “I see people’s inner demons.”
Mikado put his hands to his head. “I hate it. They are so creepy. I didn’t really want to know what everyone’s problems are.”
“I felt the same way about Taiyou when he first appeared in my room.” Emily took a small step towards Mikado. “Could you see my demons?”
Mikado shook his head. “It wouldn’t work on you. I tried it on another one of us, but I couldn’t see anything.”
“So our powers wouldn’t work on each other?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Mikado!” someone yelled to them. Mikado turned to see Masaomi running towards them. The blonde boy made it over to the tadpoles.
“So this is where you went,” he said once he caught his breath. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I didn’t go too far,” Mikado said. “I’m fine now, Masaomi-kun.” The shogun of the Yellow Scarves looked and caught sight of Emily hiding behind Mikado.
“Oh and who’s this cutie next to you?” he asked.
“Is he like us?” she whispered. Mikado shook his head.
“No, this is my friend Masaomi-kun,” he said. “Masaomi-kun, this is Emily.”
“Is she a foreigner?” Masaomi asked. Emily stepped out and shook her head.
“No, I was born here,” she said in a small voice. The Yellow Scarves shogun broke into a huge smile.
“Nice to meet you, little cutie!” he said. Masaomi blew a kiss and winked. Emily didn’t know whether to laugh or look awkward.
“Is he always like this?” she whispered. Mikado sighed.
“Yep,” he said.
“And he’s a normal?”
“Yes, but we can trust him. He is a good person.”
She grabbed onto his arm and lowered her head. “I will trust your judgement. For reasons that he couldn’t explain at the time, her words gave Mikado a strange sense of feeling needed in this crisis rushing towards them.
Meanwhile, Etsuko knocked on Kitano’s office door.
“Enter,” he said. The doctor opened the door and walked inside. Kitano didn’t even look up from the notes that he was making.
“What’s the problem?” he asked. Etsuko closed the door behind her.
“We seem to have a Trojan Horse heading for us,” she said. Kitano glanced up at his partner.
“Nebula?” he asked.
Kitano closed his pen. “Very well. Track down the source and await for me to come down there after I finish up these notes.”
Etsuko bowed her head. “Yes, sensei.” She turned and walked out of his office. Kitano smirked over his notes.
So, Nebula finally made their move. I will not let them get to Chirin-kun and his siblings before we get done with them. Unfortunately for you, you are already too late.
In the lab, the Heartseed glowed violent blue with the flowers budding again.