One Month Before Impact Day
Ami sat on her bed, gently rubbing her temples. On the edge of her perception, something hovered, bothering her, frightening her, but whenever she tried to focus on it, it just disappeared.
Kaito sat beside her, rubbing her shoulder. She looked up at her twin brother, and smiled.
“You seem stressed,” he said. “Everything okay?”
“Something feels… off,” she said, shaking her head. “You don’t feel it?”
“I’ve been trying to limit my awareness,” he admitted. “The migraines are still… Oh. Oh, what is that?”
From the expression on his face, she knew he was sensing the same thing she was, and he was far more perceptive than she was.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But—”
“It’s in the city. We could- UGH!”
He doubled over, pressing his hands into his head, his face contorted into a pained grimace. Ami wrapped her arms around him protectively.
“Kaito! Take it easy,” she whispered gently.
“Heh,” he said, blinking rapidly and sitting up straight again. “I know I’ve said this before, but you definitely got the better deal.”
“Neither of us got a good deal, Kaito,” she said sternly. “You know that.”
“I know, I know. The price…”
There was a surge, an almost overwhelming wave of something, as if the presence they were sensing suddenly got a lot more powerful. They looked at each other.
“Do you want to go after it?” she asked him.
“Yes, but we should get backup.”
“Haylie?” she suggested.
“Definitely,” he said, moments before Alice popped her head into the room.
“Hey!” she said cheerily.
“Alice?” Ami asked. “What are you doing here?”
“I was lonely,” she said. “You look serious. What’s happened?”
“The northern tower,” Kaito said, pinpointing the presence. He and Ami exchanged worried glances.
“That’s where Exxo is,” Alice said.
“I was just there,” she added.
“Did Exxo say anything?” Ami questioned.
“Yeah, they said something was coming,” Alice said. “Asked me to leave.”
“We need to get there,” Kaito said.
“Are they in trouble?” Alice asked, worried. “They did seem stressed…”
Kaito shook his head.
“Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel malevolent, just… new.”
“Right,” Ami agreed. “And—”
Another surge, something different, something powerful.
“You feel that?” Kaito asked.
“Yeah,” Ami confirmed.
“What, what?” Alice asked, lacking the telepathic awareness of the twins.
“A second presence,” Ami explained. “I don’t…”
“It’s familiar, somehow?” Kaito said, uncertain.
“But very different,” Ami agreed.
“I don’t understand,” Alice complained.
“We need to get to Exxo,” Ami said. “Now.”
“Okay! Follow me,” Alice said cheerfully.”
The three of them moved quickly, trying not to look as alarmed as they felt. They passed plenty of civilians on their way, and the last thing they wanted was to raise a panic. The city was already unstable enough.
It didn’t take them long to get to the place Alice had left Exxo, but they the time they did, Exxo was already unconscious, lying in Gabriel’s arms. He looked up at them, his expression unreadable. One of Haylie’s bodies stood behind him, looking warmly down at Exxo.
“What happened?” Ami asked, looking around for a threat.
“I don’t know,” Gabriel said, sounding more stressed than she was used to hearing him.
“My surveillance data is corrupted,” Haylie said.
“How is that possible?” Kaito asked. Haylie’s systems were all wired into a sentient hive-mind. There wasn’t a technology in the world that could corrupt that data.
“I don’t know,” was all she said.
“We felt something,” Ami said. “A presence.”
“Describe it,” Gabriel ordered.
“There were two, actually,” Kaito said. “One was… uh…”
He looked at Ami, helpless. She just shrugged.
“I can’t remember,” she said.
“Me either,” he said.
“Neither of them?” Gabriel asked.
“Nothing,” Ami said. “Nostalgia, maybe.”
“Wow, yeah” Kaito agreed. “A very potent feeling of nostalgia.”
“I don’t understand,” Alice said, brushing Exxo’s hair out of their face.
Gabriel looked up at Haylie, transferring Exxo to Alice, who held them up effortlessly.
“Haylie. Is that a combat chassis?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Good. Come with me,” he said.
Next Week: The Deluded Fantasy Of A Lonely Teenage Girl