Capturing

Chapter XLIV: Capturing

XxX

Naegi

I stood from the changing room bench, zipping up my bag. As I rose, Kirigiriturned to the others.

“As you can see, the speed of this operation is paramount. Printed images ofyour typical room surroundings have been left on your bedside tables, flippedover. Byakuya was kind enough to provide that help in exchange for…informationwe have acquired about our situation. The time for switchover will be short.If the photographs aren’t placed within 30 seconds, don’t attempt to put themup at all.”

Celeste and Asahina nodded, before Celeste’s head tilted curiously. “Naegi, Imust admit I don’t see the need to prepare all of our rooms like this. Surely,having one or two would be enough?”

“Monokuma likely has rather a lot up his sleeve to deal with situations likethese,” I replied. “I would prefer to be able to flee if need be.”

She nodded and stood to leave. Asahina followed soon after, leaving Kirigiriand I alone in the room. Kirigiri turned towards me.

“Makoto, I realize that you feel it is necessary to strike at Monokumadirectly, but…” she hesitated briefly. ”…is something like this the mostefficient way? This type of torture feels like the actions of those we fightto stop, not those we take.”

I grinned darkly. “This ‘torture’, as you call it, will likely be a good dealless brutal than you anticipate. Suffice it to say I have some tricks up mysleeve.”

Her eyes widened slightly and she looked less uncertain. “I will trust you,then. Shall we go?”

I nodded and stepped out of the room, sliding my backpack onto my shoulders.Kirigiri moved out from behind me, turning towards the dormitories and walkingoff. I waited for about 90 seconds to give Kirigiri time to reach our roombefore turning to the nearest camera and motioning for Monokuma.

XxX

Monokuma/Mastermind (Tense switch is intentional, for the plot reason givenpreviously)

Someone sits at a console, their hands moving around, pressing buttons everyso often to switch the images displayed on screen. Suddenly, the images haltat a picture of the school atrium, where a boy stands and motions at thecamera.

That dratted boy is calling me again. Should I go to him? I am in the processof a delicate piece of work…on the other hand, I need a bit of humor in mylife to spice up this rather dull ‘tragedy’. I mean, with the way thesestudents are reacting to everything you’d think that the bastards were playinga game of chess rather than risking their lives! Ah well, I suppose I shouldexpect no less. They did fight me rather impressively during the initialconquests. Ah, those were the days…where despair ruled at every turn…

The person’s eyes close briefly as they drift off into memories for a fewseconds before rousing themselves with a start, their eyes flashing briefly inthe darkness.

Enough of this woolgathering! I have a student to greet, after all. And it’sjust bad form to keep someone of his value waiting…

The mastermind spins in their chair before rising and walking over to anotherdoor adorned with a Monokuma face. They quickly unlock and open the door,immediately sitting in the chair in the center of the room. Their hands slideinto control gauntlets as a display visor drops over their heads.

Robotic connection interface Version f.X activated. Please select device withwhich to establish connection.

The Mastermind’s fingers move tiny amounts inside the gauntlets, expertlymanipulating the machinery.

Chassis selected: Monokuma. location: Atrium. Activating chassis…

Chassis successfully activated

Establishing motor control…Success

Establishing sensory access…Success

Establishing voiceprint analysis and conversion…Success

Activating controller…Success

The visor flares to life and displays the image from Monokuma’s front cameras,currently the blank metal walls of the chassis holding pod inside the tunnelsabove the atrium. Small indicators blink on in the bottom left corner,displaying the structural integrity and energy of the robot. With quick,practiced motions, the bear slides open the door to the holding pod, landingsoundlessly on the tunnel floor below. After checking in the peephole toensure that Naegi hasn’t moved, and that his blind spot still covered thetunnel entrance, the robot presses a sequence of buttons on the tunnel wall.The floor slides out beneath it and it drops to the ground silently behindNaegi. It steps forward heavily, its claws rapping against the tiled floor.Naegi turns to face it.

Whaddaya want, Naegi?”

“I have a question for you, Monokuma. Its related to the last trial.”

The mastermind’s eyes widen slightly. Has the boy realized who Kenshiro was?Or, worse, has he figured out what it was that the Fighter had said in thetrial room? If so, actions would need to be taken immediately. The bodilessvoice could not be compromised.

Then go ahead and ask it! Stop wasting my time!”

“I will, if you let me,” the boy replies, eyebrows narrowing in annoyance. “Iwished to ask you why it was you were so insistent on following the rules youhave set for us.”

The mastermind freezes before a strange smile grows on their face. Has the boyfinally figured out the hint he had been given after the first murder? Atlast! His despair will grow a hundredfold once he realizes the implications ofthat hint. Suddenly the smile vanishes from the mastermind’s face as theyremember the alternative possibility. If Naegi has realized that…the event wastoo horrifying even for them to consider. So much despair lost in one fellswoop…it would bring them down entirely.

I wanted to give you as much of a chance as possible! If I cheated orchanged the rules unjustly, you’d blame me for the deaths of your friends.This way, you know that the failure was all you! And trust me…you willfail.”

The mastermind presses a button to let the bear trail off into laughter as theboy turns away. They sit back in the chair, hands leaving the control console.

Chassis system deactivating. Returning body to original holding point.

The visor slides upwards, leaving them alone in their chair. They sit quietly,thinking. It might be worthwhile to send the wolf against Naegi now, sincethat would take him completely out of the picture. Come to think of it, thewolf hadn’t checked in recently. Perhaps it was time to have another progressreport.

XxX

Naegi

I turned away from Monokuma, swiftly walking back to the dormitories.Hopefully I had bought enough time for the first step of the plan. Also,Monokuma had again confirmed Kirigiri’s hypothesis that he was aiming, forsome reason, at leading me to failure. If I had had more time I might havebeen able to turn that to my advantage, but at that moment executing the plansuccessfully was far more important.

I entered the room and immediately looked at the camera, smiling when I saw itcovered with a glossy white photograph. Hopefully, Monokuma wouldn’t stayfocused on any one image for long enough to notice that the empty roomconstantly looked the same. Similar photographs were hopefully hanging overthe cameras in Asahina and Celeste’s rooms. I turned to Kirigiri.

“Any problems?” I asked. “Did you get the photo up within 30 seconds?”

“Within 15,” she replied. “Shall we go?”

I nodded and we both left the room, heading for the academy side of thebuilding. As we reached the stairwell to the second floor of the school,Celeste and Asahina caught up with us, both flashing us quick thumbs up. Inodded and kept walking, heading up stairwells until we reached the fourthfloor. Suddenly, as we passed the rec room, I heard Alter Ego’s voicecrackling over my mouthpiece.

Movement detected from peephole at wall opposite. Likely position of tunnelsystem entrance.”

I slowed my pace slightly, my hand creeping to the pocket of my hoodie andgripping the spray bottle there tightly. Kirigiri noticed my motion and hereyes widened as she quickly flipped her collar up over her mouth. Celeste andAsahina quickly pulled cloths from their pockets and covered their mouths. Ireached my other hand into my other pocket, gripping a cloth of my own, andstopped walking. My eyes scanned the room repeatedly, looking for any threats.The other 3 students stopped soon after, taking up their own watches.

XxX

?

My eyes widened from behind the peephole. Whatever Naegi had just noticed, itwas clearly important enough to warrant significant action. The moves they alljust made suggested some kind of gas attack. I reached down to my holsters andcarefully unhooked my tear gas grenades. After all, no point in a weapon onlyyour enemy could use. After I safely stowed the grenades, I turned back to mythin layer of shaped plastic explosive on the door. The small amount I hadplaced would just barely knock out the wall, allowing a surprise assaultwithout risking significant injury to the students. The commander had beenvery clear that no injury to any student was to be risked. For a similarreason, I had declined to wear my mask for this mission. There was no sense inrisking a loss of peripheral vision, as I could blind the students with aflashbang anyway.

After a few more seconds, I was satisfied that Naegi would no longer move. Imoved back slightly and detonated the explosives. The drywall flew out a fewfeet before crashing down, and I tossed a flashbang through the opening,followed by a few smoke grenades to ensure a lack of vision. After itdetonated, I launched myself through the opening. All 4 students were standingin the hallway blinded. I moved towards Naegi rapidly, but as I approachedhim, he whirled to face me, eyes still closed. His other hand whipped a spraybottle out of his pocket, and I froze for a second as he sprayed it directlyinto my face. As I felt the world start to spin around me, all I could see andhear were his face and words.

He grinned darkly. “It seems you’ve been outsmarted by superiorreconnaissance, Soldier. I would apologize, but I’m not at all sorry. Sweetdreams.”

He sprayed me with another blast, and my world went black.

XxX

Naegi

My shoulders started to shake as Monokuma’s operative fell to the ground. Thathad been far, far too close. If Alter Ego hadn’t warned me of Ikusaba’slocation, she would have easily gotten the drop on us. I couldn’t allow anyoperation with that sort of risk again. I turned to the others.

“Well…that was unexpected,” I began, voice taut. “Saves us the effort ofcarrying her down a floor. You know the drill.”

The other three students nodded. Kirigiri and Asahina picked up Ikusaba asCeleste went through the Soldier’s holsters and tossed me their contents.After we finished, Celeste moved to another room and called to Monokuma as webegan quickly moving down the staircases to the dormitory. A few seconds afterwe reached Kirigiri’s room, Celeste entered, breathing heavily.

“I…I stopped him for as long as I could…he seemed extremely suspicious of me…”

XxX

Mastermind/Monokuma

The mastermind exits the console rapidly, body losing grace in favor of speedymovement. They quickly enter the data processing room, hands slamming down onthe camera controls to bring up the school’s fourth floor. As the images comeup, their hands slam down in rage. Every room is filling with smoke. They canbarely see the ceilings of the rooms, let alone any significant items of thefloors. They then switch back to the dormitory cameras. As the screens of thedata processing room flip sequentially through the rooms of the students, themastermind tenses more. Nothing in any of the rooms is unusual enough tosuggest that Naegi has executed another plot. Quickly, they pull acommunicator from their belt and activate it.

“Wolf, report in immediately.”

After a few seconds of silence, Naegi’s voice crackles over the communicator.

“We’re sorry, but the person you are attempting to reach is currentlyindisposed,” it begins mockingly. “And don’t try to find us. We areinvisible.”

XxX

Naegi

I drop the communicator onto the table. With any luck, that last statementwould send Monokuma searching through restrooms and changing rooms for awhile, and he’d likely be delayed by the secret room. That should have boughtus enough time to complete the interrogation. As I turned to the bed whereIkusaba lay bound, Kirigiri tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned, shedropped something into my hand.

“She was carrying this, Naegi. I felt you should see it.”

I looked down and my breath froze. In my hands was the second blue contactlens.

A/N: I’m back, and I apologize for the long delay between posts(Last week Iwas writing the prologue to an HPMoR 3rd year sequel, so that took up myweekend).

Plotwise: The mastermind sections contain plenty of fun information for allyou plotters out there to use. Interrogation’s coming next chapter, so that’llbe fun.

Remember to keep close track of Naegi’s resources for the future…by which imean in 4-5 chapters…

Please review!


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