lessons to make me more cleverer

pg-13 | no warnings apply

Phi hesitated for a moment before punching in the code to open the door.

Her hand was trembling and she had to get it under control before she went in. She took a deep breath and stretched out her fingers before clenching them into fists to try to release tension. She had been in much more dangerous spots than this, after all. This was nothing in comparison.

She typed 2-4-1-8 in the keypad and walked in.

Akane was typing away on a computer while Alice was carefully loading up an injection gun. The tension between them was still so thick one practically needed a chainsaw to cut through it. For Alice, at least, the alliance between SOIS and the Crash Keys was less a true partnership and more along the lines of 'the enemy of my enemy is someone I will tolerate, barely', especially since Akane had - for once - been forthright with Alice and Clover when she plucked them out of cold sleep.

"I am not saying that I think she would intentionally tell someone," Alice was saying. "But her mother is a powerful receiver."

"Diana doesn't go snooping in my mind," Phi announced. "And if she did, I'd just whine, 'Mooooom, stop using the morphogenetic field to invade my privacy, oh my god,' and she'd stop."

Akane smiled but Alice didn't seem to be amused. "I'm almost ready," she said as she adjusted another setting on the gun.

Phi nodded, trying to keep the anxiety from showing on her face as she sat on the bench and waited. While she understood why they couldn't be, part of her wished Diana and Sigma were here. Her connection with Diana was always soothing, even if they were both in a risky situation. Just being around her could help Phi calm down and focus. And Sigma's ability helped to intensify her own. Akane had once said that she thought the three of them were an unstoppable force.

"This isn't going to be half as bad as you think. Alice is being a damn drama queen. As usual."

She gave Aoi a small smile as he sat next to her. He could be a total dick sometimes, but for whatever reason, he was usually kind to her. Maybe it was a we-both-spent-part-of-our-lives-as-orphans thing. Or some kind of it's-20-fucking-30-and-there-are-still-people-who-think-our-sexuality-is-an-abomination kinship.

Alice got up and came over to the bench, sitting down on the other side of Phi. The injection gun - and its payload - seemed ridiculously huge. Akane and Carlos stood in front of her and she suddenly felt very claustrophobic.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Carlos asked as Alice snapped a monitoring device onto Phi's wrist.

"Yeah. I'm good."

"We've tested this on rats and monkeys, so we know it's not toxic, but this will be the first time injecting it into a human," Alice cautioned. "We have a doctor waiting outside, in case there are any adverse effects. There may be a burning sensation at the injection site and you might feel like you have a mild fever, but that will fade. You may experience some dizziness and you'll probably feel your heart racing at first. If it gets to be too much, you need to tell us immediately. That's an order."

"You don't have any authority to give her an order," Aoi scoffed.

She ignored him and focused on Phi. "I'm serious. None of this being brave and soldiering on crap. If your heart rate doesn't start to return to normal or if you have any chest pains, you say something. If anything doesn't feel right, you say something. This is just a test. If something goes wrong, we stop this and reevaluate. Do you understand?"

Phi nodded. Hopefully, there would be no problems. It had been almost two years since they had been informed there was some fanatic bastard trying to eradicate the human race and most days, she felt like they weren't making any progress. And now there was more at stake than just the abstract concept of human extinction; she had a mother and a father and a baby sister to worry about, and Phi needed to make damn sure they all had a future. This was an important step.

So it needed to work.

Feeling the scrutiny of four sets of eyes on her, she did her best not to flinch as Alice pressed the injection gun to her neck and pulled the trigger. It felt like boiling water being shot into her veins and she gasped.


"No, Carlos, I'm fine. She just ... whoa ... wasn't kidding about the burning sensation."

Alice put a cool hand on Phi's forehead for a moment before pressing two fingers against her neck to feel her pulse.

"You feel warm and your heart rate is elevated, but not dangerously so. How do you feel?"

"Like ... like I've been out in the sun too long." Her head started spinning and she felt Aoi and Alice put their arms around her. She realized was staring at the ceiling and that it wasn't just her head that had been spinning; they had caught her before she fell off the bench and onto the floor. They lay her down gently and she could hear Akane telling Carlos to go get a pillow from somewhere.

"The dizziness is normal, Phi." Alice sounded like she was far away. "We saw the monkeys get disoriented. It should clear up in a minute or two. Let me know if it doesn't. We need you to keep talking to us. Can you do that?"

"What ... what want me say?"

"Doesn't matter. Just talk."

Aoi was holding her hand, even as his face wobbled and swayed in her vision. She stammered through a couple monologues from Hamlet, and as she got to it hath the primal eldest curse upon it, a brother's murder she no longer felt like she was adrift in the ocean.

"I think I'm okay now."

Alice carefully helped her sit up, and when Phi was ready for it, helped her stand. She and Aoi stepped back, keeping their arms out in case she might fall, but Phi felt mostly normal.

"I'm ready."

She expected someone to argue, but nobody did. Alice walked back to the console and turned on a couple monitors. One showed the cell Phi would soon be entering, while the other displayed vital signs. Akane joined her, fingers flying across a keyboard. Carlos had gotten the straitjacket out of the locker and he and Aoi set about getting Phi into it.

For the second time, she wished her parents were here, even though she knew they'd both be freaking out and refusing to let her do this. She could envision Diana with her stun gun, taking out everyone.

"Are you sure, really sure?" Carlos tightened the last strap and put his hands on her shoulders.

"We need him to try something, right? We won't know if this cocktail can actually amplify someone's esper ability enough to resist mind hacking unless we test it."

"Anybody could test that. I could go in. You don't have to put yourself through this."

"No." She watched the figure on the security monitor as he began to stir. He was usually allowed books - sent in and out of the cell by a pneumatic tube system to prevent him from having contact with anyone - but for this, he had been incapacitated with the anesthetic and his cell had been stripped bare while he was asleep. He didn't even have shoes. "Maybe he'll try something on the first person to walk in the cell, maybe he won't. But I think he won't be able to resist fucking with a ... member of his family. I won't put Diana or Sigma through this."

"Those two are stronger than you think."

"You think I don't fucking know that, Carlos? They could survive having their legs chopped off, too, but I'd die before I let them go through that!"

She hadn't quite meant to say that. Or at least, not so loudly. But Alice had the decency to pretend as if she hadn't heard. "We're ready if you are, Phi."

"If anything goes wrong, we'll activate his implant and knock him out instantly," Akane assured her.

"And if that doesn't work for some reason, we'll gas the cell," Carlos said.

"I appreciate that but don't get trigger-happy. This is no good if you guys knock him out before he tries anything."

Aoi nodded at her and Carlos gave her one last pat on the back before she entered. There were four gates to go through, all of which had to be unlocked from the control room. Akane announced over the loudspeaker when she was opening each one.

Phi hesitated for a moment in front of the final gate, even though the indicator light had changed from red to green. She took a deep breath before pushing it open with her elbow.

"Ah. Dearest sister. It's been too long."