I'll pull the strength of suns

pg-13 | no warnings apply

"You cannot be serious."

Riley's only response was to hand her a blue file. She refused to take it and turned to Clover, who was still staring at their superior with her mouth hanging open. Alice sighed in frustration.

"They're a kidnapping ring who held nine people against their will and forced them to play a horrific game."

"Well, really only seven of them were kidnapped," Clover said. "Oh, except, I guess, no, actually it was nine."

"And do I need to remind you that they kidnapped me and planned to leave me on ice for forty-five years to use me as a fucking calculator?!"

"I'm not downplaying what they did." Riley dropped the file on Alice's desk. "But Kurashiki has assets that we can use, and we need to work with them if what they say is true."

Alice tossed the file back at her, papers flying everywhere. Clover quickly moved to pick them up, but something she saw on one of them gave her pause. She stared at it, her eyes wide. Curiosity was getting to her, but Alice refused to ask what had captivated her coworker.

"This isn't up for debate. You and Clover are working with them. Period. You're going to meet them at their headquarters today at 13:30."

With that, Riley grabbed her bag and left. Alice resisted the urge to grab the letter opener off her desk and chuck it into her boss's back, but just barely.

"A-Alice? I'm not trying to argue, but maybe you should take a look at this."

"I know you haven't forgotten that they kidnapped you, too. Twice. They were going to leave you stranded in the future, with your brother left all alone."

At the mention of Light, Clover's eyes started to fill with tears. She crumpled the paper she was holding, her nails digging holes in it.

"Give me that damn thing."

She snatched the papers from Clover's outstretched hand. Most of it was information she already knew, from previous investigations and documents she had stolen from Kurashiki's headquarters after being awoken, when she told them she had to use bathroom. Why the hell Riley thought it was a good idea to ally with a group that didn't even have the common sense to install security lasers in their air ducts, she had no idea.

She tossed papers onto her desk as she finished scanning each of them. When she got to the wrinkled one that had interested Clover, she immediately saw why.

"Okay," she said begrudgingly. "Let's pay them a visit."

"What outfit do we get to wear?" Clover's mood shifted instantly, and she began to bounce up and down at the prospect of dressing up.

"Hate to burst your bubble, but based on these notes, it's probably best if we go as we are."

"Aw, really?" Clover looked down at her plain black pantsuit and sulked.

"Go get your brother and meet me in the garage in fifteen."

She reordered the papers properly in the file and then placed it in the locked drawer in her desk. From another drawer, she pulled out a mirror. She brushed down a few flyaway hairs and carefully lined her lips with her favorite shade - Revenge.


She pulled into the parking lot and reluctantly removed her weapon, stashing it in the glove compartment. Clover did the same. She smoothed down her skirt as she exited.

"So they operate out of a bank?"

She had learned long ago to stop asking Light how he knew things. He could probably hear the whoosh of the pneumatic tube, the beeping of the ATMs. Clover took his arm, likely less to guide him and more for her own comfort, as they entered.

"This is idiotic," Alice muttered to herself as she filled out the deposit slip. Hermann Minkowski, account number 22061864, deposit $44.00. "Someone's seen too many damn spy films."

The trio made their way to the last bank teller. Light was talking to Clover about how it didn't smell like a bank - whatever the hell that meant - as Alice handed over the slip.

"We need to access our safety deposit box, as well."

The teller nodded and tapped away at her computer. She handed over a small scanner and Alice rolled her thumb onto the glass, watching as the light turned from red to green. She passed it back to Clover, who followed suit and then helped Light scan his. Clover seemed to pass, but Light's thumb elicited a flashing yellow light and a beep.

"Hmm, it appears I've done something wrong."

Alice handed it back to the teller, who gave no indication there was any problem, aside from typing a bit more quickly on the keyboard. She glanced up and Alice followed her gaze; the teller looked like she was indicating something to a security camera. Alice turned to Clover and scratched the bridge of her nose. Clover tightened her grip on her brother's arm and gave her partner a small nod.

"Ah," the teller finally said. "Sorry about that sir; we were only expecting two of you today. Our branch manager has cleared it up for me. Follow me, please."

She dropped her finger to her lips and tapped them twice, watching Clover relax out of the corner of her eye. The agents followed the teller to the area with the deposit boxes. The teller inserted a key into box 1908 and pulled out another scanner. She pressed her palm to white panel and when it lit up, she angled it away from them and typed in an eight digit number. Based on the finger movements, though, Alice was pretty sure it was 18755459.

Kurashiki clearly didn't have anyone with a brain working OPSEC.

The fairly obvious fake door off to Alice's left opened up and she rolled her eyes so hard she thought she might pull a muscle. The teller gestured for them to enter. Alice held up a hand to indicate to Clover to wait and carefully stepped in. It looked like a fairly simple elevator, with twenty-four buttons, even though the bank only had two visible floors. No obvious traps. No visible vents for the release of anesthetizing or poison gas, although that also meant if they were locked in, they might suffocate.

She didn't have much choice. She gave Clover a "come here" gesture and she and Light joined her in the compartment. The teller paused for a moment, eyes cast down and to the side - so listening to something on an earbud, obvious - and nodded.

"Zeta eta theta," she said, just before the door closed.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Clover asked.

"I'm guessing it means we hit six-seven-eight."

Alice punched the numbers on the panel and the elevator began to move. By her estimation, it went down four floors before stopping. The doors opened to reveal two people, apparently waiting to go up. The man was tall, with grey eyes, wearing ridiculously tight jeans and an equally tight shirt. The woman looked like a librarian, more modestly dressed in a red skirt and cream-colored button-up shirt. Alice briskly walked past them without even acknowledging their presence, but when she turned her head to check out the man's butt, she saw Clover staring at them with a puzzled look on her face.

"Have we met somewhere?"

The woman shook her head as the man said, "No, I don't think so."

Alice instinctively reached for her gun before remembering she didn't have it. The woman was being sincere, but the man was definitely lying. She spun on her heels and moved to put herself between the pair and Clover.

"Are you the one who kidnapped us?"

The woman's eyes went wide. "K-kidnapped? No. We would never do anything like that."


"Don't know what you're talking about," the man said.


"You, sir, are a really. Shitty. Liar."

As Alice stepped closer to the man, the woman held out an arm, as if to stop her. Alice stuck a finger in her face.

"Look here, lady -"

Before she could finish, the man grabbed her wrist. "Stay away from her."

"Sigma!" The woman put a hand on his arm. "What is she going to do, point me to death?"

The man - Sigma, apparently, what a stupid code name - growled, but relented, releasing Alice. Light had been standing half-in and half-out of the elevator, keeping the door from closing. The woman took Sigma's hand and tugged on it to get him to follow her into it. Without breaking eye contact with Alice, he let himself be led in and then - somewhat violently - stabbed a button.

"She killed me once, you know," he said to the woman as the doors closed.

Alice scoffed. "Nice ass, but clearly a screw loose."

"How nice an ass?" Light asked.

"You could bounce a fucking quarter off that thing. Anyway, let's move."

There was only one more checkpoint for them to pass through before they made it to a room labeled 'Control'. Inside were both the Kurashikis and a woman Alice had never seen before. She pulled Clover close and whispered in her ear, "I know you know Akane and Aoi but what about the woman?"

"I think I've seen her before."

"You have," Akane said. "Although it's a long story."

"No, it's not." The girl sat down at one of the computers and typed away, bringing up pictures on two monitors. The woman looked irritatingly cheerful while the man looked like he was trying to set the camera - or the photographer - on fire with the power of his mind. "The guy is Sigma. Clover met him in the timeline where the three of us are put into pods for forty-five years. Only at that point, he was a crusty old fart. The woman is Diana, and while Clover never met her, she did meet a robot who looks ... pretty much exactly like her."

"So Luna was basically a sexbot."

"Ugh, Aoi!" The girl turned around and flipped him off. "Don't want to think about that. And I'm Phi. I was there, too. Nice to meet you again, Alice. I see you've finally gotten over your fear of wearing shirts."

Alice gave Phi both middle fingers. "No offense, but I don't really give a shit about all this. You know what I'm here for."

Phi looked at Akane, who was looking at Aoi, who seemed distracted by Clover.

Well, no. Not Clover.

Akane cleared her throat and Aoi's attention snapped back to her. Akane then nodded to Phi. The pictures of Sigma and Diana disappeared, replaced with images of an empty cell and a pod that looked suspiciously like the one Alice had woken up in.

"So, what, you have him in that pod?"

The picture changed again, this time a close-up of a man's face. Presumably, the person in the pod. Brother looked ... pretty much exactly like she expected. Grey hair. Widow's peak. Deep expression lines that stayed etched around his mouth, even though he was - she assumed - asleep. Age spots on his forehead, along with more wrinkles.

"What kind of security do you have on him?"

Aoi sneered at her. "Like we're going to tell you that."

"Look, Kurashiki, the security I've seen so far has been shit. If I want to get back in here, all I have to do is ambush your fake bank teller in the parking lot, chop off her hand, steal her key, and waltz into the safety deposit room. Anyone with even quasi-decent training can watch someone's hand movements and figure out what numbers she's punching into a keypad - first eight digits of the Planck charge - so I could get into this room without breaking a sweat. So I want to know what security you have to make sure someone can't break in here and walk off with him."

He laughed - the kind of annoying laugh someone makes when they know something someone else doesn't.

"I'm not sure if you're an idiot or you're trying to trick me into telling you details, but either way - no. For one thing, we use the same kind of handprint scanners you guys use at SOIS. They don't just read a handprint; they check for a pulse."

She turned her attention back to the monitors. It had been a rather transparent ploy, but most people were stupid enough to fall for it. She wouldn't underestimate him again.

"Look, Alice," Phi said. "It's not that we don't trust you."

"It's totally that we don't trust you," Aoi interjected.

She shot him a nasty look and continued. "But this guy is responsible for the death of your father, right? If somebody killed one of my parents, I'd ... I know what I'd do."

"We had the opportunity to kill him and we didn't take it," Akane said. "The information we can get from him is too important, and if I'm right, he might serve another purpose. There's a religious fanatic who's planning on destroying humanity, and we have to create a timeline where that doesn't happen."

Now it was Alice's turn to laugh.

"Oh, please. I'm well-acquainted with multiverse theory. There's already a timeline where that doesn't happen."

"What are you talking about?" Aoi said.

"Let's say you were to go back in time and ... kill Hitler, when he's just a baby. You'd probably create a timeline where the Holocaust doesn't happen. But there were already timelines where he died before he could implement his Final Solution. Maybe there's a timeline where his pregnant mother fell down stairs and she miscarried. Or one where he chokes on a fish bone, or walks into traffic, or gets knifed while walking down a back alley."

"What's your fucking point?"

"I'm getting there, dipshit. There's already at least one timeline where this religious fanatic of yours doesn't launch his or her attack. There have to be timelines where the asshole gets food poisoning or is betrayed by a lieutenant or just fucking can't get ahold of what they need to complete the mission. Humanity is already saved, in maybe a million different universes, and no matter what you do, there will be a timeline where you fail, and our species goes extinct. You just want to make damn sure it doesn't happen in your timeline. Your motives are selfish, but you act like you're the savior of all humankind."

"Um, Alice?" Clover raised her hand as if she was back in school. "I would kind of like humanity to be saved in this timeline."

"As do I." Alice fixed her gaze on Akane. "But I have the decency to admit that I'm just doing this to save my own ass."

"For fuck's sake," Phi muttered.

"Okay, fine, whatever." Aoi put his hands up. "We don't care why you're working with us, as long as you are. As much as I don't want to admit it, we need the SOIS's resources."

"Yes. Phi and I can talk to you about that while my brother gets started on Clover and Light's credentials." Akane shot Aoi a pointed look and the two of them stared at each other in silence for at least a minute. Then Aoi actually blushed like a schoolgirl and mumbled something under his breath as he waved for the other two agents to follow him into another room. Once the door closed behind them, Akane let out a deep exhale.

"I apologize for my brother. He can be quite antagonistic sometimes."

"You were saying something about how you need us?"

Akane gave her a strained smile. "Yes. We've noticed a drastic increase in the number of SHIFTers in recent years, as well as others with different esper abilities. I believed at the time that it was an evolutionary adaptation, a result of mankind reacting to an unprecedented crisis. I no longer believe that to be the case. We have reason to think that they were being engineered."

"And not by someone trying to stop the terrorist," Phi said. "We think it's by someone working with them."

"What evidence do you guys have of this, exactly?"

Phi gestured to the screen with Brother's image still on it. "I've been digging around in the morphogenetic field. He doesn't make it easy, but I've gotten glimpses. I think the terrorist is creating an esper army."

"If she's right, and we're going to be going into battle against people with skills like ours, or Brother's, we're going to need different weapons than the ones we use now. The SOIS has a rather sophisticated biological and chemical weapons department, doesn't it?"

"We create ways to defend against biological and chemical weapons. We don't develop them." Alice crossed her arms over her chest. "We're not monsters."

Akane nodded. "That's exactly what we need. Aoi should be almost done with the other two. Go ahead and get your credentials. We can talk more tomorrow."

She definitely did not want to wait until tomorrow, but Akane sat down next to Phi and began to work on something at the computer, which she presumed meant the discussion was over. She ran a hand through her hair and went into the other room. Clover was sitting in a chair, looking bored, while Light and Aoi were having a rather animated conversation. When Aoi saw her, he said something to Light about seeing him tonight and came over to her.

"We'll start with a headshot. The picture kind, not the bang-bang kind. Then I'll need your handprints, a DNA sample, and you'll have to pick a passcode."

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but just barely.


Alice had thrown the keys to Clover and grabbed a notebook out of the trunk before they got on the road. She began jotting down every detail she could think of - layout of the bank, names, descriptions, security procedures (the ones she was aware of, anyway), and possible weak areas.

"Light, you're not going on a date with Aoi tonight, are you?"

"Alice, what are you talking about?" Clover looked over at her, an anxious expression on her face. "I thought you didn't have a problem with Light being gay."

"Oh for fuck's sake - of course I don't have a problem with it!"

"I think she's concerned because I'll be going out on a date with the enemy," Light said. "Does that about sum it up?"

"Aoi would never hurt my brother! I mean ... right, Alice?"

Alice reached over and patted Clover's hand, where it rested on the gear shift. "Forget I said anything. Of course not. I saw the way Aoi was looking at him."

Clover grinned and turned her attention back on the road, as Alice closed her notebook and stared out the window. She didn't think Aoi would do anything to hurt him, but if a relationship developed there, Light ultimately could get his heart broken. As long as the Kurashikis had Brother, they had the upper hand. But eventually Brother would no longer be useful, and then neither would the Kurashikis and their little organization.

And when that happened, Alice had every intention of making sure Brother - and all the members of the Crash Keys - paid for their crimes.