I'm dying to know, to help make some sense of it all

r | major character death | violence | suicide



It was hard to hack with bullets flying.

She had taken her earbud out earlier; Akane was forcibly wrenching Phi's out of her ear. There was no point in pretending anymore. The other team was dead. There was only one person remaining from this timeline who would be on this frequency, and Diana wouldn't be focused on this mission anymore. They didn't have to keep acting like they belonged in this history.

"Diana's going to die," Akane was yelling. "You knew she would, and so would everyone else. You need to be here with us!"

Ennea tried to concentrate on the numbers and letters on her screen and not Phi's meltdown. Even though this was only Ennea's third time SHIFTing, she understood. Phi knew on a rational level that that the four of them would be arriving in the timeline where they failed; she probably hadn't anticipated actually watching or hearing anybody else die. There was no way Sigma's team could have survived that explosion. Whether Diana was breaking down in the command van or rushing into one of the buildings to try to do something, Akane was right. There was no point in listening to it.

A bullet came so close that Ennea could feel the heat on her face. With trembling hands, she took her tablet and huddled under the desk, as much as she could without breaking the physical connection to the server. Carlos took a few shots and then the gunfire stopped. This was why she and her sister stayed in HQ. She couldn't deal with bullets and ticking bombs and shouting. She had been monitoring missions where people died before, good people, people she genuinely cared about. There was a difference between watching someone go dark when they were a blip on a screen and actually being there, just a dozen meters away, when you hear the building blow up.

She couldn't mourn for Alice or Clover or Junpei or Sigma. She had to do what she came here to do, so she could go back to the history where they were all still alive.

Except she couldn't find it.

"We're not in the right place. This is just another proxy server."

"The fuck?"

She had never actually heard Akane curse like that before.

"You said the APDoS attack came from here. You said you were positive!" Phi pointed her weapon at Ennea for emphasis; even though she could see Phi didn't have a finger on the trigger, Ennea whimpered and held her tablet in front of her face.

"I-I-I thought it did! I was sure this was the origin!"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Phi started pacing and even Carlos looked worried. "Did it really come from North Korea? Have we just wasted the last three fucking years?!"

"No! No, just give me a minute!" Gunfire started again and she cursed in Japanese under her breath. Re-writing a computer program on the fly on a tablet was difficult enough. "If North Korea was actually going to take out the entire US banking system, they'd be smart enough to cover their tracks."

"But if this is just another fucking proxy -"

"Phi, please, shut up!"

The gunfire was getting closer. Her hands were sweating and she almost dropped her tablet twice.

"We only have thirteen minutes left," Akane said. "It took you thirty-seven minutes in the other history just to get us here. We have to SHIFT out, now."

"This could be our only chance!" Carlos protested.

"There are other histories where we failed. We can't wait for the bombs to go -"

Ennea gasped as corner of her tablet was shot off. It was just part of the outer shell, so her device was still functional, but it had splattered blood all over the screen. It got harder to breathe and suddenly her face was against the concrete floor. She looked up and saw Carlos holding his arm. Blood was dripping down his hand, onto his gun.

"Carlos." Her voice was slurred for some reason. "You're shot."

"Fuck, Ennea, don't move."

She tried to reply to Phi but she coughed, more blood coating her tablet. She wiped it away with a shaky hand as her program finally started running. Akane had taken off her sweater and handed it to Phi; Phi was pressing it to Ennea's chest so hard it hurt.

"It's going. Bahamas. France. Mongolia."

"Ennea, shut up."

Phi was crying and she couldn't figure out why. She had to sit up. Akane knelt in front of her and held her down.

"Ennea, the bullet that went through Carlos's arm hit you."

She looked down at her chest. There was a red stain spreading across her blue shirt. Phi's hands were bloody as they held Akane's sweater against the wound.

"Well..." She tried to look at Phi but her neck wasn't cooperating. "Gonna die anyway, right? Program ... look. Republic of Syria. Turkey. Kaz... kaz..."

They weren't listening to her.

"Akane, she's not going to make it another ten minutes," Phi said. It sounded like she was trying to keep her voice low, but Ennea still heard her.

She knew what that meant.

Only Carlos and Akane had ever SHIFTed into a timeline of their own choice, without any assistance from others. The two of them could probably go back to their own history by themselves, but Phi and Ennea had come here following their resonances in the field. If Phi or Ennea died before the others, or if they weren't in proximity when the others died, they might not go back to their own timeline.

Ennea reached up, trying to get Phi's attention.

"If ... if I don't make it back with you, you have to tell Mama -"

"You're going to go back with the rest of us. You can tell Hazuki yourself."

"Phi, please." She coughed so hard she thought a part of her lung might come out her throat. "You have to look at the screen. When it finds the origin, you have to memorize the IP address. You all have to. In case ... in case ..."

She lay the tablet down so they could all watch. Kyoto. Ekaterinburg. Belarus. Back stateside. Salem. Toronto.

Finally, Provo.

"Fucking Utah?!" Phi exclaimed.

"Me-memorize the ad-ad-address."

She coughed again and closed her eyes, trying to make peace with the fact that she'd never see her sister again. Never see Mama again. Phi was yelling her name but she had to go. It was okay to go. Mama and Nona were safe, in another world.

"Hey, fucking look at me!"

Her eyes snapped open at Carlos's voice. Akane had his gun, as well as her own; one was pointed at her head, the other at his. Phi also had two weapons - one aimed at her temple, Ennea staring down the barrel of the other.

"We can't wait for the bombs to go off. We have to all go at the same time. Keep your eyes open and you'll be seeing your mother soon," Akane instructed.

Ennea couldn't talk anymore. She just nodded.

"Five. Four. Three. Two. One."

Everything went white.

(fin.)