Junpei: D minus 368h : 37m : 03s and counting

pg-13 | no warnings apply

Mallory popped two more antacid tablets and washed it down with a swig of bismuth subsalicylate. It was probably much more than the recommended dose, but she didn't really care. She had felt fine when she woke up in the morning, but almost as soon as she got to work, she found herself in agony. She knew if she asked to go back home, her boss would say no.

She was getting ready to check to see if there was ginger ale or cola in the fridge in the breakroom when the door to her office swung open violently. The man standing there wore the same outfit as the engineers on the third level, but she had never seen him before.

And he was pointing a gun at her.

She put her hands up. "Okay, look, mister, if you're wanting money, we don't keep any in the office."

"Not interested in money." He fished a piece of paper out of his pocket and tossed it over to her. It had a name - Tenmyouji, Junpei - as well as basic demographic and medical information. Almost everything she had asked of the experiment's participants.

"What do you want me to do with this?"

"You're going to add me to the roster for the Mars simulation. I'm going to participate in your Dcom experiment."

"Oh, sir, I'm afraid we can't do that. Applications were closed two months ago and we've already finalized -"

The man - Tenmyouji, she guessed - raised his gun so that it was pointing right at her face. "I'm not asking."

She slowly placed the piece of paper down on her desk. The sudden stress of the situation was not helping her stomach pain at all; she was starting to worry she was going to throw up, or maybe even pass out.

"Stomachache?" he asked, a small smirk on his face.

Mallory swallowed, hard. "Yes. Why do you ask?"

"Last night, I broke into your apartment. I sedated you and then forced a small explosive device down your throat. Once I was sure it had made its way into your stomach, I activated small spikes. Not enough to cause serious internal bleeding or anything. Just enough to keep it in place, to make sure it doesn't follow the normal path through and out your digestive tract."

She put her hands over her abdomen, as if she could somehow feel it inside her organs. She didn't know a lot about anatomy or anything like that, so she had no clue if what he was saying could be true.

"There's a bomb in me?"

"That's what I said." Tenmyouji lowered his gun, tucking it into a holster hidden under the lab coat, while his other hand reached into his pocket and pulled out a small remote-like-thing with a button on it. She was pretty sure she could assume that was the thing that would make the bomb in her stomach explode.

"S-So if I put you in, you'll deactivate it?" She moved to her computer, slowly.

"No. Once the experiment is over, I'll send a signal to have the spikes retract and deactivate the explosive, and you'll shit it out in a day or two. If I do that now, you'll just delete me off the roster the minute I walk out this door. And I'll warn you now - any attempt to surgically remove it or extract it through other means will detonate the device."

Mallory pulled up the roster and deleted profile number 003. Tenmyouji walked up behind her, watching her carefully as she inputted his information. Her fingers trembled and she had to erase and retype things several times; he sighed loudly with each mistake, which only made her more nervous.

"Um, I n-n-need to know your blood t-t-type. It's for your emergency informa-ma-mation."

"B-negative." He glanced over at the door. "Work faster."

"I'm g-g-going as fast as I can, sir." She felt tears pricking at her eyelids but she was determined not to let them fall. She didn't want to appear weak. But once she had finalized his profile and hit SUBMIT, she closed her eyes and the tears spilled out onto her cheeks.

"F-F-Finished, sir." She heard him sigh and looked up at him. He was frowning and didn't look pleased. Mallory lost what little composure she had left and began sobbing openly. "P-P-Please don't kill me, sir. I don't have a family or friends really but I d-d-don't want to die."

He yanked a couple tissues out of the box on her desk and shoved them at her. "Calm down. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and not do anything to jeopardize my participation in this experiment, and you'll be fine. If anyone asks why the roster has changed, just tell them the other guy dropped out."

"Oh, I won't. I mean, I will. I mean - I promise, sir, I won't mess up anything."

Still looking angry, Tenmyouji dropped the tissues on her keyboard and made his way to the exit, bumping into a chair on the way. He opened the door but then closed it almost instantly, his hand still on the doorknob.

"Try not to worry," he said, without turning around. "Even the stomachache will go away later tonight. When your body gets rid of the device, you won't have any discomfort. Everything will be okay as long as you do what I say."

"Of course, sir, yes."

She sat at her desk for several long minutes after he left. She finally crept to the door and opened it just a crack. He was nowhere to be seen. She pulled it open all the way and stuck her head outside. The hallway was completely empty. She rested her head against the wall and took deep breaths.

And then worried that deep breathing might jostle the bomb and set it off.

She went to the monitor on the wall and quickly dialed her boss's number, chewing on her nails as she waited for it to connect. As soon as his face showed up, she dropped her hands. He thought it was a filthy habit.

"Brother! I think the one you were telling me about was just here. He -"

"Yes, that was him."

"Oh." Mallory couldn't help it; nervousness brought her fingers back to her mouth. "How do you know?"

"I have cameras placed in your office."

"Oh, of course. Um, I think pretending to be afraid worked really w-w-well. I think I really sold it."

"You were adequate," Brother said as he adjusted his glasses. "You have no need to be nervous. He did not actually place a bomb in you. He merely determined which coffee shop you stop by every morning and bribed the clerk to slip a compound into your drink. It will make you feel ill for twenty-four hours."

"Are you s-s-sure?"

"Yes. I have had him under surveillance for some time now."

"Oh, thank you." She covered her face with her hands as she started to cry again, this time with relief.

"Do attempt to have some composure, Mallory."

The derision in his voice seemed to ooze out of the monitor.

"Yes, s-s-sir."

"I have placed an antidote to the compound you were given in your desk. You will find it in the bottom left drawer. You will feel drowsy but it will neutralize the compound and you will feel better."

"I'll wait until I go home to take it, then, sir. I know there's still a lot of work to do."

"You will take it now. You don't need to worry about the remaining work. I have no more use for you."

Her shoulders slumped. She knew she wasn't the smartest member of Free the Soul, but she had tried hard to serve him well. To hear him dismiss her contributions as if they were nothing, to tell her that he couldn't use her for anything anymore, hurt.

"But I ... I am r-r-redeemed, now, sir? I'm forgiven? You said if I did well -"

"Of course."

He terminated the call before she could thank him. She returned to her desk and found a bottle in the drawer he had specified. It tasted like water, but she knew Brother wouldn't lie to her. And soon enough, she did start to feel tired. She pulled a cushion off her chair to use as a pillow and lay down on the floor. She smiled at finally having earned Brother's forgiveness for her indiscretions. Her eyes closed and she was soon deep asleep.

When the poison slowed and then stopped her heart, she was blissfully unaware of it. And if she had known, she only would have thanked him for making it painless.