MINUS • PLUS
With a black bag on his head, Yukio was being led through a corridor, two people accompanying him. Two people with silver masks in their faces, which were shining whenever light fell on them.
He didn’t understand why. If they wanted to take him somewhere, they should’ve just Jumped there.
When they stopped walking, Yukio realized that he was in an open space. The sound of a few laughs entered his ears before the bag was removed from his head.
He was in some kind of a factory. It had a large area, a high shade, and several construction related vehicles scattered here and there. There was just one anomaly.
In the middle of the factory, there was a cage. A big, metal cage that already held a prisoner.
Before he was shoved inside the cage, the Zorth collar was unlocked and his neck was freed. He tried to Jump the moment the collar was taken off, but couldn’t. Puzzled, he tried again, and again it was fruitless.
Then he looked at the other person in the cage.
It was a girl who looked to be a bit older than him. She was sitting at a corner, wearing a disheveled shirt that somehow clung to her body. Her head was down, her long hair covering the face. He thought about approaching her, but hesitated.
“I see you two are getting along well.”
The person who said it was standing just outside the cage.
As Yukio stared at him with deep hatred, Kawata Minori said, “Come on now. Do you really think I’m scared of you?”
Yukio was sitting at a corner of the cage, just like the girl on the opposite side. Both of them were silent, brooding, without hope.
He knew who she was now. He knew that she was the reason why he was unable to jump. And it wasn’t just him; all the guards around him were fidgeting around, unable to use their powers.
Her name was Tetsuya Midori. She was the daughter of Tetsuya Kiyoshi and Tetsuya Megumi, and one of the last surviving members of Minus Plus.
After Kawata captured him at his apartment, he was quickly brought here. And when he came to visit him, he brought some ‘excellent’ news, in his words.
Earth had fallen. Most of its Tracts were dead, and some had been captured. There were no more governments, which meant no more law and order. To restore order on their planet, the Xoris had taken control of it.
They were Earth’s new overlords.
After Kawata left, Yukio thought for a while, but couldn’t understand his cryptic speech. Earth had fallen? The Xoris had taken over? Exactly what happened while he was gone? When he visited Amanda, even then everything was okay.
That was when Midori had spoken, clearing all his doubts.
What she softly muttered under her breath was disturbing, to say the least. When she and her mother were watching TV (Yukio couldn’t help but feel angry hearing that), the broadcast had changed to a strange announcement. There was a man, wearing a dress that looked like a black drape, and a silver mask that hid his features. He was saying something in an alien language. Tetsuya Megumi had used her TD to understand the speech, but right after attaching it to her ears, she screamed. After a few moments, when Midori was unsure what had happened, she turned around and smiled at her.
And then killed herself.
Yukio found it really hard to believe. And the whole thing was sounding more and more unbelievable, as she kept taking the names of people who are no more. The only ones whose whereabouts she didn’t know were Sugi and Sumeragi Sensei. Considering Kawata had tricked him for such a long time, it was suffice to say that he had special plans for Sensei.
She had tried to contact Kichiro-san, but couldn’t get through to her. Then Moriyama, one of the Rangers, had brought back her lifeless body to the base, and told Midori how seemingly every Tract on Earth received a strange broadcast in a language they didn’t recognize. The moment they used their TDs, it sent some kind of charge to their brains. The source of all their powers, as Sugi had said.
“We tried to run,” she said in a raspy voice, “But we knew it was fruitless. Before we could even reach a car, they were there. Moriyama-san tried to protect me, but… But…”
Her voice was thick with pain.
Kawata Minori was responsible for changing one of the modules and replacing it with something that was as horrifying as it was bizarre. Somehow it draws out the bad memories of the people, overwhelms them with regrets, and makes them kill themselves. It’s not hard to understand what the Xoris meant to achieve through the broadcasts.
And they were likely planning for a long time.
“He isn’t the only one,” Midori had whispered, her green eyes filled with tears, “They had people at many key positions of the government. Just like us. After our people fell, it wasn’t hard for them to get rid of the rest.”
As Yukio stared at her with disbelief, she dropped her head, “That is what Kawata told me. I didn’t want to believe him. But what happened to mom… and Kichiro-san… Oh God…”
Drops of tears started falling on the already wet ground.
Yukio didn’t know what to do, or even what to think. She was talking about Tetsuya Megumi. The person who tried to kill him, and almost succeeded.
The truth was, he didn’t care what happened to Minus Plus. But that didn’t mean he wanted the whole Earth to be captured by… Aliens.
He was conflicted.
But as always, it didn’t matter what he felt. If the Earth was gone, it was gone. There was nothing he could do about it.
It was night. There was just a dim light source in the factory, which made the mask-wearing guards look even more terrifying. Yukio was looking at the ground, his mind empty, his thoughts elsewhere. Midori had stopped crying, and stopped moving as well.
Suddenly all the lights of the factory were turned on. After a brief period of adjustment, the prisoners observed that someone was coming towards them, or rather being dragged by two guards. Someone dressed in a green jacket and white jeans. Another prisoner, Yukio thought.
When she came near the cage, Yukio finally recognized her.
She looked at him with a frantic gaze. Then a slight smile passed through her face.
“I killed them.”
It was directed towards Midori.
“I made a mistake, Nee-san. I shouldn’t have taken him to Lativis. The Tiztaanians were nearby, and they sensed him. That’s why they came to Ohara. That’s why they…”
Amanda was trembling while saying the words, her bloodshot eyes giving her an insane look.
“I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell her as well. But I was afraid. I didn’t know how they would react. But more than that… I didn’t know what I would do after I acknowledged to myself that I killed our people.”
“Amanda… It’s not your fault… You didn’t know anything-”
“It’s okay, Nee-san,” she was staring at the ground, “I didn’t come here to ask for your forgiveness. I know what I did cannot be forgiven. I just wanted to tell you. I just wanted to… make amends.”
“Amanda!” It was Yukio this time.
As both the girls turned towards him, he said, “If what you’re saying is true… then it was me who killed them. If they sensed me…”
“This is why I liked you.”
Yukio was suddenly short of breath. Midori looked shocked as well.
“You know, the first time I saw you,” she was speaking with a sad smile, “I was confused. How can someone who almost murdered one of his classmates be so meek? Not that it mattered. No matter how you were-“
“You knew?” Yukio’s eyes widened. “You knew… about him?”
“We knew everything about you. You are a Natural. Sooner or later, you were bound to come across one of us. What you did, just made it easier. One of us suggested that your uncle make you join our school… and you know the rest.”
He just stood there, speechless.
“Remember, you asked me whether I wanted to kill you? That was exactly what my objective was. You were a threat to us, and we needed to get rid of you in a clean way. That was it. I wasn’t supposed to feel anything. I wasn’t supposed to be intrigued, or curious. And yet… I couldn’t help but feel drawn to you. I was never tired of your questions, never felt like I was babysitting you. I wasn’t supposed to enjoy our time together. I wasn’t… ordered to. And yet I did.”
Yukio grabbed the iron bars and rattled them, as Amanda took out a gun and pointed it to her head, “For what it’s worth, I never wanted to kill you, even though I needed to. I hope you understand. If you don’t, that’s okay too.”
She turned towards Midori.
“Amanda, please put the gun down… don’t do this…”
“Thank you, Nee-san,” she said in a tired voice, “For everything. I’m sorry for being such a failure. In the next life, if there is one, I hope we have the same mother. That’s all I can wish for now.”
She squeezed the trigger.
Both of them shouted, as her body dropped on the floor, spattering blood everywhere.
Midori started banging her head on the iron bars. “This is not happening… This is not happening…”
One of his hands stretched as much as possible, Yukio kept looking at the lifeless body, forming a pool of blood.
An image that will never stop haunting him.
It is all my fault.
My parents left me. Onee-san left me. And now she is gone as well.
I am different. I am not normal. I attract everything that’s bad, and harm everyone around me. People have died because of me. And now, the Earth itself has fallen.
I am the root of all evil.
The scream took everyone by surprise. But not for long.
Ripples of energy radiated from Yukio, distorting the very fabric of reality. His scream didn’t just shake the whole building, it decimated everything.
The space around him became so unstable, it broke down to molecular levels.
The scenery around him looked like a curtain, only it was shredded to pieces. Through the gaps, he could see absolute darkness.
Suddenly, he was sucked inside it.
After the area stabilized, there were just heaps of dust left. At places, the dusts were marked with something red, spongy, wet.
He was drifting peacefully inside the dark water. The white mirrors around him didn’t bother him anymore, no matter what kind of horror was being depicted in them. He wanted to become a part of the darkness. He just wanted to stay there.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
A rabbit was looking at him. A familiar looking rabbit, but the familiarity seemed like dream logic. Probably, in this dream, it was his pet rabbit. It wanted to play with him. Or maybe it was… hungry?
Yukio was no longer in a sleepy state. In fact, he had a sudden craving for reality; perhaps a side-effect of being a senseless zombie for such a long time. But his impulse didn’t make him do anything. He just kept drifting.
The rabbit didn’t bump into him like the last time. It came near him, and grabbed his arm with its little paws.
Before Yukio knew it, he was looking at a scenery he had dreamed about many times before. A big, desolated field with a few trees here and there. Only this time, he wasn’t a butterfly that was fluttering through the field.
Then, in a single instant, he wasn’t drifting anymore.
He was falling.
When his senses returned, he expected to be back in his bed, late for his first day of school. But it was only for a fleeting instant.
“Finally!” The rabbit exclaimed.
Yukio instinctively backed away. It was the same rabbit he had seen the last time.
“Remember the dark place you went to? That wasn’t a dream.” Yukio remembered Sugi’s words.
The rabbit was blinking rapidly. It looked unnatural, standing on its two hind legs; not to mention it supposedly spoke.
“Hello, Yukio.” It spoke again, giving him an eerie sensation.
“First and foremost, I’m sorry. I have scanned your mind. Last time, it was me who had sent you to Minus Plus. I knew you were a Natural, and from Earth. So I thought it would be the best place for you to be. I understand now that I was wrong.”
The rabbit kept talking. Despite everything, Yukio was finding it hard to believe. He started looking around him, hoping to spot someone who was making the rabbit speak.
“There’s no point,” the rabbit seemed to understand what he was trying to do, “I’m nowhere near here. Anyway, if I didn’t scan your mind, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to give you the solution. Well, a solution.”
“What are you talking about? What are you?”
The voice coming through the rabbit was apologetic again, “So sorry. Where are my manners.”
Yukio cocked his head.
“My name is Tetsuya Kiyoshi. I am the former leader of Minus Plus.”
Strangely enough, he didn’t find the information particularly shocking.
“We don’t have much time. I need to tell you something important.”
“What?” Yukio was nothing like his usual self. All his curiosity had died with a certain someone.
But the next words from Tetsuya Kiyoshi forced him to concentrate.
“There is a way to save the Earth.”