Chapter 2:

Trouble at the Warehouse

Trouble In Paradise

Clinging to the woman who saved my life mere minutes ago, we race towards the outskirts of Paradise. Pedestrians appear fewer and streets darker as the purple hoverboard carries us away at a ferocious speed.

I should be dead right now, what the hell just happened?

This stranger- no, Yui Genji just saved my life.

I lean forward and try to shout into her ear, but my voice is barely audible over the lashing wind.

“Hey! Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful that you saved me back there, but why are you risking your own life to help me?”

I can only see the right half of her face, yet there is no mistaking her determined countenance. Wearing the same look of steely intent as the one she wore earlier at the DERT, she coolly responds.

“You remind me of myself, Dante. You’re scared out of your mind, yet you knew you had to stand up for yourself, regardless of the consequences.”

The hoverboard begins to slow down, before coming to a stop outside of an old, seemingly abandoned warehouse with a shutter door.

Yui jumps off the hoverboard, offering her arm to help me down. Taking her hand I follow her onto the pavement. As she leads me towards the warehouse, she clicks her metal fingers and the hoverboard shoots upwards into the sky.

“Woah!” I gasp, “Why is your hoverboard flying away like that?”

Bending down she grabs the bottom of the shutter door, lifting it up to reveal a dim, surprisingly spacious room.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ve just put it on standby mode. When I need it, I’ll just click again, and It finds me.”

Raising her hand towards the left wall, she feels around in the darkness momentarily, before flicking on a light switch. Instantaneously white and blue lights from the walls and ceiling power on and illuminate the space within.

Various firearms and melee weapons hang from the rear wall, with shelves stocking multiple boxes of ammunition. Glancing over to the left I see a vast bookshelf reaching from floor to ceiling, on the right, a workbench with tools and an anvil, as well as a computer with several monitors.

The thing that startles me the most however, is the man and woman in the centre of the room, sat cross legged playing cards.

“Got any fours?” asks the woman, appearing disinterested as she twirls her fingers through her jet-black hair. Her equally dark clothing and footwear is clean and creaseless, she clearly takes pride in her appearance.

The man is far less presentable however, wearing nothing but scruffy ripped jeans and a pair of blue aviator shades. Unlike the woman’s petite frame, the man is colossal, with broad shoulders and a muscular physique.

“Go fish, you’re terrible at this game by the way.” remarks the man, his voice gravelly.

The woman raises her eyebrows in surprise, clearly amused by his comment.

“My sincerest apologies” she starts, “I didn’t realise how seriously you took this game. Got any sevens?”

“No, go fish.”

“Any eights?”

“Still no, go fish.”

“Any friends?”

“No, go f-, oh shut up idiot.” Growls the man, his face drawn into a scowl as the woman blows a raspberry.

They continue to make increasingly ridiculous gestures and facial expressions at each other, still stood by my side, Yui coughs loudly into her fist. Their eyes widen in surprise as they slowly turn in unison to face us.

Yui slowly strolls up to them, before flicking them both in the ear. Howling in pain the man reels backwards, regrettably for him the metal hand dealt his blow.

“Hey! What was that for?” cries the man.

In response Yui extends her arm and shoots her hand from her wrist, ensnaring the man and hoisting him to his feet.

“If you were not so utterly oblivious to the world around you then you would notice that I have brought a guest, so please act with some civility.”

She snaps her head around to face the woman, who awkwardly begins scrambling back to her feet whilst avoiding eye contact.

“That goes for you as well young lady.” Continues Yui, retracting her hand back into her arm with an exasperated sigh. She pulls me forward and places her arm around my shoulder.

“Now, let me introduce you. Dante this is Barnett Takao and Minerva Himura, guys meet my new friend, Dante Aito.”

The man named Barnett confidently strides towards me with his hand poised for shaking, returning his greeting, I am taken aback by his hands crushing grip. Minerva shyly waves at me, her eyes darting in and out of contact with my own as she still appears embarrassed from earlier.

“Right then” begins Yui, “Now that we’re all acquainted, lets explain to Dante what our little group is all about.” She rubs her hands together, that look of gleeful enthusiasm back on her face once more.

Minerva suddenly looks up from the ground and begins staring straight at us.

“Err Yui, you weren’t followed here, right?” she asks sheepishly.

“Of course not” responds Yui, “I took all of the necessary precautions.”

Appearing agitated and fearful, Minerva points to the monitors at the side of the room. Monitors which are showing surveillance footage of our warehouse completely surrounded by armed COOKIES operatives.

“That’s impossible!” shouts Yui as she runs up to the monitors to get a closer look, “How on earth did they find us?”

Simultaneously several individuals wearing dark uniforms and visors pile into the room, blocking the exit with their guns aimed directly at us.

“Fugitives Yui Genji, Barnett Takao, Minerva Himura, and Dante Aito, you are under arrest.” Bark the operatives, their voices monotonous and robotic, “Any attempt to resist will result in immediate death, comply and your fracturing will be swift and painless.”

Yui turns to face me, seemingly unaffected by our current predicament.

“Turns out there’s no time for a rundown kiddo, I’m afraid you’ll have to learn on the job.”

I am fully aware of the incredulous look on my face, but I feel like it’s pretty justified. What does she mean learn on the job? Can she not see how outnumbered we are?

“Oh by the way, we refer to each other with codenames.”

At this point, I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“Codenames! You can’t be serious; they’re going to kill us!” I cry out, my shock transforming into anger.

Minerva steps forwards, looking unexpectedly energised and lively all of a sudden.

“I like the codenames” she states, “They make us more interesting and engaging as characters, plus they help to forcefully portray our one-dimensional personalities in a ridiculously over the top manner.”

Everybody in the room begins staring at her, unsure what to make of that sudden outburst.

“Well I’ve got no idea what the hell she’s going on about” mutters Barnett, shaking his head in disbelief, “Yui you’re supposed to be in charge, what’s the plan?”

The COOKIES operatives who have been staring in disbelief this entire time seem to have heard enough, they begin to walk forwards menacingly.

Yui taps on my shoulder to get my attention.

“Like I mentioned before, I go by ‘Slapstick’. Minerva calls herself ‘Foresight’, and we’ve named Barnett ‘Angry Demon Armageddon Fuzzball’.”

Barnett blushes a deep shade of red and buries his face into his hands.

“You promised me you would change the name. I hate you.”

Yui points a metal finger into my chest.

“Obviously since you’re new to all this, we haven’t had the chance to give you a suitable nickname. For now we’ll call you… Intern Baby”.

She gives me a reassuring pat on the head before swivelling round to the COOKIES operatives breathing down our necks.

“Okay then, I will be the distraction. Angry Demon Armageddon Fuzzball give me ground support, Foresight take Intern Baby out of here and meet us at the rendezvous point in thirty minutes.”

The enemy is upon us, I can see my terrified face in the reflection of the black visors in front of me.

“Right then, Positions people!” bellows Yui, “Lets do this!”

As an operative presses the barrel of their gun into her forehead, she cheekily winks, before snapping her metallic fingers.

The room is silent for a moment, before a faint whooshing sound can be heard, growing louder by the second. Yui shoots her metal hand into the air, just as her purple hoverboard comes crashing through the ceiling.

She catches it, letting it drag her along as it goes barrelling through the panic-stricken crowd.

Whilst chaos ensues, Barnett takes a key out of his jean pocket, before inserting it into his ear and turning it as if unlocking a door. He releases a guttural scream as he doubles over in pain.

I can only watch in disbelief as he slowly begins to grow in size and hair starts sprouting all over his body, within seconds he transforms from a human into a massive grizzly bear.

As Barnett leaps into the ongoing conflict, Minerva takes my arm and begins to lead me through the path that he is clearing. I run faster than I ever have in my life, keeping my head down to avoid the gunfire on all sides.

I keep running, waiting for my inevitable death, but it never comes. Looking around I realise that the fighting is mostly behind me, I might actually survive this.

Eventually we break away, leaving Yui and Barnett to fend for themselves against the hordes hunting them. They’ll be okay though, right?

I steal a glance behind me. I am horrified at the sight of Barnett being relentlessly beaten on the ground, whilst Yui has fallen off her hoverboard with enemies closing in on all sides.

Deep down I know that I can’t leave them. Yui saved my life earlier today, now its my turn to return the favour.

Taking a deep breath to compose myself, I yank my arm free from Minerva’s grip and head back towards my struggling companions.

This time, I won’t run away from trouble.

I’ll run towards it.