Chapter 2:

[Reroute Demise]

Necrotic Rebirth - a Steins;Gate Story

Okabe's mind felt like it was going to explode.

Lights scattered inside of his mind, his neurones rippled with rage, he wanted to scoop his eyes out and eat them. Clawing at the surface beneath him, he felt his own blood spool under his fingernails as they were forced into his frail skin. The man could barely choke out a scream - no, his larynx failed to vibrate and only a wheeze of air whistled out of his pulverized lungs. Okabe knew this sensation, it was a traumatic sensation he knew quite well - it was Reading Steiner.

His vision hazed into red mist. Slithers of phlegm and blood rapt against his throat. The blood vessels lining his body threatened to collapse under pressure. Frighteningly warm dots assaulted his vision and infiltrated his eyes, which had at one point became bloodshot and dry.

The pain was unbearable. That was the only thought that flashed through his mind again and again, the lights unforgiving, the pressure bending his will, and the prickling sensation of his brain being jellified. Was this Hell? Was Okabe Rintaro being punished for his sins against causality, for destroying countless world-lines and squashing the hopes of his comrades? Should he repent for abusing a power that only a God could fathom?

As those thoughts reverberated in Okabe's mind for what seemed like a long eternity, the warm lights settled into an image of a dimly lit room.

His skull felt brittle and his muscles deflated, but in the corner of his eye he could see rays of a dim orange light, although not the source itself. He cast his eyes towards the direction of the light and immediately regretted it.

It was a familiar sight to Okabe, and it was something he would rather not remember. A stylish Nixie tube design stacked on top of a gray binding slab, which itself rested on thin wooden table that looked past its time. His lungs, irritated by the effects of Reading Steiner, exhaled deeply - the owner of the lungs widened his eyes in shock.

"The... That's the divergence meter? But what is that..." Okabe faintly spoke, glaring at the numbers displayed on the device.


As far as he knew that was... impossible. The divergence meter didn't have a tens digit. Surely this number was not correct. As he attempted to understand the numbers the divergence meter displayed, a shrill voice interrupted his focus.

"Ah... Ah!"

Okabe jolted his neck in the direction of the sudden outburst.

"Y-y-you're awake? You're-- awake?"

In the corner of the orange-hued room a petite blonde figure stood. A rustic-looking chair was still rocking behind her as if she had just jumped up from it. As far as Okabe could tell, he did not know this person, and her cadence was all over the place.

The girl questioned Okabe with a quivering voice.

"I need to know something..." She tensely barked, failing to make eye contact with him. "The numbers you see right there, do you know what they mean?"

A chill ran down his spine. If she was asking about the divergence meter, this could be a trap. No, this was definitely a trap. This device was Okabe's own creation, albeit in the future.

"Where-- am I?" the feeble man whispered, his throat dry and crackling. He had decided to act the fool until he knew his situation.

The girl let out a soft sigh before sitting herself down. Her rose-tinted eyes settled on Okabe with a conviction that was previously absent. The shivering of her calves had ceased as she leaned back in her chair.

"I see... I understand. Then I guess I can get you up to speed, but you'll need to answer some questions for me first."

The woman's face was barely visible, but the scattering of orange light exposed a glint of some kind of metal strapped to her waist. Peeks of gunmetal gray could be seen from her pocket, was she armed? Armed with what? A pistol?

Okabe focused his vision on the woman's face. She looked to be quite young, but small wrinkles had been etched into her cheeks and beside her eyes. He wasn't sure if this was due to age or stress, but he could estimate she was in her late 20s perhaps.

The room stank of mold. Slowly, Okabe's senses were becoming more refined again. Mold and rust, it was a pungent stench. He licked his lips. The taste of metal spread thickly on his tongue, yet he was unsure if that was the product of his own struggles.

"First of all--" The woman spoke, a slight hesitance within her words. She fixated her gaze on Okabe's face. "Do you remember your name?"

His lips curled into a wry grin. That question was... hilarious. So, what should he say? Was he Okabe Rintarou? Hououin Kyouma? A Mad Scientist? A Selfish God? Which was it. The divergence meter sat to his right, glowing on top of a rustic-looking table. As long as it was present, Okabe couldn't let his guard down. If the divergence meter was present, then something unfathomable had happened. 37%... what on earth happened.

"I---" Okabe Rintarou spoke slowly, thinking carefully to pick the right words. If he spent too long thinking of an alias, it would be far too suspicious. In a situation like this, he needed to be articulate.

"Go on." The woman spoke, her eyes peering into Okabe's face like a hawk.

"J-John Nakabachi."

His face ran pale. Was that convincing enough? Thoughts about time travel swirled in his head, and he had mashed together two names that sprung to mind - an homage to both John Titor and Dr. Nakabachi. As much as he despised the man, it was too late to go back and change those words he had blurted out.

He fidgeted in place. A dull resistance pulled on his wrists, and it was only then that Okabe realised he was held in place by thick leather straps bolted to some kind of bed.

An icy cold glare came from the woman perched in the corner of the room. After hearing Okabe's alias, she unfurled a small, tattered notebook from her breast pocket and started writing.

"John Nakabachi?" she uttered, her lips forming a small scowl. "Not Hououin Kyouma?"

Okabe almost vomited his lungs out of his chest. How stupid. He didn't consider that they could already know his name, his true name at that. What was Hououin Kyouma in this worldline? Hopefully giving an alias hadn't somehow ruined his chances at survival, in a situation like this it was a bad idea to aggravate your captors...

"Hah. Just kidding. Imagine. I doubt that guy even exists. That's a bad joke, even for me, sorry 'bout that."

A bad joke? This was certainly a bad joke, Okabe thought.

"So... John Nakabachi. This is the last question, okay? Does the name 'Barrel Titor' ring any bells?"

Barrel... Barrel Titor? It was a name so familiar, Okabe didn't even want to think about it.

"Ahem. I-- uh -- no, I don't think so." Okabe meekly replied.

"That's good enough for me. Sorry about this, I bet you're wondering what the hell is going on, huh?" The blonde haired girl had a wry smile on her face. "I'll explain your situation briefly, but I think we should move to somewhere more comfortable. Unless you're into the whole leather strap thing, that is."