Chapter 8:

Exes, Oh Nos, and Old Pizza Woes

The Underwriters

Caffeine was Hibiki's new best friend. After being threatened by Mr. West, Yui and Hibiki immediately began brainstorming their next move up into the late hours of the night. The only thing keeping the two running was the mass amounts of coffee in their system. They were stuck for a bit while Maya incessantly chirped, "Media! Media!"

"Yes, Maya. I know. That's what Mr. West said. Wait."

"Hmm? Did you think of something?" Yui stopped her typing to squint her eyes at the girl sitting across from her. Hands nervously played with a pigtail while ignoring the chirping bird next to her.

"I think Maya just provided our next clue."

"Oh? I'm listening."

Seeing that she had Yui's attention, Hibiki slid closer to share her screens. Multiple social media sites and images fluttered around the trio. Hibiki coughed before saying, "Well, we can’t do much with the video and holoband without Tomoe, right? But there is another lead we can follow. Maya is right. We haven't checked Seela's social media at all."

Yui's face lightened as she suddenly understood.

"So, you're saying that while we wait for Tomoe to get back to us, we should look through Seela's social media for any leads?"

"Yeah! That should give us some direction for now, right? I mean, we got all we could out of her friends and that bar for now." Playing with one of her pigtails, Hibiki waited for any response to her idea.

Suddenly feeling the air beneath her feet, Hibiki's entire body was swooped up by her commander.

"You and Maya are geniuses. I can't believe I forgot the most basic of digital investigation techniques." Yui placed Hibiki back onto the ground where she stumbled for a bit before getting her footing.

Holding out her hands to regain balance, Hibiki sat back down on the couch to soothe her spinning head.

"I guess we should go ahead and get started, right?"

"Do you have her social id?"

"No, but it shouldn't be too hard to find." A tap, slide, and pinch led to a colorful grid of images. Photos at exclusive clubs, high-end hotels, and lush shopping malls nearly broke past the confines of the screen.

Yui leaned onto Hibiki's shoulder and reached a hand out to tap as well. "Let's see if we can sort the photos by date, starting with the most recent."


"Oh, who's that?"

"You mean that guy in this photo?" Pointing to a hooded man wearing a grimace, Hibiki zoomed into the photo to get a closer look.

"Go back to the other photos."

An eye widened while Yui activated her internal monitoring systems. Her silver turned a thundery dark grey as she silently compared the backgrounds of all the photos in front of her. When her analysis was complete, she turned to the pigtailed girl next to her.

"That's the same guy, isn't it?"

"Hmm? And here I thought I could finally be of some use. Turns out you don't need my help after all." Yui smirked while Hibiki stuttered over herself, trying to praise her commander.

"I couldn't be here without you, Yui! You're amazing. I just guessed that it was the same guy, but I'm sure you already know for sure."

"Don't worry, little bird. I was just teasing you. You're so cute that I couldn't resist."

Hibiki tried to look angry, but her glare only made her more adorable in Yui's eyes. Pouting only for a brief minute, she coughed before turning back to the situation at hand.

"Okay. Now that we know this creepy guy has popped up in all of Seela's recent photos, what's next?"

"Let's send a couple of these images over to Holly and Cynth and see if they recognize him."


"Your message has been sent." The robotic voice droned from the tiny holoband speaker as Hibiki quickly saved a couple of photos and sent them over. Leaning back on the couch, she let out a puff of air.

Her fingers tapped rhythmically on Maya's cage in the silence, but Hibiki didn't feel uncomfortable at all. Instead, she felt rather calm in the presence of her commander next to her. She peeked out of the corner of her eye and watched Yui blow on a fresh cup of coffee to cool it down. Soon, their eyes met and Yui's stormy gaze melted into a peaceful grey dawn as she flashed a smile at Hibiki.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

"You have a new message. From: Holly Hills. Subject: That ugly bastard. Would you like to view this message?"

Taking another sip of her coffee, Yui perked up an eyebrow at the voice.

"Well, I guess they recognized him."

"Yeah. And they definitely don't like him. Let's see what they said." Another tap opened a screen filled with rambling text, profane words, and exclamation points.

"Her ex? And they had a pretty bad breakup."

"You can understand this? I'm still only a third through this giant block." Hibiki hurried to finish reading the message, but she still felt confused by the end.

"It's okay. It takes a while to learn how to cut through the BS. But that seems to be the gist."

Hibiki watched as Yui stood up while stretching. Scars shimmered in the fluorescent lighting before a voice rang out.

"Go take a nap. Once you're ready, we're gonna go straight to this ex-boyfriend for a pleasant conversation."

Hibiki could barely cover Maya's mouth before she repeated her sarcasm out loud and enquired, "Pleasant for who?"

Yui only quirked up a corner of her lips in reply, confirming Hibiki's guess that Seela's ex would find their visit anything but pleasant. With a yawn, Hibiki decided to take advantage of the break to get some rest.


The ex lived back in Newton City, so the team had to head back on another flight out of Galileo. Hibiki had no idea how Commander Yui had found Denton's name, address, job, and family information so quickly. However, something told her that it would be better if she didn't know the answer to her questions. Before she had time to think straight, Hibiki ended up following her leader up in the elevator of an apartment building that made her and her dad's home seem like luxury living. She sidestepped a gross-looking stain on the floor and waited for their knock to be answered.

Their wait didn't last very long before a thin figure answered the door. Smells of cigarettes, days-old pizza, and beer wafted out of the dingy apartment. Before the half-asleep man could fully wake up, he was pushed back into his apartment. Once the door clicked behind the group, Yui's veins glowed as she lifted Denton up with one hand. He was finally awake as he began to struggle.

"Dude. What the fuck are you doing?" Greasy fingers tried to grip Yui's hand and pull away, but he was nowhere near a match to her strength.

"It's not him. The voices don't match." Hibiki watched as Yui dropped Denton back onto the ground. With a groan, he tried to crawl away, but the pizza boxes and beer bottles blocked his way.

"What do you mean I'm not him? What are you talking about? Who are -"

"Shut the hell up." Yui stepped back up to the man and glowered down at him, quickly making him close his mouth in fear.

"When was the last time you saw Seela?"

"Seela? Wait, did something happen to her? What's wrong? Is she okay?" Forgetting his fear, Denton began rambling non-stop. Yui coughed to remind him of her presence to stop his endless stream of consciousness.

"Haven't you been stalking her, Denton? We saw you in her pictures. So, what do you know?"

"I. I don't know what you're talking about, man. I haven't seen her since the breakup."

Punching the wall right above his head, Yui left a significant dent with minimal effort. Ammonia floated through the air as Denton wet his pants.

"Do you want to try that again?"

"Okay, I'll talk! Just don't rip my head off. I'm happy with it staying on my shoulders."

"Denton, the quicker you tell us what you know, the better. My commander is losing her patience." Seeing the agitation grow on Yui's face as Denton continued speaking nonsense, Hibiki finally spoke up.

Walking to stand by Yui's side, she looked down at the scrappy man. Even though they were both part of the same age group in their early twenties, Hibiki could feel the gap between them in maturity.

"Alright. So I wanted to follow Seela to Galileo, but I wasn't sure if I'd have the money. I tried to talk to her before she left, but she had me blocked. I was able to get a deal through a buddy of mine and take a flight to Galileo, but I couldn't find her. I bought a whole new holoband to get around the block, but she just said that she was busy meeting some guy and blocked me again."

Yui and Hibiki looked at each other. Without speaking, their meaning seemed to be clear that Denton was a dead end. Yui picked the stalker back up and demanded, "Are you sure that's it? I heard a whole lot of butts and excuses there. If I find out that you're leaving anything out, then a stalking charge won't seem so bad by the time I'm done with you."

"Oh! I tried to follow her, but I couldn't get close to her hotel. She did unblock me like an hour later and send some really weird message." Denton ran to the other side of the room as soon as he was released again, wheezing for air.

"Can you send that message to us, please?" Hibiki tried to smile to appear friendly, but the glowering Yui behind her made that hard. Immediately, Denton nodded and sent over a cryptic string of numbers and letters. Once they confirmed that they had gotten all that they could out of the man, Hibiki practically ran out of the apartment. Ignoring the mystery stains, she took in as much fresh air as possible.

Yui stepped behind her and patted her back. She asked Hibiki laughing, "Was it that bad, little bird? I thought you only had super hearing, not super smelling too?"

Hibiki stuck out a tongue and tried to ignore the giant following her out of the building. She responded through Maya, "Yeah, well, I'm not exactly used to the smell of fermented cheese and piss."

"Ha! You're getting bolder, little bird. I'm glad you're not shaking in your boots around me anymore."

"Anyway, what should we do with this message?"

"It should have come from Seela's holoband as a safety measure. Some special models come with built-in safety features that measure their wearer's heart rate. If it gets too high signaling a potential threat, it takes a photo and sends that along with the current location over to the last person messaged."

"Oh, wow! That's perfect, isn't it? That might take us right to her."

Blinking at the bright smile on Hibiki's face, Yui didn't want to spoil the girl's good mood. She thought carefully over her words before saying, "It will definitely give us a lead in the right direction. But, don't forget that we seem to be dealing with someone capable of remotely manipulating security cam footage."

"Right. I forgot."

With a yelp, Hibiki was shocked to be pulled into her commander's arms. Feeling a soothing hand patting her on the back, she looked at that platinum gaze to find concerned crinkles and a frown. Realizing that Yui was trying to make her feel better, she returned the hug while wondering what they could possibly do next.