I pulled up my hood as I skittered over the sidewalks and gutters of this wreck of a city. The tension that hung heavy in the air as I left the city returned tenfold, and with a storm. I knew that feeling too well by now to just ignore it.
As I wound my way through the streets of Nagano, the dark feeling grew exponentially. I couldn't put my finger directly on what was causing it, but it was something that couldn't be pushed away. With a sixth sense, I felt something coming on from a long way away, like a dog sensing a storm. But this was no weather catastrophe...
Nearing the street where I lived, my thoughts began to turn to Annika. I had really been an ass to her, pushing her limits and testing the dynamic between us... but hopefully I hadn't alienated her too much. She was one of the few people I could talk to and even respect. Most people... weren't even tolerable. I would have to change my tack with her, now that we were on something of an even footing. If I could open up to her a little, perhaps I could gain her trust and even gain a friend. But there were some things I would never be able to tell.
The uneasiness broke through my mental reverie when I turned the corner onto my street. Something was very, very wrong. Something big and terrible was on the way. As I climbed the stairs to my apartment my hands began to shake; I could barely turn to knob of my door.
A scene of chaos met me. Clutter was strewn about the room - someone had gone through all my cupboards and drawers in a hurry. Furniture was overturned and slashed. Deafening silence surrounded me as I looked about the room in shock.
Worst of all was my desk in the centre. My consoles had been gutted and fried. All my information was gone. The monitors were broken, keyboards and mice had been thrown around the room. It looked like whoever it was had found what they were looking for though. Every bit of information-bearing technology was gone from my computer bank.
There was no doubt in my mind as to what this was caused by. This destruction was a direct result of the DyingOak competition. Either someone was seeking retribution or the police were looking for their culprit. I was very fortunate to have been out at the time.
I turned away from the scene and looked out the window. I couldn't stay here; but where could I go? I had a bit of time before they caught up with me. They wouldn't have taken my hardware unless they couldn't get what they were after quickly here. So they would need to rebuild my computer elsewhere, and even after that it might take days or weeks to find me or get enough evidence to convict me of anything. And by that time I could be very, very far away.
Very, very far away.
Only one person came to mind when I thought of that phrase. Annika.
There was an offchance she would help me, especially considering she had had a hand in making my - or our - ruin. And together we could protect ourselves from... whatever was coming. There was only one way to find out what she would or wouldn't do.
I found her number in my phone, wrote it down on my arm, snapped the SIM card. Carefully, quietly, I locked my door and went down to the street without touching anything. I put up my hood against the rain and walked a few blocks to a pay phone, making sure to discard the remains of what had been my cell phone and keys along the way.
Leaning into the booth to shield myself from the oncoming storm, I punched in the number and waited.
Still the rain poured as I crouched in the little booth.