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meimi in concentrictime

Detective Conan - Unease

The box was innocuous: a simple oversized brown cardboard container meant for shipping; and yet the sight of it sitting in the living room sent an edge of disquiet curling around her spine. She couldn't recall Agasa mentioning anything about a delivery, but it had to be something of his. She didn't have anything on order, and they all knew better than to surprise her with something. It had to be Agasa's. So why did she feel so uneasy about it? They both got packages on a fairly frequent basis. Their household consisted of two active scientists, after all, boxes arriving on the doorstep was the norm. Of course, this wasn't exactly the doorstep, but all in all it boiled down to the same thing. Agasa had probably brought it in earlier before heading out to the grocery. An obvious explanation for its presence, and yet she still felt off balance. Was it merely her paranoia getting the better of her or was something genuinely wrong here?

"It's too bad Conan-kun couldn't come with us." Her face blank and void of any hint of her internal distress, Ai shifted her gaze over to a rather disgruntled looking Ayumi. "I know it was just a school match, but it was a really good soccer game."

Ai hummed in agreement then shrugged, her attention slowly wandering back to that suspicious box. "It can't be helped. Ran insisted that she needed him to go with her. Something about clothes shopping, if I remember correctly." She took no notice of the odd looks she was receiving from the other three at her matter of fact statement. A part of her was hissing at her in alarm, telling her to not be so careless. Mouri Ran was Ran-neechan to their little group, not simply Ran. That would never change. But that box... Her instincts were quite sharp, they rarely led her wrong. But there were times when she was incorrect in her initial assumptions, as Kudo had inadvertently shown her several times in the past. But this... this feeling wasn't good. There was something very wrong with that box being here. Agasa... if only he hadn't sent them on ahead. It would look strange if she opened it now in front of the others - though she was more inclined to drop it off in a ditch somewhere rather than find out what surprises lurked within.

"Man, I'm starving!" Genta's typical complaint sliced through the air of apprehension that had descended upon them, resulting in a roll of eyes from Mitsuhiko and a short laugh from Ayumi. For her own part, Ai merely blinked absently at the expected outburst; it was the unexpected that held the majority of her attention. Everything looked correct: the slip, the sticker, the barcodes, even the return address was from a company she vaguely remembered him ordering from before. It could've easily been any other box they'd received in the past, but it wasn't. It wasn't.

"When do you think the Professor will be back, Haibara-chan?"

Mitsuhiko sounded worried. Damn it. She wasn't acting right. Granted, she never really acted right for their age group - she wasn't that good of an actor; but right now her behavior was a little strange even for her. She knew that. She should... she should do something to allay their concerns. It was easy enough to do, all that was required was for her to look away from that box and come up with a familiar subject to chat about. So why couldn't she? Suddenly, she wished fervently that Kudo had gone with them. He was much better at smoothing over the concerns of others - much more adept at getting the focus of attention taken off both of them. He had to be. He was usually the idiot that landed them in unsavory predicaments, after all. Though, regardless of his ever present recklessness at pursuing the truth, at least he took responsibility for his own screw ups. But he wasn't here now, she was going to have to deal with this problem on her own. "He just went to the grocery. I'm sure he'll be here shortly."

Ai didn't even bother hunting for the letter opener - it always got misplaced. Instead, she went straight to the kitchen and fished a knife out of the cutlery drawer. One sharp edge was as good as any other for the simple task of ripping through tape. The others goggled at her in unabashed confusion as she stalked back towards the box.

"Ai-chan, what in the world are you doing?" Ayumi sounded distressed, but she couldn't find it in herself to care at the moment.

"Finding out what is in this thing," Ai answered candidly as she slid the blade under a flap and tore through the tape on one side.

"But isn't that the Professor's-" Any further comments were cut off by the sound of the front door rattling as it was unlocked and pushed open. "Ah, the Professor's back!"

Abruptly abandoning her immediate prey, Ai swept through the room and out into the hallway. "Agasa! Were you expecting any packages?" She demanded, ignoring the shocked stares she was acquiring at a rapid pace. She was going to have to work overtime at repairing their image of her after this, but that didn't matter right now. That box had to be dealt with first.

Agasa blinked down at her in confusion for several seconds - too long in her opinion. "Why no, Ai-chan, I don't believe so. What's the matter-"

"There's a box in the living room," she stated flatly. "You didn't put it there, did you?"

"Of course not, I haven't been back to the house since we left this morning. What's going-"

This time the interruption didn't come from her. Instead, it was the distant sound of a blast that had them all freezing in place. That couldn't possibly have been... Ai did not let herself finish that thought as she darted around Agasa and out the door, her eyes scanning the horizon as soon as she was outside. She knew it well though. A detonation. A bomb had gone off nearby. Too close. The black smoke that began to billow up into the sky a moment later confirmed her suspicion. The direction it was coming from, however, had her reaching blindly for her cellphone in unmitigated fear. That was-

"What could've happened?"

"Isn't the Detective Agency over that way?"

"Oh my goodness! I hope Conan-kun is okay!"

"We should get over there!"

She ignored them all as she dialed his number - her hands trembling as another blast echoed out across the neighborhood from another direction. A dark memory took hold of her as she silently counted the rings. One. Staggered, not at the same time. Two. Keep them guessing until it was too late. Three. Erase everything. It couldn't be... She almost snarled as it switched over to his voicemail. Damn you, Kudo! Answer the phone! She dialed again. What else could she do? It was Them. She knew it. And she needed him if they were to have any chance of living through it. This time it only reached the second ring before he picked up. Thank god. "Kudo-"

"Haibara, get out of there." He sounded breathless, but not pained. That... that was good. "There are bombs. I need you to get to safety. Don't worry about anything else, okay?"

"What are you going to do?" She really didn't need to ask, she - always - knew the answer when it came to him. Kudo Shinichi would never back down from Them, even when - or especially when - it was in his own best interest to flee. Idiotic fool.

"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Just get to somewhere safe."

"All right, I'll see you later." The click barely registered in her mind as he cut the call. He was going to do something tremendously stupid again - and get hurt again. And whether They knew the truth of it or not, it seemed They'd decided to stop dancing around the issue and just take all of their little stumbling blocks out in one fell swoop. Salt the Earth. She knew the procedure for that particular operation; though she'd never heard of it actually being implemented before. Destroy everything. Leave nothing to chance. No evidence. No witnesses. Nothing. Blame it all on some convenient terrorist cell and move on. Everyone was a target. Everyone. "Agasa," she heard herself saying as she turned back towards the house, "take the others and go. Try to get them as far away from here as possible."


"What are you-"

"Go! And don't look back." She darted back into the house, slamming and locking the door behind her. Agasa would understand. He would know what to do. For now, she had something else to take care of.

That box. It was a bomb, but she had a niggling suspicion that it wasn't really armed. No, if They suspected anything - anything at all, then They'd want to deal with her Themselves. Traitors required a personal touch, after all. But even still, it was a bomb. In her house. Kudo had told her - had ordered her, really - to run. But this was her home now. First she'd deal with Their little package, and then she'd deal with the Crow that came to collect her blood. Later, he'd rant at her for being reckless - and she'd point out it was something he did all the time. But this life she had cultivated... she had things that were precious to her now, she couldn't just abandon them - didn't want to.

Funny, she was actually looking forward to getting yelled at.