You can listen to the audio version of this chapter here: https://youtu.be/di86_MfzNxs
There it lay.
There was nothing in this world, nothing worth remembering, nothing worth fighting for, and thus it wouldn’t be remembered.
He dreaded this end for himself, but he knew, it was just a small part of the bigger puzzle, it was a sacrifice worth every tear, an endeavor that would lead to it, to that almost mythical place, almost legendary state of the universe.
Okabe Rintaro looked at his surroundings, there was not much to see, an endless “something” expanded itself beyond the reach of the eye, and something beyond that reach got ever closer, but never arrived, like an infinite event-horizon.
He wasn’t the one, it seemed, not in that timeline at least, this one ended as he was experiencing right now, a lonely universe, with no trace of humanity to observe it, not even to remember it. Tragic. Almost theatrical.
This was an end he had considered, of course, well, maybe Hououin Kyouma had, Okabe Rintaro had other ambitions, other desires.
One last thought left his mind before he became one with the void, before he ceased, another fallen peon in the eternal fight, in the ungraspable magnitude of the expanding worldlines.
“This must be Steins Gates’ decision. I accept it as such”
With this last thought, he drifted, somewhere beyond recognition or memory.
Steins Gates was real, he knew, he had seen it.
One step closer.
Quantum Entanglement of a Soul
Time itself vibrated and stretched itself, not like a constant but much more like an irregular and changing phenomenon, from that spasm that no one else could feel, he was regurgitated.
He woke with a gasp, or maybe he was already awake. He knew it automatically; his Reading Steiner had activated.
Did something happen to change the worldline?
He was breathing heavily, sweating. He looked around him, he didn’t recognize that place, it was alien, never seen. Okabe looked at his hands, they were trembling as well.
“What…?” He whispered to himself. There was something odd about this jump through time. Did his legendary ability, the Reading Steiner malfunction? Was that even possible?
He was laying there, a dark room, barely any illumination, just some beams of light that managed to get through the old wood of the walls, or at least it looked like old wood.
He didn’t remember, he did not remember what timeline he came from, his memory was a mash, a mix of all the other Okabes, of all other “himselves” that existed, or not existed, he wasn’t sure.
With some struggle he stood up, a numbing pain made itself present as soon as he did. His chest was burning, almost as if he had put a drop of lemon over an open wound.
With his hand on his chest and the other one in front of him, he searched around the gloomy room, finding a door behind what seemed to be a wardrobe.
As he opened the door, he was presented with a cubical room, there were some old chairs and a table painted with dust, the walls were equally grey and dusty, no one had used that place for a long time.
Only a dim light bulb shed light onto that depressing scenery. He observed behind him, realizing that the door he had just opened blended itself with the grey walls, it was a secret entrance. Why was he inside a secret room?
With this newfound gleam he observed his hand, all the moving around made him ignore the thick liquid that slowly drip down his hand. He was bleeding, not too gravely and certainly not lethally, but still enough to paint his white lab coat almost completely red.
As he looked around, he noticed that this room he was standing in, was much more like a long hall than a mere room. The grey walls seemed to never have an end to them, and the longer one walked down this hall, the darker and depressing it became.
As Okabe walked down this corridor, he left a trail of red droplets behind him, like an injured animal.
“Okarin?!” He heard a voice of utter surprise, a familiar voice, a sweet and comforting one “Okabe, you’re awake! Mayushii was scared! Everyone was…”
“Mayuri…” Exclaiming her name, he realized how weak he was, his throat was dry and his legs were giving up.
Mayuri ran to him, holding him between her arms.
“Okabe, you’re bleeding, you’re bleeding again!”
“Oh, this?” Okabe said, looking at his blood-tainted hand “it’s nothing”.
Although Mayuri looked quite concerned for him, her presence made him feel safe and in place again. In this worldline, Mayuri seemed to be alive.
“Then what… What worldline am I even in?” Okabe asked himself.
“Mayushii is so happy that you’re awake! We’ve been doing a lot of fun stuff at the headquarters. I even got Moeka-chan to cosplay with me!” It seemed as if Mayuri was trying to cheer him up, he thought about how sad and concerned he must have looked at that moment. Poor Mayuri, he thought, she didn’t know this wasn’t the Okabe she had met and grown up with, in this timeline.
“Although things have been getting more serious, and Mayushii didn’t know what to do, most of the lab members didn’t know what to do, Mayushii is so happy that you woke up, Okabe.”
With these words Okabe was hard struck with a realization, what were these headquarters Mayuri was talking about? What lab members were there, alive, waiting for him?
“Who is in the headquarters right now, Mayuri?” He asked between his teeth. They were walking along the dark hallway and as they advanced it became harder to see.
“Em, Daru is there, he was working on some computer stuff! Luka, Yumi, and Faris went all out to get rations, if Mayushii had known that you’d be bleeding again, I would’ve told them to get some bandages too! We’re short on them already…”
“Is… Makise Kurisu…?” The question that lingered in Okabe’s mind escaped him with little resistance.
“Oh? Amadeus?” Mayuri responded curiously.
As Okabe heard that name, his heart sunk. Of course, in this worldline, Makise Kurisu was dead, she was gone and forgotten, the only thing left of her was that, Amadeus, the AI that held all her memories and personality traits, the AI that meant the crumbling of the world.
“How far away are we, Mayuri?” Okabe asked as he felt his legs getting weaker and weaker as they advanced.
As soon as he asked this, Mayuri pushed a robust metal door open, letting a deep yellow light free.
It was a place he had never seen before, computers and machinery were scattered around, the walls were metallic and tall, it was more like a military base than just a mere room. So, these were the headquarters that Mayuri was talking about, he thought.
“Mayuri! You’re back alrea-…” A familiar voice exclaimed as soon as they entered the place. Maho Hiyajo, a feisty woman, who had often aided him in his attempts at reaching the Steins Gates.
Maho looked at them horrified, she didn’t handle blood very well, he knew.
“Okabe! You’re bleeding! Did something happen? I’ll call Daru.” As she said this, she struggled to find what seemed to be an old phone inside the pockets of her oversized lab coat.
Mayuri helped him to sit on a chair, and Okabe felt the world swiftly flow away as he observed Maho hastily calling Daru on the phone. What a strange place that was, what a strange reality, he felt like he could remember the lives of a hundred, no, a million Okabes, but this place seemed mysterious and unknown to him.
Mayuri was holding his hand and whispering something in his ears, he hadn’t realized how bad of a state he was in until he sat down, looking at his hand he realized he had greatly underestimated the amount of bleeding, or maybe it had gotten worse as he walked with Mayuri, yeah, that made sense, all that movement must’ve caused his wound to open more, and the bleeding to get worse.
Maho had now finished with the call and was kneeling before him, telling him something rapidly, but he couldn’t catch any words, none, it was like hearing the void. Oh, the void, that was a sound he knew very well and yet not all.
“Okabe Rintaro,” A voice said, he didn’t recognize it.
“Okabe” Another one followed “Hououin Kyouma” was that, Faris he heard? He wasn’t sure.
“Okabe. Okabe! Okabe!” The voices were overwhelming, there were so many of them, they went on and on, but they had no faces, they had no time in space, or that time in space had been ripped from them.
“Okabe…” He opened his eyes, it was the same room, before him still kneeled Maho, she looked distressed and was tapping his hand rapidly.
“Maho…?” Okabe managed to formulate.
He felt something cold touch his lips and a flow of cold water fill his mouth, he drank and drank, he felt dizzy. He had felt like this before, it wasn’t the first time he had passed out. Was he not supposed to wake up yet? What was going on in this world? Why didn’t he remember anything? Why…?
A delicate hand touched his chest, he was fading away, he felt himself be lifted and someone taking his clothes off. Although he was mostly gone by that point, he saw the red spot on his chest, it seemed like someone had punched a hole onto his abdomen, how did that even happen?
It was Luka’s hands he figured, so small and soft, so good at taking care of people.
For a good while, Okabe danced between total collapse and sudden bursts of energy and awareness, but both of these states were neither here nor there, and no matter what, he was unable to understand much, even less formulate words for himself.
What a mess, that point in time he had come back to, and yet he couldn’t figure out what was going on.
After what seemed to be an eternity, his blurry vision became slowly but surely clearer, and he was able to recognize voices again. Faris, Luka, Yumi, Maho, Mayuri, they were all standing around him as if he was some kind of ancient relic, an alien even, of course, he was, he thought jokingly to himself, he was the great Hououin Kyouma, the mad scientist, the tamer of time and space, he laughed internally at these thoughts.
“Nothing but a shameless, useless fool,” he told himself.
“He’s waking up!” That was Maho’s voice, childlike and pitchy.
“Kyouma!” And that was undeniable Faris, her voice girly and overdramatic.
He felt hands all over him, hugs, embraces.
He started laughing, one small cackle was followed by another one, and another one, each one louder and crazier than the last one. Everyone went silent, this act was a great effort for him, and he could feel the pulsating pain on his chest as he observed the surprised and attentive faces all around him.
“I, the great Hououin Kyouma, have survived another attempt by the organization to destroy me, lab member 006, Lukako Urushibara, you saved the life of the greatest mad scienti-.” As he tried to continue with the act, he was silenced by a strong, yet emotion-filled pair of arms. The scent of Mayushii filled him. He could hear her; she was sobbing ever so silently.
Okabe kept quiet, everyone was looking at each other, if in this world he wasn’t the great Hououin Kyouma anymore, then, this was indeed a doomed world.
He looked at the ceiling, the base seemed so tall, where were they?
Although he had regained consciousness, he was still extremely weak, way weaker than he was when he originally woke up.
Maho was looking at him in that analytic face of hers – she had realized that something wasn’t right with this Okabe, maybe she had already figured out that the worldlines had changed. But Okabe didn’t move at all, he kept on looking huskily at the ceiling, trying to remember, something, which Okabe he was, and many memories popped up, the deaths of every one of his friends, wars, dystopias, void, yet he couldn’t tell which one came first and which one last. Maybe he had finally become insane.
Even then, not knowing about who he was didn’t bother him as much as it once did, that moment, him being protected by the arms of Mayuri was more than he deserved he thought, and he cherished that moment, almost as if it was the last.
“Kyou-meow!” Said Faris, she looked at him from above, she was wearing black military clothing and pink cat ears “Faris-chan thought she wouldn’t make it in time, meow!” He was slightly surprised to see that on her belt, she was carrying a handgun bigger than her head, although she was a small girl.
“How…. How long have I’ve been out?” He asked, his voice sounding old and sick.
“About two months” a dry voice responded, it was Maho, her tone seemed to emit a kind of anger.
“Two… Months…?” Okabe repeated, “what year is it?”
“Not quite at the third world war yet, but it is as if we were already.” Maho responded, “out there, things don’t look pretty, Okabe, don’t you remember?”
“World war three…” Okabe whispered to himself “Suzuha…” He exclaimed without thinking much, war reminded him of her.
“Not quite born yet” Maho affirmed.
And then there was silence, not the sweet liberating silence, but the asphyxiating one, the one that makes you choke on the words that you want to say.
“Suzuha hasn’t been born yet, but it seems things are pretty dire, maybe 2017?” He said to himself, in an attempt to figure out where he had landed.
“You should rest, Okabe” Maho told him.
“Yes, Mayushii can accompany you. Mayushii didn’t like that room where we put you, but you were safe there, Daru-Kun said that no one could ever find that room without him.”
“Lukako” Okabe said, Luka looked at him, blushing “I would’ve been dead without you.”
“Okabe, it was nothing. It was just some stitches and bandages, really. Maho-san is right, you should rest, now that you’re awake maybe we can give you a bed here in the headquarters, we know they aren’t too pretty but…-“
“Okabe!” A robust, manly voice impacted his ears “I came as fast as I could, when did he wake up? Is he okay?” Daru’s voice has changed so much since their time at the lab, he was thinner now, although still big and with a large belly.
“Daru…” Okabe mourned “you look…”
“Oh, Okabe, don’t tell anyone, but I’m letting my beard grow, it makes the girls go crazy, and …-“ Yumi was now standing close to Daru, grabbing him strongly by the waist “I’m joking, I’m joking!” Daru exclaimed.
Now that Yumi had gotten closer, Okabe got the first good look at her, she had short hair and looked so much like Suzuha, but her belly was huge and she was constantly caressing it.
“Yumi…” Okabe said, shamelessly looking at her belly.
“Pretty neat, huh?! It’s been growing and growing, now she’s got a bigger belly than me!” Yumi laughed at this comment “I’m glad you’re okay, Okabe.” Daru told him.
After this, Daru and Yumi were by his side, as Faris and Luka cooked something on the other side of the room, and Maho violently clicked her computer keyboard. Mayuri had fallen asleep while kneeling and hugging Okabe.
Daru told him about a lot of things, things Okabe assumed were meant to bring him up-to-date to the two months in-coma version of him, but actually, everything was news to him.
Apparently, there was worldwide hysteria due to terrorism and authoritarian powers rising and taking over entire societies. There were many targets worldwide, and although life in some places was still normal, in Akihabara that certainly wasn’t the case. Rebel groups and guerrillas controlled the streets, some of them looking for him and Amadeus because it was rumored that he was the key to time travel, some of them wanting to kill him, because they believed that would stop the madness, and others, others viewed Okabe as a god, a messiah, the bringer of truth, peace, and order.
“A messiah…?” Okabe asked.
“And they’re tough guys too, we don’t cross their path, they aren’t scared of death, ‘the god of time will revive us in a better timeline’ they say, it’s insane,” Daru explained to him.
Okabe was appalled, never before had he heard or seen any kind of extremist community forming around his image, even less a religious one.
“You from the future, you convinced them all to follow you, I don’t know how or why, but you did it, you must’ve thought it was necessary,” Daru told him before he could even ask.
To not seem suspicious, Okabe asked about the pregnancy, about the baby Suzuha that was soon to be born. He felt blessed to see the happiness in Daru’s face, he was fit to be a father and a husband, he just didn’t behave like it, but Yumi seemed like the happiest woman in the world.
After a few hours had passed, everyone was back to work, and Okabe sat on a sheet on the floor, looking at the gigantic place that stood before him, it was incredible to think such a big place existed in Akihabara. Were they even in Akihabara? Ah, he didn’t know.
When he felt strong enough, and no one was around to tell him to lay down, he stood up to investigate the place. It did seem like it was an abandoned military facility, or perhaps a bunker of sorts, how did they even end up in such a place, to begin with?
As he was observing an array of screens on what seemed to be a puzzle of buttons, he saw two small hands trap him against the wall.
“Maho…?” Okabe questioned surprised.
“When did we kiss…?” Maho’s face was pink, and she was looking at the floor.
“Huh?!” He couldn’t help himself but exclaim surprise. Did he… Did he kiss Maho in that timeline…? Well, she did remind him a bit of Makise, which she probably didn’t even really meet Makise in that worldline anyways.
“Erm… It was…” A thousand possibilities popped in his head. The lab, the streets at night, her hotel room, the maid café. It was pointless, he couldn’t figure it out.
“She must think I’m an asshole,” Okabe thought “I don’t even remember where we kissed.”
“Who are you…?” Maho asked.
“Well, I’m just…”
“We never kissed, we sat on a bench at night and stared at each other, and then you got a call, it never happened, the Okabe in this timeline would remember.”
His heart started pounding, he couldn’t keep the spiel much longer. He had been caught.
They looked at each other.
“Okabe Rintaro…” Maho said in a serious tone “did the worldlines change?”
Merci pour la lecture!