Metallic clanging, whirring, the occasional suppressed shout, more clanging and other sounds of collision. The young teen winced at the noise barrage around him as he walked down the cool, sterile hallway lined in pale gray stone.
Maroon eyes gazed evenly ahead, darting to either side now and again as he passed a number of metal doors with small window-like spaces near the center, taking in what he could see of what went on behind them. None of these were what he sought. He sighed, ran a hand through his hair as he reached an intersection and turned left.
He was used to the ever-crossing passages, ambiguous room names, the constant noise of battles with spinning tops – "spinning tops of doom", as one of his friends had called them, a designation that made him smirk with amusement every so often. He'd known the facility all his childhood - he was in his mid-teens - and had had to traverse those corridors, enter one room or another, and participate in a number of those battles himself practically every day.
The pale teen, looking even paler in his dark tank top and dark baggy pants, wasn't completely happy with his circumstances, but this was the only home he'd known since the death of his parents. He remembered very little of his early childhood, before the endless corridors of stone, or often harsh but effective training techniques. But once in a while, he'd feel something, a bleak emptiness tugging at his heart, for this missing piece of his psyche.
What little remained of his memories were hazy at best, yet comforting in his loneliest, most troubled moments when he chose to relive them in his dark, dreary little room for one. He remembered maroon eyes not unlike his own; a gentle smile; an encouraging voice patiently explaining how to hold a shooter and aim at the dish. There had been weekly visits to a nearby park, trips to the riverside, the occasional movie… an ideal childhood, you might say.
Then came the airplane crash. The worst in commercial aviation history, if he recalled the news description correctly. One moment, he was bidding his parents goodbye when they left for a business conference; the next thing he knew, his guardian, a friend of his father's, was telling him about the accident while trying to keep calm himself. He'd stayed with said guardian for a month or so, and then another man, Boris Balkov, had come for him.
The middle-aged man, with his hard voice and a hint of evil in his dark eyes, already had several locks of his hair going gray, deep wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. Yet his advancing years did nothing to diminish his imposing presence. He said there was a place for the young boy at a training facility he ran, and that his father had been planning to send him there when he was old enough. The small boy had also been told that his grandfather had given permission for him to board there, if it came to that.
Your grandfather even agreed to handle the expenses, as he has custody but is unable to come and get you himself, young one, Balkov had added, holding out an inviting hand.
So he apparently had a choice – to accept this invitation, or turn it down and be raised by that same friend who took him in those first few months after the accident. True, it would be in less privileged conditions than he was used to, but he'd forever remember his roots, early childhood, the happiness that came with it – and the bitter sweetness of remembrance.
Given where he was now, his choice then had been obvious.
BioVault had not changed in the years he'd spent there, except for a change in management at one point. Balkov had gone on to oversee another training facility further west, and his replacement was a man with dark blond hair and younger features, but a similarly hard and often eerie smile. The trainees knew him only as Yevgeny. But even this change was easily forgotten, since it did nothing to alter the facility's operations.
The young blader stopped short, having reached his destination, and he fiddled with the accessory on his left wrist. It resembled a digital watch, but it had a slightly thicker band. He'd already been called in from training earlier that day, with the scientist explaining that he would be helping with the end phase of an experiment. What that experiment was, though, the teen had yet to know.
His face twitching with what could pass for vague annoyance, the young blader wondered why he'd been told to come here, to this specific room. He'd had to visit it only once before, when he was eight, and that had been to informed of his transfer to the advanced section, having shown great aptitude for the sport and more than a passing interest in the harder training exercises – effects, he felt, of the early introduction he had to the sport that was Beyblading, courtesy of his parents.
He leaned in closer to the door, but didn't hear anyone. Was it possible he'd misheard where he was supposed to go? No, that wasn't it – more likely, he'd been told to report here, and Yevgeny or one of the trainers would join him shortly. So he pushed through the doors, expecting to see charts and figures, details of his performance in training so far.
The large computer monitor that took up half the opposite wall was indeed filled with diagrams and charts, but it was the last thing the teen imagined he'd see, because it seemed so fantastical, so unreal, even with the day's technology. Still, the new information seemed to sear itself into his brain, rooting him to the spot.
Then, murmurs from the room's one connecting door snapped him back to where he was, what he was supposed to be doing. “How long has it been since 06187 was summoned?” came the question in Yevgeny's low rumble. He, like Balkov before him, often used the trainees' registration numbers when talking with his colleagues. The blue-haired teen personally detested those numerical designations; they made him feel he and his friends were robots or factory productions.
Another glance at the monitor, with that damning information, and – to his horror – the numbers began to make sense. He turned to the connecting door just as the older Russian stepped through it. One glance, and the director knew that he knew, or at least was starting to figure things out.
No sooner had the man's eyes narrowed then the teen had turned on his heel, pushing back out through the doors, half wishing he could re-do the last several minutes, to wipe his mind clean of what he'd just found out. Even as he ran, with the sound of guards' footsteps hurrying after him spurring his feet onward, he went over the details in his head, coming to the only possible conclusion.
"Hey, Kai, you all right?"
Maroon eyes blinked open, and Kai Hiwatari frowned in slight protest at the sudden invasion of light. ...And the fact that his team mates were all looking at him over the tops of their seats. Dammit, I must've fallen asleep, he thought irritably. "I'm fine, Kinomiya," he replied, his voice a quiet monotone as he looked his cap-wearing teammate in the eye.
"Y'sure?" the wielder of Dragoon – slightly rambunctious, chatty, and easily excitable Tyson Kinomiya – persisted, concern showing on his pleasantly rounded, open face. He and the others – optimistic and sunny Max Mizuhara, quiet but amiable Rei Kon, and the slightly geeky but reliable Manabu Saien (whom they all called Kyouju) – had been friends and teammates with the phoenix blader for nearly four years now.
The younger teen knew as well as his other friends did that when Kai spoke like that, it was best to leave the phoenix alone. Yet Tyson could not, out of force of habit, leave something like that hanging, especially after what he'd just heard. He had to know.
"You were frowning real hard, and when you said 'no', just before you woke up, you went kinda pale."
The slate-haired teen sighed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes heavenward. "I said, I'm fine," he stated, crossing his arms over his chest and looking out the window.
Tyson pouted, then turned back round in his seat, refusing to look anywhere else but straight ahead. "...whatever, Kai." He at least knew when to stop pushing and leave his quiet teammate to his thoughts. Besides, even if he had persisted, it was most likely that he wouldn't get another word from the serious teen; the indicators had all been there – crossed arms, blank expression, the refusal to make eye contact. While he should have been used to this by now, he was still miffed when Kai did it.
Then Max caught his eye, grinning, and he couldn't help but return it; despite Kai's usual cold behavior, that didn't change the fact that they were on their way to Osaka, to attend the opening of a new Beyblade training facility and battle dome. After the events involving BEGA, and the rebuilding of the BBA, local and regional tournament had been on hold for quite a while, and the young dragon had been getting bored as of late.
According to Chairman Daitenji, the event was still a week off, but the young Beybladers had decided, unanimously, to head to the city a few days early to see the facility for themselves before the crowds hit. Tyson, of course, wanted to sample the food, too. Max had suggested taking the bus, but Rei pointed out that taking the train would be faster – just a little under four hours' travel. Besides, the young Chinese had added, even if he was in Japan often, it was rare that he left Bey City, let alone the larger Tokyo area.
It had taken two days to sort everything out – calling Chairman Daitenji to tell him of their plans, and then booking hotel rooms. Max, Kyouju, and Tyson all had to talk with their respective parents to get the go-ahead, but that was just a formality, since they knew they'd be allowed to go.
Afterwards, all they had to do was get Rei a Japan Railway pass, get their tickets – you had to pick them up the day before you planned to leave – and they were on their way.
There had been a lot of people at the station, but Max had managed to find a car that wasn't as crowded, so the group could sit near one another. Now, however, Kai was wishing they'd taken an earlier run – or that he'd done so, at least. He'd much rather be on his own if he was going to have dreams he couldn't remember just moments after he'd had them, or mutter in his sleep like Tyson said he did. But he was here, with his team, and there was no helping the current situation.
Slate eyebrows knitted in mild concentration, Kai thought back, trying to remember what his dream had been about. He could remember cold stone and ominous echoing footsteps, and a large metal door with a sign above it, but that was it.
The pale teen gave an inaudible sigh, nonplussed at not being able to remember what it was about the dream that had caused him to react the way Tyson had described. And he resigned himself to not knowing, thinking that perhaps later, it would come back to him.