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Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 3


Interlude 2

Mrs. Reika Nanjyoin pressed the doorbell and waited composedly. After some time standing on the step of the Sanada residence, she said, "Hmm," and pressed the doorbell again. She waited composedly for some more time, and then composedly knocked on the door. This time, Mitsuki Sanada opened the door.

"Mrs. Nanjyoin! What a nice surprise to see you!" Mitsuki Sanada greeted her with unfeigned cheer.

"How nice to see you, Mitsuki," Mrs. Nanjyoin greeted her with a smile.

"You can come in if you like," Mitsuki Sanada stepped back to allow her inside.

"Thank you. Is your mother at home?" Mrs. Nanjyoin asked as she followed Mitsuki Sanada.

"No," Mitsuki Sanada replied, "She had to go out shopping. She'll return soon."

"By the way, Mitsuki," Mrs. Nanjyoin added, "did you know that your doorbell is broken?"

"Yes," sighed Mitsuki Sanada, "the repairman is supposed to come today."

Mrs. Nanjyoin said no more.

After Mrs. Nanjyoin was seated on the couch, Mitsuki Sanada asked if Mrs. Nanjyoin wanted anything to drink or eat.

"No, thank you," she replied. "Mitsuki, aren't Kazuki, Dee, and my granddaughter home by this time usually?"

"Yes, but Kazuki had to take Dee to a doctor's appointment, and I think Yayoi's in a staff meeting."

Akane entered the room and greeted Mrs. Nanjyoin. Mitsuki Sanada excused herself: "I'm afraid I have a lot of work to do."

"Please go ahead," said Mrs. Nanjyoin. Akane sat down and they began to talk.

"Is Mitsuki Rara feeling well?" inquired Mrs. Nanjyoin.

"As far as we know," Akane sighed. "My sister insisted on taking her back to their home again, but Mitsuki said she'd come back in two days, and that's today."

"I am glad for her that nothing more serious occurred," Mrs. Nanjyoin remarked.

"Thank you for your concern," Akane forced her worries out of herself. "How is the work progressing?"

"In some respects, it is going very slowly. Without any artifacts to build upon, we have to manufacture and design everything ourselves. A great deal of time is spent upon that. Considering, however, that Dr. Sanada and Dr. Rara want a spaceship that has done something humans have never, to our knowledge, done before, we are actually progressing rather well." Mrs. Nanjyoin's hands were folded in her lap.

"I'm glad of that," Akane said. "Space isn't exactly the place I'd want to go, but it is very important to Ken and Kazuki. I'm surprised, though; there were some major setbacks just a few days ago."

Though Mrs. Nanjyoin didn't show it, she was perturbed. "There were, but then the problem was solved. I'd like you to look at the design documents that solved them, if you would please." Mrs. Nanjyoin gave Akane a document.

Scrutinizing it, Akane felt odd, and said, "We've seen this before, haven't we?"

"When the solution came, it seemed very familiar to me as well. Dr. Sanada and Dr. Rara enthusiastically approved it, but I was able to determine later that they had deja vu."

Akane continued, "This is one of the artifact's advanced systems, isn't it? It almost looks like one of the fuel delivery systems for the Core Robots."

Mrs. Nanjyoin said mildly, "Your memory is better on that point than any of ours. I'm certain that Dr. Sanada would recall it given time, however."

Akane stared at Mrs. Nanjyoin. "Should this even be possible?"

Mrs. Nanjyoin gazed back. "I am attempting to look into it."

There was a knock on the door.

Akane opened the door to find a young man standing on the doorstep holding a toolbox. He was dressed in a drab uniform, and bore a name tag that read Slade. He was a duplicate of the Kent Slade sent to another universe. This doorbell repairman was just another denizen of the synthesis world, with no odd adventures or mad scientists disordering his life.

"Good afternoon, ma'am," Kent introduced himself, "I'm Kent Slade, and I've been asked to fix your doorbell."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Slade. My name is Akane. I'm glad you've come, and on time as well. We really need that thing fixed," Akane responded.

"So, I suppose you press it but it doesn't make any sound?" Kent inquired.

"Exactly right," Akane replied, relieved that Slade seemed competent.

"Very well, I'll begin by looking at the wiring for the doorbell button. I may need to come into the house to look at the speakers that make the doorbell noise."

"Thank you so much."

"You're welcome," Kent nodded. Akane went back inside the house, and Kent began to unscrew the doorbell button cover.

This Kent Slade looked exactly the same as the one who had been offered a job to visit another universe by Dr. Sanada. They shared the same name, the same face, and most of the same memories. This Kent, however, was native to the synthesis universe. He had never been asked by Dr. Sanada to investigate a parallel universe, because Dr. Sanada had never done that in the synthesis universe. The Kent fixing the doorbell was the synthesis universe's duplicate or counterpart of the Kent who was considering visiting another universe. Similarly, Dr. Sanada in the synthesis universe was the counterpart of the Dr. Sanada who had asked Kent to go to another world. It could even be said that the Kent who was considering going to another universe was the counterpart of the Kent fixing the doorbell, and vice versa for Dr. Sanada. All of this was very strange, but even stranger things had been learned about counterparts. For example, Mitsuki Sanada and Mitsuki Rara were counterparts, despite the facts that they had different fathers and different ages and didn't look exactly alike. There were even stranger counterparts that were known to them, and possibly stranger ones that they did not know about.

Kazuki and Dee were returning from the doctor when they were joined by Mitsuki Rara. They all greeted each other pleasantly, then Mitsuki Rara, with a worried expression, bowed slightly.

"I'm so sorry to have worried you all," Mitsuki Rara said for the millionth time.

"That's all in the past," Kazuki wasn't sure how to make her stop apologizing for something that wasn't her fault.

Dee told her, "Really, Mitsuki, we're happy that you're doing well. I hope you won't be affected like that again; we all like you better this way!"

"I don't think it will, because it's never happened before. I think I was just sleepwalking," Mitsuki Rara said, her face only slightly worried this time.

"It was really alarming because it was a lot like when you became Ms. Rah," Kazuki admitted.

"I can't remember a thing that happened, and that alone proves that it wasn't my standard Ms. Rah trance," Mitsuki Rara said.

"You're sure?" Dee asked.

"Yes. I always remembered whatever happened while I was Ms. Rah. When I was Ms. Rah, I also had to be able to recognize people and things, and you were saying I wasn't doing that. I'd say that I was actually still sleepwalking then."

"I've heard that sleepwalkers can do many normal things while they sleepwalk, but sometimes they do them rather oddly," commented Dee. "So you were doing Ms. Rah things, which you had often done, but not quite doing them correctly?"

"I suppose so."

"So it was like making a peanut butter sandwich without peanut butter?" Dee asked.

"Yes, I guess so!" Mitsuki Rara laughed.

By now, they had arrived at the Sanada household. They were only surprised for a moment to see Slade working on their doorbell. He had taken off its cover and was now examining its internal wiring. The three greeted him, and he turned around. Everyone introduced themselves. Mitsuki Rara wanted to hurry inside to greet everyone and order things on her side of her room. Kazuki and Dee decided to remain outside and talk to Kent while he continued to work. Kent wasn't certain why they decided to do that, but he suspected Dee was a naturally curious person.

"Do dogs bother you?" she inquired of him.

"Not usually," Kent told her.

"Good, then you won't mind Kumu," Dee said happily.

"Uh, you should know that she bites," Kazuki put in reluctantly.

"Thank you," Kent replied calmly. He pulled out some of the wires to examine them.

Kazuki asked Kent, "Are you a student?"

"I'm a graduate student at the college near here," Kent explained as he reached for a tool. Dee handed it to him. "Thanks."

"I think Dad works there, doesn't he Kazuki?" Dee inquired.

"Yeah, Uncle Sanada's the professor of dimensional physics at the college."

"Really? Maybe I've met him sometime," Kent said, staring at the wiring. "But I can't quite remember him at the moment."

Kent shook his head at the recalcitrant doorbell and made an adjustment on something with the tool. "I took this part-time job with a repair company on my advisor's advice. I technically don't need the money, but Dr. Warai thought having a part-time job would be a good experience for me."

He looked once again at the exposed doorbell wiring and stated, "I can't find the problem yet. I'll need to go inside the house to look at the speakers where the doorbell speakers are. The problem may still be out here, but I'd better check there first. Since I don't want to have to uncover the wires out here again, I'll just put this sign over the hole."

The sign requested people not to touch the doorbell. It was written twice, in Japanese and English. The lower half of the sign was taken up by a picture of a humanoid being struck by lightning.

Dee regarded the sign with two curious human eyes and asked, "Why do you need that?"

Kent shook his head. "You have no idea how many people will fiddle with this if I don't put that sign up. It's surprising just who will tinker with a doorbell having no idea how it works."

Kazuki and Dee, after greeting Mrs. Nanjyoin and Akane, showed Kent where the doorbell made its noise inside the house. Here in the synthesis world, Dee was no longer the bioroid D, but a human. Her enthusiasm for even such a mundane task was endearing, if slightly baffling.

Kumu bounded up to the three people and stared at Kent for a moment. Dee laughed and stooped down to pet her. Kazuki kept his distance with a grimace. Kent regarded the dog for a moment, commented, "Nice dog," and set about exposing the doorbell speakers. Kumu accepted Dee's attention, but when Dee straightened up, Kumu briskly trotted behind Slade, raised her hackles, and growled softly. Slade ignored this.

"Kumu, he's a friend," Dee said sharply. Kumu continued to growl and Kent continued to dismantle the wall behind which was the wiring he needed to see. Kazuki gulped nervously, but his apprehensions were not realized. Kumu cautiously moved away from Kent. Dee laughed nervously, "I'm glad she," she paused, "accepts you. I'd better get her some lunch." She walked quickly, and Kumu followed her, pausing only a moment before Kent Slade was out of sight.

Mitsuki Sanada appeared. "Kazuki, stop bothering the repairman and start your homework," she ordered.

"Okay," he agreed nervously. "I'll just introduce you two first." He did so, and soon Kent was left totally alone: Kazuki went to his room to work on homework (or so we may hope) and Mitsuki Sanada went to work in the kitchen. Hours passed; the problem was more subtle than Kent had thought possible. He was in the midst of disassembling the second of the three doorbell speakers to check its internal wiring when he was disturbed.

"Ow!" was the surprising noise that so alarmed Kent. He rushed to the door, dreading what he knew he would find.

Dr. Sanada stood before the door, with one of his own tools in his hand. It remained in his hand for only a moment, as he dropped the tool so he could use that hand to cradle his other hand.

"Are you all right, sir?" Kent asked, knowing the answer.

"I think I got an electrical burn on my hand," gasped Dr. Sanada.

Akane rushed out of the house. "Ken!" she cried. A look of suspicion crossed her face. "What were you doing this time?"

"I told you this morning," Dr. Sanada returned in surprise, "that I was going to fix the doorbell as soon as I got back."

"Dear, didn't you hear me say this morning that I had called a repair company?" Akane exclaimed in irritation.

"I told you I'd have it fixed in no time, honey!" said a deflated Dr. Sanada.

"You never listen, do you?"

Kent took this opportunity to slip back into the house, and hopefully finish the repairs quickly. He didn't want any liability in a personal injury lawsuit.

Eventually, Dr. Sanada found his way to a small office, and sat down facing Mrs. Nanjyoin. "I'm afraid I can't stay much longer," Mrs. Nanjyoin apologized, "Before I go, I was hoping to bring up this subject again with you, Dr. Sanada." She passed him the design document she had shown Akane earlier. Mrs. Nanjyoin was certain the door was closed and the repairman was at the other end of the house before taking it out again.

Dr. Sanada looked at it, then exclaimed, "This again? Of course I remember it! This is one of the fuel regulators we designed for the Core Robots. This new world is amazing; first Zinv, and now this turns up too!"

Mrs. Nanjyoin paused a moment, then agreed cautiously. She added, "I hope your finger is well."

Dr. Sanada shrugged. "Thank you, Mrs. Nanjyoin, but in the battle for home maintenance, one must expect some wounds."

"Indeed," Mrs. Nanjyoin agreed. "Thank you for your help, Dr. Sanada. Farewell."

Dr. Sanada showed her to the door, bade her goodbye, then went back to his office to look at the spaceship proposals again. In the spacious kitchen, Yayoi, both Mituskis, and Akane had dinner well in hand.

Dr. Rara walked up the familiar path to Dr. Sanada's house. After roughly twenty-two eventful years, experienced twice through two different lifetimes, it was good to finally have a life where some things were exciting, and others were constant. He was a good friend of the Sanada family, and liked to drop in like this, especially to tease Dr. Sanada about something that had happened at their lab that day. Being an old friend, he might just use the spare key he had, but he liked to make Dr. Sanada guess, inaccurately, about who was at the door. He smiled and, as usual, he rang the doorbell.

"Augh!" bellowed Dr. Rara, his voice carrying down the hallway. The noise passed Kent, wiping his face of all previous emotions and leaving it etched with the acid of horror. Kent ran to the doorway.

Dr. Rara was cradling his index finger when Kent arrived. "Are you O.K., sir?" Kent asked in deep concern.

"Stupid Sanada, your stupid doorbell almost killed me!" grumbled Dr. Rara.

Everyone in the house had piled outside. "Oh, are you all right, Dad?" sprang Mitsuki Rara's sympathetic sentiments.

"We're so sorry, Dr. Rara," Kazuki said. "Our doorbell hasn't been working."

"Ayuko told me that, but it didn't electrocute her!" Dr. Rara peeved.

"This is most unfortunate, sir. I tried to put up a sign warning everyone," Kent began.

"What sign!" interrupted Dr. Rara.

Everyone looked near the doorway, and saw that the sign was face down on the ground and looked like a blank sheet of paper.

Dr. Sanada put one hand behind his head and said sheepishly, "Uh, I guess I must've knocked it down when I tried to fix it. Sorry about that."

"Sanada, you-" Dr. Rara ground out through gritted teeth and waved his fist.

Mitsuki Rara took his injured hand. "Let me put some ice on that, Dad."

Mitsuki Sanada handed her some ice she had foresightedly retrieved from the freezer.

Everyone followed the Mitsukis and Dr. Sanada into the house.

Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 3