Saya slowly moved the beam of her flashlight across the pile of rubble she was standing on. It had been almost a month now, yet what little was left of the research facility still gave off a faint but distinct smell of smoke. She shivered as another chilly gust of wind tugged on her clothes. Pulling up her hood to at least somewhat protect her head from the cold of the night, she cursed the decision to not bring a jacket along. Her new Shinobi uniform would probably have kept her warmer, but since the police had ceased investigations there had been a good amount of scavengers and curious locals frequenting the place, making a ninja poking around in the ruins anything but hard to notice. Instead Saya was wearing tight black pants, a dark gray hoodie, and some sturdy hiking boots. Her long black hair was casually tied in a ponytail, her overall appearance making her look like just another person getting a first-hand look at what had been in the news so much lately.
Still, when she talked to her sister via headset, she did so in Japanese. She had her concerns about people listening in. “Found anything?” Kiyomi's voice was followed by a long yawn.
“No” Saya replied, kicking some bricks out of the way as she carefully climbed a pile of debris, “just metal and stone. What about you?” Her sister was a gifted hacker, and after the covert operation three years ago her equipment had been upgraded significantly. Not that Saya understood what exactly those things did or how to use them even in the slightest, but Kiyomi had acted like a little kid finding her Christmas presents back when she received them.
“Nah. Nothing” the answer sounded from the earpiece, “I found a website explaining how they did stem cell research there, but that not only is horribly designed, but to me it smells like a cover-up. I found no info about funding, no government records, no published research papers...nothing. Especially nothing that connects to the disappearances.”
Saya walked up to a large, bent piece of metal amidst the ruins. She placed her hand on its surface, absentmindedly wiping off some ash as she was thinking. People were vanishing in this town. Kidnappings here had not been unheard of, especially with the gap between wealth and poverty growing larger blackmailing was on the rise. But there had been no ransom demands for the people who had disappeared since the explosion at this facility. Perhaps it was a serial killer at work, but the puzzling thing was that there were no signs of violence at any of the suspected crime scenes. Perhaps it was nothing but her paranoia speaking, but the systematic disappearances reminded Saya of them.
“Why would the Akaryuu clan blow up this place in the first place?” Kiyomi asked, as if she had been reading her older sister's thoughts. And it was a good question. Since she had narrowly escaped a life in slavery at the hands of the people who had taken her mother and murdered her father, that organization had been haunting her thoughts. But in the three years that had passed since that incident she had not once heard of them again. But now, with people vanishing left and right...there was a good chance the Akaryuu clan was behind this. Though she had no idea why they would rig an explosion here.
Suddenly something caught Saya's attention. She felt her bowels convulse violently as she almost had to throw up at the sight: A shriveled, leathery thing sticking out under a large chunk of metal. Were those...the burned remains of a human being? Hesitantly, she moved towards it, pearls of sweat bitingly cold on her forehead in the windy night. As she got closer she finally worked up the courage to shine her flashlight at the object – only to fall to hear knees with a sigh as the horror made way for relief. It was no corpse. Of course. The police would have noticed it if that had been the case. Moving the still shaky light beam across the surface, Saya made out an indeed vaguely humanoid shape. It appeared to be empty and didn't have any extremities, but the general outline somewhat resembled a feminine body, minus the head. Somehow it reminded the girl of a shed snake skin. She grabbed her phone and sent a picture of her new discovery to her sister. “Any idea what that used to be?”
It took her a few seconds to answer, but she sounded confident in being right on the matter. “Well, it's hard to make out since you didn't turn on the flash of your phone camera, like I told you about a dozen times you should do...but it looks like one of those fetish sleepsacks. You know, to place people in and essentially mummify them head to toe in leather.”
Saya didn't doubt her sister's correctness, though she did raise an eyebrow. “How exactly do you know this kind of stuff?”
“I do my work on the internet. You see some weird shit there” was the swift response. Saya couldn't help but to grin. Since she had covered a good part of the ruins by now and it was getting late she decided to call it a night and head home. She turned around only to notice something was stuck on her leg. Crouching down, she took a closer look. It was some kind of white, gooey substance, drawn into a string, somewhat like old, but not quite hard yet chewing gum. Covered in ash it looked like it had been there since the explosion. She shrugged it off as being some kind of industrial glue that had heated up and dripped out of something and started walking to home again.
She hadn't put much distance between herself and the facility when she suddenly heard something over the headset that made her freeze and start shaking in terror instantly. It wasn't the sound of her sister on the other end walking about, she would regularly run around in the apartment and grab a snack or something to drink during a call. No, that wasn't new. What had caught her off guard were Kiyomi's words: Hold on a sec, someone's at the door.”
Perhaps it was just Saya's paranoia, but she couldn't imagine who would visit them at this time, in the middle of the night. She doubted that person had good intentions. and Kiyomi was about to open the door for them. Saya wanted to warn her sister, but instead of saying something she just stood there, frozen and silent. People were disappearing...and now...her sister was...the scene of her mother being pulled away, a large hand over her mouth muffling her screams unfolded in her mind again. She was under that bed again, unable to do anything but watch, her father – only her flashlight slipping out of her trembling fingers pulled her back into reality.
Finally she found it in her to talk again, screaming into the mic: “Sis, don't open the door, wait for me! DON'T OPE-” she was cut short by her sister's ear-piercing scream. Saya started running. Why did she have to come here by foot, damn it? Even sprinting the entire way it would take too long to get home now. “SIS!” she yelled, barely louder than her sister's screams blaring from the speaker. “Sis, hold out, I'm coming! Fight back!” she blurted out, already out of breath from running and screaming while in full panic now, but before she had finished that sentence the signal was lost.
“Shit!” she cried out between heavy breaths, “Shit! Shit! Shit” She had just reached the outskirts of town when she noticed somebody else still outside. The figure left a gas station and walked up to a motorcycle. Perhaps fate was still somehow on Saya's side. Barely able to breathe, she yelled at the man in front of her as loud as she could: “Da-David! DAVID! HELP! HELP ME!”