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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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Suzuha was the only one of her siblings to be a member of Future Gadgets Laboratory at birth. It was uncle Okabe’s insistence, the eighth pin saved for years had been brought out of a wooden box hidden among the casual debris in the lab and given into her tiny hands. Her mom had been afraid she would lose it, still not quite used to Okabe Rintarou’s whims, but Suzuha had treasured it since the beginning. Somehow she had known, even then with skinned knees and bumbling words, that not everyone would get a pin from uncle Okabe.

Years later when her brother was born and her mother asked uncle Okabe if that made Yuki lab member 009 Suzuha would be proved right. It took several angry phone calls to Aunt Kurisu and nagging conversations pointed at dad for uncle Okabe to relent and make Yuki Future Gadget Laboratory intern numero 001, in the end it was the only compromise they were willing to get out of him.

Even dad didn’t really get what constituted one person to be a lab member over another. She’d ask him late at night, having snuck out of her bedroom to watch as his fingers danced along the keyboard hacking here and there for the spread of chaos as well as the good of humanity, she’d ask everything she could think of about the lab. In truth, dad had said with a sigh one night, he wasn’t sure what had prompted the sudden initiation of so many members. For years it had just been uncle Okabe, aunt Mayuri, and dad but one summer for a few weeks uncle Okabe had gotten really weird for a while and then one day he had changed and declared that he had pins for them as well as for the other lab members who, until then, had never existed. Within a day five new members were given their new status as lab members with the making of their pins. Fenris, Moaka, Ruko, aunt Kurisu, and finally a pin for Suzuha who had yet to be born.

For many years dad wouldn’t talk about the changes wrought in uncle Okabe that summer and even later when her knees were no less skinned but her eyes were a sharper shade of hazel he would relate only a few observations.

Uncle Okabe was very interesting. He wasn’t just a scientist, a physicist like aunt Kurisu, but a mad scientist and that it seemed made all the difference. In the lab he was Hououin Kyouma, dastardly mad genius set on overthrowing the evil empire and inserting his own rule of chaos and anarchy, aided by his assistant Christina as well as his fellow lab members. Ever since the beginning, looking up at her uncle with shining eyes, she had known that those words were prophecy.

As it was the lab itself rarely changed over the years. Projects were taken on then abandoned half-heartedly as they became uninteresting. Gadgets lined the back closets falling over themselves and onto the floor in a disorganized mess. Aunt Kurisu would complain sometimes, with an offended but joking expression on her face, that if any of her professor’s knew she was working in a place like this they would personally put her out of her misery. If real labs were any different than Future Gadgets Laboratory though then Suzuha wanted nothing to do with them.

Very early on she had decided she would become a useful member of production. She’d from school, not to home where her mother was waiting, but straight to the lab where she would be allowed to tinker with circuits and computers and change the future one wire at a time. In early elementary school Suzuha was more fluent in electronics and math than she was in Japanese. She’d sit next to her dad, watching him program the latest electronic gizmo to be created by the group, or otherwise next to her scheming uncle who was planning the latest and greatest project for the lab.

She had always had a special connection to her uncle, more so than her brother, sometimes even more than her dad. When uncle Okabe spoke to her he treated her with the utmost respect, even in his moments as Hououin Kyouma, to him he had said in a strangely sober moment she would always be the part-time warrior Suzuha.

She grew up, slowly never losing that spark that made her a lab member somehow different and more special than anyone else, but she grew up nonetheless. Middle school came and went and with it every course in mathematics, physics, computers, and hardware that they would let her take. She’d expected the mysteries of the lab to wane over the years, like everything else seemed to, but somehow the mysteries became only more profound.

She began to notice uncle Okabe’s stillness at times, at certain phrases, sights, images, words he would tense and grow very still his eyes becoming vague for a moment until he would shake himself and seem to remember where he was. He flitted between bravado and disconcertingly sober moments, in those moments he would look so terribly old to the point where Suzuha couldn’t guess his age. He always bounced back rather quickly, with gusto that was uncalled for even, but the moments existed none the less.

The lab never worked on anything that would draw attention. At first Suzuha thought that this was simply what the lab did, made things people didn’t really need like flying cameras, fridge-fans, automatic soda-openers but after a few incidents this didn’t seem to be true.

One time aunt Kurisu suggested they build a smaller particle accelerator.

Aunt Kurisu’s passion had always been physics, even after becoming a lab member she promoted true science more so than the mad science that her husband professed, she was a professor at Akihabara’s university and thus could only really work at the lab late at night and on weekends but every once in a while her two different sciences would try to meet in Future Gadgets.

Suzuha remembered the day well. It was a sweltering afternoon in summer the kind where the paint seems to drip from the walls and the sun bleeds into the water, where her brother Yuki was playing in the park with kites and friends Suzuha had dedicated herself to research having finally built enough experience to suggest her own project ideas to the team. The fans in the room were blowing at full force as they discussed the directions they wanted to proceed for the few months where the lab founder’s assistant could dedicate herself more wholly to Future Gadgets rather than the university. Immediately on hearing her aunt’s suggestion Suzuha had known that the university didn’t have the funding let alone the ingenuity to go through with something like that, they’d have looked at her proposal and called it crazy, impossible even, and told her no and to get back to whatever it was she happened to be looking at instead. Suzuha herself had suggested something much less ambitious, much more boring in comparison, a fighting robot that could box and wrestle depending on the moods of the fans. Aunt Kurisu’s project, if they picked it, would change everything if it worked. Future Gadgets Laboratory would no longer be unheard of if they played their cards right it could change the world.

Suzuha had already resigned herself to shelving her idea for the year, maybe even a few years, when uncle Okabe said no. There wasn’t much of an explanation but there didn’t have to be, he had that ancient look in his eyes again, seeing through waves and particles of light until future empires were laid before him. He only said that Future Gadgets Laboratory was not in that kind of business.

Aunt Kurisu had looked mad for a few moments, irritated by being blown off, but on seeing her husband’s expression her eyes had grown wide and she’d gone a little pale. Thousands of words were left unsaid as all the potential futures withered in that moment and they remained in Stein’s Gate.

The truth of the matter was that uncle Okabe was a time traveler. He wasn’t even from this original time line, he’d said, but had to travel many times to get here. It wasn’t a grand secret, he didn’t tell people on the street, but he also told it without prompting to lab members as explanation. Some people found uncle Okabe unnerving, far too perceptive than he had any right to be, because sometimes there were things he just knew that he should have had no way of knowing. It was one of his many contradictions that a man who proclaimed to be a servant of mad science would be matter of fact and sober when it came to his own experiments with the uncharted.

For years she had assumed these tales were on the line with Hououin Kyouma, grand fantasies, but even then she had been somewhat alarmed by them. Whenever he talked about time travel he looked afraid and tired all at once, also a little sad, but he’d smile at the end and said that all was well because he’d reached Stein’s Gate after all.

She’d never disbelieved him, aunt Kurisu had for a long time, but she’d never really believed him either until much later. It wasn’t a grand epiphany or any one statement, just small instances built up on one another until she realized that she did believe her uncle.

He’d told her one night, when it was just the pair of them in the room and the moon shone bright against the streetlamps, that she was a champion and that when the world truly needed saving when others would cower and run it would be her that would save the world.

She’d liked that, more than she could possibly say.

The world had been on the brink of time travel for years, it was just that no one was aware of it. Researchers at universities, laboratories across the world, approached it with every day never knowing that they were on the brink of an abyss. In order to meet her father Makise Kurisu herself had written a thesis on time travel only to be almost murdered for it. Occasionally uncle Okabe would ask her dad to track these groups projects, to look into their research, and if he felt it was necessary sabotage it.

He’d only done that twice and each time he had not spoken about it afterwards.

After high school she would go to Akihabara’s university, to appease her mother and even her father to some extent, to take some of her aunt’s physics courses as well as to hone her own craft in the realm of hardware and design. She would earn talents and skills and place them like medals on a wall until she could return to Future Gadgets Laboratory once again as a full time member.

She felt that her time there was somehow precious limited in ways she could never imagine. In the jagged depths of her uncle’s eyes they seemed so fragile, a dream made of butterfly’s wings, lost with a single brush of the wind. She must grip it, hold it with all her might, before Stein’s Gate drifted from her view as well.

Her uncle never promised that it would last forever, that the choice of Stein’s Gate was eternity, he only promised that should the world fall to ruin and the world lines tangle themselves that she would be there dancing among the chords to find him so they might find a way to Read Steiner together and save the universe from certain destruction.

They are the agents and preservers of Chaos and should the need arise they will reweave the tapestry of time into something worthy of Steins;Gate.