The scientists in the room all immediately stopped what they were doing, eye-pads frozen in their padded hands. Though all of their faces were covered under their hazmat helms, it was pretty easy to tell by their fear stiffened body language that Shuten Deoji was not exactly an expected presence.
Nor a welcome one.
"Do you all really have to dress up in this gear?" Shuten Doji narrowed his eyes as he looked around. "You all look the same! And it covers up my little Emi's pretty face!"
Shuten Doji's voice was naturally loud, but in the soundscape of the almost completely silent lab, it was positively disturbing. And the contained ring thought so too, chaotically fluxing like it was grating under the noise.
Several lab personnel stared down at their eye-pads. On it, beside the diagram of the ring and orb structure, was a bar labeled STABILITY. It was a healthy green bar, though with Shuten Doji's recent bout of shouting, it dipped down into a distinctly less healthy, more threatening orange.
Seeing this, the scientists panicked and talked into their helmets while rapidly motioning towards Shuten-Doji.
In response, one of the scientists hurriedly rushed up to Shuten Doji and grabbed his hand. Even with the bulky hazmat suit on, the scientist was like a child compared to Shuten's physical stature despite being a fully grown human.
And, in a literal sense, that was true: she was Emi, his daughter.
Despite the size difference, Emi dragged Shuten Doji away back towards the elevator like she was the embarrassed parent and he the unruly child. She rapidly inputted an access code on the elevator's control panel, and its solid metal doors slid open with a quiet hum. She positively pushed Shuten Doji into the elevator, and he stumbled in with uncoordinated, drunken languor.
When the elevator doors closed, Emi took her helmet off with a pressurized click. She was young, no older than twenty-five, with black hair streaked with white and striking violet eyes. Her hair was tied back in a professional ponytail so as to not deal with the hassle of having to adjust hair through a hazmat suit.
"Dad, what did I tell you about showing up like this!?" said Emi, sighing deeply. She scrolled through a square shaped display in the elevator and tapped the 2nd floor labeled 'Recreation'. "And more pressingly, why are you even here!?"
"What? I can't visit my daughter anymore?" Shuten Doji laughed. "Look at you, you're blushing! You're embarrassed of your old pa, is that it?"
"Of course, I am! We were doing research! And didn't I tell you the N-ring is sensitive? But you barged in there again shouting like it was one of your drunken nights out! I should petition to have your access revoked!" Emi's nose crinkled. "And you've been drinking too!"
"I'm always drinking," said Shuten Doji with a grin. When he looked down at his daughter's disapproving look, he frowned. "Oh, c'mon, cut your pa some slack. Ever since the accident, I have to drink or else the virus in my body starts going wild."
Shuten Doji tapped his liver, grimacing in remembrance.
"Doesn't mean you should be drinking too much," said Emi, though by her faint smile, it was obvious that she relented. "I know it's healing you, but you still get all the symptoms of being drunk. Thank goodness you're a happy drunk, but still – be more considerate the next time you come around, okay?"
"I know, I know." Shuten Doji patted Emi's head gently. He grinned from ear to ear. "It just makes me so proud, knowing a kid of mine is this smart. I was dumb as bricks growing up. And drinking all the time's made me even dumber than a brick now.
When you were born, I was afraid you'd be a meathead like me, but thank goodness you can live a quiet life."
"Not so quiet," said Emi. She started to get more excitement, her eyes glowing a shade brighter. "The research we've done on the N-ring is incredible. Energy from a different dimension. The Mind Over Matter Theory. The Metamorphosis Phenomenon. It's all starting to come together.
If we crack the N-ring, I just know we'll be able to change the world for the better. We could engineer life at an unprecedented level. Beyond even what Ori, the so-called Sentinel of Life, can do, and we won't be selfish like him, using power only to rule over a tiny little piece of land.
We could save humanity! And-,"
Emi looked to Shuten Doji's liver. "We could cure you."
"Hah! You'd use a world changing cure on this busted old liver? I'll pass." Shuten Doji felt nothing but happiness staring down at his daughter's bright eyes. Eyes bright with dreams.
A long, long time ago, he himself had those kinds of eyes. When he wanted to be a hero and use his brawn for good. Before reality hit. In the back of his mind, he knew that reality would also hit Emi as well, if she and her team did manage to crack the N-ring.
That power, if it was actually unlocked, tapped into – it would change the power balance of the world. The Trident would use it to further themselves. No, with something like that, they could start the Revolution and overthrow the current world order.
Emi would never get to see her research be used just for the idealistic sake of 'saving the world'. The Trident would make sure of that.
There was a part of Shuten Doji's mind that always thought about what he would say to her to convince her, but he always gave up before thinking about it too much. Fighting with his daughter – the only thing good left in this world for him – filled him with too much pain to bear.
Deep down, there was another part of him that wanted Emi's research to never bear fruit. For the N-ring to always be an alien mystery. At least that way, she would still be happy studying the unknown and he could keep being her father with no conflict.
It was why Blackwater was so damn important. It was only a matter of time before a suitable host for the Machine Heart would be found. At that point, the N-ring was not needed for the Trident, or, more accurately at this point, the Japanese and Italian Prongs to start the Revolution.
They could beat back the Russian Prong, mechanized as they were, susceptible to the Machine Heart, and take over the Panopticon. It would change everything. Then, if Emi cracked the N-ring, she could see her research used for good and not as a weapon of war.
Just needed to hold against the Russian Prong.
How the hell did the Valentinos not know something was up with them?
That the entirety of the Russian Prong had turned into machines?
The Italians had Mad Jack with them, one of the legends of Cyberspace. What the hell was that freak doing? Just sitting on his ass and playing videogames?
Honestly, knowing him, that was a very distinct possibility.
Shuten Doji growled. He hated people like Mad Jack. People who lacked discipline. Well, it was not like Shuten Doji himself could judge too much. Among the Seven Swords, he had the least discipline in terms of lifestyle, but at least he had his powers as an excuse.
He had to consume alcohol to fight and, now, after the injury from the Unbreakable, survive.
But Mad Jack dicked around for no other reason than his own whim. Even now, in this absolutely critical juncture, Mad Jack was completely unreachable.
Had he gotten a whiff of the Italian Prong's half-baked plan to try and capture Mad Jack and force him to be the vessel for the Machine Heart?
Whatever the case, fuck that kid.
"Dad, is something wrong?" Emi tapped Shuten Doji's arm.
"Wha? Oh, nothing, Emi." Shuten Doji smiled again. "Just thinking of business. Always makes me so damn stressed. Figure by now my head would've exploded if I didn't drink all the time."
"How about retiring?" said Emi. "You're pushing sixty. I know that's not too old for an Alter like you, but you'll only be getting weaker from here. And I want to have a father I can show my kids to, when I do decide to have them."
"Kids!? Where!?" said Shuten Doji, eyes widening. Then narrowing in threat. "And who!? He better be one hell of a guy. For his own safety."
"Aaaand this is why I've never dated seriously." Emi closed her eyes, sighing.
At that moment, the elevator abruptly stopped, and the lights turned from white to red.
A mechanical voice blared through the confines of the elevator.
"RED ALERT: AN ATTACK ON THE LAB HAS BEEN REGISTERED. THE ATTACK IS CLASSED AS A HIGHLY SERIOUS THREAT. ALL PERSONNEL ARE RECOMMENDED TO EVACUATE TO THE LAST FIVE FLOORS. REPEAT: ALL PERSONNEL ARE RECOMMENDED TO EVACUATE TO THE LAST FIVE FLOORS.
FAILURE TO RESPOND TO THIS EVACUATION PROMPTLY MAY LEAD TO BEING LOCKED OUT OF SECURE FLOORS."
"What the fuck?" Shuten Doji hunched over Emi, protecting her. "An attack? Here of all places? And now?"
"I'll link to the security feed!" said Emi. She pressed on her wrist and a blue jack-in chord popped out from an indent in her synthetic skin. With shaky hand, she plugged the jacker into a slot beneath the elevator's control panel.
In the next moment, the panel went from showing floor options to the outsides of the lab.
Shuten Doji's breath caught in his throat. The screen showed a camera feed from outside, capturing a man peering down through a smoking, gaping hole in the dome. A man that Shuten Doji knew all too well.
"W-what is it, dad?" said Emi.
"A threat." Shuten Doji immediately grew serious, his smile wiping off his face. He clenched his fists, and tubes from the massive gourd strapped on his back emerged, sinking needle ends into his flesh.
Alcohol poured directly into his body, and flickers of purple energy glowed visibly through his veins. "Emi, open the elevator doors. Once I leave, you go down, and you stay down, alright?
Where it's safe.
Dad will deal with this."
"Got it!" said Emi.
The elevator doors opened to show a red tinted room. Shuten Doji stepped out.
"And you better make sure to come back!" said Emi. "What's the point of making the trip all the way here if we can't even have dinner together!?"
Shuten Doji looked back with a grin. "I will. Promise."