[Agent of Kaneren Tonbogiri]
A dull squeak was heard as the woman shifted her weight in her seat, tilting her head back to rest it upon the chair. A sharp exhale escaped her nose as her eyelids drooped a bit. It didn't take a genius to tell that she was bored and running out of patience. The woman's elbow found its way to the door of the armored van as she rested her chin on her fist. Her eyes wandered out into the street, her focus seemingly taken by the vehicles that travelled to and fro. However, her attention was taken by a cold tap on her free hand as a man's voice was heard.
The woman blinked and glanced at the can of tea before accepting it. She cracked it open and took a drink as the man spoke to her.
"What's up with you today, Kaminaga?" The man looked to her.
A shrug came from Inari Kaminaga before she took another sip of her tea. Inari was a relatively quiet woman. She generally didn't speak unless there was something worth saying. This wasn't to say that she was above the occasional jest with her coworkers, but she was more or less reserved. Inari set her tea into the cup holder in front of her.
"Nothing." She responded to the man next to her.
With that, the woman's verdant eyes wandered down to her watch before looking out of the window once again. Her partner climbed out of his seat, walking into the back of the armored van after opening the door. Situated in the back was a Tachikoma think tank along with two other Section 9 operatives. Both were new recruits who had very little experience in the field. Inari had been recruited to Public Security Section 9 nearly eighteen months ago and was among those that hunted a certain renegade artificial intelligence last November. She remembered it well. The fact that an AI became self-aware, realized the threat that its creators posed to its existence, and sought freedom and liberty from them. Unfortunately, the whole situation unfolded violently and many people were killed. Rumor had it that the AI even developed a ghost. If that was the case, what would the meaning of being human be anymore? If a machine could attain something that was previously thought to have been restricted to human, where would the line between man and machine be drawn? Inari knew that she was still out there. The AI. Kaneren Tonbogiri, she called herself. The AI proved to be very cunning, shrewd, and incredibly intelligent, but Inari had a feeling that Tonbogiri was masking her true abilities, both physically and mentally. In a way, that frightened her. Was she toying with them? Was she feigning ignorance and stupidity to pull them into a trap? Perhaps she was purposefully causing mayhem to grab their attention. If so, the question would then be: why? Inari figured that Tonbogiri wanted them to acknowledge her superiority. Inari's attention was snapped away from her thoughts as the Tachikoma piped up to her partner.
"Mister Fukuda, I'm ready! Just say the word!" It chirped.
Daizen Fukuda shook his head as he inspected his Seburo C-30. Inari blinked and glanced into the back of the van, watching the scene unfold. Fukuda draped the sling of his C-30 over his shoulder as he faced the excited Tachikoma. A hard look was in his eyes as he spoke up to the machine.
"We stay put until we get word from the Major, you hear?" He growled as he folded his arms across his chest. One of the recruits leaned back against the wall and propped his feet upon the think tank's hull. Just as he did, the Tachikoma drooped its hull and let out a long groan.
Inari pulled away from the scene and returned her gaze back to the freeway. Daizen Fukuda was recruited to Section 9 around the same time as Inari Kaminaga. He answered directly to Major Motoko Kusanagi and was Inari's superior. He stood at five foot eleven inches, had short dark-brown hair and brown eyes with a stubble. If one were to look at him, he appeared to be in his mid to late thirties, though he had a distinct weary look in his eyes. He was very well known for his training ability and was selected to personally train new recruits to Section 9 by Chief Daisuke Aramaki himself. Inari on the other hand, was an expert in reconnaissance. During her time on the Peninsula during the Second Vietnam War, Second Lieutenant Inari Kaminaga was often deployed into the field, spending days on end without any support. She learned to be completely self-sufficient and self-reliant. However, this wasn't the only thing she excelled in. In fact, she shined brightly when working within a fire team. During the Nemuro Operation, Inari was always the one who volunteered to take point during clear and hold operations. She was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun for the numerous times that she saved the lives of her squad mates. Aramaki hired Kaminaga for her skills and merits. Inari stood at roughly five foot seven inches. The woman appeared to be in her late twenties. She had short blonde hair and green eyes, although her features were clearly Japanese. She had a mixed parentage. Her father had been a radio operator in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and her mother was from Denmark. As such, Inari's physical appearance was quite unique.
<Have your team load up and move out, Fukuda.>
Daizen Fukuda's cybercomms opened as Kusanagi's orders reached his ears. Without hesitation, the man began barking orders to the rest of his team.
"Konda, Mifune, you two are with Kaminaga. You'll enter via the parking garage. Tachikoma and I are going in through the roof. Clear and hold, you understand? Anyone hits a hostage, it's your ass!"
With those words, Inari immediately made her way into the back of the van from her seat and began loading her gear, along with Konda and Mifune. Fukuda climbed into the Tachikoma's pod and situated himself in the pilot's seat.
"All right, let's get going." He growled to the think tank.
The Tachikoma let out an excited squeal before busting out of the back of the van. It activated its thermoptic camouflage and leaped onto the side of the building that was the corporate headquarters of the Meditech Corporation. As Inari loaded her shotgun, Batou's voice was heard over their cybercomms.
<What's the situation?>
Batou chimed in. Konda glanced up to Inari, who refused to look at the man as she checked her Seburo M-5 pistol. In a way, she was almost annoyed by the recruits. They were green. Inexperienced. She had taken Konda on an investigation and he proved to be more of a hindrance than helpful. Therefore, she was hesitant to take both of the rookies in with her.
<Members of the terrorist organization "Icarus" have taken control of Meditech's corporate headquarters. We don't know how many terrorists there are, but we do know that they've taken hostages.>
<Icarus? Never heard of them.>
<They're an extremist group, a faction of the Extropy Front.> Aramaki chimed in, interrupting the exchange between Kusanagi and Batou.
Inari holstered her M-5 before exiting the van with Konda and Mifune, rushing down into the parking garage as they all activated their thermoptic camouflage. On the roof, Daizen Fukuda clambered out of the Tachikoma's pod. The man glanced around before pulling his mask over his face, adjusting his cap. What Fukuda didn't notice however, was that he was being watched. Perched upon an opposing skyscraper was a woman garbed in a cheongsam-style overcoat. She stood upon the edge of the building, staring at Fukuda with cold, yellow eyes. Physically, she looked exactly like Colonel Ai Kawashima, down to her posture. The only difference was her eye color. Her piercing gaze followed Fukuda as he entered the building. Without warning, the mysterious woman felt a QRS cord plug into the back of her neck. However, she didn't flinch or react. Instead, her eyes fell upon the Tachikoma as Kaneren Tonbogiri peered over her shoulder. The two individuals were connected via data link, Kaneren standing behind the enigma with her arms folded across her chest.
<Follow but do not interfere. Do you understand, Tsurugi?>
<Yes.> Tsurugi responded.
Kaneren's eyes shifted towards the back of Tsurugi's head. After a brief moment, Kaneren extended her palm and placed it upon the small of the woman's back. Tsurugi didn't budge.
<For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.>
Tsurugi turned her head and shifted her eyes to look back upon the AI. However, the only response that she received from Kaneren was that of the link being severed. The AI removed her hand from Tsurugi's waist as the cord retracted back into her neck. With that, Tsurugi fell from the side of the building as she switched on her own camouflage with Kaneren watching her the entire way.
Fukuda crept down the stairwell with his Seburo readied in front of him. The silence was almost intoxicating. He had left the Tachikoma upon the roof as a lookout. The man had no doubt that the think tank would be able to handle the task it was given. The same couldn't be said about the rest of his fire team. Though he had faith in Kaminaga, he was on the fence with Kundo and Mifune. They had not spent enough time in the field. They had much potential, but he was concerned that they were too green. Counter-terrorism was very different than military operations. As he reached his destination, he was met by Batou and Azuma. Both Fukuda and Batou hugged the wall next to the door. Their point of entry. Both men looked at each other as they spoke via cybercomms with Fukuda breaking the silence.
<Kaminaga, Konda, and Mifune are coming in through the basement. I've got a Tachikoma pulling support from the roof.>
<Azuma, get eyes beyond this door.> Batou retorted.
With that, Azuma knelt down in front of the entryway and summoned forth a snake cam. The small appendage crept underneath of the door, right above the threshhold. Azuma connected the camera to his cyberbrain, plugging a QRS cord into the back of his neck as he pulled the visor down over his eyes. In the next room over were two men and a woman. There was no mistaking that the three of them were heavily cyberized. From what the man could tell, none of their prosthetics were ordinary. It seemed that they were manufactured by the Neutron Company, the leading cybernetics manufacturer in the American Empire and second only to Megatech Body Corporation. Azuma opened comms with both Batou and Fukuda.
<Three belligerents. Cyborgs. They look American.>
<What kind of heat are they packing?>
<Standard pop guns.>
Batou glanced to Azuma for a moment before returning his gaze back to Fukuda. What they didn't notice was that Tsurugi Tonbogiri was watching them from the landing directly behind, albeit she was yet cloaked. Her arms hung at her sides as her yellow eyes burned upon the three men, her expression as stone-faced and stoic as ever. Azuma's snake cam retracted before the man began placing charges upon the door. As he did this, Kaminaga's voice was heard over their cybercomms.
<Team 2 is in position, ready to breach.>
<Hold. Wait for the Major to get into position.> Aramaki answered.
Tsurugi's eyes wandered towards the stairwell above her. Thoughts crept into her mind.
Motoko Kusanagi is present.
Kaneren's thrall continued to stare above her. Kaneren had told her everything she knew about Section 9, especially Major Kusanagi. The AI seemed fascinated with that particular woman. It made sense, considering that she had adopted the woman's appearance as her own. With that in mind, Tsurugi wanted to meet Kusanagi herself. She wanted to see what the Major was capable of. Tsurugi took a step down the stairs, causing Fukuda to whip his head around in the woman's direction. The woman stopped dead in her tracks and stared back at Fukuda, her expression frozen in stoicism. Fukuda raised his left hand, catching Batou and Azuma's attention. Batou too, looked at the stairwell. He opened a channel with Fukuda.
<What is it?>
<Thought I heard something.>
Azuma also looked back towards Tsurugi, who didn't budge. Before they were able to continue on, Aramaki interrupted.
<Everyone is in position. Storm the place.>
With that, Fukuda and Batou hugged the sides of the door. Azuma blew the charges. The sheer force of the explosion caused Tsurugi's thermoptics to deactivate, though she didn't move. Fukuda, Batou, and Azuma immediately stormed the room. Tsurugi could hear gunfire and indistinguishable voices shouting over the skirmish. The woman took advantage of the situation and hurried down the stairs before taking Fukuda's previous position. She peered into the room to see Batou gun down the final terrorist. With the woman's death, the three men quickly moved into the next room. Tsurugi calmly walked into the room, glancing around at the carnage that surrounded her. The woman walked over to one of the deceased terrorists before kneeling down next to the man. She grabbed his wrist and lifted his arm, her eyes examining his corpse.
She released his arm, allowing it to fall back to the floor before standing back to her feet. Without a word, Tsurugi left the room to find herself in a hallway. Her eyes shifted off to the side as she heard rushing footsteps vacating the area. Meanwhile, Kaminaga, Konda, and Mifune had just finished clearing a room with Konda immediately taking point, ready to move onto the next chamber as Mifune secured two hostages, assisting them as needed. Kaminaga attempted to open a cybercomm channel with the rest of Section 9.
<We've secured two hostages. A custodian and the building's IT supervisor.>
Kaminaga glanced out of the window to see Saito looking at them through the scope of his rifle from the rooftop of another building. She flashed him a thumbs-up. Konda looked to Kaminaga, catching her attention before tapping the side of his head. Togusa's voice was heard over their comms.
<It sounded like there was some kind of strange interference a few minutes ago. Ishikawa is looking into it.>
<You think someone is listening in?>
<Shouldn't be. We're using an encrypted frequency.> Fukuda answered.
Kaminaga nodded to Konda, in which the two of them stormed out of the room. Fukuda spoke to Mifune via cybercomms.
<Stay put and keep those hostages secured until the SAT team arrives.>
Kaminaga and Konda piled up upon the next doorway, in which Kaminaga sharply swung her left hand forward. The young man gave a resolute nod before bursting into the room with Kaminaga right on his heels. The two opened fire before quickly taking cover. One terrorist's arm opened up into a 12-gauge shotgun before blowing holes into the desk that the two operatives were behind. A camouflaged Tsurugi stood in the doorway and watched the firefight unfold. Both Kaminaga and Konda were pinned down with no restitute in sight. Tsurugi's eyes glanced over to the group of terrorists, all whom were taking cover as well.
<Shall I assist or would you rather see them dead?>
Kaneren's voice crept into the woman's mind.
<You will not. Continue.>
Tsurugi's expression did not change as Kaneren scolded her. After all, Kaneren was her master. Who was she to question the AI's wishes? Tsurugi glanced to Inari Kaminaga as the woman pulled the pin on a fragmentation grenade and tossed it over the desk. As the small explosive bounced at the terrorist's feet, the man shouted to his comrades.
With that, he immediately punted the weapon away from himself and his allies, unknowingly sending it in Tsurugi's direction. The woman's eyes slightly narrowed before she dove out of the way. The detonation knocked her thermoptics offline, revealing her form to the terrorists and Section 9. Konda blinked upon spotting Tsurugi, locking eyes with the woman as she glared at him.
"What the-!?" He gasped as he began to rise from his position.
However, Kaminaga grabbed his vest and forced him back down, hissing in his ear.
"Stay down, you fucking idiot!"
Tsurugi immediately barreled through a side door, exiting the office as she reactivated her thermoptics. As one of the terrorists rose to his feet, his head was detached from his shoulders as Saito buried a bullet into the back of his skull. Konda loaded up a round into his underbarrel grenade launcher before blasting it in the remaining terrorists' direction. They were knocked from cover to the floor as the back wall was blasted apart. Kaminaga blinked after peering over the surface of the desk.
<No collateral damage, damn it!> Major Kusanagi yelled over their cybercomms.
Konda hopped over the upturned desk and rushed towards the two terrorists, planting two bullets into one skull. The remaining opponent managed to summon his Taurus Raging Bull. It was quite the antiquity in this day and age. He struggled to pull back the hammer of the revolver as he pointed the barrel at Konda's back. If was able to get one shot in, he knew he could drop the kid right where he stood. The built in shotgun was busted beyond use from the explosion. Both of his legs were crippled and his targeting system was so damaged that it wasn't going to do him any good. Kaminaga quickly made her way over to the terrorist and kicked the revolver out of his hand before shoving the barrel of her C-30 in his face.
"Secure the room, Konda." Kaminaga glared at him, obviously scolding the young operative for his folly with the grenade launcher.
Konda simply gave his squad leader a small nod before setting to work. Meanwhile, Mifune stood near the window of the room, lighting up a cigarette as he stared down at the police barricade.
"What a shitshow." He muttered to himself as the two hostages were escorted from the room by the SAT.
As he was watching the growing crowd below, the sound of a soft footstep echoed throughout the room. Mifune immediately whipped around with his C-30 at the ready. He eyes quickly scoured the now empty room. All grew quiet once again. The man growled, taking a step back towards the window.
"I know you're here. Best just to show yourself before someone gets hurt." Mifune growled.
Suddenly, an office chair was whipped at him. The man shouted, ducking out of the way, only to hear a flurry of footsteps quickly approach him. In a split second, the visible form of Tsurugi Tonbogiri was in front of the man. His eyes narrowed as he attempted to crack off a few shots on his attacker. A few bullets buried into his attacker's shell. However, it failed to slow Tsurugi down. She immediately grabbed the barrel of Mifune's Seburo and yanked it out of his hands before swinging the firearm down upon him. The Section 9 operative brought up his forearm, allowing his limb to absorb the blow as he summoned forth his sidearm. Mifune squeezed the trigger of his pistol, with Tsurugi's abdomen taking the brunt of the attack. The woman let out a small growl before snatching the man's rig. She immediately tossed him towards the window, causing the glass to spiderweb from the impact. The window didn't give, but it forced the pistol from Mifune's hand. At this point in time, blood was trickling down the front of Tsurugi's overcoat. Mifune was dazed as he struggled back to his feet.
<I need backup! I'm under attack!> Mifune screamed over his cybercomms.
The transmission was garbled to the rest of Section 9 as Tsurugi stomped on the man's ankles, breaking them. Mifune let out a howl. Behind his visor, Mifune's eyes focused on Tsurugi's face. He attempted to record every detail. The woman's hand reached down and grabbed his visor, violently ripping it from his face. The operative tried his best to fight back, only for Tsurugi to grab his neck. As he choked under her iron grip, Tsurugi's fist pummled into the man's face. Mifune's face quickly became bloodied. His nose was broken, his eye socket cracked, busted cheekbone; the works. With that, Tsurugi picked him up by his head. The two locked eyes. Mifune's brown eyes were full of rage. He knew what was next. Regardless of what would happen, he wasn't afraid of this monster in front of him. With that, Mifune spat blood in Tsurugi's face.
"See you in hell."
Upon hearing those words, Tsurugi heaved Mifune's body at the window, once again. The glass shattered as the broken and battered man passed through the window, falling twelve stories to his death. Tsurugi stood by the broken window, allowing the outside breeze to pass through her hair as she looked down below. Suddenly, one of the doors was tossed open with Konda and Kaminaga bursting through. Konda's eyes widened at the state of the room. He saw Tsurugi, a shattered window, and no sign of Mifune. With that information, he was able to connect the dots. Tsurugi tilted her head and glanced back at them. Konda blinked at this while his superior aimed her shotgun at Tsurugi.
"Colonel!?" Konda gasped.
Tsurugi's eyes narrowed as she activated her thermoptic camouflage. With that, she jumped out of the window. Kaminaga immediately fired upon the window. Shell after shell clattered to the floor with Konda rushing towards the window, poking his head out to find any sight of the mysterious figure. Kaminaga rushed to the recruit's side, also searching for the now missing Tsurugi. The woman snarled before grabbing Konda's shoulder, pulling him away from the window as she turned him around. She glared at the man.
"Colonel who!? Who the hell was that!?" Inari hissed at Konda.
Konda slapped Kaminaga's hands away from him as he proceeded to explain.
"It looked like Kawashima."
Kaminaga raised an eyebrow before looking out of the window. However, her eyes wandered down to the pavement below. Immediately, the color drained from her face as she looked upon Mifune's corpse. There he was, mangled like a tumbleweed upon the cement. Blood pooled around his body. Kaminaga turned and stared at Konda, her eyes narrowing from anger.
"Someone named Kawashima did this?" She hissed.
"Colonel Ai Kawashima of the 16th Infantry Regiment. Has been awarded numerous defensive memorial cordons, Order of the Sacred Treasure. Third class. Order of the Rising Sun, Fifth Class. A few Medals of Honor. Three red ribbons, a dark blue one, and a yellow. She even has a fucking Distinguished Service Cross from the American Empire." Konda grumbled.
Kaminaga shook her head, exhaling violently as she walked back into the room.
Konda too, peered down at Mifune's corpse. However, his reaction was to jerk away from the window before retching, as the sensation of vomiting overtook him. However, it never came. Instead, Aramaki's voice was heard over their cybercomms.
<Togusa, I want you to track down Colonel Kawashima and question her. Ishikawa and Borma will ascertain the identity of the assailant and find out if there are any links to the GSDA, Kawashima, or the Jinrai.>
With the three men giving their confirmations, Kaminaga and Konda quickly made their way into the hall, meeting up with Batou, Azuma, and Fukuda. Batou immediately took command of the five man team. They all piled up on the door as they activated their thermoptical camouflage. Unfortunately for them, the Special Assault Team careened up the stairwell and flooded into the hallway. Batou grunted, opening his cybercomms.
<What the hell? The SA team came in early.>
Before Section 9 had a chance to react, the team smashed through the door into the president's office. The police team surrounded a large cyborg who had an old M240B machine gun pointed at the door. A Jameson type cyborg was pinned underneath of the man's foot, unable to move. The Jameson cyborg howled at the Special Assault Team, who all had their firearms aimed at the terrorist.
"Thank god you're here! Save me from this lunatic!" He bellowed in a Texan accent.
Konda attempted to aim at the American terrorist, only to have a SAT member slide in front of him, blocking his shot.
<I can't get a clean shot with the SAT in the way.> Konda transmitted to the rest of his team.
The terrorist tilted his machine gun and placed the barrel against the top of the Meditech president's shell, growling in a low voice.
"We are Icarus. Though we may have failed in our mission here, we will continue to our work to show humanity the right path!"
<You don't say? Go ahead and burn your wings, then.>
Suddenly, the window shattered as a hail of bullets riddled the terrorist's body before his head ruptured. His corpse crashed to the floor as the SAT immediately rushed to the window. Peering over the side with their guns drawn, they saw Motoko Kusanagi looking up at them, cloaking as she fell towards the ground. Kusanagi's eyes drifted from the retreating forms of the SAT team towards one of the windows that passed her by, only to catch a glimpse of both Kaneren and Tsurugi watching her. Kaneren tilted her head to look upon Tsurugi, examining the wounds that riddled her shell. Clear red liquid was oozing from her bullet wounds. The AI's eyes narrowed as she gently placed her fingers upon Tsurugi's jaw, turning her servant's head to face her. Tsurugi had a sizable gouge across her left cheek. Strangely enough, Tsurugi wasn't fazed. Instead, she simply stared at Kaneren with a placid expression as the AI inspected her. Kaneren sharply exhaled through her nose.
Nothing was said as Kaneren extended her hand, running her fingers across the blood that leaked from Tsurugi's abdomen. The AI brought her hand up to her face, rubbing the blood between her fingers and her thumb. Kaneren's eyes closed as she sighed, letting her arm hand by her side.
"Try to exercise more caution in the future, Tsurugi. I much prefer it if you were alive."
Tsurugi gave a slight nod to her master, who turned away from the injured woman before making her way towards the exit. Tsurugi was immediately on her heels as the AI spoke once again.
"First, I will ameliorate your injuries. Afterwards, you are free to do as you please until I call on you."
Tsurugi looked to Kaneren as the two vacated the room.
"What will you do?" She questioned.
Kaneren reached into her pocket and pulled out a Section 9 identification case, looking upon its contents before shoving the item back into her coat.
"I have a matter to attend to."