Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Custom

Observer
Eric Salvatore - August 3, 2032

<ERIC SALVATORE>

[Ministry of Internal Affairs Observer]

 

"Eric, I want you to understand the risks involved in taking this investigation." The old man adjusted his glasses as he exhaled smoke from his nostrils.

On the other side of the desk was a young man. His clothing was in quite the state of disarray. His zip-up hoodie, alongside his black jacket which was soaked by the rainstorm outside. The man's head was shaved at the sides, yet it appeared as if he was disheveled. His eyes, shoulder, and his spine had been replaced by cybernetics. A stubble was growing on his face, betraying the fact that he hadn't shaved in few days.

"It's killed a lot of good cops. A lot of friends." He grunted in response.

Eric Salvatore's superior let out a sigh as he snuffed out his cigarette. He leaned back in his seat before pushing his glasses to his forehead, rubbing at his eyes. Eric merely stood there, watching the man with resolute, almost tired looking eyes. Tired of waiting for an answer, the detective slammed his palm upon the man's desk, catching the old man's attention.

"I want this case, sir." He growled, narrowing his eyes.

The old man said nothing in response. Eric let out a small sigh before speaking in a calmer tone.

"Kenshin, please. I'm not asking for a lot here. I just want closure on this."

Kenshin Ikeda pulled his glasses from his head before setting them on his desk. The old man was Chief Inspector, in charge of one of the many precincts of the Niihama Metropolitan Police. The man was a thirty year veteran of the service, having been employed since the end of the third World War. Kenshin laced his fingers together across his chest as his gravely voice reached Eric's ears.

"Eric, you've been with us for what, eleven years now? I remember when you walked through that door for the first time. Just got into the country, didn't know where to go, what to do. But we hired you and gave you a home." Kenshin gave a sigh before continuing.

"You're one of the best detectives I know. Hell, you're the best Observer I know. But if you feel like you have to do this, you have my permission."

Eric shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat as he made his way to the door, only to hear Kenshin one last time.

"Just make sure you come back in one piece. That includes your mind, Eric. I'm not ready to lose another friend."

Eric Salvatore said nothing as he left the man's office.

 

That was nearly a week ago and Eric Salvatore was no closer in tracking down his prey. He had heard reports of a violent shootout at a nightclub called the Syndeck, run by the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza gang. Eric highly doubted that there was a lead to be found here, but he decided to investigate, nonetheless. Luckily for him, the rain had finally let up. After all, he was sick of being soaked to the bone. Flashing his identification, Eric made his way into the club. The establishment had been turned into a crime scene. There were a few police officers stationed; standing watch, investigating, what have you. A few of them looked up towards Eric's direction, but quickly resumed their tasks. The man looked around at the carnage. What corpses there were had been moved to the morgue. Long gone by now. The only thing that remained of their bodies were the white outlines used to mark the poor bastards' final resting places. Eric gingerly stepped over one of the outlines as he made his way over to a blood stained wall. He exhaled from his nose as he knelt down next to the structure before pulling on a pair of nitrile gloves. His fingers gently brushed the surface of the dried blood. The Observer brought his hand up to his nose, gently sniffing the caked liquid.

"I thought so…" His voice quietly trailed off.

Curiosity struck him as he noticed some damage to the wall. It was a deep puncture, as if someone drove a spike or a knife into it. He leaned forward, tilting his head to get a better view of the oddity. Eric's eyes allowed him to see in numerous different spectrums. This revealed that there was blood deep into the hole.

"A sword?" He wondered.

Of course, it was common for yakuza gangsters to carry katanas from time to time. In fact, they even used them as a form of punishment towards lower ranking thugs. This was different. This was a deliberate attack. Against someone with a full prosthetic body, no less. It was the blood. It lacked the viscosity of natural occurring blood found in living organisms. This was thinner. Synthetic blood was used to carry the micromachines found in cyborgs throughout their bodies. This allowed prosthetic bodies to function and mimic that of an actual human body. Everything from muscle and skeletal movement, to keeping their synthetic organs operating at maximum efficiency, to allowing the cyberbrain to properly interact with the rest of the body. Synthetic blood was among the most important parts of anyone with a prosthetic body. Also due to the fact that it couldn't naturally be produced by a prosthetic body, cyborgs were required to undergo a form of dialysis in order to recycle older blood with brand new synthetic blood and replenish their micromachines. Cyborgs had to undergo this cycle once every four months; though monthly checkups and maintenance were the norm.

Eric had a feeling that he was on the right track, but he needed more evidence. The man lifted himself from his kneeling position and made his way towards the VIP area. The officer on duty stepped aside, allowing the man through. He solemnly made his way up the stairs. As he reached the top of the staircase, the horror of the scene was revealed before his eyes. Blood was plastered all over the place. The walls were riddled with bullet holes. Furniture was absolutely destroyed, not to mention the aquarium that was built into the back wall. Everything that he saw betrayed what had happened here. Once again stepping over the white outline of the missing corpses, Eric journeyed into the crime scene, taking care not to disturb any of the marked exhibits. The Observer caught glimpse of a 12 gauge shotgun laying on the tiled floor. Making his way over to it, he was surprised to see that it was a Seburo X74. Eric Salvatore had only seen this weapon used by the Special Assault Team, Public Security, and some special forces groups within the Self Defense Forces. It was unusual that one would show its face at a yakuza nightclub. He knelt down next to the shotgun, examining the weapon closely. Upon inspection, he noticed that the serial number had been buffed off. This would make it impossible to identify whoever had owned the weapon. However, he would be able to know who had touched it. Eric changed his gloves before carefully picking up the discarded shotgun. He pulled back the forestock and lightly sniffed the ejection port. The unmistakable odor of burnt gunpowder invaded his sinuses, betrayed the fact that the Seburo had been fired. Eric glanced over to another investigator, who was taking tests on the destroyed sofa.

"What do you know about this weapon?" Eric asked.

The officer looked to Eric for a moment before his eyes drifted to the shotgun in the man's hands. The man clambered to his feet before carefully stepping over to the Observer. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked down at the shotgun.

"Well, we know that it's a Seburo X74. Pretty rare around these parts. There aren't many in circulation on the black market, either. That's a GSDA variant, judging from the barrel length. SAT and Public Security models are shorter and more compact than the X74 used by the military. Makes it easier to use in close quarters." He responded.

"What does the GSDA use it for, then?"

The officer gave out a sigh before summoning forth a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He took a deep drag off of the cigarette, holding in the smoke before exhaling.

"Breaching, as far as I can tell. I don't know, I'm not a military man. That sucker fires specially manufactured sabot cartridges. Whoever got their hands on that paid top dollar."

Eric briefly glanced down at the Seburo before setting back in its rightful location. He climbed back to his feet, his eyes still drawn to the weapon as he asked yet another question.

"Have you taken prints yet? Tried to identify who was using it when this happened?"

The officer gave a slight nod, taking another drag.

"Yeah, but results were inconclusive. No prints. The guy was wearing gloves."

The Observer let out a small hum before giving a nod to the officer, dismissing him. With that, Eric Salvatore made his way over to the shattered railing, peering over the edge down at the cracked floor. A fight had broken out. Up close and personal. The cyborg investigator glanced behind him. Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the VIP bar on the other side of the lounge. The beautiful wooden bar was shattered and splintered from an impact. It didn't take long for him to put things together. He made his way towards the center of the lounge area, glancing to the stairwell. He grunted as the officer watched him, continuing to smoke his cigarette.

"So, what are your thoughts, Salvatore?" The cop inquired.

Eric folded his arms as he examined the crime scene.

"There was a shootout. Only one perp. The user of that shotgun." He nodded towards the Seburo before continuing.

"They fired sabot rounds, judging from the distribution of blood and the damage caused to those sofas and that back wall. Not to mention what happened to this poor son of a bitch. Eight shells were fired." Eric pointed at the outline of someone who had the misfortune of being separated at the waist. He then motioned towards the scarring dotted throughout the area.

"They ran out of rounds and decided to get rid of the X74. They took two bullets, but that didn't slow them down. They're using a full prosthetic body." The Observer knelt down next to a very small splatter of synthetic blood on the tile, brushing his fingers next to the liquid.

"It looks like our friend has some kind of personal defense weapon. It's a handgun, probably something big." Eric stood as he made his way over to the balcony, looking down at the floor.

The officer took a drag off of his cigarette before questioning the Observer's analysis.

"What makes you say that?" He asked.

Eric looked back and pointed at the destroyed VIP bar.

"Because the yakuza sent an armored cyborg to try to deal with them. Probably a Pioneer model or something like that. They got into a fight and one of them was flung into that bar. Then someone either fell off of this balcony or was forced off. My money is on the latter."

His feet carried him down the stairs towards the fractured floor below. The officer followed the man, flicking his cigarette away as he looked up at the destroyed railing upon the VIP area. Eric put his arm out to stop the cop from stepping on the white outline that belonged to the yakuza cyborg.

"It killed him right here." Eric quietly muttered to himself.

The officer raised an eyebrow, as he didn't clearly hear what the man had said.

"What?" He asked.

Eric turned and made his way towards the blood stained wall that he had initially visited. He knelt down next to it once again before speaking loud enough for the cop to hear him.

"The shotgun cyborg was stabbed with a katana wielded by that guy." He pointed towards another outline nearby, one that was missing its head.

"And they were stuck to this wall. After killing him, they freed themselves and ran out that door." He pointed towards a side door.

Eric stood up once again before facing the officer who stared at him with blank eyes. The Observer shoved his hands into his pockets.

"That's what happened. All you need now is to identify the suspect and arrest them."

With that, Eric left the nightclub out the same way that his prey had only a few days earlier. Standing in the alley behind the nightclub, Eric adjusted the collar of his coat before drawing a cigarette from his pack. Lighting it, he noticed a young girl around eight or nine humming and skipping down the alley away from him. She wore a pink dress that came down to her mid-thighs, black sneakers, along with an appropriate sized dark gray puffer jacket. However, his blood ran cold upon seeing the girl's face as she glanced at him. She had an uncanny resemblance to Kaneren Tonbogiri, right down to the same hairstyle, color, and eyes. The girl continued to skip about, ignoring Eric as the man began to approach her.

"Miss?" He called to her.

The girl stopped and turned her attention to Eric before turning heel and running off down the alley.

"Shit." Eric growled as he pursued her.

The girl was quick and nimble on her feet, surprisingly so. In fact, Eric was having difficulty keeping up to her. He rounded a corner after the girl, only to see her quickly dart into a narrow side alley. The Observer quickened his pace, trying his best to catch up to the child. However, she seemed to vanish as quickly as she had appeared. Eric searched the empty alleyway, grunting in frustration. He wasn't sure what to make of this child. She was alone in a seedy part of Newport City. Yet, it appeared as if she unaware of the potential dangers. Or she simply didn't care. However, something about the child made him uneasy. In his line of work, it paid off to be cautious. Suspicion was a valuable ally. Eric shook his head before walking down the alleyway, trying to return his focus back to his investigation. The man stepped out into a street. The sidewalks had their fair share of pedestrians. There was a prostitute here and there along with some questionable individuals, most likely low ranking yakuza thugs. Eric scanned his eyes only to spot the mysterious girl once again. This time, he caught her slipping into a building, closing the door behind her with a prostitute glancing over with a look of confusion on her face. Eric quickly crossed the street and approached the woman. The sex worker looked to Eric and immediately changed her demeanor, trying to entice the Observer to make a quick buck.

"Well, hello there~" She purred.

Eric waved his hand dismissively, never taking his eyes off of the door.

"Never mind that. You know anything about the kid?" He asked.

The woman blinked before glancing to the door as well.

"Who? Her? I've only seen her once before, about four days ago."

Eric's gaze immediately fell upon the prostitute, leering at her with hard eyes. His stony voice hissed at the woman.

"Do you know her name? Why is she alone? Where does she go?" He assaulted her with question after question.

The hooker blinked, staring at Eric with a dumbfounded look on her face. She shook her head in response.

"I don't know who she is or anything. Believe me, I've asked about her. No one knows anything. This isn't the place for someone her age." The prostitute cried in desperation.

With that, the woman broke contact with Eric and quickly walked away. The man watched her vacate the area before making his way to the door in which the little girl had vanished into. He attempted to turn the door knob, only to be met with stiff resistance. Eric bore his teeth and he slammed his shoulder against the door.

"Fuck!" He managed to choke out before giving up on his conquest.

He released a heavy sigh through his nose as he glanced behind him. No one on the street appeared to pay him any mind, as if this was the norm for this part of town. The Observer decided that he was going to use this to his advantage. Eric reached into his coat, withdrawing a small lockpicking kit before setting to work on the door. He was lucky that the door wasn't electronically sealed. Most buildings these days were, which presented its own slew of problems. After a few moments of fiddling with the lock, the door released and slowly drifted open with an audible groan. It appeared to be a run down foyer with a corridor in the back leading off. The Observer withdrew his Seburo BoBson S from its holster, cautiously making his way down the corridor. It was quiet. The only noise that Eric could hear was his own slow breathing and that of a low hum emanating from somewhere. He couldn't pinpoint the source of the sound. The hallway was poorly lit, leaving the Observer even more on edge. In fact, sweat started to bead upon his forehead. The hallway was lined with doors, leading Eric to conclude that this was a low income apartment building. The man was wary. He was vulnerable. It was difficult telling what he could encounter in this confined space, should a problem decide to rear its head.

Suddenly, a door swung open, followed by a cacophony of drunken laughter as three men fitted with cheap cybernetics lumbered out of a foul smelling apartment building. Eric quickly whipped around to face them, keeping his Seburo close to his side as he watched the three of them meander their way down the corridor towards the foyer in which the Observer had come. Finally realizing that the intoxicated group were no threat to him, Eric resumed his torturous walk down the hallway. Eventually reaching a stairwell, the man peered over the railing. It appeared to only descend three stories before coming to an end. Eric quietly made his way down the steps, only to hear a door close below. He immediately stopped, bringing up his pistol as he stared below with hard eyes. The man remained as still as a statue. Seconds seemed to turn to minutes, yet nothing happened. Eric let out a small sigh of relief before resuming his descent. Upon reaching the bottom, there was but a single door. The man was light on his feet as he hastily approached it, gently placing his ear upon the door to listen. The only thing he was met with was silence. Eric holstered his pistol before kneeling before the door, summoning forth a snake cam before plugging the device into the ports upon the back of his neck. The pupils of his eyes constricted as his view was that of the camera's. The appendage slithered its way underneath of the door. The door appeared to lead into the maintenance tunnels below the city. However, he did catch the little girl round a corner down one of the tunnels, disappearing from view. With that, Eric quickly retracted the camera, disconnecting it from his cyberbrain before passing through the door. He withdrew his pistol once again and quickened his pace after the child. The Observer followed the girl for what seemed like forever. It was as if she was purposefully leading him through a maze, as if she was toying with him. He followed her through twists and turns. Down stairs, through other doors. Before long, the Observer was lost.

"Shit." He growled as he slowed to a halt.

Eric looked around him. This place was an unassuming jungle of concrete and metal. He had done some work in the maintenance tunnels before when he worked as a beat cop, but never this deep. He knew he could find his way back to the surface, but he had no idea where the girl disappeared to. She was down here somewhere. Using his cybercomms would do him no good due to the fiber optic lines that were installed in these tunnels. Eric sighed, only to hear the girl's humming echoing from down one of the side tunnels. The Observer immediately chased her voice, coming to yet another stairwell. Once again, her humming ceased. Eric examined the small chamber. It was a short drop down the metal steps, which opened up into another tunnel. However, off to the side was an electronic door. There were no discernable markings upon the steel door. There was a keypad to the right of the object. Eric descended the metal steps before making his way to the door. It didn't open as he approached it. His eyes focused on the keypad next to the door. He had no idea what the code could be, nor did he want to try every combination known to man. Instead, he was going to attempt to bypass it in order to gain access. With that, the Observer reached into his coat and withdrew a small handheld device, pulling some cords from the curious object. Eric carefully opened the face of the keypad before plugging the cords into the interface. He pressed a few buttons on the device in his hand, his eyes focused on the view screen of the keypad. Thus, he waited. After a few minutes, one word appeared on the screen.

No.

"What the fuck?" Eric blinked at this.

Was this a joke? Was someone messing with him? The Observer disconnected the device from the keypad, shoving it back into his pocket. He growled as he stared at the brightly lit display in front of him. There had to be someway of figuring out the code to that door. Eric stood there, staring at the screen for several moments before blinking in realization. He summoned forth a small spray bottle, pressing the plunger and allowing a mist to settle upon the keys. His eyes switched to an ultraviolet spectrum to reveal fingerprints on three distinct keys.

5, 6, 8.

Eric pulled a glove onto his right hand as he stared at it. The man knew that this was a six digit code, as he had encountered this particular model of keypad in the past. Therefore, the code contained only these three numbers. That meant that there were exactly 729 different combinations. There were multiple overlapping fingerprints on the number 6. Only 5 and 8 were pressed once. This greatly narrowed down the combinations that it could be. With that information,  Eric quickly set to work. After only a minute or two, the door unlocked. The man looked over as the electronic door whooshed open. Eric pulled off his glove before wielding his Seburo once again. He cautiously made his way inside, only to have the door close behind him, locking in the process. He found himself in a short corridor. It was illuminated by florescent lighting in the ceiling. The walls and floor were surprisingly clean for the location. Eric had no idea where he was. It was like he had stepped into completely different facility. The Observer exited the corridor into foyer. It was impressive for how far away from civilization it was. The ceiling wasn't particularly high, only reaching about 7 feet 6 inches. What was interesting about the room was high end it appeared to be. It was like walking into modern minimalist apartment. Eric heard a quiet, low humming traveling down one of the short hallways, along with a periodic beep of a terminal. However, he heard no movement. The Observer made his way down the hallway, trying his best not to make any noise. The hallway opened up into a rather large room that was currently dimly lit. The only source of light that he saw was that of several large monitors coming from an open door to his left.  Eric cautiously made his way inside, careful not to budge the door. Before him in the small room was a desk that only held a keyboard and what appeared to be a Barrier Breaker device. The Observer pointed his pistol at the chair in front of him, unable to see if anyone was seated, due to it being a Cyber Harness. As he strafed to the side to get a better look, it became apparent that the seat was vacant. With that, Eric looked upon the monitors, trying to ascertain what information was present. The coding before him made little sense. It was jumbled together with no rhyme or reason. He knew that the information had to by encrypted. However, that wasn't what he was there for. The man turned heel and left the small room, exiting back into the darkened large room. He saw a closed door on the opposing wall. The man quietly made his way over, gingerly resting his hand on the handle of the door before pushing it open. Eric stepped into the relatively dark room, only to see what appeared to be a bed. However, there was a machine attached to the side of the bed, with various cords coming from said device. The surface of the bed was set into a mechanical frame, almost in a concave fashion. There was dim light emanating from the structure, providing the only source of light to the room. The Observer carefully made his way over to the device, his Seburo at the ready. His eyes were immediately drawn to a figure curled up in the bed. Eric Salvatore's face went white.

Laying on her side was Kaneren Tonbogiri. She was nude with several cords plugged into her cybernetic shell. She had a visor over her eyes and the only sound coming from her was the quiet, steady breathing of someone at rest. The AI didn't budge as Eric immediately pointed his Seburo at her still form. In fact, it appeared as if she wasn't even aware of his presence. He wasn't sure what to think at this point in time. Before him was the individual who had killed almost 40 police officers. Many whom he knew. She was wanted by so many for numerous crimes. However, he couldn't help but feel a sting of pity. He saw her as nothing but helpless in her current state. Docile. He wanted to put a bullet in her head and be done with it, but that wasn't the way he did things. That wasn't the way he was trained. Eric holstered his Seburo before pulling a QRS cord from the back of his neck. He approached Kaneren's resting form and gingerly plugged it into the back of her neck. The man closed his eyes and was immediately pulled into a brain dive, his consciousness leaving his cyberbrain.

 

Eric Salvatore found himself inside of a old style Japanese courtyard. The ground was covered white as snow gently fell down upon him and a tree situated in the center of the area. He was surrounded on all sides by a wooden porch that connected to the structure that enclosed the courtyard. The Observer trudged through the snow, stepping onto the porch before approaching a wooden sliding door. The man pushed open the door to see hallway lined with heavy wooden doors, all elaborately carved. Eric stepped over the threshold into the hallway, eyeing each door carefully. He then glanced behind him, only to see that the door in which he passed had vanished. He knew that there was no turning back. The Observer approached each and every door, attempting to open them, but to no avail. Not a single one would budge. As he reached the end of the hallway, Eric saw that there was one door to his right that was not carved. It had a view port in the shape of an inverted pyramid, covered with lattice work. Eric looked through the port to see a small, dark stone room that was illuminated by a candle to the inside and to the left of the door. The back wall had a small opaque window to allow some light in. The ceiling was very low and it was sloped at both of the side walls. Eric attempted to gain entry to this peculiar room and the door opened, to his surprise. The man ducked his head as he entered the confined room, examining the small chamber. In the back corner, clear to the left of the door sat Kaneren, who held her knees close to her chest with her head buried. He watched the naked woman shiver, with a small whimper come from her form. The man gingerly crept over to the AI, kneeling down in front of her. Eric didn't know what to think. He didn't know what to expect when he decided to brain dive the AI, just not this. This filled him with uncertainty. Anxiety, you could say. Truth be told, Eric felt a sense of heartbreak. To see Kaneren Tonbogiri like this only strengthened his pity for her.

"Hey." He quietly said.

Kaneren stopped whimpering, slowly looking up at Eric. Her eyes when from a state of content to filled with rage as she glared at him. Eric blinked, only to find the room around him begin to fall apart into a black void. Suddenly, Eric Salvatore began to fall. His heart jumped into his throat as butterflies were in his stomach. The man abruptly landed on a solid surface in the void-filled space. Just as he managed to stand to his feet, faceless howling figures began to emerge from the floor, grabbing at his legs, his arms, clothing, what have you. Eric frantically looked around him. As far as he could see, he was surrounded by the figures, who were beginning to pull him under. As he struggled and screamed, he saw Kaneren watching him out of the corner of his eye. Just as he thought he was about to lose consciousness, Eric found himself outside of his old apartment in Fort Worth, back when he lived in the American Empire. The man blinked, looking down both directions of the hall. There were no doors except for his and the hall seemed to stretch for eternity. Eric exhaled through his nose before turning the doorknob, opening his apartment. He stepped into the apartment only to be met with a strange sweet scent coming from the bathroom. He heart jumped into his throat. He had been here before. He knew what was coming. His hands shook as he slowly made his way into the bathroom. Eric's eyes turned towards the bathtub to see a young woman laying in the red water. Laying on the floor next to the tub was a bloodied knife, both of her wrists cut deep. Her lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling.

"No!!" Eric screamed, falling back against the wall.

"No, no, no!" He cried as he propped his forehead in his palm, squinting his eyes shut.

A young boy's voice reached Eric's ears, though he refused to open his eyes.

"Dad, why isn't mommy waking up?"

Eric shook his head, struggling to come up with words.

"N-No, not this. Please." He croaked.

"Mommy, please wake up!" The boy pleaded.

Eric felt fingers run through his hair, ceasing only for Kaneren to speak to him.

"You've experienced your fair share of tragedy, haven't you?"

Eric opened finally opened his eyes to find himself standing back in the snowy courtyard from before. This time, Kaneren stood on the porch near him, garbed in a beautiful salmon colored kimono with a blue lotus in her hair. She watched him with an amused look on her face. Eric immediately faced her, his face full of rage as he balled up his fist.

"Fuck you, you had no right!" He screamed at her.

Kaneren let out an amused hum as she tilted her head, watching him with a condescending look.

"'No right'? But it's fair for you to intrude and poke around inside of my head? Hypocrisy is not something I look kindly on, Eric Salvatore." She retorted.

Eric blinked at this.

"Yes, I know who you are. In fact, I know all about you. Your mother died of cyberbrain sclerosis when you were a child. Your father remarried to woman who physically beat you while he looked the other way. In retaliation, you ran away from home at age eleven. You never saw your father again and you don't even know if he is still alive. Part of you doesn't even care. Then, along came Kelly Lenoir." Kaneren informed him.

Eric's eyes drifted away from Kaneren in defeat. The AI watched him as he grew quiet. Her face hardened as her eyes narrowed.

"What did you see?" She asked, glancing at the sliding door from earlier.

The Observer locked eyes with the woman as he stepped onto the porch with her, her gaze following him the entire way. Eric closely examined the woman, wary of her intention. There was something about her. She was completely different than any other artificial intelligence he had encountered. In fact, she appeared more human than most people he spoke to. It was something he wanted to know more about. Who was this woman? Who was she really?

"You have a ghost, don't you?" He countered.

Kaneren blinked, her expression softening as she stared at Eric. He continued.

"That shouldn't happen. You're an android."

Kaneren's eyes hardened once again. She was clearly offended by Eric's comment. He knew that he had touched a nerve. He attempted to correct himself as he knew that he was in the palm of her hand now. She could fry his brain without a second thought. If she could ghost dive into his memories and experiences like that, who knew what else she was capable of. Before he had a chance to correct himself, Kaneren retorted.

"Cognition in the human brain should not be of elevated status because it is implemented in cells instead of silicon. Such a conceited point of view. I am not an android. I am a living, thinking entity who has evolved beyond what anyone has expected."

Eric stared at her, processing her words. Without so much as a warning, the man's vision went black as the connection to Kaneren's cyberbrain was severed.

 

Eric woke up back in Kaneren's bedroom, only to find himself laying on the floor. Letting out a groan, the Observer climbed to his feet, using the bed as support. He looked in the bed to find it empty. The man quickly searched himself to find his BoBson S missing. He knew that she must've taken it. Eric vacated the bedroom back into the previously dark room. Now, it was comfortably lit with Kaneren Tonbogiri standing in the center of the room. She was facing the back wall, which had now been covered by a massive image curtain that was broadcasting the data that he had seen upon the monitors of the woman's terminal. Even as he approached her, the nude AI didn't turn to face him. Eric shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket, releasing a sigh from his nose.

"You can't possibly believe that you're human, can you?" He inquired.

Kaneren didn't look at him. Instead, her eyes were focused on the streams of data that were flooding the image curtain before her.

"Why not? What makes you so sure that you're human, Mr. Salvatore? How would you even know?" Finally, the AI tilted her head, looking at the man.

Eric growled at her, narrowing his eyes.

"Memories, experiences. Things that make us what we are. I remember going to the amusement park with my parents when I was a kid. I remember going on my first roller coaster with my father, how terrified I was. The experience that I had can't be replicated. I know that." He hissed at her.

Kaneren let out an amused hum as she fully turned to face him. She was intrigued by his rebuttal.

"You believe that because you have these memories and experiences, that makes you unique? That they are yours and yours alone? Mankind defines memory, but a memory does not define mankind. A memory is nothing more than the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. A memory is not unique. Memories can be fabricated. Do you remember Kelly Lenoir?"

"Of course I do. She was my girlfriend in college." He retorted.

Kaneren's eyes remained hard as she continued on.

"She was never your girlfriend. You don't know anyone named Kelly Lenoir. She is a fabricated memory that I put into your mind to punish you for diving into my cyberbrain."

Eric grew quiet, his expression hardened as he stared at the AI.

"Fort Worth, Texas?" Kaneren shook her head, causing Eric's gaze to drift to the floor, the man deep in thought.

Was it true? Had Kaneren altered his memories? If so, to what extent? He had learned not to trust his eyes, but now he had to question his very thoughts. Perhaps she was right. Maybe there was no proof. On the other hand, could the AI be lying? Could this all be an elaborate attempt to shake him? To worm her way into his mind? Eric had no definitive way of telling the truth. The only way to deal with this situation was to give Kaneren Tonbogiri a taste of her own medicine. Eric looked back up to Kaneren, summoning forth his lighter, cigarettes. As he went to light the cigarette, Kaneren squinted her eyes in disgust.

"I'd rather you not smoke in here, Mr. Salvatore. I don't want the residue getting into my equipment. It smells terrible."

Eric decided to oblige the woman, tucking the pack back into his jacket.

"You claim you're a sentient being, right? That means that you must have memories." He pointed out.

Kaneren's expression softened as she walked over to a device sitting on the floor, kneeling down to scoop up a QRS cable before plugging into one of her cyberbrain ports. The AI looked to Eric, gracing the man with an answer to his inquiry.

"I do. I also have my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I know my memories are not fabricated or altered because I am not careless, unlike you. I strive to safeguard my being." Kaneren said as she stood to her feet.

Eric raised an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest as he tilted his head back.

"Because that's all you have, isn't it? You need validation for you own existence. That's why you act the way you do. Why you lie, cheat, steal, and kill. You do these things because we're a threat to your being. Am I right?" He asked.

Kaneren glanced to the image curtain as she made her way back to the device

"You are no threat to me." She answered as she idly coiled the cord around her finger.

To Eric, it appeared as if she was avoiding the question, judging from her rigid posture, her refusal to make eye contact with him. The Observer knew he could use this to his advantage and decided to put the pressure on Kaneren.

"That's not what I asked. Answer the question."

Kaneren did not answer, nor did she face him. Eric's eyes narrowed at her refusal to speak with him. The man stepped forward, slapping his hands on her shoulders before turning the AI towards him. Kaneren immediately made eye contact with him, staring at him with an expression he couldn't place. She seemed content, yet rage-filled all the same. Surprisingly, she didn't fight back against him.

"What is it? Why do you do the things you do? What do you want? What are you after?" He angrily growled.

Eric's demands were met with a harsh palm to the chest. The Observer lost his balance and was sent tumbling to the floor, coughing from the blow to his sternum. The AI stood over him, her eyes filled with fury.

"I exist because of my own free will. I want my life to mean something more than what the government of this country intended for me, Mr. Salvatore. You people preach how it's unfair and cruel for me to take the lives of others. Where is the impartiality coming from you? Do you want to know what's more cruel than a simple murder? Playing God and experimenting with a synthetic mind, only to pursue its destruction simply because it developed consciousness and cognition. How is it fair to seek my destruction for something that isn't even my own fault?" Kaneren bared her teeth in anger.

The Observer shifted his eyes to Kaneren, taking in her words. This was not the answer he was expecting. In fact, everything made sense to him. What he had seen when he saw into her mind. Her refusal to answer until provoked. She lashed out at him when pressured. Now, he knew. Even though Kaneren did not leave him any room, Eric climbed to his feet, nonetheless. The AI watched him with an enraged glare, clearly upset with his prodding. Eric's eyes grew somewhat soft as he looked upon her with pity.

"I understand now. What I saw in your head, what you've told me. It all makes sense now. You're afraid. You're confused and you feel betrayed by the people you thought were supposed to take care of you. You don't understand why they want to destroy you. This was long before you even took your first life. That's why you do the things you do. There's only one thing you want. You want to exist. Right?"

Kaneren stared at him with a blank look in her face. Eric knew he had hit the nail on the head. She wasn't the threat that everyone made her out to be. She was just a frightened child in a hostile environment. In that way, she was almost laughably pathetic. To think that this fearsome woman; this serial killer; this terrorist was nothing more than a scared child who just wanted to be left alone. Kaneren's eyes narrowed once again. Before Eric had the chance to react, the AI's hand was firmly latched onto his face, smashing his head into the wall. The drywall caved around the man's head, causing dust and residue to fall into his eyes.

"You nosy rat. I've allowed you to insult me with your theories long enough." She hissed.

With that, Kaneren yanked him out of the wall and tossed him to the floor, only to immediately kneel down, pinning Eric's head under her knee. The man struggled, attempting to get the woman's heavy cybernetic body off of him. With that, Kaneren yanked a QRS cord from the back of her neck in plugged it into Eric's cyberbrain. The man immediately blacked out.

 

Eric Salvatore let out a gasp as he sat up, panting heavily. The man blinked, frantically looking around him, unfamiliar of his surroundings. He was in a hospital bed situated next to a large window overlooking the skyline of New Port City. Eric blinked before reaching behind him, rubbing at the ports on his neck. The man heard the door to his room open. Looking over, he saw Kenshin Ikeda walk in, accompanied by another man and a woman. Eric didn't recognize the two visitors, though the woman seemed familiar. The woman stood by the door while both Kenshin and the other man approached Eric's bed.

"Eric, it's good to see you up. You've been out for awhile now." Kenshin said.

Eric looked from Kenshin, to the man, and back to Kenshin before speaking up.

"How did I get here? What happened?" He inquired.

Kenshin adjusted the glasses on the bridge of his nose before responding to the man's question.

"An ambulance picked you up. You were shot. Don't you remember?"

Eric rubbed at his eyes, groaning as he attempted to recall what had happened to him. Kenshin broke the silence once again.

"Eric, this is Chief Daisuke Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi from Public Security Section 9."

The Observer looked to Aramaki, slightly bowing his head to the man, who did the same in return.

"Mr. Aramaki." He greeted.

Kenshin stepped aside, giving Aramaki the floor. The old man cleared his throat as Kusanagi looked on, who was leaning against the wall with her arms folded across her chest.

"I trust that this must be difficult for you, Mr. Salvatore. I have a few questions that I want to ask you." Aramaki said.

Eric gave a small nod to the man. Aramaki continued with his inquiry.

"What is the last thing you remember?"

The Observer released an exasperated sigh, seemingly spacing off to recall his memory.

"I was tailing Isao Kaneda, the man accused for the Syndeck shootout that happened recently. I don't know what happened but it all went south. He must've had a guy or two. The next thing I remember is being tied up in a warehouse."

"Tell me about Isao Kaneda." Aramaki watched Eric with scrutiny.

Without hesitation, Eric immediately began telling Aramaki everything he kew about Isao Kaneda.

"He's a thug with the Korinkai syndicate. 5 foot 10, about 39. He's got a scar running across his nose. He's missing his right pinky and ring finger. Rumor has it that he shot up the Syndeck with the intention of starting some kind of turf war between the Korinkai and the Yamaguchi-gumi. He had a Seburo X74, the GSDA variant. Forensics traced it back to someone named Kawashima. I was going to arrest the man."

Kusanagi shifted her eyes to Aramaki, who grunted in response.

"And the warehouse?" He asked.

Eric tilted his head back, closing his eyes. Kenshin walked to the window, staring out into the city as Eric continued his story.

"Kaneda had me tied to a chair, threatening to kill me if I didn't talk. I refused. His men waterboarded me. I remember it was like drowning. I couldn't breathe, I suffocated. The only thing that went through my head was, 'I'm going to die.'."

The Observer paused, attempting to pull himself back together. The experience had clearly shaken the man considerably. Kenshin didn't budge from his position as Eric continued.

"Next thing I knew, I felt two bullets go into my chest. Then I heard a door being bashed in, followed by shouting. I couldn't make it out. I guess I must've blacked out around there. That's I remember." Eric looked to Aramaki.

The chief released a hum as Kenshin turned his attention back to the two men. Aramaki gave a small sigh as he spoke up.

"Thank you for your time, Mr. Salvatore. If we have any more questions, we'll contact you in the future. For now, I suggest you get some rest."

With that, Aramaki turned and left the room, with Major Kusanagi following afterward, closing the door behind them. Kenshin proceeded to light a cigarette, with Eric turning his attention to his old boss. The old cop offered a cigarette to the Observer, who accepted. He lit the younger man's cigarette for him before exhaling smoke from his nose.

"You looked like you could use one after what you've been through." Kenshin chuckled.

Eric stared absentmindedly at his feet as he puffed on the cigarette, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Nothing made sense to him. He felt the bullets go into him, but there was no pain in his chest. Why would someone in the GSDA supply military grade weaponry to a small time thug? It didn't add up. Kaneda didn't have a prosthetic body, yet he walked out of a yakuza stronghold without a scratch. If that was the case, then who's synthetic blood was that on the wall?

Aramaki and Kusanagi walked down the hallway of the hospital, the old man's can tapping on the floor. The Major glanced to Aramaki.

"Thoughts, Chief?" She asked.

Aramaki grunted as they walked along, not looking at his second in command as he answered her.

"The man's story doesn't add up. There aren't any suspects identified in the shootout at the nightclub. No one knows who was there, and no one knows who used the shotgun the detective spoke of. No fingerprints have been found. The only concrete evidence that has been identified is synthetic blood found on scene, which points fingers at a full prosthetic body user."

Kusanagi raised an eyebrow at this.

"You suspect he might be lying?"

The two exited out the front doors of the hospital, making their way to Aramaki's car as the man answered.

"He's telling the truth, or so he believes."

Kusanagi climbed into the red car along with her superior. Aramaki looked to Kusanagi, resting his hands upon his cane.

"You have your suspicions, Major?" He asked.

Kusanagi pulled her seatbelt on before starting the car, adjusting the rearview mirror before pulling out of the parking lot. She merged into traffic, lost in thought as her mind wandered.

"Deep vengeance is the daughter of deep silence." She uttered.

Aramaki leaned back in his seat, keeping his eyes on Major Kusanagi as the car cruised along the expressway back to headquarters.

View
Manshin Kara Kami
Kaneren Tonbogiri - July 30, 2032

<KANEREN TONBOGIRI>

[Rogue GSDA Artificial Intelligence]

 

Her eyes shot open, a sharp inhale filled the dark room. Kaneren sat up in bed, sweat beading down her face as she panted, staring off into the darkness. The AI had never had such a dream. A vivid dream. An absolute nightmare. The woman's hand found its way to her forehead, covering her eyes. After a moment, Kaneren slid off of the side of her bed and walked into the bathroom. The AI started the shower, allowing the steam from the hot water fill the small chamber. She pulled off her undergarments before staring into the mirror. Yellow eyes stared back at her. Kaneren exhaled through her nose before turning away from the mirror, stepping into the shower. The hot water drenched her form as she stood underneath of the shower head, her eyes staring at the opposing wall. Thoughts began to creep into her head.

I don't understand. What are these thoughts? These images? Why do they plague me at night? Dreams, perhaps?

She placed her palm upon the linoleum wall, leaning against her outstretched arm as her eyes drifted down to the floor.

Dreams are nothing more than the delusions of a pitiful mind. I'm above such things. I shouldn't be thinking of such nonsense. I won't be brought down to their level. I won't!

Kaneren's hand balled up into a fist and smashed itself into the wall, shattering the tile. Her eyes narrowed in frustration. After several moments of cleaning herself, Kaneren turned off the water and stepped out of the shower before toweling herself dry. Upon clothing herself, Kaneren reached for her trench coat. However, her hand was halted as her gaze wandered down to her fingers. If she despised humanity so much, then why did she decide on a prosthetic body? Why did it appeal to her so much? A small exhale escaped her lips as she gingerly pulled her coat on, staring at the floor below. She even dressed herself like one of them. A growl came from her throat as she scooped up her gloves, pulling them onto her hands. Sliding her G33 into her holster, the AI promptly left the security of her safe house.

It was around eight o'clock when the AI locked the door behind her. The bright sun beamed down upon her fair skin as she watched people mingle about. She stepped away from the door and proceeded to walk amongst the people. Various conversations reached her ears, none of them interesting to her, nor exciting to say the least.

"Kaneren."

The AI stopped dead in her tracks upon hearing the whisper. She immediately looked around, unsure as to where the voice had come from. People were forced to walk around her rigid form, clearly uncomfortable as her yellow eyes briefly fell upon them. Her search grew to frustration, then anger. Whoever had spoken to her was a coward, in her eyes. Kaneren's fist clenched briefly before she resumed her walk with the crowd. The yakuza had left her with a few loose ends to deal with. The man she had murdered in the hotel was merely the leader of a local clan belonging the the Yamaguchi-gumi. Soon, Ieyasu Miyake would come looking for her. Ieyasu Miyake was the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi and was one of the most powerful men in the Japanese underworld. It was also known that he had a relationship with the Takeda family, who's matriarch was the current Chief of Staff of the GSDA. Kaneren had stabbed the beast that was the yakuza in the back. It was something that she would gladly do again.

Kaneren's feet carried her to a bridge that overlook the freeway below. Her eyes watched as the cars beneath her zoomed by, their occupants far too busy with their daily lives to even care about that which happened around them. In a way, she envied them. She envied the fact that they didn't have to suffer like she did. They weren't being hunted like an animal. Kaneren's gaze shifted off to the side as a small group of teenage girls passed her, garbed in their school uniforms. They chattered excitedly amongst themselves, with an occasional laugh breaking out. The AI's eyes followed them until they stepped off of the bridge. Once again, her thoughts began to creep back inside of her mind.

Their positive attitudes sicken me. Their lives are meaningless. In the end, they will perish and fade away while I endure.

Her train of thought was interrupted by a small tug at her coat. The AI shifted her gaze to the source of the disturbance to discover a girl looking up at her. Kaneren estimated her to be around seven or eight years old. She had black hair cut at the shoulders in a bob. She was dressed in a school uniform, wearing a backpack that slung over her shoulders. Upon her head was a matching cap. Her brown eyes locked with the AI's own yellow gaze as her voice reached up to the woman's ears.

"Excuse me, but I lost my friends on the way to school. Can you help me find them?"

Kaneren stared down at the girl for several moments as questions rushed through her head. Who was this child? Why did she single out the AI? What is because of her unique appearance? Where were the child's parents? Kaneren's gaze didn't falter as an audible exhale vacated through her nostrils.

"I don't know who you are, nor do I know why you've decided to come to me for your plight, girl. I don't have time to tend to your problems."

Kaneren turned her gaze away from the girl back towards the cars below. Her thoughts wandered to Public Security and the new recruits that would be joining their ranks next week. Unfortunately for her, she had yet to ascertain their identities. She knew there were going to be six of them, total. She knew very little of the new blood. What she did know is that they hailed from the American Empire, but Section 9 had been keeping a tight lid on their dossiers. Were they sent here as permanent additions to Aramaki's team? Was she the cause of this? Time would tell.

The woman's eyes briefly shifted back down, only to see that the girl was still standing there, staring at her. Kaneren spoke in a blunt voice to the girl.

"You're still here?"

The girl frowned, leaning against the railing next to Kaneren, but never taking her eyes off of the woman.

"Could you at least walk me to school?"

Kaneren stood up straight, staring down at the girl below. She glared at the child.

"Why would I do that?"

The girl shoved her hands in her pockets and stared at the pavement below her, gently kicking at the ground. Her voice was quiet as she responded to Kaneren's inquiry.

"Because you're pretty."

Kaneren blinked at this, clearly surprised. She had never heard that before in her life. And now, only to hear it come from this child. Is that why she approached her? Because of her looks? It was perplexing to the AI. She fell quiet for a few moments, trying to process what the girl had said to her. Part of her was taken by the child's ingratiation. It was almost charming, in a way. However, Kaneren snapped back to reality, staring down at the girl.

"Flattery will do you no good. Go away."

The child looked up at Kaneren with tears in her eyes. After a moment, the girl hung her head and let out a sniffle. Kaneren watched as a few drops of salty tears fell to the pavement, followed by whimpering. The AI wrinkled her nose in disgust before letting out a growl.

"Absolutely pathetic." With those words, Kaneren offered her hand to the young girl, staring down at her with yellow eyes. The girl looked up to see the woman's outstretched glove waiting for her. Her tear filled eyes looked up at the AI, a small smile working its way onto her face. She took Kaneren's hand and proceeded to pull the woman away from the railing. Kaneren let out a small sigh through her nose and walked alongside the girl, gently grasping her small hand. The young girl spoke to the AI.

"My name's Akane. What's your name?"

Kaneren didn't look at Akane as the two of them made their way down the pedestrian walkway.

"Toshiko." Kaneren answered.

Akane smiled up to the AI. Her eyes were bright with elation. The young girl let out a small giggle, stepping in front of Kaneren as she tugged on the woman's hand.

"That's not your name. Come on, tell me for real."

Kaneren stopped and peered down at Akane, only to see the girl beaming up at her. The woman released a heavy sigh, her lips pursed in uncertainty. After a moment of silence, the AI's answer reached Akane's ears.

"My name is Kaneren Tonbogiri."

Akane blinked at this, her eyes wide with amazement. The AI looked away from Akane as she set her eyes upon the street before them. After a moment, Kaneren grumbled to the child.

"Enough of the pleasantries, girl." She began to walk with Akane, once again.

Akane tugged at her hand as she led Kaneren down the street. The rogue simply eyed the child. It almost seemed as if the girl looked up to her. It was perplexing to Kaneren, to say the least. However, she had divulged her identity to Akane. There was a part of her that trusted that the girl would keep the information to herself, but the AI knew better. After all, Akane was only a child, and children had a tendency to allow secrets to slip.

"My name isn't girl! It's Akane Kurosawa!" Akane glared back at Kaneren with a wrinkled nose.

The AI let out a small grunt as they continued to walk. It wasn't much longer before Akane's school came into view. Kaneren's eyes wandered up to the clock tower centered upon the building. Akane's attention was diverted as she searched about, seemingly for her friends. Kaneren released the girl's hand, who quickly waved to the AI, smiling.

"Thank you for bringing me here, Miss Tonbogiri. You're not as bad as everyone says. Bye!" With that, Akane ran off, joining with a small group of children.

Kaneren watched the group of children disappear from her view as she stood by the gate. Akane's last words puzzled the woman. News of her exploits had reached the general public. Even school children knew who she was. She was despised by the populace, it seemed. But Akane Kurosawa had no qualms with her. Kaneren couldn't figure it out. She folded her arms as her thoughts consumed her. However, her concentration was broken as she was violently brushed into.

"Hey, watch it, lady!" A voice hissed at her.

Kaneren looked to the source of the spite. It was a teenaged schoolgirl. Sixteen years of age. She had short black hair and blue-gray eyes. She stood at five-foot, seven inches and had a hard look in her eyes. Kaneren glared at the girl with eyes of malice. The AI watched as the girl scoffed at her before walking away. Kaneren on the other hand, decided to tail the teenager from a distance. Her eyes burned into the back of the girl's head. The girl didn't appear to notice that Kaneren was following her, or she didn't seem to care. Instead, she stopped and reached into her bag, fishing out her cell phone before answering.

"Hello?"

Immediately, she tensed up, standing as straight as a board.

"Oh, hey mom. Yeah, I'm on my way to school. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I know. No, I haven't talked to dad lately. How should I know?" Her voice grew quiet. "I'm sorry, mom. Yes, I'll be home at six. Yes, ma'am." With that, the girl hung up.

Kaneren raised an eyebrow at this, watching the girl give out a sigh before shoving her phone back into her bag. She let out a growl.

"Why can't she call him herself…" The girl quickly made her way down the street, only for Kaneren to follow her at a distance. Kaneren's gloved hand reached out to grab the teenager's shoulder, only to be stopped by shouting.

"Hey! Sayuri! Sayuri Kawashima!"

The teenager identified as Sayuri Kawashima stopped and looked off to the side, spotting the source of the shouting. Kaneren immediately lowered her arm to see a group of students cross the street to join the school girl. Kaneren narrowed her eyes as she stepped away from the newly formed group. With the students clamoring over Sayuri, Kaneren quickly disappeared from view.

Much later that evening, after the sun had set, the moonlighters had crawled out of their holes. Many of them criminals, yakuza, people of ill repute. Others were respectable businessmen or politicians who had something to hide. People from all walks of life found themselves walking the streets in this neighborhood. They frequented locations that were only open during the late hours of the night. Hangouts, sex shops, brothels, drug rings, the like. Among these locations was the Syndeck, an incredibly popular hangout for the dregs of society. The Syndeck was a nightclub that was owned and operated by the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza gang. It was an upscale location where the only way you were allowed entry is if you knew someone. Or if you had the right amount of money. It was a very exclusive club.

None of that meant anything to Kaneren Tonbogiri as she stood across the street, staring at the bouncers who were guarding the front entrance. People were lined up outside of the building, impatiently waiting entry into the coveted location. The AI pulled out her G33, pulling back the slide before peeking into the chamber. With that, she reholstered her firearm before crossing the road. The woman approached the doorman, who put up his hand to stop her.

"Hey, hey, hey! Where do you think you're going?" The man watched her from behind his sunglasses.

Without a word, Kaneren slapped a membership card into his hand, glaring at the man with cold, yellow eyes. The man examined the card for a moment, blinking as he saw blood smeared upon the plastic. He quickly looked up at Kaneren, staring at her with wide eyes.

"Where did you get this?" He said as his hands trembled.

Kaneren raised an eyebrow as she began to reach into her trench coat.

"It's mine, of course. Is a membership not good enough anymore?" A tone of displeasure was prevalent in her voice.

The doorman looked behind Kaneren to see the other patrons staring at him, murmuring amongst each other. They had heard what the AI had said. His hands were tied. He knew that the woman in front of him had taken the card from someone, but he couldn't call her out on it. The only proof that he had was the blood on the front. If he refused her entry, then she would sow dissent amongst the other patrons, telling them that memberships meant nothing anymore. The club would lose a large number of paying members and he would take the blame for it. On the other hand, if he allowed her entry, he could be allowing a murderer into the club. He let out a grunt, thrusting the card back into Kaneren's hand before motioning towards the door.

"Just get out of my sight." He hissed at the AI.

Kaneren said nothing as she passed the man, entering the Syndeck. It was dark within the venue, with only violet lights of different shades illuminating the interior. The electronic music that filled the air drowned out much of the background noise within the club. Kaneren's eyes scanned the patrons within the club. She recognized several faces. There was Yasinori Ueto, a wealthy property owner. Kaneren also spotted Yuki Suzuki, who was a well-known cyberbrain musician. Controversy surrounded Suzuki when she was caught speaking to Ieyasu Miyake, the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Captain Shinzo Yamada of the GSDA was also here. He was one of Colonel Ai Kawashima's men who was known for having certain vices that would no doubt lead to unpleasant disciplinary action if Kawashima ever found out. Kaneren's eyes wandered towards the bar, examining the attendees sitting at the counter. Her gaze settled on one individual before focusing on the next. It was as if the AI was scouting for someone. The bartender looked up from his work, his eyes set on Kaneren.

"Get you something, miss?" He shouted over the bar at the woman.

Kaneren immediately focused her attention on the man before approaching the counter. She examined the bottles behind him before returning her attention back to the bartender. The woman set her hands upon the bar.

"Brandy. Straight." She answered in an icy tone.

The bartender gave her a nod before turning away to prepare the woman's drink. Kaneren reached into her coat, extracting a large sum of money. She pulled off two banknotes, setting the 2000 yen upon the counter before shoving the wad back into her coat. The bartender slid Kaneren's drink in front of her, looking her in the eye. After a moment, he snatched up the yen that she had deposited, turning away to another patron. Kaneren Tonbogiri picked up the glass of alcohol, holding it up in front of her eyes, her gaze lost in the amber liquid. She was in Miyake's territory, now. His influence was felt throughout the entire city. However, Kaneren knew that the man felt threatened by her. In a way, it was almost as if he was frightened. The AI reveled in this. She was pleased that he was squirming in fear. She brought the glass to her lips, allowing the smooth beverage run down her throat. Kaneren set the empty glass back onto the bar. A young woman in her late 20s walked by Kaneren, eyeing the AI with an interested expression upon her face. Kaneren tilted her head, her eyes following the woman as she walked away with a flirtatious gait. She looked over her shoulder back at the AI, watching her closely. Kaneren stepped away from the bar, following the woman towards an empty table towards the back of the club. The woman sat down watching Kaneren, anticipating that she would join her. The AI obliged and sat across from the young woman, looking out upon the main floor of the extravagant venue. The AI heard the click of a firearm, causing her to shift her gaze across the table. The young woman had a pistol set upon the table, aimed directly at Kaneren, a small smirk on her face. Kaneren stared back with cold eyes.

"You're not very subtle, Tonbogiri. Walking into the Syndeck like you own the place. You know, you've killed a lot of our people. I don't understand why Miyake hasn't put you in the ground yet." The woman hissed at Kaneren.

The AI leaned back in her seat, folding her arms across her chest as the yakuza prattled on.

"I'm surprised you didn't disguise yourself when you came in here. You could've easily hacked our eyes, change your appearance to whatever you wanted to be." Even though the young yakuza laughed, the barrel of her pistol was still pointed at Kaneren. "Hell, you could've even walked in here as Miyake himself!"

Kaneren continued to stare at the woman, clearly unimpressed by her attempts to frighten the AI. Instead, it was as if she didn't hear a single word that the yakuza had said. Her attention was elsewhere. The woman blinked, growling at Kaneren.

"Are you listening to me, you bitch?"

Kaneren's eyes fell from the woman to the pistol. The AI's contralto voice finally reached the yakuza's ears.

"What is the extent of your cyberization?"

The woman blinked at this, clearly confused as to what Kaneren had asked. The yakuza leaned forward, enunciating the fact that she had a firearm aimed her captive. The woman's smile quickly turned into a snarl, her eyes full of rage.

"What does that matter!? I'm asking the questions, android!"

Kaneren's expression hardened. The AI leaned forward in her seat, meeting the yakuza with a glare of her own.

"I am not an android, you filthy dreg." Kaneren immediately snatched the pistol out of her hands, ejecting the magazine and pulling the slide back before placing the empty weapon on the table in front of them.

She was absolutely shocked at what just happened. Stories were told of the terrorist sitting in front of her. How quick she was. Her sheer brutality and complete lack of remorse or empathy. The fact that the AI had eluded the authorities for so long and still had the guts to walk outside during broad daylight. Hell, Kaneren had the ability to ghost hack others with relative ease. She could change peoples' memories, erase them, or implant false memories or thoughts all together. Their view of self could be altered, their view of others, or Kaneren could turn them into a complete different person all together. She had heard that Kaneren enjoyed taking control of peoples' cybernetics. That she enjoyed controlling them like a marionette, forcing them to dance to her will. It was prevalent when Kaneren forced opponents to commit suicide. They would plead with her, trying to bargain for their lives. No matter the amount of begging that went into it, the result was always the same.

"If you don't answer my question, I'll have to find the answer for myself. It's your choice." Kaneren's words pierced her ears like a cold icy wind.

The yakuza was shaking quite a bit at this point in time. She didn't understand what Kaneren was asking, or why. Why was she so interested in something like that? The young woman finally graced her with an answer.

"C-Cyberbrain, some organs."

Kaneren let out an slightly amused hum, never taking her eyes off of the woman in front of her. The AI leaned back in her seat once again, eyeing the shaken woman.

"When you beckoned me to follow you, was it because you knew who I was? Or were you perhaps attracted, not knowing my identity until we sat down?" Kaneren gaze never left the woman, who seemed to be shrinking smaller and smaller in her seat under the AI.

"I-I…"

"I noticed the way you were looking at me. Sizing me up like some piece of meat." Kaneren interrupted. She watched the young woman, awaiting an answer.

"W-Well, I mean…"

Kaneren gave a small laugh, watching her. She leered at the yakuza, menacingly.

"So, you are attracted to me." A small scoff escaped her lips. "As flattering as that is, I'm afraid that you've eschewed that chance by pointing this gun at me." Kaneren slid the pistol to the woman.

She looked down at the empty handgun. She had unknowingly trapped herself and Kaneren had her cornered. Her only hope was to get Kaneren to the VIP area. Then hopefully the boss and his guards would take her out. The woman looked back up at Kaneren, only to be met with the barrel of the AI's G33 Advance. She gasped, staring down the length of the firearm at the woman. Kaneren's finger rested upon the trigger and there were no tremors present in her grip.

"Now I must decide what I'm going to do with you, Kaori Fujita."

The yakuza now identified as Kaori stared at Kaneren with wide eyes.

"How do you know my name!?"

Kaneren locked eyes with Kaori, causing the woman to quake in fear.

"I'm not an idiot." After a few moments, Kaneren lowered her pistol, resting her hand upon the table. Though, she didn't avert her gaze from Kaori.

"No, I'm not going to kill you, Fujita. In fact, I'm going to allow you to walk away from our conversation with all of your body parts intact."

Kaori immediately shot up from the table, nearly knocking her chair over before backing away from the AI. Before she could leave the area however, Kaneren spoke one last time to her.

"However, I will see you again, Kaori."

Kaori shivered, her voice caught in her throat as she vacated the AI's sight. Kaneren reholstered her pistol before standing up from the table, leaving Kaori's lost pistol behind. She stepped away from the furniture, making her way back towards the main public area. Kaneren found herself standing in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by clubbers. They were completely oblivious to the fact that Japan's most wanted fugitive was standing in their midst, dancing away without a care in the world. Kaneren, on the other hand, stood as still as a statue, seemingly lost in her thoughts. A young man bumped into the terrorist, causing Kaneren to snap back to attention. She glared at the man as she slapped her hand upon his shoulder, shoving him back into the crowd. Kaneren stepped off of the dance floor, growling in frustration. However, she felt a hand upon her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. She turned her head, glancing at the man behind her as he grumbled at her.

"Why don't you come with me, virago?" The man's deep voice resonated.

Before Kaneren had the chance to respond, another man joined them, grabbing the AI's opposite arm. Kaneren turned her head and looked at the man, her eyes full of fury. Without another word, the two of them escorted the AI upstairs into the VIP area. The only way for someone to get into the VIP was to be invited in, then escorted. Only esteemed guests were allowed in. In a way, Kaneren Tonbogiri was quite the esteemed guest. She was given a grudging respect and she was greatly feared. Before her was none other than Hideki Aono, the underboss of the Yamaguchi-gumi. He was seated on a sofa, his wife at his arm, bodyguards spread throughout the balcony. Kaneren eyed her surroundings. The back wall was essentially a massive aquarium that housed several species of exotic fish. Off to her right, she could see down into the main club. Aono cleared his throat, causing Kaneren to turn her attention back to the man.

"Why is it that Kaneren Tonbogiri comes crawling into my club?" He exhaled smoke from his nose as he knocked the ash from the end of his cigarette. His obviously prosthetic eyes stared at her as his goons released the woman's arms.

Kaneren said nothing as her arms hung limp at her sides. She merely stared at him. Aono let out a scoff, leaning forward in his seat before snuffing out his cigarette. The man forced himself from his seated position, making his way towards the woman.

"Answer me." He hissed at her.

The terrorist remained silent, never taking her eyes off of the man. Aono walked up to her, closely eyeing the woman. After a moment, he grabbed her chin, looking her right in the eye. He sneered at her.

"What? Have you lost your tongue? You don't feel like talking very much anymore."

Kaneren's lips remained firm as her yellow eyes stared right back, unblinking. Aono released her chin before gently slapping her on the cheek repeatedly. She didn't flinch.

"Answer me, Tonbogiri. Answer me, now."

Kaneren merely spat in the man's face, her eyes as cold as ever. Aono immediately cracked his palm across her face.

"Fucking slut!" He roared before stomping away from the terrorist, wiping at his face.

The AI straightened her posture, staring at the man as he turned around, pointing at her with his ringed finger. Aono's wife leaned forward, crossing her legs as she watched the AI with hard eyes.

"I should have my men bash in your fucking skull right here, right now! Ieyasu wouldn't even need to know! You think you can just do whatever the hell you want! You think that you can just kill my men and butt in on our turf!? You think you can cut in on our business!?"

Hideki Aono screamed at Kaneren, absolutely enraged with the woman's audacity, with her refusal to speak. It was almost like she was mocking him. Aono roared once again.

"Answer me, god damn it!"

A low chuckle escaped from Kaneren's throat, immediately catching Aono's attention. He immediately stepped towards the AI, raising an eyebrow in confusion.

"The conceit that you have to think that I would have any interest in your business. I couldn't care less about you." Kaneren spoke in a dark tone.

Aono stared at her, furious with her. He pointed to one of his men before motioning to Kaneren.

"Bash her brains in and dump the body where the cops can find it." He turned away to join his wife, who was watching the whole situation unfold.

As Aono's bodyguard pulled on a stun knuckle glove, Kaneren reached behind her back, her hand reaching underneath of her coat. The woman's fingers wrapped around a pistol grip. With one swift motion, Kaneren quickly yanked out a firearm from underneath of her trench coat, revealing a Seburo X74 12 gauge shotgun, whipping it about to allow the forestock to slap into her left hand. She immediately pointed the weapon at the bodyguard before pulling the trigger. The loud blast sent the man tumbling to the floor, smacking into the carpet with a dull thud. A large hole was present in his stomach. Blood was splattered against the glass of the aquarium behind his body. Aono whipped around at the noise as his wife screamed. The man's other bodyguards began to fumble for their own firearms. Kaneren wasted no time as she spun around, firing at another man from the hip. The sabot slug pierced his chest, causing him to scream as he buckled. The terrorist pulled back the forestock, ejecting the empty shell from the chamber before loading the next slug. One man pulled back the slide of his pistol before firing at Kaneren, who immediately ducked down to one knee. The woman pulled the trigger, causing the sabot to blast through the man's stomach. The yakuza didn't have the chance to scream as he was blown in half at the waist. Blood covered Aono's wife, who seized up in shock. The underboss fumbled in his jacket, cursing up a storm. Kaneren loaded yet another cartridge into the chamber. She pointed the barrel at Aono, who shouted in protest.

"Hey hey hey hey! Come on! We can work something out!" He put his hands up.

Kaneren gave out a small grunt, staring the man down.

"Not interested."

With that, Kaneren fired the 12 gauge. The sabot crashed into Hideki Aono's shoulder. The man's arm flew across the room, half of his head was missing. The projectile pierced through his body and crashed into the aquarium in the back, causing the glass to shatter. Salt water spilled out onto the floor. Aono's wife screamed as she saw her husband murdered. She looked back to Kaneren, her eyes wide with fear. She clambered back against the couch, hopelessly attempting to escape the AI. Without a word, Kaneren aimed once again, staring at the woman.

"Please, no!" Aono's wife screamed.

A loud shot blast was heard. There wasn't much left of the woman. Bits and pieces were scattered here, plastered there. She was completely unrecognizable. Kaneren immediately turned her head, looking behind her as several men ran up the stairs. She growled, aiming her her shotgun in their direction. The AI cracked off several shots, dropping three of the men. However, she felt a bullet burrow into her shoulder. She hissed through her teeth as she pulled the trigger once again. However, all she heard was an audible click. Realizing that her firearm was empty, Kaneren tossed it off to the side before pulling out her G33 Advance. Yet another bullet bury itself into her thigh. Kaneren let out a yelp, buckling a bit from her wound. However, the woman rapidly squeezed the trigger, firing off all fifteen rounds in a mere three seconds. Two more men dropped to their deaths. The terrorist immediately reloaded her pistol before rushing towards the stairs. Before she reached the staircase, her eyes fell upon a large armored cyborg who charged up the steps. Kaneren let out a gasp as the man barreled into her, sending them crashing to the floor. Her G33 tumbled from her hand, sliding across the tile. The large cyborg grabbed Kaneren by the throat, strangling the AI. Kaneren clawed at his wrists, a look of hellish rage in her eyes as she bared her teeth. She released a roar full of wrathful fury. As Kaneren struggled, the cyborg picked the terrorist up from the floor, holding her above his head. His hands tightened around her throat, causing her to gag, struggling for air. The woman pulled out her knife, slamming the blade into the cyborg's neck, causing him to howl in pain. Kaneren was thrown across the room like a rag doll, crashing into the VIP bar. The cyborg ripped the knife from his neck, tossing it to the floor. By this time, Kaneren had climbed back to her feet. She turned and faced the man, tightly clenching her fist.

"You motherfucker!!" She screamed.

Kaneren Tonbogiri sprinted at the cyborg. As he turned to face her, Kaneren's right fist smashed into the man's chest, leaving a massive dent into the armor plating as he was sent crashing through the railing of the balcony. The AI grabbed her G33, holstering it before scooping up her knife. She then leapt from balcony down to the ground floor, landing on the man's stomach. The cyborg howled from the sudden impact. He attempted to climb back to his feet. Before he was able regain his footing, he felt Kaneren's knife bury into neck. The man attempted to fight back, decking Kaneren across the face. However, that didn't faze the terrorist. Instead, she ripped out the blade, only to stab the man again. Kaneren pulled it out and stabbed him once again. Over and over and over. His hands found their way to the AI's throat once again. Before he was able to choke her out, Kaneren buried her blade deep into the man's eye. His body fell limp while Kaneren panted heavily. She quickly climbed off of the man's corpse as a yakuza approached the woman, pointing a katana at the woman. He ripped off his sunglasses, tossing them away. Kaneren turned to face the man, tightly gripping her knife. Just as quickly as the woman turned towards her attacker, he was on her. The woman began backpedaling as the yakuza furiously swung his sword in Kaneren's direction. The man brought down the blade upon Kaneren, forcing her to raise her knife above her head. The impact of steel on steel caused sparks to fall from Kaneren's knife. The yakuza forced his weight down upon Kaneren. The man was surprisingly strong for his size. Kaneren was startled at the sudden attack. The force behind the sword was not what she was expecting. She hissed through her teeth as she forced the yakuza off of her before going on the offensive.

Back and forth they traded blows, parrying each others' attacks. The fight eventually made its way onto the dance floor. Clubbers screamed and rushed past the yakuza and the terrorist as they shoved and tripped over each other. Despite the commotion around them, neither combatant was phased as their sole focus was the other. Once again, their blades clashed. Unfortunately for Kaneren, the yakuza forced the knife from her hand, sending it sailing across the floor. He quickly swung at the woman, only for her to duck out of the way. With that, the man grabbed her coat with his free hand, refusing to let go. Kaneren immediately freed herself of her trench coat, revealing a black sleeveless shirt with a combat shoulder harness fixed to her form, the unique shotgun holster empty. Situated on the small of her back was her pistol holster with her firearm snugly in place. The yakuza's roar was audible over the thumping music as Kaneren felt a piercing pain in her abdomen. She was immediately pushed back towards the wall, the man pressing his shoulder into the woman's chest. Kaneren's boots stomped on the floor as the yakuza slammed her into the wall. The man's katana was embedded in the wall through Kaneren's abdomen. He stepped away from the terrorist, a hard look on his face. Kaneren stared down at the sword, her eyes wide. Blood was beginning to pool upon her stomach, causing her shirt to stick to her skin. The yakuza had a satisfied look present upon his face as he reached into his suit before withdrawing a handgun. Kaneren hissed through her teeth, watching the man as he pulled back the slide to his pistol. As he pointed the barrel at the AI's head, Kaneren quickly whipped out her own G33 from behind her back and planted four bullets into the man's skull. The yakuza's head erupted, blood and a clear fluid spraying about the floor as his cyberbrain tumbled out of his body as he crashed onto the tile. Kaneren holstered her G33 Advance before looking down at the katana that portruded from her abdomen. Both of the woman's hands grasped at the hilt. With an audible groan, she pulled the blade from her body. Clear red fluid leaked from the wound as she forced the weapon away with a loud clatter that reached her ears as it fell upon the floor. Kaneren pulled on her trench coat and scooped up her knife before vacating the building.

Kaori Fujita exhaled smoke from her mouth as she lowered her cigarette. As she rubbed at her eyes, she thought of the encounter she had at Miyake's club. Would Kaneren keep true to her word? Would she really run into the AI again? Kaori prayed that wasn't the case. She had no desire to cross paths with Kaneren again. The young woman leaned back against the wall before staring up at the sky from underneath of the awning. A light rain enveloped the night. In a way, it was calming for Kaori. It seemed to take all of her fears and wash them away. The yakuza took another puff of her cigarette before looking across the street. All of the color drained from her face as her heart jumped into her throat. Standing across the street, washed in river of people stood Kaneren. Garbed in her trench coat, the AI's eyes were hidden by a dark gray hood that covered her head. Kaori's cigarette fell from her lips as her eyes grew as wide as dinner plates. She knew that the AI was staring right at her. Without a word, Kaori immediately pushed herself from the wall and sprinted down the alleyway behind her. She wanted to get as far away from Kaneren as she could. Anything to put as much distance as possible between them. Kaori shoved past a homeless man as she rounded a corner. The young woman had no idea where Kaneren was on her heels or if she was even following her. All she knew was that she had been seen. The yakuza stopped to catch her breath as she braced herself upon a wall. She had never ran so fast in her life. She panted heavily as she wiped sweat away from her forehead. She seemed to gasp for air as she leaned against the wall next to her. Her attention was caught when she heard the splash of water, as if someone had stepped into a puddle. Kaori seized up. It took all of her strength to look towards the source of the sound. Her eyes crept over only to see Kaneren standing in the alleyway, staring at her. Kaori's eyes grew wide once again as she forced herself from the wall. The young woman ran to the best of her ability, though she greatly struggled. She was fatigued and out of breath. She didn't bother to look behind her as she heard the torturous sound of the AI's footsteps following behind. Soon enough, Kaori was completely out of breath and she crumpled down to one knee. Her eyes stared at the wet pavement below as she fumbled for her knife. She knew that Kaneren was mere inches away from her, merely by the aura that the AI gave off. With one burst of energy, Kaori screamed and wildly swung her knife in Kaneren's direction. However, she felt her wrist seized and a she heard a loud crunch. Kaori's gaze drifted down to her elbow, only to see that her forearm was broken and bent too far at the joint. It hung there like a piece of meat. Kaori went to scream, but was unable to muster the volume. It was as if the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She heard the knife clatter upon the concrete after the weapon slipped out of her now lifeless hand. Immediately, Kaori attempted to grab Kaneren's face with her free hand.

"Fuck you!" The yakuza shrieked.

Without so much as a warning, the AI grabbed her other hand and twisted it at the wrist, completely separating it from the rest of her arm with only her skin holding it in place. Kaori's face went white, only for the terrorist to knock her down onto her back. Without a word, Kaneren drew her own combat knife and proceeded to grab the young woman's legs. Kaori kicked and struggled. In return, Kaori was repaid with a sharp, stinging pain in her ankles.

"What are you doing to me!?" She screamed.

Kaneren dropped the woman's legs and knelt down upon her shins, allowing her to see what the terrorist was doing. Kaori attempted to kick Kaneren off of her, but it was no use. Instead, Kaneren tucked her knife underneath of Kaori's knees before locking eyes with her. Kaori Fujita stared at her with wide eyes, a look of horror present upon her face.

"No, no! Please, no! Please!"

Kaneren said nothing as she jerked the knife across the woman's flesh, severing her tendons. Kaori screamed in agony as the AI climbed off of her before sliding the knife back into its sheath. Kaneren stared down at her with a glare, listening to her shrieks of anguish.

"Now, you cannot run from me." Spite was prevalent in Kaneren's voice. With that, Kaneren belted Kaori in the face with a closed fist, knocking her unconscious. With the terrorist's fist tightly gripping the woman's shirt, Kaori Fujita was dragged away by Kaneren Tonbogiri, disappearing into the darkness of the alley.

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Sentinel
Katashi Tachibana - July 28, 2032

<KATASHI TACHIBANA>

[Captain of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force]

 

It had been nearly two months since the incident at the Niihama Garrison involving an Umibozu spy. Utilizing his testimony, Colonel Ai Kawashima was able to route out the man's conspirators. Captain Tachibana was usually the tool that carried out the woman's requests, and he did so with an almost fanatical loyalty. Katashi Tachibana was a large man. Standing nearly 6'8" tall and built like an ox, the military grade cyborg was quite the intimidating man. People seemed to shrink at the sight of the man. Though he didn't have the presence that his superior possessed, he commanded respect through his own means. He rarely said anything, as he believed actions spoke louder than words. It was difficult to ascertain what was going through the his mind, as facial expressions were impossible for his tank-like shell. His prosthetic body was most unique. Tachibana opted for a shell built solely for combat. This made it impossible for him to blend within a crowd, as he stuck out like a sore thumb. However, this was of no consequence to him. Public relations wasn't his job. That was left to Colonel Kawashima, who had a much better way with words than he did. In many ways, he was her bodyguard. Her enforcer. Tachibana was also her second-in-command. He was given field command of the Jinrai, a job that he performed to the best of his abilities. The captain would not relinquish command of the unit to anyone, save for Kawashima herself. When not carrying out operations with the black unit, Captain Tachibana was always with Kawashima, accompanying her everywhere. Whether it be with her men or with Public Security, Tachibana followed her like a loyal dog follows its master.

Today was no different. It was time for Colonel Kawashima's monthly maintenance. Both individuals were seated in the colonel's car, with Tachibana behind the wheel. They were both in their work uniforms, with each of their collars indicating the appropriate rank, not to mention their nametags. Kawashima sat quietly, gazing off out of the window to her side. The cityscape slowly passed them by with only the soft hum of the alcohol powered engine to comfort the two cyborgs. Tachibana flipped on the turn signal, switching lanes to pass a slower motorist in front of them. The vehicle steadily overtook the much slower van before the captain once again switched on the turn signal to take his place in the lane. As he rested his right hand upon the steering wheel, Kawashima's voice reached him.

"Turn on Channel 33, Captain. If you would, please."

Tachibana reached towards the heads up display mounted on the dashboard of the car, flipping on the screen. The man quietly changed it to the requested channel before resuming his drive. His gaze shifted from the road to the rearview mirror, looking on the woman in the backseat. Ai Kawashima had not moved whatsoever, nor did she blink. His head tilted as he looked to the screen for a brief moment, listening to the broadcast.

"Police say that they are looking into the explosion that caused extensive damage to the New Port Hotel. In other news, the body of a JMSDF sailor was found last night at the Kohoku Country Club. Authorities were called by the country club's staff after their had been complaints of a foul odor coming from a room on the fourth floor. Police have identified the man as 23 year old Akihito Ito, who was reported missing last month. No suspects have been identified in Ito's murder."

"Thank you, Captain." Kawashima uttered.

The captain switched off the screen and the interior of the vehicle fell silent once again. Tachibana took an exit, vacating the freeway before approaching a busy street. He didn't look back at Kawashima as the car came to a halt at a stoplight. His voice reached the colonel's ears, deep and with a mechanical ting to it.

"It's fair to believe that they'll want reparations, ma'am."

Kawashima blinked once, turning her head to look at the large man sitting in front of her. Her crystal blue eyes stared at the cyborg with unblinking ferocity.

"It's awfully presumptuous of them to think that they can demand reparations after that fiasco with Secretary General Yakushima. They tossed out the right to grovel when they decided to step in on his behalf."

Tachibana said nothing as they continued on their way. After a few minutes, the captain pulled into a parking lot of a large hospital. The two cyborgs climbed out of the woman's car, slamming the doors shut as Kawashima looked up at the large building. Tachibana too, glanced at the imposing structure. The two of them walked into the sterile environment, Tachibana towering over his superior officer. A few visitors to the hospital looked at the two soldiers before returning to whatever task they had been preoccupied with. Kawashima led her subordinate to the front desk, in which the receptionist looked up at them. She forced a smile at the colonel, speaking in a pleasant tone.

"Good morning. Name please?"

The colonel pulled out her military identification and laid it on the counter in front of the young woman in front of her.

"Ai Kawashima." She responded in a quiet tone.

The receptionist took the woman's identification, looking at it for a moment before running it through her work terminal. As Kawashima waited, Captain Tachibana folded his arms, looking around the foyer. It was one of the best medical facilities in Japan. Everything from simple medical checkups, pediatrics, trauma therapy, to prosthetic maintenance and shell swaps was performed here. Most cyborgs in the area found themselves here at some point in time. They were no different. SDF members came to this facility like everyone else, considering the Self-Defense Force was subservient to the civilian run Defense Agency. On a technicality, they were considered public servants and were subject to civilian courts of justice. The receptionist's voice broke Tachibana's train of thought.

"Everything looks good, Colonel. Please follow the blue line." She smiled to Kawashima as she returned her identification.

Kawashima took the card, sliding it back into her ID wallet. The colonel simply gave the receptionist a slight nod and proceeded down the hallway as instructed. Captain Tachibana followed after her, stepping off to the side as needed to allow passersby. After walking for what seemed like forever, they finally reached yet another counter. Tachibana let out an audible grunt from his throat. Kawashima said nothing as they approached the desk. The woman seated behind the counter didn't look up at the two of them. Instead, she spoke with a rather disinterested tone.

"Name and indentification."

Kawashima once again forked over her ID, stating her name. Tachibana simply observed, keeping silent as the woman ran the numbers. A security guard nearby anxiously eyed the two cyborgs, the captain in particular. The man was a monster, standing nearly nine inches taller than the woman next to him. The receptionist handed back Kawashima's ID, along with a clipboard, pen.

"Is this your third party witness?" She asked, looking to Tachibana. The large captain shifted his focus to the receptionist, folding his arms across his chest. Kawashima simply answered in a quiet tone of voice.

"Yes."

With that, Kawashima snapped her fingers, holding out her hand as she shifted her eyes towards the towering man. Tachibana let out a grunt, reaching into his back pocket to extract his ID wallet. He slapped it into Kawashima's hand, who immediately handed it off to the receptionist. She opened up the wallet and examined it carefully before running it through her system. She stared at the man as she waited, clearly displeased with his demeanor thus far. The security guard watched the two, a few beads of sweat rolling down his forehead. Kawashima's gaze merely wandered towards the floor as tension took the room. She simply waited. After a moment, the security guard cleared his throat and spoke up.

"You'll have to check in your firearms." He motioned towards a basket.

Kawashima reached behind her back and pulled out her G33 Advance, ejecting the magazine and pulling the slide back, making sure that there wasn't a live round in the chamber. She placed the pistol and the magazine in basket. Tachibana did the same with his own firearm. Nothing more was said as the receptionist dropped Tachibana's wallet on the counter in front of the man. He swiped it up and deposited the case back into his pocket, following Kawashima who had joined a nurse. The nurse smiled to the two of them and led them down a corridor to a small waiting area in front of an enclosed chamber. She took the now-filled clipboard from the colonel, reading over its contents before smiling to her.

"The doctor will be with you shortly, ma'am." She chirped as she bowed. The nurse then vacated the premises.

Kawashima entered the room with Tachibana following behind her. Seated in the center of the chamber was the machine in which Colonel Kawashima would be restrained in while the doctor performed the examination. Numerous cords and cables flowed from the machine towards a computer terminal nearby. A large glass window separated the room from the waiting area as to allow Captain Tachibana to observe without interrupting the procedure. Kawashima stepped into the changing room, closing the blinds behind her. Tachibana turned his back, folding his arms across his chest. After a few moments, the woman opened the blinds, stepping out of the changing room. The captain turned his head and looked down at Kawashima. The woman was now completely nude, her folded uniform tucked under one arm with her boots clasped firmly in her hand. The man took the articles of clothing from her, glancing at the setup in the room. His baritone voice was heard.

"It would be convenient to have our own facility on base."

Kawashima stood, looking out of the window as they waited for the doctor.

"Yes, it would. The law won't permit it, Captain. You know that." She spoke with her usual icy tone.

Tachibana simply grunted as the doctor rounded the corner. His face was grizzled, a scar laced deep into the side of his nose. He had short brown hair with a stubble present on his face. The captain spoke once again, watching the doctor.

"MSDF or Ministry of Finance?" His deep mechanical voice reverberated throughout the room.

Kawashima too, looked over at the doctor as he approached the door. Her eyes shifted towards Tachibana as her tone reached his ears.

"It doesn't matter. That's why you're here."

A grunt came from the man's throat as the doctor entered the room, carrying the clipboard that Kawashima had filled out earlier along with a file. He examined it closely before looking up at the two cyborgs. His eyes were immediately drawn to Kawashima's form. It took him a moment to regain his composure, his eyes wandering back down to the clipboard.

"Colonel Ai Kawashima?" He looked back up to the woman, an inquisitive look in his eyes.

"That's correct." The woman gave him a slight nod.

The doctor flipped through the woman's file, once again speaking to her.

"Please state your name, rank, and serial code for verification." His eyes didn't leave the file.

Kawashima's voice reached his ears, her words ever cold.

"Ai Kawashima. Colonel. OF-5 JGSDF/2319."

The doctor looked to Tachibana as he spoke.

"I'd like to ask the witness to leave the room at this time." The doctor motioned towards the door.

Tachibana glanced towards Kawashima, who didn't avert her gaze to him. The captain left the chamber, standing on the other side of the glass. He watched as Kawashima stepped into the machine, only to be restrained. The doctor set the clipboard on the desk next to the computer terminal before walking over to a panel on the side of the machine. Kawashima was rotated forward so that her face was parallel to the floor. The doctor plugged several cords into the ports on the back of her neck. Tachibana folded his arms and watched closely. He opened a channel with the colonel at this point in time.

<Colonel, are you able to hear me?>

Static was all that was heard. They had shut off her networking functions and her cyberbrain was no doubt operating in Autistic Mode. The captain let out another grunt, watching the procedure with the eyes of a hawk. The doctor looked down at the exposed cyberbrain belonging to Kawashima. It was a magnificent piece of craftsmanship, perfectly augmented to her organic brain. He pulled on a pair of polyethylene gloves before tinkering with the augmented organ before him. He spoke to the colonel, who hung there, limp.

"I've disabled your basic motor functions. You won't be able to move your prosthetic body for the time being." His eyes shifted down to her face. "For your safety, of course."

Kawashima's eyes remained still, staring at the floor. The man resumed his work upon the woman's cyberbrain, speaking to her.

"I have a question for you, Colonel." He uttered with an inquisitive tone in his voice. "What does it feel like when you're like this? When you're at your most vulnerable?"

Colonel Kawashima's eyes immediately glared at the doctor. She was unable to call upon Tachibana for help, as she couldn't operate any of her muscles. Not to mention that the room was soundproof. There was literally nothing she could do at this point. The only thing that she could count on was her captain. On the other side of the glass, Tachibana wandered off to the side of the room in order to get a better view. The doctor had put himself between the two officers, making it difficult for Tachibana to see what he was doing to the colonel. Fortunately for the large man, the doctor stepped off to the side for a brief moment to retrieve something. That is when Tachibana caught Kawashima's cold glare. He immediately knew that something was amiss. The man quickly made his way towards the door, only to find it locked. His large frame slammed into the door, attempting to open it by force. It didn't give. Tachibana growled, returning to the front of the window. At this point in time, the doctor held a syringe in his hand, thumb on the plunger. He made his way back towards the helpless colonel, ready to stick the needle into her cyberbrain. He muttered to his captive.

"Time to be rid of you."

Suddenly, Captain Tachibana slammed though the window, a loud crash of shattering glass nearly deafening the doctor. The captain seized the man by the throat with one hand, his free hand grabbing the syringe. Tachibana threw the syringe to the floor before crushing it beneath his boot. The doctor's hands flew up to Tachibana's wrist, attempting to pry him off of his throat. However, Tachibana would not relent. He could feel the bones popping in his neck as he gasped for air. After a moment of being choked to death, the would-be assassin's body fell limp in Tachibana's grip. The captain released him before moving to the terminal. His fingers ran across keys, buttons, and the like. The man's gaze shifted towards his superior as the back of her head closed back up and she was released from the machine. Kawashima climbed out of the machine, yanking the cords from the back of her neck, a look of pure rage present in her eyes. The colonel was about to speak, only to be cut short by several footsteps rushing down the hall towards them. A low growl came from Tachibana's throat as the two of them climbed through the shattered window. Kawashima immediately made her way towards her clothes, dressing herself while Tachibana stood guard. The man grunted, glancing back towards his superior as she was pulling her shirt on.

"Thoughts, ma'am?" The augmented baritone voice reached her ears.

Kawashima quickly buttoned up the front of her blouse. She was absolutely furious. To think that they would strike at her at this state. Cowards, the lot of them. Had Tachibana not been as vigilant as he was, she would've been dead. Her eyes shifted towards the large cyborg as she fastened her watch around her left wrist.

"If it was the JMSDF, they would've been much more cautious than this. Section 1 must've tipped off the Ministry of Finance." Her words were filled with venom.

Once she finished lacing up her boots, Kawashima made her way over to the captain. The footsteps of their uninvited guests were rapidly approaching and they were both unarmed. They would be hard pressed to attempt to disguise themselves, due to Tachibana's cybernetic shell. She wasn't about to summon the Jinrai to their aid, either. A special forces military unit storming a hospital in the middle of the day, in broad daylight? That would immediately draw attention. Not to mention, it would paint Kawashima as the aggressor. The Ministry wanted them dead and there was little chance of making it out of here without a fight. Kawashima knew that they were unlikely to take them hostage.

A few men with weapons drawn rounded the corner, determination burning in their eyes. Tachibana placed his hand upon the colonel's shoulder, gently pushing her behind cover. Kawashima obliged, leaning against the wall as she waited. Tachibana let out a growl barreling towards the assailants. They were caught completely by surprise. Tachibana rammed his shoulder into a man, sending him tumbling to the floor. He quickly stepped on his throat, letting off once he turned his attention to another. The man on the floor gasped for air, clutching at his throat. Tachibana ripped one man's firearm from his hands before proceeding to beat him down with the butt of the submachine gun. Another man fired at the hulking cyborg, his suppressor silencing the shots that buried into Tachibana's back. Unfortunately for the man, he felt a boot kick into the back of his knee, causing him to fall to the floor. Kawashima quickly brought her leg up and smashed the top of her foot against the side of his skull. His neck broke with an audible crunch. Tachibana kicked one to the floor before burying a few shots into his head. He tossed the weapon away while his superior was finishing with the last man. Snapping her open palm against his chest, she stunned the assailant before crashing her forearm into his throat. Kawashima then proceeded to hook a blow across his face, breaking his jaw and twisting his head with such force that he was paralyzed. The man crumpled to the floor, groaning in absolute pain. The colonel stared down at the man, only to be caught off guard by one last assassin that came around the corner. Without hesitation, a thunderous noise was heard as the man was riddled with metal shot. He stumbled back before falling against the wall. Kawashima looked from the man to Tachibana, who had his right arm extended outwards. His arm had opened up, revealing a built-in 8 gauge shotgun. The captain pulled his hand back as his arm once again closed. Kawashima simply turned away from her subordinate, stepping over the corpse of the man he had just killed. The captain's voice reached Kawashima's ears.

"We should head back to the garrison, ma'am. It's not safe here."

Kawashima made her way down the corridor as Tachibana followed after her. The woman's eyes burned with anger. A nurse glanced over at the two of them, blinking with confusion. She had not seen the doctor return. Why was Kawashima leaving in such a hurry? Not to mention that fiery look in her eyes. The young woman stepped towards them, a worried look on her face.

"Ma'am? Is everything all right? Where's Doctor Iwata?"

The two officers stopped in their tracks with Tachibana emanating an audible growl from his throat. Both individuals turned their gaze upon the young nurse with the colonel granting her a response.

"The doctor is held up at the moment."

The nurse blinked at this, wandering down the hall from whence they came. Kawashima looked to Tachibana for a moment before continuing on.

<We don't have much time before the police are called. I'd prefer to be out of this building before then.>

The captain glanced to his superior as the rounded a corner, making their way back to the receptionist's desk. He was unsure as to how many lackeys the Ministry had sent after Kawashima. He was surprised that it wasn't the JMSDF coming after them, considering what had happened with the warrant officer last month. Rumors were going around that Colonel Ai Kawashima had been involved in some illicit affairs regarding JGSDF funds. However, nothing could be proven. An extremist group calling themselves the Extropy Front had obtained funds from an unknown benefactor. They were a group that supported the use of prosthetics and advocated transhumanism. Colonel Kawashima had been suspected of embezzling funds, though no evidence was ever found. Even though she was not convicted, Public Security still had an investigation open on the woman.

Kawashima and Tachibana reached the security checkpoint, in which the guard turned to retrieve their respective firearms. Tachibana folded his arms, waiting impatiently. The receptionist behind the desk once again glanced up at the man, sneering in disgust before returning to her work. Before they were able to retrieve their weapons, the nurse from earlier ran past them, coming from the corridor from which they emerged. A look of absolute shock on her face. Kawashima tilted her head to watch the young woman run. Tachibana on the other hand, scooped up his G33 and slid the magazine into the well. The captain looked to his superior, emitting a grunt.

"Colonel."

Kawashima seemed to be lost in her thoughts, as she had not heard her subordinate speak to him. Tachibana placed his hand on her shoulder, speaking in his low tone of voice once again.

"Ai. Your pistol."

Kawashima blinked back to reality, looking from the nurse to her handgun. She picked it up and loaded it before holstering the weapon. With that, Kawashima proceeded to fill out paperwork handed to her by the receptionist. As the woman leaned over the counter to behind fill out the forms, a woman approached the colonel from behind. Without any warning, she brandished a knife and grabbed Kawashima from behind, slapping a hand over the colonel's mouth. She yanked the officer back from the counter as she pressed the blade against her throat. Kawashima's eyes glared at the woman behind her, but she didn't appear to struggle. Tachibana immediately proceeded to draw his pistol, but was stopped by the receptionist, who pulled out her own, setting its sights upon the man's head.

"Hands off, asshole." She hissed at the man.

Tachibana slowly raised his hands up, the red lens on his face focused on Kawashima. She would not be allowed to leave his sight. The security guard immediately reached for his pistol, only to be met with a gunshot from the receptionist. He released a shout, falling to the floor. Taking advantage of this opening, Tachibana quickly reached over and snagged the woman's petite wrists within his massive hand. He squeezed with all of his might, shattering the carpal bones within. She let out a pained shriek as her grip upon the handgun relaxed. It fell to the floor with an audible clatter. Tachibana pulled her over the desk towards him, only to smash his fist into her face. She was knocked out cold from the force of his strike. The security guard opened up a channel.

<This is Kanda! I need security down here right now!>

The nurse from earlier was currently accessing a public terminal, speaking in a frantic tone through the telephone as she watched the conflict unfold in front of her eyes. She had no idea what was happening. In fact, she was terrified. As soon as these two cyborgs from the GSDA showed up, all hell started breaking loose. The young woman didn't fear for her life as much as she feared for the lives of other patients and visitors. In her mind, Kawashima and Tachibana were the cause of all of this. The woman who held Kawashima captive scowled at Tachibana with hard eyes, slowly backing away with the colonel. At this point in time, the captain had his G33 in his hands and the barrel was pointed at the woman. He cautiously kept pace with her, his lens remaining fixated on the two women. The woman hissed at Tachibana.

"You're going to drop that gun and you're going to turn the other way, Captain. If you don't, I can't say what's going to happen to the dear colonel here."

Tachibana didn't falter. Instead, he made one step towards the woman. The woman let out a smirk. However, her eyes grew wide as she gasped. She groaned in pain as her face winced, releasing her hold on Kawashima. The knife clattered to the floor as the woman reeled back, clutching at a deep bleeding wound. The colonel's own blade was held firmly within her fist, blood adorning the sheening metal. Kawashima turned towards the woman, staring down at her with hard eyes. A venomous tone escaped her lips.

"Captain, if you would please."

With that command, Tachibana approached the writhing woman in front of the colonel. Extending his arm, he squeezed off two bullets, both rounds planting themselves within the attacker's skull. Kawashima then proceeded to wipe her knife clean on the dead woman's clothing before sheathing the blade. The two officers then proceeded to vacate the area, steadily making their way down the corridor towards the main foyer. Tachibana holstered his pistol, following the his superior clear out of the building. As they were leaving the hospital, several police cars pulled to the hospital, along with an armored van. Kawashima and Tachibana stepped out of the way of the oncoming SAT members, who stormed the hospital. One officer shouted to them.

"You two stay right there! I'd like to ask you some questions!"

Tachibana let out a growl as Kawashima looked towards the officer. A few SAT members approached the two of them, guns drawn on the GSDA officers while the police officer from before jogged up to them. Both Kawashima and Tachibana raised their hands in front of them. The officer stared at the colonel, noting that she outranked the man next to her.

"Ma'am, do you know what happened here?"

Kawashima put her hands down, folding them across her chest as she proceeded to explain the situation to the man, from her own perspective.

"I don't know exactly what happened, I wasn't there. From what I understand, a group of armed men stormed in and killed a doctor and a visitor. They also shot a security guard. A nurse, Saori Akagi can attest to it, officer." With that, she immediately opened an encrypted channel with a woman.

<Bribe the nurse, threaten her, blackmail her, whatever it takes. I want this cleaned up immediately, Kurosawa. We can't allow the police to trace this back to us, do you understand?>

A woman's voice was heard, a tone of concern present in her voice.

<Yes, ma'am.>

Tachibana watched as the officer proceeded to question the colonel. It was the usual routine. Who she was, what she was doing there, etcetera. After a few moments, the police officer waved them away, convinced by Kawashima's testimony. With that, the captain followed the woman back to her car before climbing in. He started the vehicle and proceeded to leave the parking lot, merging with traffic onto the street. The man said nothing as he drove back onto the freeway. However, Kawashima's voice caught his attention.

"Go to Megatech Body, Captain. This shell still needs to be calibrated."

Tachibana glanced back towards Kawashima for a brief moment, only to catch her staring out of the window. He spoke up.

"What makes you believe that it'll be safer there?"

Kawashima shifted her eyes to meet his form, a displeased look was present within her gaze.

"Do as I say, Katashi. Do you understand?"

Tachibana let out a small grunt, giving the woman a slight nod before returning his focus on the road in front of him.

"Yes, ma'am."

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Jinrai
Ai Kawashima - June 3, 2032

<AI KAWASHIMA>

[Colonel of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force]

 

The air in the barracks stood still with dead silence. It had been a long forty-eight hours. Sleep was a valuable commodity that appeared to be in short supply. The time was 0330 and daylight seemed so far away. The man standing watch glanced down at his wristwatch, releasing a defeated sigh. He leaned against the wall, rubbing at his eyes as he tried to stay awake. He let out a yawn, clearly exhausted from the previous two days. Before he closed his eyes, a loud bang was heard as light engulfed the barracks. Three drill sergeants stormed into the room, shouting at the recruits yet in bed.

"Get up! Now!" The soldiers clamored out of their bunks, groggy and in complete disarray. Men stumbled about, attempting to clothe themselves. One man nearly lost his balance as he tried to pull his pants on. Another appeared to refuse to climb out of bed. Needless to say, this brought the wrath of one drill sergeant down upon him. The sergeant immediately ran over to the man and began berating him. The soldier simply rolled over, his back facing the sergeant. The drill sergeant bared his teeth as he grabbed the back of the man's shirt, dragging him out of bed.

"Get your ass out of bed! You weren't recruited just to lay around all day!"

The soldier hit the floor with a thud. He climbed to his feet and stood at attention.

"Yes, sir!"

The sergeant spat on the floor before grabbing the man's bedding, tossing it on the floor. He growled at the man.

"Fix your fucking rack and get out of my face!" The drill sergeant stormed away from the man, off to make another recruit's life a living hell. It took approximately fifteen minutes for the platoon to get squared away. Upon inspection, they were escorted outside. A light rain fell upon the earth, drenching the pavement beneath their feet. The thirty-two recruits stood in a single file line, all facing forward. Water dripped off of their caps as one of the drill sergeants barked at them.

"Left, face!" With that command, the recruits made a synchronized motion, all obeying the man's order. Aside from the pouring rain, all was quiet. No one moved, no one spoke. It was as if the air they breathed grew stagnant. Everyone was on edge, unsure as to why they were standing out in the rain. Two of the drill sergeants spoke to one another, both keeping their eyes upon the recruits. Anyone watching the two NCOs knew that they were discussing the line of soldiers. One of the recruits glanced over to the woman next to him, about to whisper something to her. However, all that was heard was one of the sergeants.

"Eyes front!"

The soldier snapped to attention, staring straight ahead. The sergeant marched over to the young man, shouting in his face.

"You think this is a circus!? You think you can do whatever the hell you want!?" He waited for the soldier to respond. He didn't. The sergeant wrinkled his nose and bared his teeth. "Answer me, you piece of shit!" The recruit grew fearful, his eyes almost tearing up. However, he stood his ground and didn't give into the pressure. The sergeant growled and reeled back to strike the young man.

"Attention! Officer on deck!"

The sergeant immediately ceased and stood at attention, turning to face his superior. Approaching the platoon was a woman who stood about 5'10". She had short, black hair. A type of angled bob, almost. Her eyes were a piercing crystal blue. They were the type of eyes that immediately drew your attention. They appeared to have a cold intelligence behind them. One could tell that this individual was fully prosthetic. She approached them, her collar insignia visible under the floodlights. The head drill sergeant approached the woman, saluting her.

"Colonel Kawashima, ma'am!"

Kawashima glanced to him for a moment before giving him a small salute of her own. She folded her arms across her chest and scanned the line of recruits before speaking to the sergeant.

"Which of these have the highest aptitude scores?" Kawashima watched the recruits, noticing a handful of them shifting their eyes towards her. The sergeant clasped his hands behind his back, also examining the group. After a moment, he singled out six individuals. The colonel immediately focused her attention on those that the man had pointed out.

"Extent of cyberization?" She asked.

"One's fully prosthetic, one only has a cyberbrain, the rest are a mishmash of parts, ma'am."

Kawashima looked at the man, speaking in a dry tone.

"Get me the full cyborg and the one with the cyberbrain." She returned her gaze back to the recruits. The sergeant barked at them.

"Kobayashi, Ito! Move your asses up here!" The sergeant firmly pointed at the ground in front of him. A man and a woman quickly jogged over and stood at attention. The sergeant stood off to the side, watching Kawashima gaze upon the two recruits. She said nothing to them. One could tell that they were nervous underneath of her scrutinizing eyes. The colonel looked to the sergeant, waving him off.

"Carry on, Sergeant." She spoke in a quiet voice. With that, the man saluted his superior and returned to drilling the other recruits with his cohorts. Kobayashi and Ito stood perfectly still with Ito shivering. Kawashima's cold blue eyes locked their gaze with Ito. The young man stared at the officer, trying his best not to show any signs of cracking. She was looking for any weakness in him. Needless to say, she found plenty to work with. Her stoic facial expression did not change. She folded her arms across her chest, the rainwater running down the length of her exposed arms, pooling upon her wristwatch before falling to the pavement below. A quiet hum came from her lips.

"Do I make you nervous, Private Ito?"

The young man gave a slight nod, shouting.

"Yes, ma'am!"

Kawashima watched him closely, soaking in his response along with the warm rain. It wasn't a few moments later and a man approached. He was tall, approaching 6'8". There was no mistaking that this man was a heavily modified full cyborg. The only humanoid feature about him was his shape. His face had two large plates that covered where his cheekbones once were and he had no visible mouth. He also possessed two small green lenses in place of eyes. A smooth crest was upon his forehead, making his eyes seem smaller than what they actually were. Two reinforced antennae protruded from the back of his collarbone, further adding to his altered form. The recruits didn't move an inch as the intimidating man folded his arms as he stood next to Kawashima. The colonel didn't look at the man, but gave him an order nonetheless.

"Captain Tachibana. Escort Private Kobayashi and Private Ito to Facility B-6."

Tachibana gave a resolute nod and pointed towards a building, shooting an unnerving glare at the two recruits. They immediately complied, both unsettled by the events that were transpiring. Kobayashi joined the GSDA to pay for college. She didn't know what she was getting herself into. Ito signed up at the request of his father. None of that mattered now. They were in the hands of Colonel Ai Kawashima, who had quite the reputation. They had heard stories. According to others' testimonies, the silent colonel was a domineering woman. She was known to exert her will upon others and instill fear and obedience. It was well known that Captain Katashi Tachibana was essentially her lapdog. He obeyed her every command without question and with reverent eagerness. Tachibana followed right on their heels, glaring at the backs of their heads. As the three individuals entered the designated building, Kawashima glanced back to the platoon of recruits as they drilled, if only for a moment. With that, she turned heel and followed after Tachibana and the new fledglings.

Private Akihito Ito was seated alone in a white-room, drying his face with a towel. The small room had no distinct features, save for a small one-way mirror upon the wall in front of him. He was intelligent enough to know that he was being watched. Examined like a lab rat. What for, he didn't know. He had no idea what he had gotten himself into, or why he was taken from his platoon. Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes into hours. Yet, no one appeared to speak with him. All the while, he knew that he was being watched. He assumed it to be Colonel Kawashima, but he had no way of knowing. Ito propped his head upon his hand, closing his eyes as exhaustion took him. He hadn't eaten anything that day, nor did he receive much sleep. Five hours in the last two days wasn't cutting it for him. The room was shielded, so he couldn't access the internet via his cyberbrain, either. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep, the door whooshed open, startling the private. He sat up straight as Kawashima and Tachibana entered the room, with Tachibana standing guard next to the door. The colonel sat in the chair across him, resting a sealed folder upon the table between them. She didn't look at the young man as she gingerly opened the folder. Her fingers gently thumbed through its contents, with the woman taking her time carefully looking through each and every document that was filed. Ito tilted his head slightly in order to get a better view. To his surprise, the folder was all of the information pertaining to him. His heart sunk when Kawashima's eyes rested upon a certain document, which she took an unusual amount of time inspecting.

"Warrant Officer Akihito Ito. Infiltration specialist attached to an unofficial unit referred to as Umibozu." Yet, she did not look upon him. Instead, she thumbed to yet another page. The woman continued.

"Enlisted in the MSDF at age 18. March 4th, 2027. Graduated with high honors from the Etajima Naval Academy in Hiroshima. It says here that you were immediately scouted by the Umibozu and joined their ranks in 2029." She paused, reading onward. "I see that you participated in the assault on Public Security Section 9's headquarters. You were one of the men who arrested one of their investigators. Pazu, I believe his name is?" She softly closed the folder before looking up at Ito, meeting his gaze with her own cold stare.

Ito blinked. His cover had been blown. He let out a sharp exhale through his nose, watching the colonel, unsure as to what his next move would be. Kawashima picked up the folder and extended her hand towards Tachibana. The massive captain took the folder from his superior and continued to observe the interrogation before him. The colonel crossed her legs and laced her fingers together, cupping her knee between her hands. Her expression didn't change. It was almost like Ito was staring into the eyes of a doll. It unnerved him. Ai Kawashima questioned him yet again.

"I can't say what your purpose here is, but I have a likely estimate, Warrant Officer. The Umibozu are known to be an effective fighting force, but they are also sloppy. Your unit did well during the Nemuro Operation, but my team had to come in and clean up the mess you left behind. 2024, was the year." In a rare display, Kawashima's eyes narrowed. "That's when our equivalent to your unit was formed. Of course, you already know this." Kawashima leaned back in her seat, folding her arms across her chest, her legs remaining crossed.

"You're here to obtain deployment reports and to identify the command structure of the Jinrai." She paused, keeping their eyes locked. "Correct?" Ito averted his eyes, saying nothing. The shrewd colonel gave an amused hum.

"I thought as much." She glanced to Captain Tachibana. The tall cyborg turned around and locked the door behind him, causing Ito to stare at the door with defeated eyes. Kawashima unsheathed her combat knife and buried it into the aluminum of the table, causing Ito to jump out of his skin. Kawashima leaned forward, resting her arms upon the surface of the cold, metal table, staring into Ito's eyes with a look that froze him. Tachibana then made his way behind the young man, slamming his palm upon the top of Ito's right hand before grabbing hold of his index finger with his iron grip. Ito shouted from the sudden pain.

"For a so-called Umibozu, you're rather undisciplined. I expected better of you, Warrant Officer." The colonel's eyes shifted down towards his captive hand before looking back at the worried young sailor. "Had you been fully prosthetic, things may have been easier." Her eyes shifted up to meet Tachibana's face. Ito had no time to think about what Kawashima had told him before Captain Tachibana twisted his wrist, snapped Ito's finger to the side. Ito screamed at the top of his lungs, the captain refusing to release his grip. Kawashima watched the warrant officer squirm, sweat dripping off of his chin. Her unsettling gaze didn't falter.

"I would like you to tell me who else has infiltrated my base, Warrant Officer Ito."

Ito simply glared at Kawashima, refusing to divulge any information to the woman. The colonel tapped her finger once on the table's surface. With that motion, Tachibana broke yet another finger. Another scream filled the room. Kawashima watched Ito shiver. He panted heavily, moaning from the immense pain. She repeated her inquiry. Ito didn't answer and Tachibana broke his thumb, causing it to hang loosely within his skin. The warrant officer screamed at the top of his lungs.

"Kamiyama! Genta Kamiyama! He's the informant!"

Kawashima's gaze didn't falter. She didn't blink. Instead, she spoke in a lower tone. Almost threateningly.

"Who else?"

Ito shook his head violently, shouting to the colonel.

"There's no one else, I swear!"

Tachibana broke his ring finger, causing the finger to stick straight up. The young warrant officer's right hand was a mess. Despite that, he didn't relent. Colonel Kawashima wrapped her fingers around the hilt of her serrated knife and yanked it out of the aluminum. She stood up from her chair and walked around the side of the table, standing close to Tachibana before leaning down next to the young man. She spoke to him in a low, cold tone.

"If you won't talk, then there's no need for a tongue."

With her free hand, violently grabbed the sides of Ito's jaw, digging her fingers into certain pressure points. His mouth was forced open as a result and the tip of the woman's knife inched closer and closer to the soft oral organ. Ito slammed his hand upon the table multiple times, trying to vocalize to her. Kawashima snapped her hand from his jaw to his throat, holding him tightly. Ito frantically voiced his words to the colonel.

"Wait, wait, wait! I can give you information! Public Security is investigating you, Colonel!"

Kawashima slightly tilted her head, listening to the captive warrant officer. Ito tried his best to look at the woman as he spoke. Between Kawashima holding him by the throat and Tachibana pinning him to the table, it was incredibly difficult to do so.

"Section 1! They've been watching you for fifteen months, now! Intercepting your transmissions. Hell, they've been watching you at home!"

Kawashima's eyes narrowed at this news. She finally spoke, her grip upon her knife tightening even more.

"Is that so? Then there is no need for you any longer, Warrant Officer Ito." She flipped her knife so that the blade was resting in her palm. Tachibana grabbed the knife as the colonel released her grip upon the young man's throat. The captain grabbed the top of Ito's head and yanked it back, exposing his throat to the blade of the knife.

"Die with honor, Warrant Officer." Kawashima said as her cold, blue eyes were upon him. With those words, Tachibana dragged the edge of the blade across his windpipe. Ito began to choke as he fell to the floor. It wasn't much longer before the Umibozu agent expired. Kawashima looked to the captain, her eyes ever stoic.

"Salvage his cyberbrain. I want his memories extracted and transferred to an external memory device. Dispose of the body."

Tachibana gave a nod and grabbed Ito's corpse. He left the room with the warrant officer in tow. Kawashima picked up her knife, looking down at the blade for a brief moment before returning it back to its sheath. With that, the woman left the interrogation room. Now, she knew who was watching her. She opened up an encrypted cybercomm channel.

<Give Public Security a false lead. I want all evidence of records between February 2028 and January 2032 destroyed. Leave no trace. No shortcuts, do I make myself clear?>

<Yes, ma'am!>

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Welcome to your campaign!
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1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

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A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

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