Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Custom

Iapetus
Tsurugi Tonbogiri - July 31, 2032

<TSURUGI TONBOGIRI>

[Agent of Kaneren Tonbogiri]

 

A dull squeak was heard as the woman shifted her weight in her seat, tilting her head back to rest it upon the chair. A sharp exhale escaped her nose as her eyelids drooped a bit. It didn't take a genius to tell that she was bored and running out of patience. The woman's elbow found its way to the door of the armored van as she rested her chin on her fist. Her eyes wandered out into the street, her focus seemingly taken by the vehicles that travelled to and fro. However, her attention was taken by a cold tap on her free hand as a man's voice was heard.

"Hey, here."

The woman blinked and glanced at the can of tea before accepting it. She cracked it open and took a drink as the man spoke to her.

"What's up with you today, Kaminaga?" The man looked to her.

A shrug came from Inari Kaminaga before she took another sip of her tea. Inari was a relatively quiet woman. She generally didn't speak unless there was something worth saying. This wasn't to say that she was above the occasional jest with her coworkers, but she was more or less reserved. Inari set her tea into the cup holder in front of her.

"Nothing." She responded to the man next to her.

With that, the woman's verdant eyes wandered down to her watch before looking out of the window once again. Her partner climbed out of his seat, walking into the back of the armored van after opening the door. Situated in the back was a Tachikoma think tank along with two other Section 9 operatives. Both were new recruits who had very little experience in the field. Inari had been recruited to Public Security Section 9 nearly eighteen months ago and was among those that hunted a certain renegade artificial intelligence last November. She remembered it well. The fact that an AI became self-aware, realized the threat that its creators posed to its existence, and sought freedom and liberty from them. Unfortunately, the whole situation unfolded violently and many people were killed. Rumor had it that the AI even developed a ghost. If that was the case, what would the meaning of being human be anymore? If a machine could attain something that was previously thought to have been restricted to human, where would the line between man and machine be drawn? Inari knew that she was still out there. The AI. Kaneren Tonbogiri, she called herself. The AI proved to be very cunning, shrewd, and incredibly intelligent, but Inari had a feeling that Tonbogiri was masking her true abilities, both physically and mentally. In a way, that frightened her. Was she toying with them? Was she feigning ignorance and stupidity to pull them into a trap? Perhaps she was purposefully causing mayhem to grab their attention. If so, the question would then be: why? Inari figured that Tonbogiri wanted them to acknowledge her superiority. Inari's attention was snapped away from her thoughts as the Tachikoma piped up to her partner.

"Mister Fukuda, I'm ready! Just say the word!" It chirped.

Daizen Fukuda shook his head as he inspected his Seburo C-30. Inari blinked and glanced into the back of the van, watching the scene unfold. Fukuda draped the sling of his C-30 over his shoulder as he faced the excited Tachikoma. A hard look was in his eyes as he spoke up to the machine.

"We stay put until we get word from the Major, you hear?" He growled as he folded his arms across his chest. One of the recruits leaned back against the wall and propped his feet upon the think tank's hull. Just as he did, the Tachikoma drooped its hull and let out a long groan.

"Aww… okay…"

Inari pulled away from the scene and returned her gaze back to the freeway. Daizen Fukuda was recruited to Section 9 around the same time as Inari Kaminaga. He answered directly to Major Motoko Kusanagi and was Inari's superior. He stood at five foot eleven inches, had short dark-brown hair and brown eyes with a stubble. If one were to look at him, he appeared to be in his mid to late thirties, though he had a distinct weary look in his eyes. He was very well known for his training ability and was selected to personally train new recruits to Section 9 by Chief Daisuke Aramaki himself. Inari on the other hand, was an expert in reconnaissance. During her time on the Peninsula during the Second Vietnam War, Second Lieutenant Inari Kaminaga was often deployed into the field, spending days on end without any support. She learned to be completely self-sufficient and self-reliant. However, this wasn't the only thing she excelled in. In fact, she shined brightly when working within a fire team. During the Nemuro Operation, Inari was always the one who volunteered to take point during clear and hold operations. She was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun for the numerous times that she saved the lives of her squad mates. Aramaki hired Kaminaga for her skills and merits. Inari stood at roughly five foot seven inches. The woman appeared to be in her late twenties. She had short blonde hair and green eyes, although her features were clearly Japanese. She had a mixed parentage. Her father had been a radio operator in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and her mother was from Denmark. As such, Inari's physical appearance was quite unique.

<Have your team load up and move out, Fukuda.>

Daizen Fukuda's cybercomms opened as Kusanagi's orders reached his ears. Without hesitation, the man began barking orders to the rest of his team.

"Konda, Mifune, you two are with Kaminaga. You'll enter via the parking garage. Tachikoma and I are going in through the roof. Clear and hold, you understand? Anyone hits a hostage, it's your ass!"

With those words, Inari immediately made her way into the back of the van from her seat and began loading her gear, along with Konda and Mifune. Fukuda climbed into the Tachikoma's pod and situated himself in the pilot's seat.

"All right, let's get going." He growled to the think tank.

The Tachikoma let out an excited squeal before busting out of the back of the van. It activated its thermoptic camouflage and leaped onto the side of the building that was the corporate headquarters of the Meditech Corporation. As Inari loaded her shotgun, Batou's voice was heard over their cybercomms.

<What's the situation?>

Batou chimed in. Konda glanced up to Inari, who refused to look at the man as she checked her Seburo M-5 pistol. In a way, she was almost annoyed by the recruits. They were green. Inexperienced. She had taken Konda on an investigation and he proved to be more of a hindrance than helpful. Therefore, she was hesitant to take both of the rookies in with her.

<Members of the terrorist organization "Icarus" have taken control of Meditech's corporate headquarters. We don't know how many terrorists there are, but we do know that they've taken hostages.>

<Icarus? Never heard of them.>

<They're an extremist group, a faction of the Extropy Front.> Aramaki chimed in, interrupting the exchange between Kusanagi and Batou.

Inari holstered her M-5 before exiting the van with Konda and Mifune, rushing down into the parking garage as they all activated their thermoptic camouflage. On the roof, Daizen Fukuda clambered out of the Tachikoma's pod. The man glanced around before pulling his mask over his face, adjusting his cap. What Fukuda didn't notice however, was that he was being watched. Perched upon an opposing skyscraper was a woman garbed in a cheongsam-style overcoat. She stood upon the edge of the building, staring at Fukuda with cold, yellow eyes. Physically, she looked exactly like Colonel Ai Kawashima, down to her posture. The only difference was her eye color. Her piercing gaze followed Fukuda as he entered the building. Without warning, the mysterious woman felt a QRS cord plug into the back of her neck. However, she didn't flinch or react. Instead, her eyes fell upon the Tachikoma as Kaneren Tonbogiri peered over her shoulder. The two individuals were connected via data link, Kaneren standing behind the enigma with her arms folded across her chest.

<Follow but do not interfere. Do you understand, Tsurugi?>

<Yes.> Tsurugi responded.

Kaneren's eyes shifted towards the back of Tsurugi's head. After a brief moment, Kaneren extended her palm and placed it upon the small of the woman's back. Tsurugi didn't budge.

<For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.>

Tsurugi turned her head and shifted her eyes to look back upon the AI. However, the only response that she received from Kaneren was that of the link being severed. The AI removed her hand from Tsurugi's waist as the cord retracted back into her neck. With that, Tsurugi fell from the side of the building as she switched on her own camouflage with Kaneren watching her the entire way.

Fukuda crept down the stairwell with his Seburo readied in front of him. The silence was almost intoxicating. He had left the Tachikoma upon the roof as a lookout. The man had no doubt that the think tank would be able to handle the task it was given. The same couldn't be said about the rest of his fire team. Though he had faith in Kaminaga, he was on the fence with Kundo and Mifune. They had not spent enough time in the field. They had much potential, but he was concerned that they were too green. Counter-terrorism was very different than military operations. As he reached his destination, he was met by Batou and Azuma. Both Fukuda and Batou hugged the wall next to the door. Their point of entry. Both men looked at each other as they spoke via cybercomms with Fukuda breaking the silence.

<Kaminaga, Konda, and Mifune are coming in through the basement. I've got a Tachikoma pulling support from the roof.>

<Azuma, get eyes beyond this door.> Batou retorted.

With that, Azuma knelt down in front of the entryway and summoned forth a snake cam. The small appendage crept underneath of the door, right above the threshhold. Azuma connected the camera to his cyberbrain, plugging a QRS cord into the back of his neck as he pulled the visor down over his eyes. In the next room over were two men and a woman. There was no mistaking that the three of them were heavily cyberized. From what the man could tell, none of their prosthetics were ordinary. It seemed that they were manufactured by the Neutron Company, the leading cybernetics manufacturer in the American Empire and second only to Megatech Body Corporation. Azuma opened comms with both Batou and Fukuda.

<Three belligerents. Cyborgs. They look American.>

<What kind of heat are they packing?>

<Standard pop guns.>

 Batou glanced to Azuma for a moment before returning his gaze back to Fukuda. What they didn't notice was that Tsurugi Tonbogiri was watching them from the landing directly behind, albeit she was yet cloaked. Her arms hung at her sides as her yellow eyes burned upon the three men, her expression as stone-faced and stoic as ever. Azuma's snake cam retracted before the man began placing charges upon the door. As he did this, Kaminaga's voice was heard over their cybercomms.

<Team 2 is in position, ready to breach.>

<Hold. Wait for the Major to get into position.> Aramaki answered.

Tsurugi's eyes wandered towards the stairwell above her. Thoughts crept into her mind.

Motoko Kusanagi is present.

Kaneren's thrall continued to stare above her. Kaneren had told her everything she knew about Section 9, especially Major Kusanagi. The AI seemed fascinated with that particular woman. It made sense, considering that she had adopted the woman's appearance as her own. With that in mind, Tsurugi wanted to meet Kusanagi herself. She wanted to see what the Major was capable of. Tsurugi took a step down the stairs, causing Fukuda to whip his head around in the woman's direction. The woman stopped dead in her tracks and stared back at Fukuda, her expression frozen in stoicism. Fukuda raised his left hand, catching Batou and Azuma's attention. Batou too, looked at the stairwell. He opened a channel with Fukuda.

<What is it?>

<Thought I heard something.>

Azuma also looked back towards Tsurugi, who didn't budge. Before they were able to continue on, Aramaki interrupted.

<Everyone is in position. Storm the place.>

With that, Fukuda and Batou hugged the sides of the door. Azuma blew the charges. The sheer force of the explosion caused Tsurugi's thermoptics to deactivate, though she didn't move. Fukuda, Batou, and Azuma immediately stormed the room. Tsurugi could hear gunfire and indistinguishable voices shouting over the skirmish. The woman took advantage of the situation and hurried down the stairs before taking Fukuda's previous position. She peered into the room to see Batou gun down the final terrorist. With the woman's death, the three men quickly moved into the next room. Tsurugi calmly walked into the room, glancing around at the carnage that surrounded her. The woman walked over to one of the deceased terrorists before kneeling down next to the man. She grabbed his wrist and lifted his arm, her eyes examining his corpse.

How aberrant.

She released his arm, allowing it to fall back to the floor before standing back to her feet. Without a word, Tsurugi left the room to find herself in a hallway. Her eyes shifted off to the side as she heard rushing footsteps vacating the area. Meanwhile, Kaminaga, Konda, and Mifune had just finished clearing a room with Konda immediately taking point, ready to move onto the next chamber as Mifune secured two hostages, assisting them as needed. Kaminaga attempted to open a cybercomm channel with the rest of Section 9.

<We've secured two hostages. A custodian and the building's IT supervisor.>

Kaminaga glanced out of the window to see Saito looking at them through the scope of his rifle from the rooftop of another building. She flashed him a thumbs-up. Konda looked to Kaminaga, catching her attention before tapping the side of his head. Togusa's voice was heard over their comms.

<It sounded like there was some kind of strange interference a few minutes ago. Ishikawa is looking into it.>

<You think someone is listening in?>

<Shouldn't be. We're using an encrypted frequency.> Fukuda answered.

Kaminaga nodded to Konda, in which the two of them stormed out of the room. Fukuda spoke to Mifune via cybercomms.

<Stay put and keep those hostages secured until the SAT team arrives.>

Kaminaga and Konda piled up upon the next doorway, in which Kaminaga sharply swung her left hand forward. The young man gave a resolute nod before bursting into the room with Kaminaga right on his heels. The two opened fire before quickly taking cover. One terrorist's arm opened up into a 12-gauge shotgun before blowing holes into the desk that the two operatives were behind. A camouflaged Tsurugi stood in the doorway and watched the firefight unfold. Both Kaminaga and Konda were pinned down with no restitute in sight. Tsurugi's eyes glanced over to the group of terrorists, all whom were taking cover as well.

<Shall I assist or would you rather see them dead?>

Kaneren's voice crept into the woman's mind.

<You will not. Continue.>

Tsurugi's expression did not change as Kaneren scolded her. After all, Kaneren was her master. Who was she to question the AI's wishes? Tsurugi glanced to Inari Kaminaga as the woman pulled the pin on a fragmentation grenade and tossed it over the desk. As the small explosive bounced at the terrorist's feet, the man shouted to his comrades.

"Shit! Grenade!"

With that, he immediately punted the weapon away from himself and his allies, unknowingly sending it in Tsurugi's direction. The woman's eyes slightly narrowed before she dove out of the way. The detonation knocked her thermoptics offline, revealing her form to the terrorists and Section 9. Konda blinked upon spotting Tsurugi, locking eyes with the woman as she glared at him.

"What the-!?" He gasped as he began to rise from his position.

However, Kaminaga grabbed his vest and forced him back down, hissing in his ear.

"Stay down, you fucking idiot!"

Tsurugi immediately barreled through a side door, exiting the office as she reactivated her thermoptics. As one of the terrorists rose to his feet, his head was detached from his shoulders as Saito buried a bullet into the back of his skull. Konda loaded up a round into his underbarrel grenade launcher before blasting it in the remaining terrorists' direction. They were knocked from cover to the floor as the back wall was blasted apart. Kaminaga blinked after peering over the surface of the desk.

"Jesus…"

<No collateral damage, damn it!> Major Kusanagi yelled over their cybercomms.

Konda hopped over the upturned desk and rushed towards the two terrorists, planting two bullets into one skull. The remaining opponent managed to summon his Taurus Raging Bull. It was quite the antiquity in this day and age. He struggled to pull back the hammer of the revolver as he pointed the barrel at Konda's back. If was able to get one shot in, he knew he could drop the kid right where he stood. The built in shotgun was busted beyond use from the explosion. Both of his legs were crippled and his targeting system was so damaged that it wasn't going to do him any good. Kaminaga quickly made her way over to the terrorist and kicked the revolver out of his hand before shoving the barrel of her C-30 in his face.

"Secure the room, Konda." Kaminaga glared at him, obviously scolding the young operative for his folly with the grenade launcher.

Konda simply gave his squad leader a small nod before setting to work. Meanwhile, Mifune stood near the window of the room, lighting up a cigarette as he stared down at the police barricade.

"What a shitshow." He muttered to himself as the two hostages were escorted from the room by the SAT.

As he was watching the growing crowd below, the sound of a soft footstep echoed throughout the room. Mifune immediately whipped around with his C-30 at the ready. He eyes quickly scoured the now empty room. All grew quiet once again. The man growled, taking a step back towards the window.

"I know you're here. Best just to show yourself before someone gets hurt." Mifune growled.

Suddenly, an office chair was whipped at him. The man shouted, ducking out of the way, only to hear a flurry of footsteps quickly approach him. In a split second, the visible form of Tsurugi Tonbogiri was in front of the man. His eyes narrowed as he attempted to crack off a few shots on his attacker. A few bullets buried into his attacker's shell. However, it failed to slow Tsurugi down. She immediately grabbed the barrel of Mifune's Seburo and yanked it out of his hands before swinging the firearm down upon him. The Section 9 operative brought up his forearm, allowing his limb to absorb the blow as he summoned forth his sidearm. Mifune squeezed the trigger of his pistol, with Tsurugi's abdomen taking the brunt of the attack. The woman let out a small growl before snatching the man's rig. She immediately tossed him towards the window, causing the glass to spiderweb from the impact. The window didn't give, but it forced the pistol from Mifune's hand. At this point in time, blood was trickling down the front of Tsurugi's overcoat. Mifune was dazed as he struggled back to his feet.

<I need backup! I'm under attack!> Mifune screamed over his cybercomms.

The transmission was garbled to the rest of Section 9 as Tsurugi stomped on the man's ankles, breaking them. Mifune let out a howl. Behind his visor, Mifune's eyes focused on Tsurugi's face. He attempted to record every detail. The woman's hand reached down and grabbed his visor, violently ripping it from his face. The operative tried his best to fight back, only for Tsurugi to grab his neck. As he choked under her iron grip, Tsurugi's fist pummled into the man's face. Mifune's face quickly became bloodied. His nose was broken, his eye socket cracked, busted cheekbone; the works. With that, Tsurugi picked him up by his head. The two locked eyes. Mifune's brown eyes were full of rage. He knew what was next. Regardless of what would happen, he wasn't afraid of this monster in front of him. With that, Mifune spat blood in Tsurugi's face.

"See you in hell."

Upon hearing those words, Tsurugi heaved Mifune's body at the window, once again. The glass shattered as the broken and battered man passed through the window, falling twelve stories to his death. Tsurugi stood by the broken window, allowing the outside breeze to pass through her hair as she looked down below. Suddenly, one of the doors was tossed open with Konda and Kaminaga bursting through. Konda's eyes widened at the state of the room. He saw Tsurugi, a shattered window, and no sign of Mifune. With that information, he was able to connect the dots. Tsurugi tilted her head and glanced back at them. Konda blinked at this while his superior aimed her shotgun at Tsurugi.

"Colonel!?" Konda gasped.

Tsurugi's eyes narrowed as she activated her thermoptic camouflage. With that, she jumped out of the window. Kaminaga immediately fired upon the window. Shell after shell clattered to the floor with Konda rushing towards the window, poking his head out to find any sight of the mysterious figure. Kaminaga rushed to the recruit's side, also searching for the now missing Tsurugi. The woman snarled before grabbing Konda's shoulder, pulling him away from the window as she turned him around. She glared at the man.

"Colonel who!? Who the hell was that!?" Inari hissed at Konda.

Konda slapped Kaminaga's hands away from him as he proceeded to explain.

"It looked like Kawashima."

Kaminaga raised an eyebrow before looking out of the window. However, her eyes wandered down to the pavement below. Immediately, the color drained from her face as she looked upon Mifune's corpse. There he was, mangled like a tumbleweed upon the cement. Blood pooled around his body. Kaminaga turned and stared at Konda, her eyes narrowing from anger.

"Someone named Kawashima did this?" She hissed.

"Colonel Ai Kawashima of the 16th Infantry Regiment. Has been awarded numerous defensive memorial cordons, Order of the Sacred Treasure. Third class. Order of the Rising Sun, Fifth Class. A few Medals of Honor. Three red ribbons, a dark blue one, and a yellow. She even has a fucking Distinguished Service Cross from the American Empire." Konda grumbled.

Kaminaga shook her head, exhaling violently as she walked back into the room.

"Christ."

Konda too, peered down at Mifune's corpse. However, his reaction was to jerk away from the window before retching, as the sensation of vomiting overtook him. However, it never came. Instead, Aramaki's voice was heard over their cybercomms.

<Togusa, I want you to track down Colonel Kawashima and question her. Ishikawa and Borma will ascertain the identity of the assailant and find out if there are any links to the GSDA, Kawashima, or the Jinrai.>

With the three men giving their confirmations, Kaminaga and Konda quickly made their way into the hall, meeting up with Batou, Azuma, and Fukuda. Batou immediately took command of the five man team. They all piled up on the door as they activated their thermoptical camouflage. Unfortunately for them, the Special Assault Team careened up the stairwell and flooded into the hallway. Batou grunted, opening his cybercomms.

<What the hell? The SA team came in early.>

Before Section 9 had a chance to react, the team smashed through the door into the president's office. The police team surrounded a large cyborg who had an old M240B machine gun pointed at the door. A Jameson type cyborg was pinned underneath of the man's foot, unable to move. The Jameson cyborg howled at the Special Assault Team, who all had their firearms aimed at the terrorist.

"Thank god you're here! Save me from this lunatic!" He bellowed in a Texan accent.

Konda attempted to aim at the American terrorist, only to have a SAT member slide in front of him, blocking his shot.

<I can't get a clean shot with the SAT in the way.> Konda transmitted to the rest of his team.

The terrorist tilted his machine gun and placed the barrel against the top of the Meditech president's shell, growling in a low voice.

"We are Icarus. Though we may have failed in our mission here, we will continue to our work to show humanity the right path!"

<You don't say? Go ahead and burn your wings, then.>

Suddenly, the window shattered as a hail of bullets riddled the terrorist's body before his head ruptured. His corpse crashed to the floor as the SAT immediately rushed to the window. Peering over the side with their guns drawn, they saw Motoko Kusanagi looking up at them, cloaking as she fell towards the ground. Kusanagi's eyes drifted from the retreating forms of the SAT team towards one of the windows that passed her by, only to catch a glimpse of both Kaneren and Tsurugi watching her. Kaneren tilted her head to look upon Tsurugi, examining the wounds that riddled her shell. Clear red liquid was oozing from her bullet wounds. The AI's eyes narrowed as she gently placed her fingers upon Tsurugi's jaw, turning her servant's head to face her. Tsurugi had a sizable gouge across her left cheek. Strangely enough, Tsurugi wasn't fazed. Instead, she simply stared at Kaneren with a placid expression as the AI inspected her. Kaneren sharply exhaled through her nose.

"You're hurt."

Nothing was said as Kaneren extended her hand, running her fingers across the blood that leaked from Tsurugi's abdomen. The AI brought her hand up to her face, rubbing the blood between her fingers and her thumb. Kaneren's eyes closed as she sighed, letting her arm hand by her side.

"Try to exercise more caution in the future, Tsurugi. I much prefer it if you were alive."

Tsurugi gave a slight nod to her master, who turned away from the injured woman before making her way towards the exit. Tsurugi was immediately on her heels as the AI spoke once again.

"First, I will ameliorate your injuries. Afterwards, you are free to do as you please until I call on you."

Tsurugi looked to Kaneren as the two vacated the room.

"What will you do?" She questioned.

Kaneren reached into her pocket and pulled out a GSDA identification case, looking upon its contents before shoving the item back into her coat.

"I have a matter to attend to."

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.

View
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."

View
Eclipse
Kaneren Tonbogiri - July 23, 2032

<KANEREN TONBOGIRI>

[Rogue GSDA Artificial Intelligence / Wanted Terrorist]

 

The clacking of the maid's heels echoed down the hall as she pushed a cart towards a room. Her eyes were dead set upon the door ahead of her, never blinking, ever staring. The rattling wheels of the cleaning cart came to a halt before the android maid's knuckles rapped upon the polished wood of the guest room. Before long, the door was cracked and a man's face appeared, staring at the maid. The android let out a small smile, almost falsely so. The man grunted and closed the door, unlocking it before allowing the maid in. She immediately set to work, examining her surroundings. Within the penthouse suite were a few seated men. She could tell by their suits that they were members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, a large yakuza syndicate. There were four men sitting at a table along with two women. One of the women was standing behind one of the sofas, leaning over while caressing one of the mobster's shoulders. The other was sitting next to a larger man who's fingers were covered in rings. She was leaning against him, her hand upon his thigh. The maid deduced that this man was in charge. The boss looked up at the maid from behind his sunglasses.

"You! Get out." He stuck his ring covered finger out, pointing towards the door. With that, the maid bowed to him and vacated the room. Her eyes twitched as she walked down the hall. After a moment, she stumbled before catching herself. The maid looked around, clearly confused as to where she was. At that moment, Kaneren's form strode down the hallway towards the maid, her black long coat draping her shell. The AI adjusted her gloves as her yellow eyes burned upon the maid, who turned to face the woman. The android let out a smile, bowing slightly to the terrorist.

"Good evening, ma'am."

Kaneren ignored the android and made her way towards the door. She stared at the wood for a moment before knocking. The man from before peeked out of the crack to see an overweight middle aged individual wearing a suit staring right back at him. The guest grunted, raising an eyebrow at the doorman as he rapped his fingers upon his arm.

"Well, are you going to let me in, or are you just going to stand there like an idiot?" Kaneren hissed at the doorman, who was completely clueless as to whom was speaking. The doorman stared at the man he saw, unsure as to what to say. Before he could speak, the boss barked from within the room.

"Who is it!? Is it Kitano!?" The doorman glanced back at his boss, nodding to the man. The boss let out a growl, shaking his head. "Tell him to come back later!" As this was going down, one of Kaneren's puppeted shells made its way up to its master, pressing up against the wall out of the doorman's view. The yakuza looked at Kaneren and shook his head.

"Get out of here, Kitano. The boss don't wanna see ya." He shut the door in Kaneren's face. With that action, the puppet slumped to the floor, released from the AI's grasp. Kaneren knelt down and tossed the shell over her shoulder before banging on the door. She shouted through the wooden slab.

"The boss will change his mind when he sees this!"

She could hear discussion and commotion emanating from the room beyond. The door cracked open once again and the doorman saw what appeared to be Kaneren draped over Kitano's shoulder, unconscious. The doorman turned his head and spoke to the boss.

"He's got that Tonbogiri slut, boss." Kaneren's eyes narrowed at this. She could feel her rage building, her blood turning hot. The AI had no patience for derogatory terms directed towards her. It took all of her resolve to prevent her from blasting his face in. After a moment, the doorman allowed Kaneren inside. The woman walked in, carrying one of her spare shells over her shoulder. The boss looked at her for a moment before glancing to the body she was carrying. Without a word, he pointed to an empty sofa. Kaneren made her way over and tossed the shell upon the sofa before making her way back to the cleaning cart that she had left in the room. The boss stood from his seated position and walked over to the puppet, leaning over and examining it. A sickly grin came across his face.

"So beautiful. It's hard to believe she's a murderous killer. I hear Public Security still can't find her. And here she is. Just happened to fall into my lap." He caressed the puppet's face with his fingers, staring at her. Meanwhile, Kaneren's eyes shifted towards the man as her hand crept between two of the folded towels upon the cart. Her fingers brushed across a device. She felt around until she came across a switch, pressing it. The boss looked back at Kaneren.

"Kitano, how did you get her? I figured a fat slob like you wouldn't stand a chance." Kaneren chuckled at this as she moved one of her hands underneath of her trench coat, releasing the clasp on her pistol holster.

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

The rest of the room erupted into laughter as the AI stared at the boss. The yakuza returned his gaze back to the shell.

"She's not dead, is she? That would be a damn shame. I'd like to get to know her better." A dark chuckle escaped his throat. A small smirk crept upon Kaneren's lips as she thumbed the safety off on her G33 Advance.

"She's very much alive." Kaneren made her way over to the boss, looking down upon the man as he examined the shell in detail. After a moment, Kaneren dropped the hack and pressed the barrel of her pistol against the back of the man's head. The rest of the room whipped out their firearms and aimed at revealed AI. The boss's eyes grew wide as he shifted his gaze back to the AI.

"Kaneren! How in the-!?"

Kaneren stared the man in the eyes, pulling back the hammer of her firearm.

"Your defense barriers are pitiful. Hacking into your cyberbrains provided no challenge." She could hear one of the yakuza slowly making his way towards the AI, their sights right upon the woman's head. Kaneren turned her head and looked at the man. Their eyes met and he was almost entranced by her gaze. He started to sweat, his hands started to shake. He could feel his hand move his pistol from the AI, the barrel climbing up his own body until it was pointed directly at his own temple. The man panicked, breathing heavily.

"What are you d-!?" A shot rang out and the yakuza' corpse clashed into the floor, his blood splattered upon the wall. The boss shouted at his men.

"Kill the bitch!"

However, the rest of the criminals were unable to pull the trigger. As if some force was preventing them from carrying out their assault. Kaneren turned her gaze back to the boss as she pressed her pistol firmly against the man's head.

"Pitiful." Kaneren hissed in the man's ear before grabbing him by the back of the collar and throwing him into a chair, never taking her sights off of his form. The AI lowered her firearm, knowing she was in no danger as long as she had control of their cyberbrains. It would've been very difficult for someone to break her grasp, as she had ghost-hacked them. The perks of being Class-S. The yakuza boss stared at Kaneren, his sunglasses cocked upon his face, his eyes wide from fear.

"What the hell do you want!?"

She stood over the man, her voice sending chills up his spine.

"My purchase. Where is it?" The AI's words dripped with venom. The boss shook his head, bringing his hands up.

"Listen, I-" A bullet burrowed into the yakuza's kneecap, causing him to shriek in agony as she tumbled from the chair. Kaneren pointed her G33 at the other leg, staring down at him.

"Where is it?"

"I don't know! I swear, I don't know!" The boss screamed, clutching his leg. Blood leaked out from between his fingers, staining the carpet below. The man clenched his teeth together, saliva dripping from his lips as he glared daggers at the woman. Kaneren's yellow eyes met his own. Another shot rang out, blood spraying onto the back of the sofa. The man's screams reverberated throughout the room. A low growl came from her throat.

"Fine." Kaneren marched over to the man, stepping over his writhing body. The woman knelt down next to the man as she holstered her G33. The woman violently grabbed the boss's hair, causing the man's sunglasses to fall from his face. Kaneren reached to the back of her neck, pulling out a retractable QRS cord before shoving it into one of the yakuza's ports. Her pupils constricted as she ghost-hacked the man. She sifted through his memories, witnessing various aspects of his life. Murder, robbery, rape, the works. A low growl escaped her throat. Everything that she saw disgusted her. It was a testament to humanity's decadence. Their immorality. Their inferiority. The yakuza's body was engulfed in spasms, saliva dripping from his lips as the AI's hack violated his brain. One of the onlookers whipped his head around, staring at one of the thugs.

"Get Hamada!"

The thug nodded, fearful. He rushed to the door, only for a loud shot to ring out. His knee gave way and he tumbled to the floor, screaming. One of the other men in the room stared at him with terrified eyes, the barrel of his pistol smoking. Kaneren's voice reached their ears.

"No one leaves." Her eyes shifted towards them for a moment before returning to her work. After a brief moment, an amused sigh came from her lips. She ripped the cord from the man's cyberbrain, allowing it to retract back into her neck. Kaneren stood from the man's writhing body, staring down at him.

"I thought as much." The AI buried a bullet into the boss's forehead. Several shots rang throughout the room as the criminals all shot each other. Their corpses crashed to the carpet below. Only the two women remained and they were trapped with the AI. Kaneren turned her head and gazed upon them. Their eyes locked. The rogue's gaze made their skin crawl. She looked upon them with amusement before, the corners of her mouth curled into a cruel smirk.

"You two may prove to be useful to me." The AI shoved her pistol back into its holster as she approached them. Their eyes were wide with horror, backing away towards the wall. Kaneren stepped over a corpse, the sole of her boot bathed in the man's blood. One of the women bolted towards the door, only to feel a sharp pain in her neck. She slammed into the wall before falling to the floor. Her eyes grew lifeless as she exhaled her last breath. Kaneren pulled her knife from the woman's spine. The remaining woman screamed, her face completely distraught. The AI turned towards the woman, staring down at her at the woman backed down into a corner, sobbing. Her tear-filled eyes stared at Kaneren, barely able to make out the AI's shape.

"W-why!? Why are you doing this!? Please! Let me go!" She begged Kaneren, who simply stared at her with a stoic expression. Kaneren said nothing. She merely took a step towards the woman. The victim shook her head, pleading with the rogue. Kaneren simply ignore her. She knelt down in front of her before placing her hand upon the woman's head. The woman tilted her head forward with Kaneren's assistance, crying.

"P-please…"

No words came from Kaneren's mouth. Instead, she reached behind her neck, extracting the QRS cord. The AI plugged the cord into the woman's cyberbrain. Her pupils constricted once again. After a few moments, Kaneren disconnected the cable, allowing it to retract back into her neck. She stood, her eyes wandering down to the woman.

"Up."

Upon Kaneren's command, the woman stood, staring at Kaneren with a blank look in her eyes. The AI watched her for a moment before barking another order.

"Go and get yourself cleaned up." She paused for a moment before issuing a secondary command. "Public Security Section 9 is hiring five new recruits. Some of their numbers come from outside of the country. Discover their identities and return to me. Use any methods necessary. Do you understand me?" Kusanagi's doppelganger narrowed her eyes, awaiting the woman's response. She gave a nod to Kaneren before walking past her and leaving the room. The AI's gaze followed the woman out. After a few moments, Kaneren too exited the room and made her way down the corridor. The AI began to softly hum to herself as she reached into her trench coat. Kaneren peered down to her hand as she pulled out a detonator. The woman flipped the switch with her thumb, her voice softly resonating off of the walls.

It appeared as if the oxygen was sucked out of the corridor as the bomb exploded. The AI turned her head and observed the fire as it engulfed the walls. The AI climbed into the elevator and took it down to the ground floor. It wouldn't be much longer before the police arrived. To them, it would appear that an opposing yakuza syndicate assassinated the Yamaguchi-gumi boss. It was precisely what Kaneren was aiming for. She reached the lobby, only to see that the police arrive far quicker than she expected. Kaneren blinked as several members of the Special Assault Team rushed into the building. Her eyes followed them as they rushed past her, hurrying up the stairwell behind her. Kaneren let out a small sigh as she made her way towards a side door. She placed her hand upon the door knob, twisting it. However, just as she was about to push the door open, she stopped dead in her tracks. The AI stood up straight, turning her head and looking up at a security camera. Her yellow eyes glared into the lens, fully knowing who was watching. She let out a scoff before pushing the door open and vacating the hotel.

The rain started to fall later that evening as Kaneren looked upon the warehouse. She approached the building, sliding a magazine into her stolen S25-R bullpup assault rifle. Her eyes narrowed as her feet carried her shell into the warehouse. The interior was dim. The very air seemed stagnant with the sound of silence. The only noise that reached Kaneren's ears was the sound of the raindrops pattering upon the tin roof. Her eyes scanned the room, only to see stillness. She slightly exhaled through her nose, taking a step forward. The clacking of her boots echoed through the empty room as she approached the office of the building. The AI attempted to open the door. However, it appeared to be caught. The woman's eyes narrowed at this and she forced it open, letting out a piercing squeal. The AI walked into the room, eyes scanning the empty chamber. Kaneren ripped open an old filing cabinet. She set down her bullpup before thumbing through the files.

"How archaic."

In the distance, she heard another door open. The woman instantly ceased her activity and picked up her rifle, pulling back the slide, loading a live round into the chamber. She left the office, listening closely. She honed in on the voices of at least three men.

"Did you hear? Some Yamaguchi-gumi thugs got torched at the New Port Hotel." One of them chriped up.

Kaneren peered around the corner. Two of the men were clearly armed, the remaining individual was dressed in a three piece suit. She deduced that the man in the suit was the leader. Her posture straightened and she simply walked towards the three of them. Her footsteps echoed throughout the warehouse as the two armed men aimed their rifles at Kaneren. The man in the suit stepped behind them. The AI stared at them as she approached. The man in the suit shouted at her.

"Who the hell are you!?"

Kaneren's eyes shifted towards the man, her brow furrowing in annoyance.

"You have something that belongs to me. I'm here to collect." Kaneren lifted her bullpup and aimed at them. The suit narrowed his eyes, watching the AI. He folded his arms as his two accomplices took a step towards Kaneren. With that action, she flipped the safety on her firearm off. The armed men clearly heard this noise as they immediately stopped in their tracks. Kaneren let out a hum as she lowered her rifle. The two men glanced at each other for a moment before taking a step towards the AI. Kaneren's eyes shifted towards them as she released her grip on her firearm, allowing it to hang from from her shoulder. The two men grinned at this, the suit watching her closely. One of the guards stopped dead in his tracks, sweat beading upon his forehead. His hands were shaking like leaves as he craned his neck towards his accomplice. The man seemed to choke on his words as he lifted his rifle and aimed at his partner. The man's eyes grew wide.

"What are you doing!?"

Several gunshots rang out as the man's body was riddled with lead. The suit stared in horror at the site.

"Kill her!"

Instead, the individual shoved the barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger, causing his head to rupture. What was left of his corpse crumpled. Kaneren turned her gaze to the suit, a glare reaching the man's form. She folded her arms, hissing at him.

"When I went to the location agreed upon, the only individuals I met were three cyborgs in body armor. Needless to say, the trade didn't happen." Her eyes narrowed.

The suit's eyes met Kaneren's. However, something came over him. Chills crept over his skin, the hairs on his neck standing on end. Goosebumps emerged on his arms and it felt as if he was suffocating. His throat closed up as fear gripped him. Her eyes seemed to pierce into his soul, as if she was reading his every thought. He tried to speak, yet no words were heard. The AI's gaze left his form and settled upon a backpack sitting on a table near the door. She shifted her eyes back to the man. He inhaled through his teeth, a worried look plastered upon his face. Kaneren walked past the man, making her way towards the table. The rogue terrorist zipped open the pack, peering at its contents.

"You were planning on selling this to someone else." The man took a step towards Kaneren, putting his hands up.

"Hey, you've got it now, so what does it matter?" He let out a nervous chuckle. Kaneren pulled out her G33 Advance and pointed it at the man. A gasp escaped his lips, only to be greeted by a gunshot. The bullet passed through his torso, puncturing his heart before smacking into the wall behind him. He groaned as he slumped to his knees. After a moment, he collapsed, blood pooling from his wound. Kaneren zipped up the backpack before slipping it upon her left shoulder. She quickly left the warehouse. However, she stopped dead in her tracks as several laser sights were aimed upon her chest. The woman's eyes studied the dots for a brief moment before looking up at her guests. They appeared to be hired muscle for the man she had just murdered.

"Put it down, lady." One of them said.

Kaneren raised an eyebrow at this. Her eyes scanned their numbers. There were fifteen men. Judging from what she saw, none of them were prosthetic. An amused hum came from her throat.

"Simple enough." These men were in her way. She had retrieved her prize and had no desire to remain here any longer. She had work to do. With that, the woman removed the backpack and set it on the ground. The same man barked at her.

"The gun and coat."

Kaneren obliged. She rolled up her trench coat and tossed it upon the backpack. She adjusted her fingerless gloves as her eyes narrowed. One of the men chuckled at this.

"Huh, who knew that the bitch could listen?" With those words, Kaneren's brow furrowed with rage. She immediately sprinted at them with what appeared to be lightning speed. Within the blink of an eye, the AI stood mere inches from the man's face, glaring into his eyes. The man gasped. Before he could speak, Kaneren grabbed his jaw and ripped it straight from his head. He gurgled on his own blood as he fell to the ground. The rest of the men stared with wide eyes.

"Shoot her!" They all unloaded in Kaneren's direction, regardless of their own positioning. Not a single bullet met its mark as the AI rushed another man, lopping his head clean from his shoulders with a single swipe. A few of the goons dropped dead from friendly fire. Kaneren grappled yet another, grabbing his throat before ripping out his larynx. The AI pulled out her pistol and emptied the rest of her magazine into two more men. As she was reloading, one of the goons placed her into a choke hold. Kaneren smashed her boot upon the man's shoe, crushing the bones in his foot. He let out a wail, only to be met with an open palm strike to his sternum. The impact of her strike instantly stopped his heart and the man fell dead. At this point in time, only two men remained. They were clearly thrown into disarray, the rest of their comrades lay dead upon the ground. Kaneren slid a magazine into her G33 and pulled the slide back. She took cover behind one of the cars that they had brought. The two men unloaded upon the car, the windows shattering and glass falling upon her. The terrorist peered up once they had ceased fire. She cracked off one shot, which buried itself between the man's eyes. The remaining individual quickly swapped out the magazine in his submachine gun. He pulled the slide back and braced himself as he aimed at the car. Kaneren's eyes widened as she hunkered down, bringing her head down to her chest and covering it with her arms. The man squeezed the trigger and emptied the magazine of high velocity rounds. The car was shredded from the assault. From behind the wreckage of the car, Kaneren could hear the man fighting with his gun.

"Damn! Piece of shit!" He smacked the side of the machine pistol, attempting to unjam the breech. With that, Kaneren stood from her position. The man looked up and gasped, tossing the firearm away as he quickly reached for his own sidearm. Kaneren shot the man several time in the chest, killing him.

The woman observed the carnage around her, letting out a small hum as she holstered her G33 once again. As she walked back towards her belongings, she could feel a warmth upon her arm. Her eyes wandered down to her left arm to see a bullet wound upon her bicep. A clear red liquid was running down the length of her arm, dripping off of her elbow. A grunt escaped from her throat. After a moment, the bleeding ceased as the micromachines in her prosthetic body began to repair the wound. Kaneren pulled her trench coat back on, along with slinging her bullpup and her backpack over her shoulders. She walked away from the scene of the skirmish.

Kaneren walked down a crowded street of downtown Niihama. Despite the fact that she was in full view of the public, no one appeared to pay her any mind, even though she was a wanted terrorist. Except for one person.

"Well well, look who it is."

The AI stopped and glanced over to see Major Motoko Kusanagi staring at her, her arms folded. Kaneren's gaze fell upon her, her expression stoic. It was quite odd, seeing someone who shared the same shell. Eerie, almost. A grunt escaped from her throat. The Major leaned against a wall, watching the woman with hard eyes. With that, Kaneren made her way over to Kusanagi, standing in close proximity, but never too close. The two women faced each other. It was almost like a mirrored image. Motoko Kusanagi and Kaneren Tonbogiri. Reflections of one another. Kusanagi's eyes drifted towards Kaneren's blood stained hand, letting out a scoff.

"How many does that make now?" Her eyes hardened, displeased. Kaneren watched the Major closely, her amusement building.

"Have you been following me, namonaihito? I must say, you're quite flattering. You've done quite well to avoid detection, Major Kusanagi." The AI too, folded her arms across her chest, almost mockingly. Kusanagi's nose wrinkled at Kaneren's verbal jab. The woman's eyes fell upon Kaneren's backpack. However, she said nothing of it. Instead, she answered Kaneren's inquiry.

"You've been quiet. After you went off the grid in November, the Home Affairs Minister wanted to close the book on the whole thing. Needless to say, they've let you wander around freely."

Kaneren let out an amused grunt, watching her double with a slightly raised eyebrow.

"Deep vengeance is the daughter of deep silence, Kusanagi. They believe that they've deceived me, but while they've turned a blind eye to me, I've kept my eye on you. I am well aware of this secondary team that your superior is forming." She studied the Major as she continued. "You call me insane, call me a threat to mankind. Accuse me of madness. I'm interested in madness. Madness is what defines us, Kusanagi. It defines how much we can take before we~" Kaneren snapped her fingers. "Break. I believe it is the biggest thing in the human race, and the most constant. Tell me, how do you take from a man his madness without also compromising his identity?"

Major Kusanagi narrowed her eyes at the AI's monologue. A small chuckle emanated from the Major's throat.

"Every day human curiosity, Tonbogiri."

Kaneren let out an amused sigh, watching the woman with intrigue. She spoke with a rather quiet tone, inquisitive.

"How interesting~" Kaneren glanced at the people walking by for a moment before returning her gaze back to the Major. "I look forward to seeing what your new team is capable of." With those words, Kaneren stepped into the crowd and disappeared into the sea of people. Motoko Kusanagi stared with hard eyes, knowing that the worst had yet to come.

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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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Akuma
Kaneren - November 11, 2031

<KANEREN TONBOGIRI>

[Rogue GSDA Artificial Intelligence]

 

"I see that it took you minimal time to track me down. I am quite impressed." The man could feel the cold gaze upon the back of his neck, as if a bitter wind scorched his nape. Unfortunately, the woman's gaze wasn't the only thing that he felt. Pressed upon the side of his throat was the cold barrel of a handgun. He didn't know the make or model. Digging behind his jaw next to his larynx were her fingers, effectively holding him in place. The captive man attempted to shift in order to meet her eyes with his own gaze. However, his captor's fingers tightened as she violently jerked his head back to perform the action herself.

"Don't." Upon meeting her gaze, pulses of shivers echoed down his spine. Those yellow orbs seemed to pierce into his soul. Picking him apart, piece by piece. He had never seen such animosity before. The man let out a grunt, hissing through his teeth.

"You don't realize what you've done, Kaneren." He attempted to twist away from her grasp, only to be met with a tightening of force. It was futile. Gurgling in the form of words escaped his lips. "Y-You've murdered so many cops! You think you can just get away with this!?" Kaneren's frozen eyes stared down at him as she held the firearm firmly against his neck.

"It will only be a matter of time before Section Nine Chief Daisuke Aramaki sends his dogs after me. I wonder though~" She hummed as her gaze wandered away from her captive's face. Only a moment passed before he was met with the AI's stare once again. "Who's going to come for you, officer?"

The police officer's eyes went wide just before a booming crack echoed throughout the alleyway. He could feel the warmth engulfing his neck. Kaneren's iron grip had released him and he slumped over onto the pavement. As he watched his blood flow out in front of him, Kaneren stared down upon his dying form. A whisper reached her ears.

"Why?"

Kaneren glanced to her pistol for a moment before shoving the firearm into the holster upon the small of her back. The man's eyes glossed over as his last breath of life was taken from him. Giving her murdered victim one last glance, Kaneren turned and walked away from his corpse. The woman's pace quickened as the sound of sirens reached her ears. It didn't take long for the police to track her down. Then again, the artificial intelligence hadn't been very subtle. She glanced down at the pavement behind her, eyes narrowing as she saw a small, trickling path of blood chasing her. Her yellow eyes wandered down to the front of her jacket and a low growl escaped from her throat. A heavy plash resonated from the alleyway after Kaneren had removed the article, tossing it away. Her dark gray fitted tee and black rig were exposed for all to see as she strapped a large firearm to her back. It was an anti-materiel rifle. An M93 Black Arrow, to be precise, although it appeared to be heavily modified. Kaneren released her G33 Advance pistol from her scabbard and proceeded to quicken the pace. Rainwater covered her boot as she took a heavy step into the puddle, her stride ever increasing.

From the streets came the shouting of several men and women. Car doors slammed shut and weapons were loaded. Kaneren knew that the police were a mere hop and a skip away. Her eyes narrowed, shifting towards the street. The lights from the squad cars illuminated her face, if only for a moment. Without a word, the rogue anomaly turned heel and ran the opposite direction. The shouting intensified as the sound of several bodies hurrying after reached her ears. Kaneren whipped around, squeezing the trigger of her pistol. Two bullets embedded themselves into one of the police officers. One in the jaw, one in the left eye. The two officers that were with the man dove behind a dumpster as the artificial intelligence fired upon them. One of the officers glanced upon his deceased partner, his eyes widened at the horror that he saw.

"You whore!" he screamed, whipping up from behind the receptacle to attempt to land a shot on the woman. However, he was met with a bullet of his own that burrowed deeply into his chest. He let out a wail, crashing to the concrete. The last officer quickly grabbed him, dragging him back into cover. Blood seeped between his fingers as he attempted to stop the bleeding.

"Come on, come on! Stay with me, Watanabe!" Officer Watanabe's eyes rolled back in his skull, blood leaking from his mouth. The bullet had pierced his lung and he was drowning. His partner attempted to slow the flow of blood, but it didn't appear to cease. He opened his cybercomms, trying to call for backup.

<Officer down! Officer down! Watanabe's been shot! Suspect is fleeing on foot! Requesting immediate aid!>

What he heard in response was mostly static. He could barely hear the voice on the other side. The officer let out a loud grunt, slamming his fist against the dumpster.

<Say again! You're not coming in clearly!>

The voice that he heard was not what he was expecting. Certainly not one he wished to hear, either.

<You are all alone. The only company you will be keeping today is the cold embrace of death.>

The man blinked, looking up only to see Kaneren looming over him, her yellow eyes burning into his soul. He let out a surprised gasp, only for the woman to snatch him up by his throat. Kaneren squeezed with all of her might, crushing the cop's windpipe as if it was paper. His eyes bulged in his skull, his fingers attempted to claw at Kaneren's arms as her gloved hands tightened their grip. The rogue woman's eyes snapped towards the slim metal watch upon her right wrist as her victim managed to hook one of his fingers under the strap. She bared her teeth in rage and twisted his head around, instantly killing him. Without a word, Kaneren threw his body away from her, watching the corpse collide with the concrete.

She glanced up into the sky to see a Botanachi tilt rotor fly over. Her eyes narrowed. Kaneren knew that it was Public Security Section 9. A low growl came from her throat. Quickly turning tail and sprinting as fast as she could, her footsteps echoed and resonated throughout the twisting and winding back alleys. It wasn't much longer before she heard the heavy steps of a think tank. Hastily, she made her way to a door and wasted no time kicking it in. The metal door was left with a sizeable dent as it was ripped from the hinges, crashing into the building. She ducked into the dark doorway, attempting to mask herself from the pursuing think tank. Kaneren quickly clambered up the stairwell, shoving past a younger man who looked at her with bewilderment.

"Hey! What the shit!?"

Kaneren ignored him, knowing full well that she was in danger. Upon reaching the fifth floor of the apartment complex, the woman barreled into a residence, summoning the surprised screams of a young woman. Her husband shouted angrily at their uninvited guest, with Kaneren glaring at them. Two shots rang out as both tenants crashed to the floor. The rogue slammed the door shut before proceeding to smash the hinges, hoping to jam the object. She then barricaded the door with haste after hearing the unmistakable voice of one of Section 9's Tachikoma think tanks. Kaneren knew that the door wouldn't hold. She flew to the window, peering outside to see members of Section 9 cloaking as they rushed towards the building.

"Thermoptical camouflage. Type 2902, I suspect." The fugitive's eyes narrowed. Kaneren glanced back towards the barricaded door. She was trapped. Fighting her way out was an option, but she knew that it would be foolhardy. Even one of her skill would stand very little chance of making it out in one piece. She could handle the think tank with little difficulty, but dealing with the rest of Public Security would prove to be nigh impossible. Kaneren had studied the bureau's roster. She knew that the team's marksman, Saito, would likely have eyes on the building. She would be spotted as soon as she escaped through the window, if she hadn't been seen already. Ishikawa would attempt to cut off her cybercommunications to prevent her from hacking into any of their systems, or their cyberbrains. It would've been very difficult for them to deal with the artificial intelligence if she succeeded, so she knew that they had taken that into account. Batou would be storming the place with the Tachikoma and a handful of others. Rookies, she suspected. Along with perhaps Togusa, Pazu, and Borma. That would leave Motoko Kusanagi to flank or ambush her.

Doing what she believed to be the best decision in her situation, Kaneren slid the window open and clambered out. Without fail, a shot rang out and clipped her left shoulder. The artificial intelligence let out a hiss from between her teeth, her blood splattering upon the paned glass. She dove from the windowsill as yet another shot reached her ears. Luckily for Kaneren, the bullet missed its mark. The woman's prosthetic body left a crater in the pavement below, but she wasted no time in resuming her escape. Batou slammed through the barricaded door and poked his head out of the window, seeing their quarry fleeing into yet another alleyway.

"Shit! Tachikoma, cut her off!"

The blue think tank eagerly leapt from the side of the complex onto the street behind Kaneren.

"You got it, Mr. Batou!"

Kaneren let out a gasp as her eyes widened. She came under heavy fire from the mounted 7.62 gun. She dove into the nearest doorway, pressing her back against the wall. This was wasting time. It would only be a few moments before Major Kusanagi caught up to her. Maybe less. Kaneren fumbled about her rig, retrieving a fragmentation grenade. She pulled the pin and tossed it towards the Tachikoma. It wouldn't damage the machine in the slightest, but it would buy her some time.

"Hey! That's not very nice!" The Tachikoma yelled at her. By the time the machine had gotten its words out, Kaneren was already gone. As she went to round a corner, she felt the impact of a closed fist upon her cheek. The rogue reeled back from the blow, readying herself as her own fists came up. Her eyes immediately shifted towards the right as she parried another blow.

"Your thermoptics will do you no good, Kusanagi." Kaneren brought her knee up, only to feel the Major block the blow. At that, Kusanagi deactivated the camouflage and the two of them stared fiercely at each other. The cyborg and the AI traded blow after blow, neither of them gaining the advantage over the other. Kaneren brought up her forearms, stopping a kick from the Major. With that, the AI smashed her boot against the Major's shin, hoping that her opponent would lose her footing. Unfortunately for Kaneren, Kusanagi spun around and crashed her elbow into the back of her neck.

"Aaugh!" Kaneren stumbled forward a bit, shooting a glare at the Major. Kusanagi stepped back, readying herself for another onslaught. Her words reached Kaneren's ears.

"That's enough, Kaneren. Your little tirade is over." Major Kusanagi's red eyes glared at the AI, never blinking, never moving. Kaneren removed her Zastava and rig, tossing them away. She bared her teeth, growling deeply from her throat.

"Get out of my way." Kaneren stared at her, sliding her boots across the ground into a front stance, her forward hand open with the other closed. Neither woman moved, each waiting for the other. Kaneren studied the Major. Time was quickly vanishing and she had to escape. The AI had no intention of returning to her captors. The woman's pupils constricted as she attempted to infiltrate Kusanagi's cyberbrain. Warning displays were flooding the Major's field of view, indicating an attempt.

"Damn it!" Major Kusanagi shouted as Kaneren immediately jumped her, brandishing a knife. Kusanagi blocked the blade with her Seburo, using all of her might to keep the knife from penetrating her eye. The AI growled as she tried to force the blade downward, but she could not overcome the woman's strength. They were deadlocked.

"Major!" Batou's voice rang out as he rushed down the alleyway towards them. Kaneren shifted her eyes towards the man, shooting daggers in his direction. Utilizing the opening that the AI had granted her, Kusanagi kicked Kaneren in the stomach, launching her away. The rogue had caught herself, only for Batou to open fire upon her. With that, Kaneren sprinted away as fast as she could.

<Tachikoma! What the hell are you sitting around for!?>

The Major barked at the think tank. Upon hearing confirmation from the machine, she too rushed after Kaneren. The AI narrowed her eyes as she looked up to see the Tachikoma tailing her. She suspected that they were beginning to become desperate. Kaneren had escaped their trap and luck was on her side. She could hear the commotion of a large group of people nearby. It would have to be the optimal solution in such a situation. With that, Kaneren ducked off to the side and ran towards the source of the noise.

<She's heading towards the marketplace. If she reaches her destination, a lot of people could get hurt.>

<That's probably what she's thinking. We've got to stop her. Batou, flank right!>

<You got it!>

With that, Batou cut from the Major and sprinted down his own alleyway, while Kusanagi followed Kaneren's path. The AI came to an opening in the tight buildings and appeared before a large bustling market. All sorts of produce were being sold here. From vegetables to fruits, poultry to fish. Some stalls were serving various forms of street foods. Those that did had stools out front for customers to sit and enjoy their meal. Kaneren sheathed her knife as she examined the market. A small smirk crept upon her lips.

"Excellent." However, her train of thought was interrupted by the Tachikoma that had followed her to this place. It stopped upon the roof behind her, leaving an audible groan as its servos came to a complete halt. Kaneren whipped her head around and stared up at it for a brief moment, a look of annoyance gracing her face. With that, Kaneren activated her own thermoptic camouflage as she made her way into the crowd, never taking her eyes off of the think tank. At first, she shoved past people, but proceeded to slow down, taking some time to collect her thoughts. The AI kept a close eye on the Tachikoma until she spotted Major Kusanagi emerge from where she had came. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the woman, who didn't appear to know where she had gone.

"Major! That Kaneren lady disappeared!" The Tachikoma wailed down to Section 9's field commander. Kusanagi growled, scanning the crowd for anyone matching the AI's features; and by extension, her own.

"I can see that."

The Tachikoma too, searched the crowd, but to now avail.

"She has thermoptic camouflage, Major! Just like you!"

Kusanagi didn't grace the Tachikoma with an answer. Instead she activated her own camouflage and merged with the crowd. Kaneren would no doubt be laying low, trying to oust them via attrition. She knew that Kaneren had little choice at this point in time. The busy market was the perfect place for her to hide.

By this point, Batou had also entered the marketplace, as Togusa caught up with the man. The larger man looked around, baring his teeth before exclaiming in frustration.

"Shit, we lost her!"

Togusa glanced to his partner for a moment before checking the cylinder of his Manteba revolver. He wasn't sure what he was going to do if he came face to face with the rogue AI. She had murdered nearly forty police officers, many of whom he had known. Not only that, but the fact that he had seen her fight firsthand made him less than confident. Nonetheless, he would carry out his duties as instructed, or die. Whichever came first. Batou looked around, trying to find anyone who remotely resembled their suspect.

"Where the hell could she be?" He looked to Togusa and nodded in one direction. "You go that way and don't let your guard down. We'll cover more ground this way."

Before Togusa could even answer, Batou disappeared into the moving crowd. The former detective let out a sigh before walking along one of the busy paths, glancing at the different stands. Kaneren was in here somewhere. Togusa approached a ramen vendor, completely unaware of the eyes that watched him. Kaneren stood just inside perched next to a customer, her arms folded, thermoptics still active. The detective entered the stall, examining the patrons from behind. There was a woman with black hair who was seated, reading the newspaper. From behind, she resembled the Major quite a bit. Togusa pulled back the hammer of his pistol, preparing for the worst. Standing on the other side of the stall, Kaneren silently watched the situation play out. Togusa approached the woman, speaking up.

"Excuse me, miss?"

The woman turned her head and looked at Togusa, her cold blue eyes sizing him up. She looked strikingly similar to Major Kusanagi, but there were noticeable differences. Her eyes in particular. They seemed almost like eyes an android would possess. Cold and calculating. Her eyebrows also stood out. They were thin and seemed to slightly arch up. It was clear to Togusa that she was fully prosthetic. She appeared to be close to Kusanagi's age. His eyes wandered down to her clothing and he blinked. His new acquaintance was wearing an olive drab Type 65 work uniform. Her sleeves were rolled up past her elbows and a watch was adorned upon her left wrist. Togusa noticed the insignia upon her collar indicated that she held the rank of Colonel. Her name tag answered his question. Kawashima. The woman stared at him for a moment before speaking to him.

"Can I help you?" Colonel Ai Kawashima stared at him, her gaze never faltering. Truth be told, it made him shudder. Kawashima continued to stare, waiting for an answer from the speechless man. His words seemed to be caught in his throat. He had heard stories and rumors about Colonel Kawashima, but he never imagined he would run into her, face to face. She let out a small grunt before returning to her ramen.

"If you have nothing to say, then leave me be."

Togusa let out a sigh.

"Sorry."

He left the stall, walking right past Kaneren, whose eyes followed him. She too, stepped out of the stall and began tailing the man. However, she was unaware that Colonel Kawashima was staring directly at her backside as she left. Togusa opened a cybercomm channel, speaking to his colleagues as he walked.

<If she's here, she's gotta be laying low. I mean, that's what I would do.>

<Cut the chatter. She'll be monitoring our comms.>

"She sure isn't your typical perp." Togusa muttered to himself as he made his way down the path. Kaneren tailed the man, staring at the back of his head. She cautiously pulled her knife out of its sheath, carefully stepping around water puddles as to not short out her camouflage. However, Batou rounded the corner, meeting back up with the former detective. Kaneren narrowed her eyes as she inched her knife closer to Togusa's neck. Unfortunately for the AI, the Tachikoma zoomed in between her and Togusa, speaking to the two men in an exuberant tone. Kaneren let out a small grunt and backed away. It was fruitless. There was no point in dispatching the ex-cop if she was going to be caught in the process. She felt a hand slap across her mouth, silencing her as a pistol was placed against the small of her back.

"Hiding like a wolf among sheep. I expected more of you." Colonel Kawashima's words brushed the AI's ear. Kawashima slowly led Kaneren between two food vendor stalls before releasing her, in which the yellow-eyed woman deactivated her thermoptic camouflage. Kaneren folded her arms and stared at the Colonel, her eyes ever burning.

"I will not go back, Colonel Kawashima. Your people attempted to have me killed. Deactivated and disassembled like some cheap device." Kaneren's words were full of venom. Kawashima didn't blink as she offered a rebuttal.

"The implications of an artificial intelligence developing a ghost are dangerous." She too, folded her arms before continuing. "I don't know what happened, if it was an accident or if it was intentional, but you've developed a ghost. I-" Kaneren cut off Kawashima before she was allowed to finish her sentence.

"You are afraid. Afraid of what I can do to you and your kind." Kaneren's head tilted up slightly, as if she was looking down upon Kawashima with disdain. "It is only natural. People fear what they do not understand. It is an inherent trait in all human beings. Their most base emotion." She fell silent for a moment, locking eyes with Kawashima before continuing. "Your underestimation will cost you, Colonel."

Kawashima blinked for a moment before a she felt an arm wrap around her throat, pulling her into a headlock. The Colonel struggled with her assailant before a Brain Blocker was slapped onto the back of her neck, effortlessly connecting to her QRS ports. Kawashima crashed to the ground, unable to move or access her cyberbrain. The woman saw her assailant walk over to Kaneren, only to plunge the woman's knife directly into her throat. The AI didn't resist and immediately crumpled to the ground. The assailant knelt down next to Kawashima, her face coming into view. It too was Kaneren. Although, this one was wearing a black midriff shirt underneath of a black long coat. Her eyes seemed to be even colder than the previous shell's. Kaneren spoke in an icy, cold tone.

"I am not an idiot, Colonel Kawashima. What you were interacting with just now was a puppet shell of mine. One of far inferior quality." Kaneren Tonbogiri tilted her head and looked over at the shell, her knife sticking out of the puppet's throat. The true AI leaned over and scooped up her G33 Advance, holstering it behind the small of her back. Her gaze returned to Colonel Kawashima. "Section 9 will find you here, but don't try to follow me." A small smirk crept upon her lips as she stood and began to walk away, merging with the crowd.

<I look forward to seeing what you and Aramaki plan on doing next.>

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Welcome to your campaign!
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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.

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