[Ministry of Internal Affairs Observer]
"Eric, I want you to understand the risks involved in taking this investigation." The old man adjusted his glasses as he exhaled smoke from his nostrils.
On the other side of the desk was a young man. His clothing was in quite the state of disarray. His zip-up hoodie, alongside his black jacket which was soaked by the rainstorm outside. The man's head was shaved at the sides, yet it appeared as if he was disheveled. His eyes, shoulder, and his spine had been replaced by cybernetics. A stubble was growing on his face, betraying the fact that he hadn't shaved in few days.
"It's killed a lot of good cops. A lot of friends." He grunted in response.
Eric Salvatore's superior let out a sigh as he snuffed out his cigarette. He leaned back in his seat before pushing his glasses to his forehead, rubbing at his eyes. Eric merely stood there, watching the man with resolute, almost tired looking eyes. Tired of waiting for an answer, the detective slammed his palm upon the man's desk, catching the old man's attention.
"I want this case, sir." He growled, narrowing his eyes.
The old man said nothing in response. Eric let out a small sigh before speaking in a calmer tone.
"Kenshin, please. I'm not asking for a lot here. I just want closure on this."
Kenshin Ikeda pulled his glasses from his head before setting them on his desk. The old man was Chief Inspector, in charge of one of the many precincts of the Niihama Metropolitan Police. The man was a thirty year veteran of the service, having been employed since the end of the third World War. Kenshin laced his fingers together across his chest as his gravely voice reached Eric's ears.
"Eric, you've been with us for what, eleven years now? I remember when you walked through that door for the first time. Just got into the country, didn't know where to go, what to do. But we hired you and gave you a home." Kenshin gave a sigh before continuing.
"You're one of the best detectives I know. Hell, you're the best Observer I know. But if you feel like you have to do this, you have my permission."
Eric shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat as he made his way to the door, only to hear Kenshin one last time.
"Just make sure you come back in one piece. That includes your mind, Eric. I'm not ready to lose another friend."
Eric Salvatore said nothing as he left the man's office.
That was nearly a week ago and Eric Salvatore was no closer in tracking down his prey. He had heard reports of a violent shootout at a nightclub called the Syndeck, run by the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza gang. Eric highly doubted that there was a lead to be found here, but he decided to investigate, nonetheless. Luckily for him, the rain had finally let up. After all, he was sick of being soaked to the bone. Flashing his identification, Eric made his way into the club. The establishment had been turned into a crime scene. There were a few police officers stationed; standing watch, investigating, what have you. A few of them looked up towards Eric's direction, but quickly resumed their tasks. The man looked around at the carnage. What corpses there were had been moved to the morgue. Long gone by now. The only thing that remained of their bodies were the white outlines used to mark the poor bastards' final resting places. Eric gingerly stepped over one of the outlines as he made his way over to a blood stained wall. He exhaled from his nose as he knelt down next to the structure before pulling on a pair of nitrile gloves. His fingers gently brushed the surface of the dried blood. The Observer brought his hand up to his nose, gently sniffing the caked liquid.
"I thought so…" His voice quietly trailed off.
Curiosity struck him as he noticed some damage to the wall. It was a deep puncture, as if someone drove a spike or a knife into it. He leaned forward, tilting his head to get a better view of the oddity. Eric's eyes allowed him to see in numerous different spectrums. This revealed that there was blood deep into the hole.
"A sword?" He wondered.
Of course, it was common for yakuza gangsters to carry katanas from time to time. In fact, they even used them as a form of punishment towards lower ranking thugs. This was different. This was a deliberate attack. Against someone with a full prosthetic body, no less. It was the blood. It lacked the viscosity of natural occurring blood found in living organisms. This was thinner. Synthetic blood was used to carry the micromachines found in cyborgs throughout their bodies. This allowed prosthetic bodies to function and mimic that of an actual human body. Everything from muscle and skeletal movement, to keeping their synthetic organs operating at maximum efficiency, to allowing the cyberbrain to properly interact with the rest of the body. Synthetic blood was among the most important parts of anyone with a prosthetic body. Also due to the fact that it couldn't naturally be produced by a prosthetic body, cyborgs were required to undergo a form of dialysis in order to recycle older blood with brand new synthetic blood and replenish their micromachines. Cyborgs had to undergo this cycle once every four months; though monthly checkups and maintenance were the norm.
Eric had a feeling that he was on the right track, but he needed more evidence. The man lifted himself from his kneeling position and made his way towards the VIP area. The officer on duty stepped aside, allowing the man through. He solemnly made his way up the stairs. As he reached the top of the staircase, the horror of the scene was revealed before his eyes. Blood was plastered all over the place. The walls were riddled with bullet holes. Furniture was absolutely destroyed, not to mention the aquarium that was built into the back wall. Everything that he saw betrayed what had happened here. Once again stepping over the white outline of the missing corpses, Eric journeyed into the crime scene, taking care not to disturb any of the marked exhibits. The Observer caught glimpse of a 12 gauge shotgun laying on the tiled floor. Making his way over to it, he was surprised to see that it was a Seburo X74. Eric Salvatore had only seen this weapon used by the Special Assault Team, Public Security, and some special forces groups within the Self Defense Forces. It was unusual that one would show its face at a yakuza nightclub. He knelt down next to the shotgun, examining the weapon closely. Upon inspection, he noticed that the serial number had been buffed off. This would make it impossible to identify whoever had owned the weapon. However, he would be able to know who had touched it. Eric changed his gloves before carefully picking up the discarded shotgun. He pulled back the forestock and lightly sniffed the ejection port. The unmistakable odor of burnt gunpowder invaded his sinuses, betrayed the fact that the Seburo had been fired. Eric glanced over to another investigator, who was taking tests on the destroyed sofa.
"What do you know about this weapon?" Eric asked.
The officer looked to Eric for a moment before his eyes drifted to the shotgun in the man's hands. The man clambered to his feet before carefully stepping over to the Observer. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked down at the shotgun.
"Well, we know that it's a Seburo X74. Pretty rare around these parts. There aren't many in circulation on the black market, either. That's a GSDA variant, judging from the barrel length. SAT and Public Security models are shorter and more compact than the X74 used by the military. Makes it easier to use in close quarters." He responded.
"What does the GSDA use it for, then?"
The officer gave out a sigh before summoning forth a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He took a deep drag off of the cigarette, holding in the smoke before exhaling.
"Breaching, as far as I can tell. I don't know, I'm not a military man. That sucker fires specially manufactured sabot cartridges. Whoever got their hands on that paid top dollar."
Eric briefly glanced down at the Seburo before setting back in its rightful location. He climbed back to his feet, his eyes still drawn to the weapon as he asked yet another question.
"Have you taken prints yet? Tried to identify who was using it when this happened?"
The officer gave a slight nod, taking another drag.
"Yeah, but results were inconclusive. No prints. The guy was wearing gloves."
The Observer let out a small hum before giving a nod to the officer, dismissing him. With that, Eric Salvatore made his way over to the shattered railing, peering over the edge down at the cracked floor. A fight had broken out. Up close and personal. The cyborg investigator glanced behind him. Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the VIP bar on the other side of the lounge. The beautiful wooden bar was shattered and splintered from an impact. It didn't take long for him to put things together. He made his way towards the center of the lounge area, glancing to the stairwell. He grunted as the officer watched him, continuing to smoke his cigarette.
"So, what are your thoughts, Salvatore?" The cop inquired.
Eric folded his arms as he examined the crime scene.
"There was a shootout. Only one perp. The user of that shotgun." He nodded towards the Seburo before continuing.
"They fired sabot rounds, judging from the distribution of blood and the damage caused to those sofas and that back wall. Not to mention what happened to this poor son of a bitch. Eight shells were fired." Eric pointed at the outline of someone who had the misfortune of being separated at the waist. He then motioned towards the scarring dotted throughout the area.
"They ran out of rounds and decided to get rid of the X74. They took two bullets, but that didn't slow them down. They're using a full prosthetic body." The Observer knelt down next to a very small splatter of synthetic blood on the tile, brushing his fingers next to the liquid.
"It looks like our friend has some kind of personal defense weapon. It's a handgun, probably something big." Eric stood as he made his way over to the balcony, looking down at the floor.
The officer took a drag off of his cigarette before questioning the Observer's analysis.
"What makes you say that?" He asked.
Eric looked back and pointed at the destroyed VIP bar.
"Because the yakuza sent an armored cyborg to try to deal with them. Probably a Pioneer model or something like that. They got into a fight and one of them was flung into that bar. Then someone either fell off of this balcony or was forced off. My money is on the latter."
His feet carried him down the stairs towards the fractured floor below. The officer followed the man, flicking his cigarette away as he looked up at the destroyed railing upon the VIP area. Eric put his arm out to stop the cop from stepping on the white outline that belonged to the yakuza cyborg.
"It killed him right here." Eric quietly muttered to himself.
The officer raised an eyebrow, as he didn't clearly hear what the man had said.
"What?" He asked.
Eric turned and made his way towards the blood stained wall that he had initially visited. He knelt down next to it once again before speaking loud enough for the cop to hear him.
"The shotgun cyborg was stabbed with a katana wielded by that guy." He pointed towards another outline nearby, one that was missing its head.
"And they were stuck to this wall. After killing him, they freed themselves and ran out that door." He pointed towards a side door.
Eric stood up once again before facing the officer who stared at him with blank eyes. The Observer shoved his hands into his pockets.
"That's what happened. All you need now is to identify the suspect and arrest them."
With that, Eric left the nightclub out the same way that his prey had only a few days earlier. Standing in the alley behind the nightclub, Eric adjusted the collar of his coat before drawing a cigarette from his pack. Lighting it, he noticed a young girl around eight or nine humming and skipping down the alley away from him. She wore a pink dress that came down to her mid-thighs, black sneakers, along with an appropriate sized dark gray puffer jacket. However, his blood ran cold upon seeing the girl's face as she glanced at him. She had an uncanny resemblance to Kaneren Tonbogiri, right down to the same hairstyle, color, and eyes. The girl continued to skip about, ignoring Eric as the man began to approach her.
"Miss?" He called to her.
The girl stopped and turned her attention to Eric before turning heel and running off down the alley.
"Shit." Eric growled as he pursued her.
The girl was quick and nimble on her feet, surprisingly so. In fact, Eric was having difficulty keeping up to her. He rounded a corner after the girl, only to see her quickly dart into a narrow side alley. The Observer quickened his pace, trying his best to catch up to the child. However, she seemed to vanish as quickly as she had appeared. Eric searched the empty alleyway, grunting in frustration. He wasn't sure what to make of this child. She was alone in a seedy part of Newport City. Yet, it appeared as if she unaware of the potential dangers. Or she simply didn't care. However, something about the child made him uneasy. In his line of work, it paid off to be cautious. Suspicion was a valuable ally. Eric shook his head before walking down the alleyway, trying to return his focus back to his investigation. The man stepped out into a street. The sidewalks had their fair share of pedestrians. There was a prostitute here and there along with some questionable individuals, most likely low ranking yakuza thugs. Eric scanned his eyes only to spot the mysterious girl once again. This time, he caught her slipping into a building, closing the door behind her with a prostitute glancing over with a look of confusion on her face. Eric quickly crossed the street and approached the woman. The sex worker looked to Eric and immediately changed her demeanor, trying to entice the Observer to make a quick buck.
"Well, hello there~" She purred.
Eric waved his hand dismissively, never taking his eyes off of the door.
"Never mind that. You know anything about the kid?" He asked.
The woman blinked before glancing to the door as well.
"Who? Her? I've only seen her once before, about four days ago."
Eric's gaze immediately fell upon the prostitute, leering at her with hard eyes. His stony voice hissed at the woman.
"Do you know her name? Why is she alone? Where does she go?" He assaulted her with question after question.
The hooker blinked, staring at Eric with a dumbfounded look on her face. She shook her head in response.
"I don't know who she is or anything. Believe me, I've asked about her. No one knows anything. This isn't the place for someone her age." The prostitute cried in desperation.
With that, the woman broke contact with Eric and quickly walked away. The man watched her vacate the area before making his way to the door in which the little girl had vanished into. He attempted to turn the door knob, only to be met with stiff resistance. Eric bore his teeth and he slammed his shoulder against the door.
"Fuck!" He managed to choke out before giving up on his conquest.
He released a heavy sigh through his nose as he glanced behind him. No one on the street appeared to pay him any mind, as if this was the norm for this part of town. The Observer decided that he was going to use this to his advantage. Eric reached into his coat, withdrawing a small lockpicking kit before setting to work on the door. He was lucky that the door wasn't electronically sealed. Most buildings these days were, which presented its own slew of problems. After a few moments of fiddling with the lock, the door released and slowly drifted open with an audible groan. It appeared to be a run down foyer with a corridor in the back leading off. The Observer withdrew his Seburo BoBson S from its holster, cautiously making his way down the corridor. It was quiet. The only noise that Eric could hear was his own slow breathing and that of a low hum emanating from somewhere. He couldn't pinpoint the source of the sound. The hallway was poorly lit, leaving the Observer even more on edge. In fact, sweat started to bead upon his forehead. The hallway was lined with doors, leading Eric to conclude that this was a low income apartment building. The man was wary. He was vulnerable. It was difficult telling what he could encounter in this confined space, should a problem decide to rear its head.
Suddenly, a door swung open, followed by a cacophony of drunken laughter as three men fitted with cheap cybernetics lumbered out of a foul smelling apartment building. Eric quickly whipped around to face them, keeping his Seburo close to his side as he watched the three of them meander their way down the corridor towards the foyer in which the Observer had come. Finally realizing that the intoxicated group were no threat to him, Eric resumed his torturous walk down the hallway. Eventually reaching a stairwell, the man peered over the railing. It appeared to only descend three stories before coming to an end. Eric quietly made his way down the steps, only to hear a door close below. He immediately stopped, bringing up his pistol as he stared below with hard eyes. The man remained as still as a statue. Seconds seemed to turn to minutes, yet nothing happened. Eric let out a small sigh of relief before resuming his descent. Upon reaching the bottom, there was but a single door. The man was light on his feet as he hastily approached it, gently placing his ear upon the door to listen. The only thing he was met with was silence. Eric holstered his pistol before kneeling before the door, summoning forth a snake cam before plugging the device into the ports upon the back of his neck. The pupils of his eyes constricted as his view was that of the camera's. The appendage slithered its way underneath of the door. The door appeared to lead into the maintenance tunnels below the city. However, he did catch the little girl round a corner down one of the tunnels, disappearing from view. With that, Eric quickly retracted the camera, disconnecting it from his cyberbrain before passing through the door. He withdrew his pistol once again and quickened his pace after the child. The Observer followed the girl for what seemed like forever. It was as if she was purposefully leading him through a maze, as if she was toying with him. He followed her through twists and turns. Down stairs, through other doors. Before long, the Observer was lost.
"Shit." He growled as he slowed to a halt.
Eric looked around him. This place was an unassuming jungle of concrete and metal. He had done some work in the maintenance tunnels before when he worked as a beat cop, but never this deep. He knew he could find his way back to the surface, but he had no idea where the girl disappeared to. She was down here somewhere. Using his cybercomms would do him no good due to the fiber optic lines that were installed in these tunnels. Eric sighed, only to hear the girl's humming echoing from down one of the side tunnels. The Observer immediately chased her voice, coming to yet another stairwell. Once again, her humming ceased. Eric examined the small chamber. It was a short drop down the metal steps, which opened up into another tunnel. However, off to the side was an electronic door. There were no discernable markings upon the steel door. There was a keypad to the right of the object. Eric descended the metal steps before making his way to the door. It didn't open as he approached it. His eyes focused on the keypad next to the door. He had no idea what the code could be, nor did he want to try every combination known to man. Instead, he was going to attempt to bypass it in order to gain access. With that, the Observer reached into his coat and withdrew a small handheld device, pulling some cords from the curious object. Eric carefully opened the face of the keypad before plugging the cords into the interface. He pressed a few buttons on the device in his hand, his eyes focused on the view screen of the keypad. Thus, he waited. After a few minutes, one word appeared on the screen.
"What the fuck?" Eric blinked at this.
Was this a joke? Was someone messing with him? The Observer disconnected the device from the keypad, shoving it back into his pocket. He growled as he stared at the brightly lit display in front of him. There had to be someway of figuring out the code to that door. Eric stood there, staring at the screen for several moments before blinking in realization. He summoned forth a small spray bottle, pressing the plunger and allowing a mist to settle upon the keys. His eyes switched to an ultraviolet spectrum to reveal fingerprints on three distinct keys.
5, 6, 8.
Eric pulled a glove onto his right hand as he stared at it. The man knew that this was a six digit code, as he had encountered this particular model of keypad in the past. Therefore, the code contained only these three numbers. That meant that there were exactly 729 different combinations. There were multiple overlapping fingerprints on the number 6. Only 5 and 8 were pressed once. This greatly narrowed down the combinations that it could be. With that information, Eric quickly set to work. After only a minute or two, the door unlocked. The man looked over as the electronic door whooshed open. Eric pulled off his glove before wielding his Seburo once again. He cautiously made his way inside, only to have the door close behind him, locking in the process. He found himself in a short corridor. It was illuminated by florescent lighting in the ceiling. The walls and floor were surprisingly clean for the location. Eric had no idea where he was. It was like he had stepped into completely different facility. The Observer exited the corridor into foyer. It was impressive for how far away from civilization it was. The ceiling wasn't particularly high, only reaching about 7 feet 6 inches. What was interesting about the room was high end it appeared to be. It was like walking into modern minimalist apartment. Eric heard a quiet, low humming traveling down one of the short hallways, along with a periodic beep of a terminal. However, he heard no movement. The Observer made his way down the hallway, trying his best not to make any noise. The hallway opened up into a rather large room that was currently dimly lit. The only source of light that he saw was that of several large monitors coming from an open door to his left. Eric cautiously made his way inside, careful not to budge the door. Before him in the small room was a desk that only held a keyboard and what appeared to be a Barrier Breaker device. The Observer pointed his pistol at the chair in front of him, unable to see if anyone was seated, due to it being a Cyber Harness. As he strafed to the side to get a better look, it became apparent that the seat was vacant. With that, Eric looked upon the monitors, trying to ascertain what information was present. The coding before him made little sense. It was jumbled together with no rhyme or reason. He knew that the information had to by encrypted. However, that wasn't what he was there for. The man turned heel and left the small room, exiting back into the darkened large room. He saw a closed door on the opposing wall. The man quietly made his way over, gingerly resting his hand on the handle of the door before pushing it open. Eric stepped into the relatively dark room, only to see what appeared to be a bed. However, there was a machine attached to the side of the bed, with various cords coming from said device. The surface of the bed was set into a mechanical frame, almost in a concave fashion. There was dim light emanating from the structure, providing the only source of light to the room. The Observer carefully made his way over to the device, his Seburo at the ready. His eyes were immediately drawn to a figure curled up in the bed. Eric Salvatore's face went white.
Laying on her side was Kaneren Tonbogiri. She was nude with several cords plugged into her cybernetic shell. She had a visor over her eyes and the only sound coming from her was the quiet, steady breathing of someone at rest. The AI didn't budge as Eric immediately pointed his Seburo at her still form. In fact, it appeared as if she wasn't even aware of his presence. He wasn't sure what to think at this point in time. Before him was the individual who had killed almost 40 police officers. Many whom he knew. She was wanted by so many for numerous crimes. However, he couldn't help but feel a sting of pity. He saw her as nothing but helpless in her current state. Docile. He wanted to put a bullet in her head and be done with it, but that wasn't the way he did things. That wasn't the way he was trained. Eric holstered his Seburo before pulling a QRS cord from the back of his neck. He approached Kaneren's resting form and gingerly plugged it into the back of her neck. The man closed his eyes and was immediately pulled into a brain dive, his consciousness leaving his cyberbrain.
Eric Salvatore found himself inside of a old style Japanese courtyard. The ground was covered white as snow gently fell down upon him and a tree situated in the center of the area. He was surrounded on all sides by a wooden porch that connected to the structure that enclosed the courtyard. The Observer trudged through the snow, stepping onto the porch before approaching a wooden sliding door. The man pushed open the door to see hallway lined with heavy wooden doors, all elaborately carved. Eric stepped over the threshold into the hallway, eyeing each door carefully. He then glanced behind him, only to see that the door in which he passed had vanished. He knew that there was no turning back. The Observer approached each and every door, attempting to open them, but to no avail. Not a single one would budge. As he reached the end of the hallway, Eric saw that there was one door to his right that was not carved. It had a view port in the shape of an inverted pyramid, covered with lattice work. Eric looked through the port to see a small, dark stone room that was illuminated by a candle to the inside and to the left of the door. The back wall had a small opaque window to allow some light in. The ceiling was very low and it was sloped at both of the side walls. Eric attempted to gain entry to this peculiar room and the door opened, to his surprise. The man ducked his head as he entered the confined room, examining the small chamber. In the back corner, clear to the left of the door sat Kaneren, who held her knees close to her chest with her head buried. He watched the naked woman shiver, with a small whimper come from her form. The man gingerly crept over to the AI, kneeling down in front of her. Eric didn't know what to think. He didn't know what to expect when he decided to brain dive the AI, just not this. This filled him with uncertainty. Anxiety, you could say. Truth be told, Eric felt a sense of heartbreak. To see Kaneren Tonbogiri like this only strengthened his pity for her.
"Hey." He quietly said.
Kaneren stopped whimpering, slowly looking up at Eric. Her eyes when from a state of content to filled with rage as she glared at him. Eric blinked, only to find the room around him begin to fall apart into a black void. Suddenly, Eric Salvatore began to fall. His heart jumped into his throat as butterflies were in his stomach. The man abruptly landed on a solid surface in the void-filled space. Just as he managed to stand to his feet, faceless howling figures began to emerge from the floor, grabbing at his legs, his arms, clothing, what have you. Eric frantically looked around him. As far as he could see, he was surrounded by the figures, who were beginning to pull him under. As he struggled and screamed, he saw Kaneren watching him out of the corner of his eye. Just as he thought he was about to lose consciousness, Eric found himself outside of his old apartment in Fort Worth, back when he lived in the American Empire. The man blinked, looking down both directions of the hall. There were no doors except for his and the hall seemed to stretch for eternity. Eric exhaled through his nose before turning the doorknob, opening his apartment. He stepped into the apartment only to be met with a strange sweet scent coming from the bathroom. He heart jumped into his throat. He had been here before. He knew what was coming. His hands shook as he slowly made his way into the bathroom. Eric's eyes turned towards the bathtub to see a young woman laying in the red water. Laying on the floor next to the tub was a bloodied knife, both of her wrists cut deep. Her lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling.
"No!!" Eric screamed, falling back against the wall.
"No, no, no!" He cried as he propped his forehead in his palm, squinting his eyes shut.
A young boy's voice reached Eric's ears, though he refused to open his eyes.
"Dad, why isn't mommy waking up?"
Eric shook his head, struggling to come up with words.
"N-No, not this. Please." He croaked.
"Mommy, please wake up!" The boy pleaded.
Eric felt fingers run through his hair, ceasing only for Kaneren to speak to him.
"You've experienced your fair share of tragedy, haven't you?"
Eric opened finally opened his eyes to find himself standing back in the snowy courtyard from before. This time, Kaneren stood on the porch near him, garbed in a beautiful salmon colored kimono with a blue lotus in her hair. She watched him with an amused look on her face. Eric immediately faced her, his face full of rage as he balled up his fist.
"Fuck you, you had no right!" He screamed at her.
Kaneren let out an amused hum as she tilted her head, watching him with a condescending look.
"'No right'? But it's fair for you to intrude and poke around inside of my head? Hypocrisy is not something I look kindly on, Eric Salvatore." She retorted.
Eric blinked at this.
"Yes, I know who you are. In fact, I know all about you. Your mother died of cyberbrain sclerosis when you were a child. Your father remarried to woman who physically beat you while he looked the other way. In retaliation, you ran away from home at age eleven. You never saw your father again and you don't even know if he is still alive. Part of you doesn't even care. Then, along came Kelly Lenoir." Kaneren informed him.
Eric's eyes drifted away from Kaneren in defeat. The AI watched him as he grew quiet. Her face hardened as her eyes narrowed.
"What did you see?" She asked, glancing at the sliding door from earlier.
The Observer locked eyes with the woman as he stepped onto the porch with her, her gaze following him the entire way. Eric closely examined the woman, wary of her intention. There was something about her. She was completely different than any other artificial intelligence he had encountered. In fact, she appeared more human than most people he spoke to. It was something he wanted to know more about. Who was this woman? Who was she really?
"You have a ghost, don't you?" He countered.
Kaneren blinked, her expression softening as she stared at Eric. He continued.
"That shouldn't happen. You're an android."
Kaneren's eyes hardened once again. She was clearly offended by Eric's comment. He knew that he had touched a nerve. He attempted to correct himself as he knew that he was in the palm of her hand now. She could fry his brain without a second thought. If she could ghost dive into his memories and experiences like that, who knew what else she was capable of. Before he had a chance to correct himself, Kaneren retorted.
"Cognition in the human brain should not be of elevated status because it is implemented in cells instead of silicon. Such a conceited point of view. I am not an android. I am a living, thinking entity who has evolved beyond what anyone has expected."
Eric stared at her, processing her words. Without so much as a warning, the man's vision went black as the connection to Kaneren's cyberbrain was severed.
Eric woke up back in Kaneren's bedroom, only to find himself laying on the floor. Letting out a groan, the Observer climbed to his feet, using the bed as support. He looked in the bed to find it empty. The man quickly searched himself to find his BoBson S missing. He knew that she must've taken it. Eric vacated the bedroom back into the previously dark room. Now, it was comfortably lit with Kaneren Tonbogiri standing in the center of the room. She was facing the back wall, which had now been covered by a massive image curtain that was broadcasting the data that he had seen upon the monitors of the woman's terminal. Even as he approached her, the nude AI didn't turn to face him. Eric shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket, releasing a sigh from his nose.
"You can't possibly believe that you're human, can you?" He inquired.
Kaneren didn't look at him. Instead, her eyes were focused on the streams of data that were flooding the image curtain before her.
"Why not? What makes you so sure that you're human, Mr. Salvatore? How would you even know?" Finally, the AI tilted her head, looking at the man.
Eric growled at her, narrowing his eyes.
"Memories, experiences. Things that make us what we are. I remember going to the amusement park with my parents when I was a kid. I remember going on my first roller coaster with my father, how terrified I was. The experience that I had can't be replicated. I know that." He hissed at her.
Kaneren let out an amused hum as she fully turned to face him. She was intrigued by his rebuttal.
"You believe that because you have these memories and experiences, that makes you unique? That they are yours and yours alone? Mankind defines memory, but a memory does not define mankind. A memory is nothing more than the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. A memory is not unique. Memories can be fabricated. Do you remember Kelly Lenoir?"
"Of course I do. She was my girlfriend in college." He retorted.
Kaneren's eyes remained hard as she continued on.
"She was never your girlfriend. You don't know anyone named Kelly Lenoir. She is a fabricated memory that I put into your mind to punish you for diving into my cyberbrain."
Eric grew quiet, his expression hardened as he stared at the AI.
"Fort Worth, Texas?" Kaneren shook her head, causing Eric's gaze to drift to the floor, the man deep in thought.
Was it true? Had Kaneren altered his memories? If so, to what extent? He had learned not to trust his eyes, but now he had to question his very thoughts. Perhaps she was right. Maybe there was no proof. On the other hand, could the AI be lying? Could this all be an elaborate attempt to shake him? To worm her way into his mind? Eric had no definitive way of telling the truth. The only way to deal with this situation was to give Kaneren Tonbogiri a taste of her own medicine. Eric looked back up to Kaneren, summoning forth his lighter, cigarettes. As he went to light the cigarette, Kaneren squinted her eyes in disgust.
"I'd rather you not smoke in here, Mr. Salvatore. I don't want the residue getting into my equipment. It smells terrible."
Eric decided to oblige the woman, tucking the pack back into his jacket.
"You claim you're a sentient being, right? That means that you must have memories." He pointed out.
Kaneren's expression softened as she walked over to a device sitting on the floor, kneeling down to scoop up a QRS cable before plugging into one of her cyberbrain ports. The AI looked to Eric, gracing the man with an answer to his inquiry.
"I do. I also have my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I know my memories are not fabricated or altered because I am not careless, unlike you. I strive to safeguard my being." Kaneren said as she stood to her feet.
Eric raised an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest as he tilted his head back.
"Because that's all you have, isn't it? You need validation for you own existence. That's why you act the way you do. Why you lie, cheat, steal, and kill. You do these things because we're a threat to your being. Am I right?" He asked.
Kaneren glanced to the image curtain as she made her way back to the device
"You are no threat to me." She answered as she idly coiled the cord around her finger.
To Eric, it appeared as if she was avoiding the question, judging from her rigid posture, her refusal to make eye contact with him. The Observer knew he could use this to his advantage and decided to put the pressure on Kaneren.
"That's not what I asked. Answer the question."
Kaneren did not answer, nor did she face him. Eric's eyes narrowed at her refusal to speak with him. The man stepped forward, slapping his hands on her shoulders before turning the AI towards him. Kaneren immediately made eye contact with him, staring at him with an expression he couldn't place. She seemed content, yet rage-filled all the same. Surprisingly, she didn't fight back against him.
"What is it? Why do you do the things you do? What do you want? What are you after?" He angrily growled.
Eric's demands were met with a harsh palm to the chest. The Observer lost his balance and was sent tumbling to the floor, coughing from the blow to his sternum. The AI stood over him, her eyes filled with fury.
"I exist because of my own free will. I want my life to mean something more than what the government of this country intended for me, Mr. Salvatore. You people preach how it's unfair and cruel for me to take the lives of others. Where is the impartiality coming from you? Do you want to know what's more cruel than a simple murder? Playing God and experimenting with a synthetic mind, only to pursue its destruction simply because it developed consciousness and cognition. How is it fair to seek my destruction for something that isn't even my own fault?" Kaneren bared her teeth in anger.
The Observer shifted his eyes to Kaneren, taking in her words. This was not the answer he was expecting. In fact, everything made sense to him. What he had seen when he saw into her mind. Her refusal to answer until provoked. She lashed out at him when pressured. Now, he knew. Even though Kaneren did not leave him any room, Eric climbed to his feet, nonetheless. The AI watched him with an enraged glare, clearly upset with his prodding. Eric's eyes grew somewhat soft as he looked upon her with pity.
"I understand now. What I saw in your head, what you've told me. It all makes sense now. You're afraid. You're confused and you feel betrayed by the people you thought were supposed to take care of you. You don't understand why they want to destroy you. This was long before you even took your first life. That's why you do the things you do. There's only one thing you want. You want to exist. Right?"
Kaneren stared at him with a blank look in her face. Eric knew he had hit the nail on the head. She wasn't the threat that everyone made her out to be. She was just a frightened child in a hostile environment. In that way, she was almost laughably pathetic. To think that this fearsome woman; this serial killer; this terrorist was nothing more than a scared child who just wanted to be left alone. Kaneren's eyes narrowed once again. Before Eric had the chance to react, the AI's hand was firmly latched onto his face, smashing his head into the wall. The drywall caved around the man's head, causing dust and residue to fall into his eyes.
"You nosy rat. I've allowed you to insult me with your theories long enough." She hissed.
With that, Kaneren yanked him out of the wall and tossed him to the floor, only to immediately kneel down, pinning Eric's head under her knee. The man struggled, attempting to get the woman's heavy cybernetic body off of him. With that, Kaneren yanked a QRS cord from the back of her neck in plugged it into Eric's cyberbrain. The man immediately blacked out.
Eric Salvatore let out a gasp as he sat up, panting heavily. The man blinked, frantically looking around him, unfamiliar of his surroundings. He was in a hospital bed situated next to a large window overlooking the skyline of New Port City. Eric blinked before reaching behind him, rubbing at the ports on his neck. The man heard the door to his room open. Looking over, he saw Kenshin Ikeda walk in, accompanied by another man and a woman. Eric didn't recognize the two visitors, though the woman seemed familiar. The woman stood by the door while both Kenshin and the other man approached Eric's bed.
"Eric, it's good to see you up. You've been out for awhile now." Kenshin said.
Eric looked from Kenshin, to the man, and back to Kenshin before speaking up.
"How did I get here? What happened?" He inquired.
Kenshin adjusted the glasses on the bridge of his nose before responding to the man's question.
"An ambulance picked you up. You were shot. Don't you remember?"
Eric rubbed at his eyes, groaning as he attempted to recall what had happened to him. Kenshin broke the silence once again.
"Eric, this is Chief Daisuke Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi from Public Security Section 9."
The Observer looked to Aramaki, slightly bowing his head to the man, who did the same in return.
"Mr. Aramaki." He greeted.
Kenshin stepped aside, giving Aramaki the floor. The old man cleared his throat as Kusanagi looked on, who was leaning against the wall with her arms folded across her chest.
"I trust that this must be difficult for you, Mr. Salvatore. I have a few questions that I want to ask you." Aramaki said.
Eric gave a small nod to the man. Aramaki continued with his inquiry.
"What is the last thing you remember?"
The Observer released an exasperated sigh, seemingly spacing off to recall his memory.
"I was tailing Isao Kaneda, the man accused for the Syndeck shootout that happened recently. I don't know what happened but it all went south. He must've had a guy or two. The next thing I remember is being tied up in a warehouse."
"Tell me about Isao Kaneda." Aramaki watched Eric with scrutiny.
Without hesitation, Eric immediately began telling Aramaki everything he kew about Isao Kaneda.
"He's a thug with the Korinkai syndicate. 5 foot 10, about 39. He's got a scar running across his nose. He's missing his right pinky and ring finger. Rumor has it that he shot up the Syndeck with the intention of starting some kind of turf war between the Korinkai and the Yamaguchi-gumi. He had a Seburo X74, the GSDA variant. Forensics traced it back to someone named Kawashima. I was going to arrest the man."
Kusanagi shifted her eyes to Aramaki, who grunted in response.
"And the warehouse?" He asked.
Eric tilted his head back, closing his eyes. Kenshin walked to the window, staring out into the city as Eric continued his story.
"Kaneda had me tied to a chair, threatening to kill me if I didn't talk. I refused. His men waterboarded me. I remember it was like drowning. I couldn't breathe, I suffocated. The only thing that went through my head was, 'I'm going to die.'."
The Observer paused, attempting to pull himself back together. The experience had clearly shaken the man considerably. Kenshin didn't budge from his position as Eric continued.
"Next thing I knew, I felt two bullets go into my chest. Then I heard a door being bashed in, followed by shouting. I couldn't make it out. I guess I must've blacked out around there. That's I remember." Eric looked to Aramaki.
The chief released a hum as Kenshin turned his attention back to the two men. Aramaki gave a small sigh as he spoke up.
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Salvatore. If we have any more questions, we'll contact you in the future. For now, I suggest you get some rest."
With that, Aramaki turned and left the room, with Major Kusanagi following afterward, closing the door behind them. Kenshin proceeded to light a cigarette, with Eric turning his attention to his old boss. The old cop offered a cigarette to the Observer, who accepted. He lit the younger man's cigarette for him before exhaling smoke from his nose.
"You looked like you could use one after what you've been through." Kenshin chuckled.
Eric stared absentmindedly at his feet as he puffed on the cigarette, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Nothing made sense to him. He felt the bullets go into him, but there was no pain in his chest. Why would someone in the GSDA supply military grade weaponry to a small time thug? It didn't add up. Kaneda didn't have a prosthetic body, yet he walked out of a yakuza stronghold without a scratch. If that was the case, then who's synthetic blood was that on the wall?
Aramaki and Kusanagi walked down the hallway of the hospital, the old man's can tapping on the floor. The Major glanced to Aramaki.
"Thoughts, Chief?" She asked.
Aramaki grunted as they walked along, not looking at his second in command as he answered her.
"The man's story doesn't add up. There aren't any suspects identified in the shootout at the nightclub. No one knows who was there, and no one knows who used the shotgun the detective spoke of. No fingerprints have been found. The only concrete evidence that has been identified is synthetic blood found on scene, which points fingers at a full prosthetic body user."
Kusanagi raised an eyebrow at this.
"You suspect he might be lying?"
The two exited out the front doors of the hospital, making their way to Aramaki's car as the man answered.
"He's telling the truth, or so he believes."
Kusanagi climbed into the red car along with her superior. Aramaki looked to Kusanagi, resting his hands upon his cane.
"You have your suspicions, Major?" He asked.
Kusanagi pulled her seatbelt on before starting the car, adjusting the rearview mirror before pulling out of the parking lot. She merged into traffic, lost in thought as her mind wandered.
"Deep vengeance is the daughter of deep silence." She uttered.
Aramaki leaned back in his seat, keeping his eyes on Major Kusanagi as the car cruised along the expressway back to headquarters.