Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 5a

[22:45] <Minaplo> [Subaru Hirano sat alone in his cubicle section.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [Actually, Subaro Hirano sat alone on the entire storey of the building.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [This would not be a problem if Subaru Hirano was working the night shift at a moderately sized company.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [But Subaru Hirano was not working the night shift at a moderately sized company. He was working the day shift at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force Public Security Bureau, Third Public Security division.-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [The Third Public Security Division's duty was to investigate right wing radicals who might pose a threat to security. Rabid nationalists, for example, or fascists. So far today, however, Japan's no doubt virulent far-right scene went conspicuously uninvestigated.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [This is because the Third Division had been practically dismantled.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> [Not by choice- the Japanese government still considered the far-right as much a threat as ever.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> [Rather it was because of what had been called the 'Frogman Incident'. The military had requested the PSB's support in transporting sensitive equipment to the port of Tokyo-2, and of course the PSB had been happy to oblige. The rather unusual request had drawn on many divisions in the PSB, including half of the Third Division, Subaru included.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [What had happened, of course, was that they had been ambushed by hundreds of yakuza, supported by highly powerful foreign terrorists with AT Fields and powerful weaponry. Many PSB agents had been injured, a few had even died. And of course, that precious cargo had been stolen.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> [Then, one of the terrorists had sent the PSB a grisly package detailing massive levels of infiltration of the organisation by 'Solomons'- cloned supersoldiers bred by the United Nations. They had killed and replaced officers- an act Subaru's fellow officers had called 'snatching'- and had been intending to collapse the organisation from within. However, the terrorist had laid a trap for many of the spies, killing most of them in a devastating building collapse. The rest had since been purged.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> [Then to top it off, the terrorist went on national television and compared the population of Japan to amphibians, which had given the PSB a massive public migraine and, furthermore, had spawned a thousand internet memes in which the PSB were roundly mocked.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [The injured officers of the Third Division- of which there had been many- had been moved to hospital, whilst many of the others had been transferred to fill in gaps in the other Divisions. Of course, the infiltrators had filled many high-ranking positions, so the PSB was mass-promoting at the present.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [But Subaru Hirano did not earn promotions. Subaru Hirano was an Inspector. He had been an Inspector for five years. Until there was literally no other choice for promotion, Subaru Hirano would be an Inspector until he died.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [Subaru stared down at his work- cleaning the seemingly ransom assortments of nuts, bolts, casings and pieces that spread out across his desk.-
[23:17] <Minaplo> [Once assembled, these bits and bobs would form a single .38 police revolver, capable of holding a whole five chemically-propelled cartridges at once. These cartridges currently sat in a box in Subaru's top left hand drawer, along with nine other identical boxes.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [And so Subaru worked. With painstaking attention, he cleaned every bit and bob, then carefully reassembled the weapon.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [Once finished, Subaru placed the weapon back into its holster- which also lay on the desk- and turned to glance at the desk to his right.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [It had been unoccupied the last time he'd looked. To his chagrin it stubbornly remained so.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [A few minutes and several half-hearted glances at a half-baked intelligence report later, Subaru's phone rang.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [He quickly picked it up and held it to his ear. "Inspector Hirano, Third Division."-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [("Inspector Hirano? Chairman Hitoyama has asked that you report to him within the next hour.") Came the voice.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["The chairman?" Repeated Subaru; he frowned. "Did he… No, nevermind. Of course, I'll be there right away."-
[23:30] <Minaplo> […-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [One advantage of having every part of the state apparatus of Japan in a single part of a single ward of Tokyo-2 was that when important people summonsed a lowly inspector, that inspector did not at least have very far to walk.-
[23:35] <Minaplo> [The Chairman's office was within the 2nd building of the Central Common Government Office- a squat rectangular grey brutalist monument, ringed unconvincingly by evergreen trees.-
[23:40] <Minaplo> [Much to Subaru's surprise, on reporting in he was not only directed straight to the chairman's office, but actually admitted almost immediately.-
[23:45] <Minaplo> [All in all, the situation put Subaru on edge; although he opened the door to the Chairman's office unhesitatingly, he couldn't help but have his heart quicken.-
[23:45] <Minaplo> ["Inspector Subaru Hirano, Public Security Bureau Third Division." Said Subaru, bowing sharply on entering.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [Chairman Hitoyama was a short, bristly man. He looked as though he had once been nothing but muscle, but had since become a little soft. He was an older man, with short grey hair and grey eyes.-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Inspector Hirano. Take a seat." Said Hitoyama. Subaru promptly did.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama sighed. "Dark days for the PSB, Inspector."-
[00:01] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["How is the Third Division holding up?" asked Hitoyama.-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Am I expected to speak openly, sir?" Asked Subaru.-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Hitoyama.-
[00:15] <Minaplo> ["The Third Division isn't holding up, sir." Said Subaru. "I am the only officer active in my section, most other sections have been stripped bare. By all reasonable metrics, the Third Division is defunct, sir."-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["Mm, thought as much." Said Hitoyama. "I've been going through our officer dossiers recently, Inspector, and I've noticed something most curious."-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["What is it, sir?"-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["You don't really belong in the Third Division, do you?" Said Hitoyama.-
[00:52] <Minaplo> ["Sir?"-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["You served three years in the MIU." Said Hitoyama. "During that time you, along with other smaller catches, foiled two attempted attacks by the Covenant of Light and destabilised a major LN spy ring, leading to the high profile arrest of Commissioner Takeda and Vice Minister Namatame. Yet a year and a half ago you were transferred to the Third Division and passed over for promotion, even though LN agents remained a major threat. That seems irregular. Care to explain?"-
[01:01] <Minaplo> ["…" Subaru shifted slightly in his chair. "Bureau politics, sir. Perhaps you could call it bureau corruption. During my time in the MIU, my partner and I discovered that multiple high-ranking members of the bureau were taking bribes from organised crime groups. We blew the whistle, but the affair was hushed up… And we were thrown away," He said calmly.-
[01:20] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama arched a bushy eyebrow. "Corruption, hm? I see… If you'd just shut your mouth, you could've been promoted. You must feel pretty bitter."-
[01:21] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir."-
[01:29] <Minaplo> ["Stuck in a minor role with no hope for advancement- why didn't you leave?"-
[01:31] <Minaplo> [Subaru shook his head. "Would that have helped? Corrupt organisations don't become less so if the honest employees let themselves be muscled out. Besides, where could I go? This is what I've wanted to do since I was a boy- it'd be… Dishonest to myself to let them ruin that."-
[01:34] <Minaplo> ["… Hm." Hitoyama sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin.-
[19:40] <Minaplo> [In truth however, Subaru had never once in his life experienced the sensation of an 'awkward' silence. So he sat patiently and quietly, letting the conversation lay fallow.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama leaned back in his seat and pulled out a drawer; within was a box. He took it out and opened it, revealing a pair of dark brown cigars.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["Do you smoke, Inspector?" Asked Hitoyama.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> ["No sir." Said Subaru.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Do you drink, Inspector?"-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Only socially, sir." Said Subaru.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." Hitoyama put away the cigars; instead he took out a bottle of scotch and two shot glasses, which he filled. "Then I am expecting you to treat this meeting like a social occasion, Inspector. That's an order."-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Understood, sir." Said Subaru, who obligingly took one of the shot glasses.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama tilted his glass toward Subaru in greeting, then downed it; a moment later, Subaru did the same.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> [Another round of these. Once Hitoyama was done, he sighed and leaned forward in his chair. "Are you a patriot, young man?"-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["A patriot, sir?" Asked Subaru in surprise.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["That's right. Do you love your country and the people in it?"-
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["I do, sir." Said Subaru.-
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["Do you think it to be the greatest nation on Earth, young man?"-
[19:48] <Minaplo> [Subaru shook his head. "I'm afraid not, sir."-
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["No? Well, that's an interesting answer." Said Hitoyama. Subaru was struck by how deep the man's voice really was.-
[19:49] <Minaplo> ["Do you want me to explain my reasoning, sir?" Said Subaru politely.-
[19:49] <Minaplo> ["By all means."-
[19:49] <Minaplo> [Subaru nodded, paused for a few moments, then spoke.-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["Firstly, it depends on your understanding of greatness in regards to nations." Said Subaru. "That might be measured in military power, economic strength, diplomatic influence, technological development, happiness or some other means. So you choose one of those categories, and measure your country against it. Of course, which category you choose varies from person to person, so it's
[19:51] <Minaplo> fundamentally a subjective exercise."-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["However… Militarily we're weaker than many of our neighbours. Our economy is strong, but inferior to France and Germany. Diplomatically we're at best a regional power. Our technology is some of the best in the world, but not the best. Finally, our people are not very happy with their lives."-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["So by none of these measures are we the 'greatest', sir." Said Subaru. "But I don't think saying so is unpatriotic, either. I've always valued honesty- I feel that if I'm doing something wrong, what I need is good feedback. Lying as to the state of the country doesn't help it along in any way."-
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["… And finally, since the question's nature can be subjective, I would prefer to reflect my patriotism with a different question, and different answer."-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["What question?" Asked Hitoyama.-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["Which country do I love the most? Japan, sir." Said Subaru. "I believe that's what matters."-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["Heh." Hitoyama poured themselves another drink, but this time he pensively nursed it for awhile as he leaned back in his chair. "That's a very honest answer, isn't it, young man? Well thought out, too."-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["Thank you, sir." Said Subaru.-
[20:00] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama nodded.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [After a few moments, Hitoyama spoke again. "Do you love your Emperor, young man?"-
[20:14] <Minaplo> [Subaru hesitated.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["I… don't hate our Emperor, sir." He said slowly.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["But you don't love our Emperor either, then." Said Hitoyama.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["… No, sir." Said Subaru.-
[20:16] <Minaplo> ["Good. I don't care much for her either." Said Hitoyama bluntly; he downed his scotch.-
[20:17] <Minaplo> [Subaru's jaw dropped slightly.-
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["Surprised, young man?" Asked Hitoyama.-
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["I- yes, sir." Said Subaru. "For someone in your position…"-
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["What is the Emperor, young man? The position, I mean." Said Hitoyama.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["… The Emperor is our head of state. The Emperor reigns over the country, and acts as its conscience and guiding spirit. The Emperor personifies the Japanese people, embodying the idea of their sovereignty." Said Subaru; an edge of nervousness had crept into his voice.-
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["Is the Emperor important, then?" Asked Hitoyama.-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["O-Of course, sir!" Said Subaru.-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["Are they really?" Asked Hitoyama. "… Do we really need Emperors anymore?"-
[20:20] <Minaplo> [Again, Subaru's jaw dropped, a little lower this time.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> ["Consider it for yourself, young man. If the Emperor died tomorrow and we had no more Emperors, what would that mean for Japan? Would it make us stronger? Weaker? If so, by little or a lot?" Said Hitoyama.-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["I…" Subaru paused. "I-I don't think many things would measurably change…"-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["And what about if the reverse happened? What if tomorrow, everyone in Japan died but the Emperor and her family?" Pressed Hitoyama.-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["T-Then I… There wouldn't be a Japan anymore." Said Subaru.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["So you see." Said Hitoyama. "Japan doesn't need the Emperor, but the Emperor needs Japan. True?"-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["… I… Suppose you're right, sir." Said Subaru. He felt like slipping down into his chair.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> [Yet another silence fell over the room.-
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Young man, I'm giving you a promotion." Said Hitoyama, quite suddenly and bluntly.-
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry, sir?" Said Subaru. He hadn't quite dropped his shot glass, but he had somehow managed to very quickly place it on the table.-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["I've seen the reports, young man. In fact I've spent much of my time doing nothing but." Said Hitoyama. "The PSB is shot to hell. It's command structure is in disarray, its line units are disorganised and the other agencies are refusing its request for assistance at a rate of around nine out of ten."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir. The other agencies don't trust us now. Either they think we're a security leak, or we can't handle ourselves in the field." Said Subaru.-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["Which is entirely accurate." Said Hitoyama. "The PSB has been humiliated by foreign agents on our own soil. Every refusal for assistance is reasonable."-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["Of course, sir, but it means the PSB has no way to redeem itself…" Said Subaru.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["Give me your sidearm, young man." Said Hitoyama.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [Subaru obediently withdrew the service revolver and placed it on the desktop.-
[20:43] <Minaplo> ["You realise most other agencies have upgraded to rail pistols, young man?" Said Hitoyama.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["… Yes, sir. I requested a sidearm upgrade, but I was refused." Said Subaru.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["More of that bureau corruption?" Said Hitoyama.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir."-
[20:46] <Minaplo> ["If this is the result of bureau corruption, then the bureau deserved to burn." Said Hitoyama. He handed the revolver back. "You're smart, energetic, principled and experienced, young man. So far, your talents have been wasted due to corruption, but no longer. As of today, I am promoting you to Inspector-Captain. Furthermore, I'm entrusting you with a newly-created position."-
[20:46] <Minaplo> ["Sir?"-
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["As of now, you're heading the Extraordinary Response and Activities Division." Said Hitoyama. "You will be empowered with authority to request assistance from other agencies, and to automatically confirm those requests, over the head of the agency heads if necessary. Although officially part of the PSB, you will be answering directly to the chairmen, such as myself. We will give you
[20:52] <Minaplo> objectives that we expect you to meet using your own resources and strategies."-
[20:53] <Minaplo> [Silence. When Subaru was finally able to speak again (after he'd downed his scotch, then downed another after Hitoyama obligingly refilled it), all he managed was an "Oh I see, sir."-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["I expect results, Captain. Dismissed." Said Hitoyama.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [Inspector-Captain Subaru Hirano got to his feet, saluted, and made for the door. It was only after he had passed the threshold that he stopped and turned. "May I ask a question, sir?"-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["Of course, Captain."-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["How long have you been considering the creation of this division?"-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Six months." Said Hitoyama.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["I see. May I ask another question?"-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Go ahead."-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["Am I allowed to know our first objective now, sir?"-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["The official orders will arrive soon, but I can tell you here and now." Said Hitoyama. "Your first objective is to redeem the PSB. Clear its name and re-earn back the respect and honour it once commanded."-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["How am I to do that, sir?"-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["Through the second objective. The yakuza attack on the PSB at the docks… Was a deeply humiliating event. The cargo was stolen or destroyed, and the PSB was defeated- by gangsters, nonetheless. Furthermore, they're likely to be part of this greater conspiracy in some way."-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["So you want me to investigate the yakuza, sir?" Asked Subaru.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> ["No, young man. I want you to wage war on the Yakuza." Said Hitoyama. "I want you to throttle their supplies, seize their resources, turn themselves against one another. I want you to cut off their heads and torch their bases. I want you to drag their no-good leaders before us and make them kneel. Am I understood?"-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["… Yes, sir."-
[21:01] <Minaplo> [Subaru turned- but once again hesitated. "Sir, six months is a fairly long time. You would've had time to find other potential candidates to lead this new division. What about me was different to the others?"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama poured scotch into the shot glass until it was near overflowing. Then he picked it up.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["You're alive."-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [Hitoyama tilted the glass at Subaru, then downed it quickly.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> […-
[21:15] <Minaplo> [The hospital wasn't very busy today; Subaru moved through it at a decent speed, especially since most of the reception staff already knew him and knew where he was going.-
[21:21] <Minaplo> [He arrived at the hospital room, knocked three times, then entered. "Good afternoon, Nanako."-
[21:24] <Minaplo> [Nanako Kaneshiro lay sitting up in the hospital bed, her hands clasping a datapad. "Subaru! I was expecting you an hour ago."-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["I know, I'm sorry." He said, holding out a brown paper bag toward her. "I brought you a custard danish."-
[21:28] <Minaplo> [Nanako was a fairly tall woman, rather thin, with long black hair and grey-blue eyes, over which she wore a pair of glasses. "From the Australian place on the way to work?"-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Subaru; he tossed the danish onto her food tray, which he tugged toward her. "Do you suppose pastries is something the Australians are quite good at?"-
[21:30] <Minaplo> [But Nanako didn't answer; she's grabbed the danish out, torn it in half and was biting into it eagerly, almost ravenously. She had to pause to dab at her mouth with a napkin before she spoke. "I don't think so. Don't they usually excel at survivalism and antagonising the Chinese?"-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["That's what I thought. Maybe they found room for pastrycraft in between all the dying and screaming?" Offered Subaru thoughtfully.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Somehow I don't think so." Said Nanako with a small grin.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. Oh well, our loss." He said, reaching over to take a piece of her danish and receiving only a smacked hand. "Ow."-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["So what kept you then?" Said Nanako.-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that? It was nothing." Said Subaru. "I only got a ~promotion~ to Captain~"-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["… And I may have been put in charge of a government-sanctioned death squad." He added as a sombre afterthought, his bright grin fading. "Oh well, details."-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["Huh? What on Earth- how did you-" began Nanako.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [And so Subaru quickly recounted the story- Hitoyama's call, the strange conversation, the review of the PSB's status and of course, Subaru's bizarre promotion.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> [Nanako's eyebrows had spent the entire time either arching or narrowing along with her eyes. The datapad now lay forgotten on the food tray along with the sad little crumbs of the danish.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["… You know what this means, of course?" Said Nanako once Subaru was done.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["What?"-
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["It means that all those assholes who kept us down in rank got promoted, and then they all got snatched." Said Nanako. "In fact, the very act of keeping our ranks suppressed saved our lives. How's that for karma, huh?"-
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["Ohh, you know, that's a good point!" Said Subaru, who had really rather enjoyed retelling the story. "Isn't it odd to think that we owe them our lives?"-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["Odd. But also satisfying. A lot satisfying." Said Nanako. She held her hand out, palm-upward. "Put it there, Captain Hirano!"-
[21:43] <Minaplo> [Captain Hirano absolutely put it there, but he went red doing so. "It sounds weird when you say it."-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["Why?"-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["I was settling in to a long and fruitful life of you and I being Inspector-buddies for eternity. You calling me Captain only gives me social vertigo."-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [Nanako laughed. "Then go ahead and promote me. I am gonna be part of your death squad, right?"-
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["Absolutely." Said Subaru with a bright smile. "The day you walk out of here is the day you're in."-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["Looking forward to it already. Reserve me a railpistol, ok?"-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["Got it." He said.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["… How are you feeling today, anyway?" Said Subaru. "Are you healing?"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Slowly but surely." Said Nanako. "I made good progress today, but whatever venom that yakuza put on his sword, well… I had a terrible reaction to it."-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["You did scream a lot. It was frightening." Said Subaru with a shudder.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Haha, sorry. It was agony, though. But it doesn't matter now- you're gonna get those Yakuza, huh?"-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Sure am." Said Subaru, his expression rallying into a smile.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Good. Bring the bastards to justice." Said Nanako. "… But, Subaru."-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Yeah?"-
[21:52] <Minaplo> ["The chairman said… 'wage war', right? It sounds like he wants you to burn them to the ground and leave a lot of bodies in your wake. Are you okay with that?"-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["… Yeah, you know me too well. I'm not sure it's something I'm comfortable with." Said Subaru quietly, his smile fading.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Good. I don't want you to be." Said Nanako. "Subaru, that's not how we do things, ok? No matter what happens, don't do anything you wouldn't do usually."-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["… Yeah, okay." He said. He reached out and took Nanako's hand. "You're right. I respect the chairman's conviction, but we're better than that. I'll do things the proper way, Nanako! I'll bring those Yakuza to justice, but only kill when there's no other choice. I promise you now, I won't let you down!"-
[21:56] <Minaplo> […-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [Subaru knocked his head firmly against Nanako's bedframe. "I've let you down."-
[21:57] <Minaplo> [Subaru's first week as the Inspector-Captain of the Extraordinary Response and Activities Division had been a nightmare.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [New division head or not, the fact remained that the PSB was under-resourced. Subaru's extraordinary jurisdiction powers had proven rather lacking- repeatedly he tried to requisition a railpistol, only to be told repeatedly that the PSB simply didn't have any for him. He tried to place departments onto the Yakuza investigation, but each department head was resentful and churlish at the
[22:01] <Minaplo> reassignment: progress slowed to a crawl. Attempting to simply reassign teams or staff into the ERAD itself was met with fierce protests, to which Subaru had acquiesced purely to keep the peace.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [In desperation, Subaru had turned to the body of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force. In a sensible move, he simply embedded himself in the department dedicated to hunting the Yakuza. He might not be able to requisition PSB agents easily, but he could take their computer systems and data and give it to the police.-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [Furthermore, he wasn't asking for reassignments off these police- he was just asking them to keep doing the same job. This progress was much more to his liking, and the detectives had been co-operative and helpful. Before long, he had some promising leads to the location of a Yakuza warehouse suspected of hiding one of the missing Gojuu Shiki battlesuits.-
[22:06] <Minaplo> [And so the hammer of the ERAD had fallen on the place swiftly. A special police vehicle had smashed through the front gates whilst upwards of seventy police officers, sporting carapace armour and rail rifles, had flooded the grounds in squads of five. They swept through the warehouse with unstoppable force.-
[22:06] <Minaplo> [The primary reason for this was that the warehouse had been empty of staff or security of any kind.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> [Furthermore, the only containers and crates still in the warehouse contained one thing: cutesy super-deformed anime plush toys.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> [It had been a humiliating experience. Overnight, Subaru Hirano had become a laughing stock in the police force.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> [No leads, no gains, nothing to show for it except seventy thousand Super Cutey Star Girl Tsukaretta dolls.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [Even worse, somehow the media had learned of this, and had arrived just in time to snap a photograph of Subaru standing next to a crate, holding up in his hand one of the damnable dolls, an expression of incredulity on his face.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> [At some point, the consensus had been that to uphold the fine name of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force, a scapegoat was needed. Predictably, it was Subaru.-
[22:11] <Minaplo> [Those same detectives who once had been so helpful now spoke to him with an edge of mockery. Sometimes they simply just didn't share any information with him whatsoever.-
[22:11] <Minaplo> [Somehow, on his first assignment as Captain, Subaru had not only failed to enhance the prestige of the PSB, but had managed to measurably worsen it.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [After hearing the tale- and receiving Subaru's prostration- Nanako sighed, and reached out to ruffle his hair fondly. "You did ok."-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["I did not do ok."-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["You did."_
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["I didn't."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Alright, it could've gone better, but was the experience a total waste?" Said Nanako. "You must've learned something."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["… In fact I did." Said Subaru.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Oh?" Offered Nanako.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["I underestimated the Yakuza." Said Subaru. "Which was stupid of me, but I was desperate and short on resources. I thought going to the police group dedicated to hunting them was sensible…"-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["It was." Said Nanako. "But…"-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["But of course the Yakuza would ensure that there was a mole in that very group." Said Subaru. "And the group was too large to properly vet, there were hundreds of officers in it."-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Nanako. "You'd never find anything that way- the Yakuza would get advance warning and bug out with all of their stuff."-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Ugh." Subaru grasped Nanako's hand and kept it firmly enmeshed within his hair. "I'm an idiot. I wish I'd spoken to you about this earlier, you'd never have missed this."-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["You're probably right. I don't think what you did was wholly wrong- there's some good ideas in there." Said Nanako.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["Yeah… Okay." He sat up, returning Nanako's hand to her lap. "I think that going to the police specialised in Yakuza-hunting was a good idea generally, except for the mole thing."-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["Okay." Said Nanako. "And that's because…"-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["Specialisation is what I need." Said Subaru. "I have enough power that if I had the right information, I could craft the ERAD into a group capable of countering anything… So long as I had the people."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["Right."-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["But the Yakuza have a lot of money and other things- blackmail too. So the larger a group is, the larger the chances of one of them being compromised." Said Subaru.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["That sounds good to me." Said Nanako. "Keep going!"-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Huhm… Specialisation, avoid large groups, that suggests I need a team of specialists, five to ten I'd estimate. And each one would have to be personally vetted, their backgrounds checked out to make sure they weren't the sort who might be susceptible to Yakuza influence."-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Good. 'Susceptible to Yakuza influence'. What does that look like?" Said Nanako.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Gosh, hm. Ok. They're usually either poorly paid, underpaid or just greedy and ambitious." Said Subaru. "They often don't have good scruples- their disciplinary records might show them having engaged in police abuse or something like that. They often have shady or shameful pasts, not always their fault, but it means that the Yakuza might have secrets or blackmail…"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["And of course they tend to be exposed to Yakuza a lot. Simple exposure can corrupt too." Said Nanako.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, right, of course." Said Subaru. "It can also make them and the Yakuza implacable enemies."-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["They do like grudges…"-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["There's also other variables in there too which I haven't identified yet." Said Subaru. "But, this gives me somewhere to start- knowing I need a small, specialised team gives me a goal, and working all this out means I have an idea of what to vet for…"-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Subaru slapped his hands together. "Alright! The next time I'm here, I'll have a crack team ready for you to review, Nanako. I promise it!"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> […-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [Subaru sat on the park bench alone. In his hands was a datapad, loaded with dossiers.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [The sun was sinking gloomily into the west, giving the park a reddish sullen cast. There were only a few people out here now, mostly working mothers and fathers who'd just arrived home from work and were taking their kids to play. The cries of happy children provided a consistent ambience.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [He sighed and rubbed his eyes. He was fairly sure he had the right picks, but…-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [He couldn't help but constantly second-guess. It was easy to be confident in the presence of Nanako, but he'd sworn not to come back until his team picks were ready. But he didn't have to go far to be reminded of that failure- the media had blithely ignored requests to not publish, and now his picture had been seen by half the city.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [As if to punctuate the point, not more than three metres away was a little girl wearing a pink sleeved shirt and red skirt, staring at him with big eyes. She would've been about eight years old, maybe seven.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Hey." Said Subaru.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Hello." She said. "Are you the Tsukuretta Man?"-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["I-" Subaru caught himself just before a sigh.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that's me. What's your name?"-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Hoshiko." She said.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Hoshiko, huh?" He said with a smile. "How're you today, Hoshiko?"-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["I'm okay." She said.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Where's your mum and dad?" Asked Subaru.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Mum's at the shrine." Said Hoshiko. "And dad's over there," She said, pointing to a man a few dozen metres away. "He's trying to ask that lady to come back with us."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [Now that Subaru looked, he realised that Hoshiko's father- who looked to be in his late thirties or so- was actually hitting on a beautiful young woman, who was smiling along but all in all didn't look like she really wanted his attention.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["Haha, really." Said Subaru. "Your dad's kind of a funny guy, huh? Hitting on ladies when your mum's not-"-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [He glanced back toward Hoshiko, and stopped. He realised she was wearing a little necklace- on it was a golden cross.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> [Suddenly Subaru understood.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["… Did you just come back from seeing your mother at the shrine, Hoshiko?" He asked quietly.-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." She said, sitting up on the bench. "Dad and I said hello, and we prayed to Jesus to keep her warm in heaven. Then we came here." She took out a riceball and held it over to him. "Do you want some?"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, thanks." Said Subaru, taking half of it. "Did you make these yourself?"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["You can tell?"-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Sure can, they look like they were made by a master chef. I can't see any around, so I'm assuming it's you."_
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["You're silly." Said Hoshiko, but she giggled nonetheless. "Hey, can I get your autograph, Tsukuretta Man?"-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["Sure can. Do you have something for me to write on?" He said.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [She held out a school exercise book- it was, Subaru noted, Tsukuretta-themed.-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [He took it, flipped it to the first page and wrote on the back of the cover, 'Dear Hoshiko, did you know that 'Hoshiko' means 'star child'? That means you're just like Star Girl Tsukuretta. Stay strong and do well in school! Best of luck, Subaru Hirano, Tsukuretta Man'.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["There you go." Said Subaru, handing it back. "Be careful about who you show it too, though. Then everyone will want one.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> [Hoshiko laughed, and held the book to her chest tight. "I'll be super careful!"-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["Good girl."-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["Hoshiko!" Came a voice- Hoshiko's father had returned. "There you are… Don't go off like that, okay?"-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["Sorry." Hoshiko slipped off the bench and walked over to her dad's side.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [Her father turned toward Subaru and bowed apologetically. "I hope she wasn't too much an inconvenience."-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["Highlight of my day." Said Subaru sincerely. He craned his head to the right, peering around the man's shoulder. "Did you crash and burn, chief?"-
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you saw that, huh?" Said the father ruefully, laughing a little. "Yeah, it was hopeless from the get go. All lives lost."-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["Well, I have to respect your conviction." Said Subaru. "Keep looking, chief."-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["I will. Say goodbye now, Hoshiko."-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["Bye, Tsukuretta Man." Said Hoshiko.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["Bye, Hoshiko." Said Subaru.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [The father gave Subaru a nod and a smile, and then the two walked away, chatting amiably, holding hands as they went.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [Subaru watched them as they went, a smile on his own face. He felt strangely refreshed by the experience. It was one of those noble moments, he decided; the sort that reminded despairing coppers and inspectors what they were really fighting for.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["That was a really sweet thing you just did." Said a warm, feminine voice. Subaru turned.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [… Pretty much every noble thought fled his head at once, replaced by the sort he usually associated with high school, bedrooms and- for whatever reason- Kyoto.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [It was the woman that Hoshiko's father had hit on, and now that he saw her up close, Subaru realised why the man had tried.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [The woman standing before him was a goddess.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [She was European from the look of her, with bright, gleaming blue eyes and fair, flawless skin. She was slender and tall, with a full, alluring figure and long, graceful legs. She wore a sky-blue dress and a blue sunhat. "Do you mind if I sit?"-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Guh." Said Subaru; for a moment he was unable of much else. "I-I mean, go right ahead."-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [The woman sat next to him. To Subaru's shame, the hairs on his arms began to prickle like little feelers picking up a scent.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Hey, I recognise you." Said the woman suddenly. "You're that inspector who raided the yakuza warehouse, aren't you?"-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [… As a sobriety tool, it worked. Subaru's blind infatuation very quickly fell away. "Oh. Uh… Yeah, I am."-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["Sorry. I've embarrassed you." She said apologetically.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["I embarrassed myself. You're all just party to my ongoing humiliation." Said Subaru, leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "It's probably what the Yakuza were hoping for."-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["They're bastards like that." She said with surprising fierceness in her tone.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["I don't mean to pry, but it kind of sounds like you've had experience with the Yakuza yourself." Said Subaru.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you wouldn't believe it." Said the woman.-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Despite my career, I can be astonishingly credulous." Said Subaru.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [She laughed. "Alright, alright. Here's the thing: trade unions."-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["Trade unions?" Said Subaru in surprise. "The Yakuza are working with the leftists?"-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["What? No no." She laughed. "I mean, the Yakuza are like a trade union, but a really pushy one where everyone even remotely underground is expected to join."-
[23:17] <Minaplo> ["You mean the way they drive off unaligned thieves and smaller gangs?" Said Subaru.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. And also information brokers." Said the woman with a deep sigh. "Do you know what? I came to Tokyo expecting to make big bucks, I can't sell to anyone because I'm not, get this, Yakuza approved. I now need, what… A license? A Yakuza license?"-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["They're cracking down on info brokers too?" Said Subaru in surprise. "Ohh, they must be trying to control the flow of info in the underworld, but that sounds like a hell of a job…"-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["The terms I was told were that I had to have all my conversations monitored by the Yakuza. Basically, my info would be taxed."-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["If you refused?"-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Then they'd fish my body out of Tokyo Bay."-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["At least you know they're treating you as a professional, then." Said Subaru. "Usually their warnings involve cutting off fingers, or other things."-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I'm aware." Said the woman. "But that brings us back to you. You're targeting the Yakuza?"-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["As best I can." Said Subaru.-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Great. Want some help?"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Ohh, oh, you're gonna sell me information?" Said Subaru in surprise. "Not only are you ignoring their warning, you're going to fight them? You really are gutsy."-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Guts can go a long way." Said the woman. "In fact, if you laid the intestinal tract out end to end-"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Haha."-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [She laughed too. "But no, I'm not selling- I'm giving. Consider it an investment or a down payment or something. I figure if I give you some info, you can use it to get your foot in the door. A success gives you some clout, you can bring the big guns… Then you can start paying me."-
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["Oh wow. That poor guy you just turned down really didn't know what he was doing, huh?" Said Subaru with a grin.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> [She laughed long and hard.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Alright, you have a deal." Said Subaru, holding out his hand for her to shake. "Miss…?"-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Messina. Monica Messina." Said Monica, taking his hand and shaking it firmly.-
[23:40] <Minaplo> ["Monica Messina." Said Subaru. "Alright, well, thank you, Ms. Messina. Do I call you, or will you contact me?"-
[23:40] <Minaplo> ["The latter." She said with a grin. She stood up. "See you around, Inspector."-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [And then she walked off- Subaru failing to resist the temptation to peer at her bare legs as she went.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [But he was cheered, truly. He'd come into this park feeling doubtful, but now he felt rejuvenated and buoyed. The pieces were starting to line up. He might finally have a chance…-
[23:41] <Minaplo> […-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["I have them!" Proclaimed Subaru.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["Oo yar?" Mumbled Nanako around a mouthful of custard danish.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["Yeah! I know what I was looking for, what I needed, and I think I finally have it. Do you-?"-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Well yeah!" Said Nanako, having swallowed. She made an enthusiastic grabbing gesture at him. "Don't leave me in suspense!"-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Alright, alright! Okay, so, first up is this guy called Carter Bright." Said Subaru.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Carter Bright? He's not Japanese?" Asked Nanako.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Nah, he's an American refugee. And get this- he's a black guy!"-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Yeah?"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["Well he's also in the Imperial Guard." Said Subaru excitedly. "A black guy in the Imperial Guard! Isn't that fantastic?"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["What on Earth did he do to be sent there?"-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["He was in a shoot-out with Yakuza, a few of his buddies died, and he kind of lost his nerve- blames himself." Said Subaru. "So he got reassigned to somewhere nice and safe."-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that's unfortunate." Said Nanako.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Anyway, let me tell you about the meeting- oh, did I mention that he's pretty hot?"-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["You didn't."-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Well he is. Anyway…"-
[21:05] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:05] <Minaplo> [The gunshots rang loudly throughout the firing range.-
[21:09] <Minaplo> [Carter Bright stood in the leftmost booth, railpistol in hand. He was a tall man with a fine, well-proportioned form; he had a strong, well-defined jaw and bright brown eyes. He wore his hair short and cropped close to the scalp. His firing stance was firm yet not completely rigid; it had a certain flexibility of form to how he held his legs.-
[21:10] <Minaplo> [Subaru stood about twenty metres behind, sitting on a bench, right leg over the left, hand on chin. He had watched closely for the last twenty minutes as Carter unloaded his railpistol into myriad targets.-
[21:12] <Minaplo> [During that time, Carter hadn't missed once, and all but one of the perforated targets showed the same pattern of hits- two to the chest, one between the eyes.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> [Carter stopped. He unloaded his weapon, put the safety on and took on his earmuffs. He then turned around to face Subaru.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> ["May I help you, sir?" Asked Carter in perfect Japanese.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> ["I think so." Said Subaru, standing. "Subaru Hirano, Inspector-Captain, PSB." He said, holding out a hand.-
[21:17] <Minaplo> [Carter hesitated- then walked over and shook it. "Carter Bright, Police Sergeant, Imperial Guard fourth squad, sir."-
[21:18] <Minaplo> ["You interested in going for a drive, Sergeant?" Said Subaru.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["If you say so, sir." Said Carter. Not five minutes later, Carter was sitting in Subaru's featureless black service vehicle- behind the wheel, at Subaru's request.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [And so they began to drive.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["You heard of the ERAD, Sergeant?" Asked Subaru.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir." Said Carter.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["You interested in joining?"-
[21:20] * Mogatron (~ten.dshqrabme.pchd.85-252-6-67-ho|nortagoM#ten.dshqrabme.pchd.85-252-6-67-ho|nortagoM) Quit (Quit: )
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["Are you recruiting, sir?" Asked Carter.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["In a fashion. I'm putting together a team, a team of the best men and women I can find." Said Subaru. "This left."-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["And what would I be doing, sir?" Asked Carter.-
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["I've seen your skill with a firearm. If you're that good in a firefight, then there's room for you in ERAD." Said Subaru. "This right."-
[21:22] <Minaplo> [Carter turned the car, easing smoothly and quickly into the lane. "I'm afraid I have to decline, sir."-
[21:22] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[21:22] <Minaplo> ["You know why, sir." Said Carter, his voice tightening a little.-
[21:22] <Minaplo> ["That 'why' is why you're being asked in the first place." Said Subaru. "This left."-
[21:23] <Minaplo> [Carter's brow furrowed as he took the next left, easily turning around an errant pedestrian with barely a slowdown. "With all due respect, sir, I don't think I can return to the field in my current state."-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["I think differently." Said Subaru. "This isn't just about skill, Sergeant. I need ability, but I need that ability to belong to someone I can trust. The Imperial Guard may be a peacock unit, but they don't just let anyone in. You're respected, you're trusted, and most importantly, you hate the Yakuza. This right."-
[21:25] <Minaplo> [Carter turned; as he went he darted suspicious glances at the nearby buildings.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Your firearm, Sergeant. It's a railpistol?" Said Subaru.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Yes, sir." Said Carter.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["Lucky man." Said Subaru. "To have a railpistol."-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["They're standard issue in the Guard, sir."-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["Are they really?" Said Subaru, sounding surprised. "I had to wait a year to replace my old .38. Did you ever fire it in anger, Sergeant?"-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["No, sir." Said Carter.-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["Why not?"-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["Never any need to, sir. Never ran into a situation that required discharging my firearm."-
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["I suppose not." Said Subaru. "Must be nice. Right now, PSB agents are having to travel in packs in case they get ambushed by Yakuza. Most of the active agents are only adequate in combat- the Yakuza are better armed and more experienced. We're losing a lot more than we're winning."-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [Carter didn't respond.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["This left." Said Subaru.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [But Carter did not turn left. He eased the car onto the sidewalk, where it came to a stop. "This isn't funny."-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [Subaru remained silent.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["That street- you know what happened in that street." Said Carter.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["I do." Said Subaru.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["So why bring me back here?"-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Because it keeps happening." Said Subaru. "All over the city, the same events keep playing out over and over. It'll keep happening until the Yakuza are broken, and to break them I need the best."-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["I'm the best?"-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["You will be." Said Subaru. "You've got the skill. All you need is your fire back. I'm not going to push you into doing anything you don't want. We can ease you in as best as we can. But if you want an opportunity to get it all back… Here it is."-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["… What do I need to do?" Said Carter quietly.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Answer me this question: do you want to kill some Yakuza?"-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Carter, his tone hard.-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Good for you. Welcome to ERAD."-
[21:33] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["Don't push him too hard, okay?" Said Nanako. "We don't want to make it worse on him."-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["I won't, don't worry. He's a great driver, so I'm thinking of making that his duty at first, until he improves." Said Subaru.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Okay, good thinking. Who's next?"-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["Well, it's a guy named Kaito Peter Murata." Said Subaru. "He has a European name in there because he's from New Zealand. Was adopted by a Japanese couple after Impact- he was a refugee too. You should see him, though! He's huge! He's like… Nearly seven foot tall, and he's got this shiny blonde hair and pretty blue eyes. He's pretty hot too, actually. He's also freakishly strong."-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["So what, is he your heavy?" Said Nanako, who had just finished rolling her eyes.-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["Actually…"-
[21:42] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:43] <Minaplo> [The smell of smoke hung heavy in the air. Subaru could hear screaming.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> [He'd come as soon as he heard. A car had spun out of control, smashed into another two cars then slammed into a corner shop. The driver was knocked unconscious, but emergency crews had managed to extract her without much trouble.-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [Much more difficult was the man trapped beneath the weight of one of the other upturned cars- he was dying, but they couldn't lift the car safely. By the time the right tools arrived…-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["Move!" Came a loud, deep voice. Subaru turned-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [Kaito Murata stood literally head and shoulders above the crowd of onlookers; they parted without a second thought. He leapt over the police tape and beelined for the car.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> [In his right hand was a doctor's kit.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Is there anyone here who will rescue the man?" Cried Kaito. "Who will help me to shoulder the weight of the car?"-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Don't do it, doctor!" Shouted a nearby officer. "You can't possibly- you'll just be trapped too!"-
[21:50] <Minaplo> [Kaito dropped his bag; with his free hand he grabbed the collar of his suit jacket and tore it free.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [He stormed toward the car; he dropped into a crouch and fitted his hands as best he could beneath it.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [A second later, Subaru leapt to his side, doing the same. "I'm with you, doctor!"-
[21:52] <Minaplo> [And so they lifted. For a few long, heavy seconds, the car didn't move-
[21:52] <Minaplo> [Then it shifted, just a few inches higher. Kaito let out a growl, lowered his head- and strained. It lifted a little higher.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> [Suddenly he let out a roar of exertion, then- up! went the car, just a foot or so, but enough for Kaito to angle the rest of his bulk into the act. A few seconds later it had risen high enough for him to step back and bear the burden across his enormous shoulders.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["HURRY!" He growled.-
[21:54] <Minaplo> [The nearby medics and officer stared in shock- then they leapt into action, quickly yet carefully grabbing the man and pulling him free.-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [The moment he was free, Kaito began to relax, slowly lowering the car back onto the ground. With a dull thud, it landed.-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [But Kaito didn't rest; he leapt over to the man. "My bag-"-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [Subaru already had it. He handed it to Kaito, who nodded in thanks.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> [Just five minutes ago, the man's life seemed forfeit, yet somehow Kaito kept him alive. Those strong hands of his kept calm and steady as he worked to stabilise the poor innocent.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [The second ambulance- held up in an unavoidable traffic jam- arrived not long after. They took the man away, still miraculously alive.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [The police began to disperse the crowd, but Kaito remained, sitting by himself on the curb.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Subaru approached him, sitting down next to him without saying a word.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." Said Kaito. "I could not have saved his life without your help."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Are you kidding me?" Said Subaru incredulously. "I've only ever seen one other man do what you've just done- and he was an Iron Guard from the Liberated Nations. I should be thanking you."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> [To Subaru's shock, Kaito blushed a bright red. "It's not that impressive."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["… Okay." Said Subaru, who needed a desperate moment to rally.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["… I'm Captain Subaru Hirano from the PSB's ERAD division." Said Subaru eventually.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["Are you here to recruit me?" Asked Kaito.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I am." Said Subaru. "I could use someone with your skills in the fight against the Yakuza."-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [Kaito shook his head. "Sorry. I became a doctor to save lives, not to take them."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["You misunderstand. I need your medical skills." Said Subaru. "Not only to protect my own people, but to keep the Yakuza alive after we're finished with them."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["So you do take prisoners?" Said Kaito.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Can't put dead people on trial anymore." Said Subaru.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["I'll help you," Said Kaito finally. "In truth, I've healed more victims of Yakuza than I have Yakuza themselves, so I think what you're doing is right."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." Said Subaru.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Kaito nodded. Then, he stood up, retrieved his abandoned jacket and put it back on, dusting it off lightly. "Captain Hirano!"-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["Yes?"-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["All life is precious." Said Kaito, picking up his doctor's bag. He turned and walked away. "Remember that."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Well damn." Said Nanako. "I can't wait to meet that guy."-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Well it's not like you're gonna miss him." Said Subaru. "I'm surprised the anti-Godzilla force doesn't scramble every time he steps outside."-
[22:17] <Minaplo> [Nanako snorted.-
[22:18] <Minaplo> ["So who's next?" Said Nanako. "Perhaps a hunky Russian telepath with a brooding expression?"-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [Subaru rolled his eyes. "No. You remember what the chairman said in my request outline- no AT Fields. Anyway, next up is Chinatsu Ogata. She's a lawyer, which is always useful even with our scarily broad interpretation of powers. But she also…"-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:22] <Minaplo> [Ogata's office apartment building was a gloomy, dingy building on a gloomy, dingy street. The streetlights had mostly failed, and so Subaru had to see by the sullen glow of the windows of suspect Chinese takeaway restaurants and the neon light of seedy hostess bars.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> [Ogata's office itself was on the second floor of the building- which only had three floors to begin with. Subaru arrived, knocked on the door- which was made of wood and frosted glass- and waited. Almost instantly someone called out, "Come in!"-
[22:23] <Minaplo> [Subaru entered.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu Ogata's office was, in contrast to the street below, well-lit, tidy and respectable. She herself sat behind a polished wooden desk, flanked by shelves of dense legal tomes. A few squishy armchairs sat in the space before the desk, surrounding a squat coffee table.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Ms. Ogata?" Said Subaru. "I'm Captain Subaru Hirano of the PSB's ERAD division. You requested police escort to enforce a minor retrieval warrant?"-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["… That's right. Captain, huh? What's a PSB captain doing all the way out here enforcing retrieval warrants?" She asked; she had a hard edge to her voice.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["So is she hot or what?" Asked Nanako.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["I- what?" Said Subaru, staring at her. "What do you mean?"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Well you went on at length about the last two candidates." Said Nanako. "'Oh his jaw is so strong', 'Oh his eyes are so pretty'- so what, would you fuck her or what?"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["Jeez, Nanako." Sighed Subaru. "I dunno, maybe, if you don't hurry up and heal. Man can only wait so long. And don't interrupt my story!"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Enquiring minds want to know!"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Shut up and listen! Fuck's sake… Where was I?"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["… That's right. Captain, huh? What's a PSB captain doing all the way out here enforcing retrieval warrants?" She asked; she had a hard edge to her voice.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu was a tall, fit woman with a firm face that put Subaru in the mind of a fierce bird of prey. She had very long light brown hair and light blue eyes; she wore a custom-fitted suit, which she wore confidently.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> ["You've heard of the ERAD, right?" Said Subaru.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> ["Yeah… Oh yeah, right, you're the Tsukuretta Man." Said Chinatsu.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["I- yes." Said Subaru with a sigh. "You're right, this usually wouldn't be a concern for me- I mean, us. But your warrant relates to an area of concern for us. I was hoping to hear about it on the way."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["Fine. So long as you've got the warrant, I'll tell you anything you want." Said Chinatsu. With that, she tugged out her top drawer, took out a pair of black gloves, slipped them on, then headed toward the door. "Let's go."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["Most of my clients are kids," Said Chinatsu; she led Subaru down the dark street. "Almost always between twelve and seventeen; mostly sixteen or seventeen. Usually their families are either dirt poor, have Yakuza debts, or are in areas just choked by Yakuza control. They're put in as cheap grunts. Many become couriers or just spare labour. Boys tend to become street fodder for some
[22:48] <Minaplo> low-ranking thug, girls tend to be used to clean and cook; some fall into the sex trade."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["Do many leave?" Asked Subaru.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu shook her head. As she walked, she put her voluminous sheet of hair up in a ponytail. "No. Some are too scared to leave. Others find they like the lifestyle- the money, the sex, and the respect- remember, many of these kids are hard-done by. Some just don't make it that long."-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["Was it always this bad?" Muttered Subaru.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["No. It's gotten much worse in the last few years." Said Chinatsu.-
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["I wonder why." Said Subaru; but if Chinatsu knew, she didn't share.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [Eventually they came to a particularly ominous little hole in the wall- the lights seemed to be set permanently to 'murky', and even then the lights were obscured by thick wafts of tobacco smoke. Subaru recognised the look of the place.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["A gambling den?" Said Subaru doubtfully, making sure his gun was still on his hip. "Oh, this is fantastic."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["Technically it's just a social hobby place." Said Chinatsu. "They don't wager money, they wager little tokens unique to the den. If you win big, you can exchange the tokens in for a worthless trinket."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Then you take the trinket two blocks down the road to a little shop that will buy that trinket." Said Chinatsu.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that doesn't really fool anyone, does it?" Said Subaru.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu shrugged. "It fools the law."-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [With that, she opened the door and went inside; Subaru followed a step behind.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [There were, to Subaru's count, about eighteen people inside, sitting on tobacco-stained wooden chairs around mite-gnawed tables, on which sat mahjong tables. Fourteen of them were men, the rest were women, ferrying alcohol to the tables from a surprisingly well-stocked bar at the far end of the room.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [A host of eyes- none friendly- turned their way.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["Whaddya want?" Snapped a particularly burly man sitting by the table nearest to the door.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["I'm looking for Takeshi Honda." Said Chinatsu.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [The eyes of the room all turned toward a man sitting at the table near the back- a wiry, gangly man, over six feet tall and wearing a rather scruffy beard.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> ["You a cop?" He grunted.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["No, I'm a lawyer. He's a cop, though." Said Chinatsu, nodding her head sideways at Subaru.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["Oh, thanks." Muttered Subaru as a dozen resentful looks turned his way.-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Honda, we're here to find Akihiko Ueno. The law has decided that he is to be removed from the presence of you and your associated and put into proper foster care." Said Chinatsu.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [The eyes flicked toward a boy sitting at a corner table- he looked to be fourteen at best. He had just reluctantly given a few handfuls of scrunched up notes to one of the waitresses, who in turn gave him some tokens. Subaru noted that he had none of his own; the other players were tearing him apart.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Boy's fine with me." Said Honda.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Law disagrees." Said Chinatsu.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["You got a warrant?"-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [Subaru took it out of his pocket and tossed it toward the burly man from earlier. Burly took it over to Honda, who read it, spat on it, then promptly threw it aside.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Don't make this difficult, Mr. Honda. I'm in a bad mood." Said Chinatsu.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [Honda chuckled darkly; the other men in the room quickly followed suit. "Oh? What are you gonna do? Sue me?"-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["I could." Said Chinatsu.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Mr. Honda laughed. He got to his feet and then, clearly savoring being top dog, walked over to Chinatsu. He stood close, leering at her. "You shoulda brought more cops, then."-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Are you going to resist, then?" Said Chinatsu.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Yep."-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["And are you insinuating that you're going to cause bodily harm to my person whilst in the midst of executing the will of the law?"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["I'm not insinuating, I'm saying it-"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu drove her knee into Honda's face so hard that for a second, Subaru thought he'd toppled backwards of his own accord.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> [There was a hideous -crunch- as he struck the ground. Subaru was no doctor, but he could tell the man's skull had been fractured. His nose had also- Subaru noted this with morbid fascination- split open like a putrid grape.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu stood up straight again; she joined her hands together and stretched them out, palms-outward. The leather gloves squeaked slightly as she did so.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Honda is unable to communicate. Is anyone empowered to speak on his behalf?" Said Chinatsu.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [No one spoke up.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> [Two minutes later, Subaru, Chinatsu and Akihiko walked out onto the street.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> [They returned to Chinatsu's office, where she took the care to bar the door. She then cooked up a large meal of noodles and fish, grabbed two cans of beer and a can of cola, then sat the three of them down to eat.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [Colour had returned to Akihiko's face, and he ate with gusto. Subaru did as well- the fish was excellent.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [Akihiko spent his time eating and staring at Chinatsu with an awed, lovestruck expression; all in all he was no good for speaking. And Chinatsu was too focused on her food to talk either.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [Eventually, Subaru had to be the one to broach the topic.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["So." Said Subaru, turning toward Chinatsu.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["You wanna come with me and beat up Yakuza for a living?"-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["Is that actually that legal?" Asked Nanako.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["She's now ERAD, so if it weren't, well it is now." Said Subaru.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["It's a charming little extralegal secret police force we're putting together, isn't it?" Said Nanako sweetly.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["It's hardly a secret police force when my picture's across half the Tokyo Metropolis." Said Subaru sourly.-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["True." Said Nanako with a laugh. "Who's next?"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Ami Ito." Said Subaru.-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["… Oh Subaru, no!"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Oh Subaru yes." Said Subaru with a grin. "Why not?"-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["But she's…"-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Subaru hammered on the door. "Ms. Ito!"-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Silence.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [The apartment corridor was quiet and still. It was a tidy, neat corridor nonetheless, and well lit with bright, new lightbulbs, which only seemed to highlight the cleanliness of it all.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru waited a few seconds- then hammered on the door once again. "Ms. Ito, this is the police!"-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [Silence.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru took out the copy of the key he'd been given by Ito's parole officer. He slid it into the lock-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [No good. He swore.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Subaru threw the useless key aside and lifted a hand to his ear, where a comm bead sat. "Hirano to Bright."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [("Bright copy, over.") Came Carter Bright's voice.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Bright, looks like Ito's changed the locks. Take the car around to cover any emergency exits. If you spot her, arrest her- but don't shoot her."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [("Copy that.")-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Hirano to Ogata."-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [("Ogata here.")-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Ito's apartment is on the southern side of the building- I want you to cover it." Said Subaru.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [("Got it. How are you opening that door?")-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["I have my ways." Said Subaru. He stepped backwards, well away from the door. "Murata, can you open this door for me?"-
[22:43] <Minaplo> [The door flew off its hinges as Murata drove his shoulder into it. The flimsy wooden door clattered against the floor- dirty white carpets dotted with the stains of food and fizzy drinks.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [The rest of the apartment was in similar shape. There was a couch, piled with a random assortment of fast food cartons and pizza boxes; to Subaru's disgust, many of the boxes still contained uneaten food.-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [The only thing that seemed truly cared for was in the corner- it was a computer desk, its surface completely spotless. On it was a large computer tower, plugged into three monitors, all of which displaying a broad array of information. Around it were a dozen meticulously ordered trays containing alphabeticised, purpose-sorted discs, flash drives and other things that Subaru didn't recognise.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Murata glanced over at the monitors, looked away- then looked back. "Captain, these computers seem to be operating of their own accord."-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Subaru walked over, taking a closer look. "Yeah, as I thought."-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["What is it?" Said Murata.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Bank account details. She's raiding bank accounts." Said Subaru. "Draining them, depositing them into an intermediary account and then transferring the funds to a front company operating in New Shanghai."-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["How do you know that?" Said Murata, sounding impressed.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Because that's what Kaneshiro and I caught her doing the first time." Said Subaru. "Quickly! Check the windows, the bedrooms- she's either escaped or she's hiding."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [Murata nodded, then made a beeline for the window. "Captain, I-"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [Too late, Subaru saw the laser tripline- just as Murata's ankle crossed it. "Murata, look out-"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [There was a loud -pop-!, and then all of a sudden the room filled with thick grey-green smoke. It tasted acrid and quickly got into Subaru's eyes, where it burned.-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Argh-"-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [Subaru then saw- just barely glimpsed- a silhouette within the gas. A thin, nimble silhouette…-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [The shape moved toward him. It was a woman, wearing a grey-green tracksuit. On her face she wore a cat mask; over that was a gas mask.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [In her hand was a baseball bat. She hefted it and swung it at Subaru's head.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [Subaru automatically lifted his arms to block. The bat connected-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [He realised at the last second that it wasn't a baseball bat. It was a tesla baton.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [For a second, Subaru saw nothing but white. The next thing he knew he was on the ground, pain flooding his body, his arms twitching uselessly.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["F-f-f-f!", managed Subaru.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [Ito turned, hefting her tesla baton in both hands. She swung it at Murata, striking him square in the back.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [He spasmed, falling forward- but at the last second, he caught himself.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [Ito tried again, but this time Murata turned and caught it in the palm of his hand.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [The electric shocks rippled through his body- Murata bared his teeth in pain. A second later he let out an anguished roar.
[23:07] <Minaplo> [There was a sudden crunch.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [He had crushed the baton with his hand.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [Murata swung, trying to grab Ito around the waist. She leapt over his entire arm, curling into a ball mid-air and landing on all fours a few feet away.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [She turned, shot Murata a thumbs up, then leapt out the window.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [She was airborne for just a second, before landing hands-first on the top ramp of the fire escape. She coiled her body, hooked her feet around the railing, then propelled herself over the edge.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["(Hirano, this is Ogata. Target spotted. Engaging.)"-
[23:15] <Minaplo> [There was the growl of a motorcycle engine.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [Ito roll-landed on the road below, and turned left- just in time to spot Chinatsu hurtling toward her atop a sleek red motorcycle.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu swung at Ito as she passed, but Ito leapt away, and the punch went wide.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> [Ito turned, ready to sprint as fast as possible in the other direction, but Chinatsu hurled herself off the motorcycle, spun in the air and tossed a long, thin knife at Ito's leg.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> [Ito hadn't seen it- the knife edge slashed her across the back of the right leg. "Ow-"-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [Ito tripped, just for a second- in that moment, Chinatsu was on her; she crossed the distance, swept Ito's legs out from under her, pinned her against the asphalt and twisted her arms against her back.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["You're under arrest." Said Chinatsu. "Are you aware of your rights?"-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["G-good news, Captain." Said Murata, peering blearily out of the window. "Ito has been apprehended."-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["G-Great." Said Subaru, his eyes streaming as he rose to his feet. "Now I remember why I hate her so goddamn much."-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [They took Ito back to the PSB building and put her in one of the building's special holding cells- Carter and Chinatsu on 24 hour watch. The next day, Ito was escorted into a near featureless interrogation room, cuffed to the table, and told to wait.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [Subaru entered a little while later, his eyes still slightly red and puffy. "Hello, Ms. Ito."-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [Ami Ito was young, maybe 19 or 20. She had a very gentle, clear face with honey-brown eyes and thin pink lips. She had long black hair, and wore a pair of pink, half-rimmed glasses over her eyes.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Hirano." Said Ito idly. She was leaning back in her chair as far as she could whilst being chained to the table.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> [Subaru took the other seat. He placed a datapad and a cup of fresh coffee in front of him.-
[23:26] <Minaplo> [After a few minutes of scrolling through pages on the pad, he looked up. "Do you know why you're here, Ms. Ito?"-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Miscarriage of justice." Said Ito.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["No, you're here because you breached your parole and resisted arrest." Said Subaru.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["How did I breach my parole?" Said Ito.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["You didn't show up for your meeting-"-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["I was busy, okay?" Snapped Ito. She let out a long huff.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Busy stealing, yes." Said Subaru.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Uh, I was stealing from the Yakuza? That's not wrong."-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["You were stealing from banks." Said Subaru.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Banks holding Yakuza money."-
[23:30] <Minaplo> ["If you want to debate the specific legal points of your incarceration, I can always bring Chinatsu in." Said Subaru. "You're clever, but you're not that clever, Ms. Ito."-
[23:31] <Minaplo> ["Hmph. Like I care. Your law's all invalid anyway." Said Ito.-
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, yeah. I've heard it before." Said Subaru boredly.-
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["But even you have to know…"-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [For the next twenty minutes, Ito launched into a long, detailed spiel in which she outlined- sometimes broadly, sometimes in alarming detail- how the world's flow of information was being manipulated by a cryptofascist secret organisation that had their tendrils all over the world, and twisted world events to suit their needs. These people not only created and empowered the UN, they also
[23:37] <Minaplo> put sterility plagues into Chinese drinking water, assassinated anti-UN African leaders using hit squads of Catholic missionaries, sent viruses throughout the internet that allowed monolithic supercomputers to appropriate everyone's data and manipulate their search functions in order to guide them to vote in certain ways, assassinated the previous Emperor, frozen a clone of the Emperor
[23:37] <Minaplo> in a vat in Utah that would wake up in three months to destabilise the Japanese government, but the clone had gone berserk and had to be hushed up, because he also had AT Field powers; used mind control powers to raid Russian rural towns with armies of furious bears; and had started Second Impact in order to locate a perpetual motion engine.-
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["… And of course the current Japanese government are all just fucking shills for these guys- what, you think it's a coincidence that all of a sudden, water exports to China have increased? Do we even have enough water in Japan? Where does the water come from? The truth can't be silenced, Hirano!"-
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Can it at least be quiet for awhile?" Muttered Subaru. "I suppose you think the Yakuza are employing feral yokai in their criminal enterprises as well…"-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [Ito's eyes lit up in a way that Subaru found truly dangerous.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Anyway." Said Subaru hastily, "I have come to you with a proposition, Ms. Ito."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah?" Said Ito.-
[23:43] <Minaplo> ["Now, what you've just recently done means that you could pretty easily put you away for a long time." Said Subaru. "Did you know there's no internet in prison?"-
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["There's some internet in prison." Muttered Ito.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, but it's all slow, dial-up esque internet, the sort that takes a minute to load a picture." To punctuate the statement, Subaru began whistling dial-up sounds; Ito winced. "Now I admit, crippling slow internet sounds worse than no internet to a pizza-gobbling, bank-ripping, cola-slurping, data-mining trash child like yourself." Said Subaru.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["What's your point?"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["My point is, you can take the shitty dial-up for 15 year option, or you can work with us cryptofascist shills." Said Subaru.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean?"-
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["Think of it as… Elite parole." Said Subaru. "You'll be under our jurisdiction. You'll report to us, and live under our watch. You'll have to put your skills to use for us. On the other hand, we cover your expenses, have access to all of our equipment, and did I mention that PSB internet is some of the fastest in the country?"-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [Quite suddenly Ito was leaning forward, perching her chin on the backs of her hands. "Has anyone told you what cute eyes you have, Mr. Hirano~?"-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["Repeatedly. It's one of my most valued charm points." Said Subaru without missing a beat; he didn't even look up.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["… You could be a little more humble." Said Ito waspishly.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["You could be less of a pain in the ass, but you don't see me complaining." Said Subaru.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["You're complaining now!"-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Details." Said Subaru.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Hrmph. So what would I be doing for you guys exactly? What's my first job?" Said Ito.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [Subaru chuckled; he leaned back in his chair. "How do you feel about raiding bank accounts and stealing Yakuza money?"-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [/-/
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["I can't fucking believe I have to spend time at work with her." Muttered Nanako. "And you were doing so well, too!"-
[20:26] <Minaplo> ["You just have to change your attitude. Don't think of her as an aggravating shit of a kid, just think of her as a, I dunno, boisterous little sister. Take her out for ice cream or something." Said Subaru.-
[20:26] <Minaplo> [Nanako flipped Subaru the bird; he just snickered.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["So wanna hear about my last recruit?" Asked Subaru.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, sure."-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["This one's a little different to the others." Said Subaru. "This one found me…"-
[20:27] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:01] <Minaplo> [The ramen stand wasn't doing much business today; Subaru sat at its wooden bench alone.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [Whether this was because the ramen stand was of poor quality, or simply because people weren't hungry, was impossible to tell; Subaru at least seemed to enjoy it, slurping the noddles up eagerly. He'd only been there for a few minutes, but the bowl was nearly empty already.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> ["Don't eat so fast," complained the stand owner, Ms. Hideyama- a large, older woman with rosy cheeks and carefully-curled hair. "You want to leave me all alone?"-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Come on, Ms. Hideyama, don't guilt a poor copper like that." Said Subaru, pausing long enough to grin. "We have enough things to worry about as is!"-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["Hmph."-
[21:08] <Minaplo> [Subaru continued to slurp away, but Ms. Hideyama made another good go of it. "So how's that team of yours coming along, Suba-chan?"-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["It's going great." Said Subaru. "I think we're just about ready…"-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["Going to do, oh, an operation soon?" She asked.-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["Haha, maybe."-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["If you do good, you should all come back here to celebrate." Said Ms. Hideyama slyly.-
[21:10] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. "I'll think about it."-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["Maybe you should bring them here for good luck first."-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["I suppose you'll want us to buy a little extra, just in case we get peckish mid-op." Said Subaru drily.-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["It wouldn't hurt, Suba-chan."-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["How would we even hold it?" Said Subaru with a grin. "Besides, don't count on us being the big goldmine you're hoping us to be."-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Well, I mean… My team is pretty diverse. Do black guys even eat ramen…?" Asked Subaru with a frown.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> ["Of course. Everyone eats ramen, Suba-chan." Said Ms. Hideyama knowingly.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Isn't that convenient?" Said Subaru. "Somehow I doubt that, though…"-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Well if they don't, maybe they should." Said Ms. Hideyama. "The world would be a better place if we could all sit down to a big bowl of ramen together."-
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["A big bowl of ramen, huh? How would that work? Do we just mix the broth together? How would we maintain our own individual tastes? It seems like everything would be diluted." Said Subaru.-
[21:17] <Minaplo> ["You may think that. But if you know your own tastes well enough, you'll always be able to pick out your own flavour no matter how big the pool is." Said Ms. Hideyama. "Maybe it'd be better that way- everyone could taste each other's tastes, and learn something new."-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["Hmm." Said Subaru. "Noodles in a bowl- a universal dish that anyone can understand, but is so basic enough that you can give it any sort of personal twists you like without it being not ramen… Maybe you have a point."-
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["No one doesn't get ramen." Said Ms. Hideyama. "Speaking of which, care for another bowl?"-
[21:22] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. "Oh, fine. I somehow have much more money than I usually do, so I suppose, just this once- don't want to encourage your type- I can shell out on a second." He took a handful of notes out of his wallet.-
[21:22] <Minaplo> [At that moment, a second customer finally appeared.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> [He was an older man, maybe mid-fifties, with a hard, lined face and strong jawline. He was of mid-height and rather stocky. He had a proud, well-groomed moustache and hair that fell to around his neck; his hair was black.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["In fact, I'll even shout for your new customer." Said Subaru, taking out a few more notes.-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said the man; his voice was quite rough. "Just the vegetarian for me, Ms. Hideyama."-
[21:27] <Minaplo> ["Of course, of course!" Chirped Ms. Hideyama happily. The notes vanished into her apron.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> [The older fellow turned an eye towards Subaru. "You're the new guy."-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["Pardon?"-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["The new guy. ERAD's head. Tsukuretta Man," he said.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> [Subaru frowned. "Subaru Hirano. You know, I appreciate that you read enough to know about ERAD, but not enough to know about my proper name."-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["Which name do you think people know more? Hirano or Tsukuretta Man?"-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["The latter, but-"-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Then that's the name that gets results on the street." Said the man.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Huh?"-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Here you go!" Said Ms. Hideyama, placing two steaming bowls of ramen in front of them. Subaru and the man both gave thanks before digging in.-
[21:37] <Minaplo> [They were both quiet for about a minute before the man spoke up.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> ["Subaru Hirano. Kyoto University graduation class of 2011. Majored in criminology and computer science. Joined the PSB in 2012, promoted to Inspector in 2013. Served in the MIU for three years, then was transferred to the Third Division. Didn't obtain promotion until recently, when all the superiors who you pissed off with your whistleblowing died."-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Subaru froze. He turned toward the man, his eyes narrowed dangerously. The man stared back.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> ["Is left-handed." Finished the man.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [Subaru turned back toward his ramen. He took one more slurp, then pushed it aside. "You have some explaining to do, sir."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [The man shrugged. "Your cuff links say the year in red, and they're silver with gold edging- only institution with that marking is Kyoto U. Your left-wrist cuff links are off-kilter, your right-wrist ones aren't; that suggests left-handedness. You served in the MIU because your hemline and shoes adhere to MIU guidelines, not to Third Div."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["Alright, what about my majors and my punishment?"-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["Criminology and computer science are the two most common majors hired by the PSB. As for your punishment? The same thing happened to me, once."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Subaru stared at the man for a long time; the man meanwhile had returned to his ramen.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["I know you." Said Subaru suddenly. "You're Tatsuya Watanabe."-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Tatsuya.-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["Didn't you… Die?" Said Subaru. "I swore I read about you dying."-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["I very obviously didn't die." Said Tatsuya calmly.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["… Well. I guess." Said Subaru. He turned back to his ramen.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["You fucked up with the yakuza, boy." Said Tatsuya. "Big cop groups like that always have some scum in the midst taking it under the table."-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that's-"-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["Why you're going with a smaller team with special training." Said Tatsuya. "You're checking their motives, too, to screen out yak money."-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["Aren't you well informed." Muttered Subaru.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya shrugged. "You know how I know that?"-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["How?"-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Because every day you come to Ms. Hideyama's fine fucking ramen stand and talk about your day." Said Tatsuya. "And then I come to this cherished establishment and learn about your day."-
[22:11] <Minaplo> ["Ms. Hideyama!" Said Subaru, turning toward her with an expression of shock. "How could you?"-
[22:11] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry, Suba-chan. Mr. Watanabe is just too dashing to refuse." She said apologetically.-
[22:11] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya snorted.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Kids like you overlook places like this." Said Tatsuya. "THey pick up all kinds of things. Like Ms. Hideyama says, everyone eats ramen."-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [Subaru shot Ms. Hideyama a look. "So I'm not the only one you subject that to, huh?"-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [Ms. Hideyama laughed. "Even my sales pitches are like recipes, Suba-chan."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["So it seems." Said Subaru. He turned back toward Tatsuya. "Alright, Watanabe. Cut to the chase. What do you want?"-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["I want in." Said Tatsuya.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you do, huh?" Said Subaru. "Well, I suppose I can find a place for you. Let's just get one thing straight- ERAD is a police unit. We're about maintaining law and order, not about revenge."-
[22:16] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya took a long, slow slurp of his ramen before replying. "Does it really matter to you?"-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["Of course it does. Yakuza have rights too." Said Subaru.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya gave him a long sidelong look.-
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, it's just the truth." Said Subaru with a shrug. "I don't like the yakuza either, but civil rights are an all-or-nothing thing."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["I'm not arguing the point, boy." Said Tatsuya. "I'm not here to test you. Just here to find something to do."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["What, are you bored?" Said Subaru.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["You've fucked it so far, boy. Keep it up and the yakuza are gonna treat you like a duck with an onion. But, you're changing tack, trying something new. That, and your fancy new unit, mean that you might actually be able to get shit done. I've spent years trying to get shit done, and now that it might happen I want to be a part of it. Boyhood dreams and all that. You can sympathise, I hope."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["Just like that, huh?" Said Subaru. "Listen. I don't know what the hell you've been doing for the last fifteen years. If you're as good as they say you were, then I'll need some proof- I won't let you just free-ride in. You want in, you prove your spot or you piss off."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya nodded approvingly. "Fair enough."-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [And that was that. The two ate in silence. Tatsuya finished first; he placed his chopsticks down, stood up and, with a final nod to them both, left.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Subaru finished just a little bit later- but he didn't leave, just yet.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["So there he goes, the patron saint of all sad Eternal Inspectors." Said Subaru with a chuckle.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [Ms. Hideyama took his bowl to clean. "It sure is convenient that the two of you met."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Subaru, giving her a sly look. "What are the chances of me just so happening to pick the exact ramen stand that Tatsuya Watanabe frequents?"-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Very low. Like…"-
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["A duck with an onion?" Offered Subaru wryly. "Of course, sometimes you have to tape an onion to a duck."-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["But then it's not a coincidence anymore." Said Ms. Hideyama.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Subaru clicked his fingers at her once and gave her a wink. "Thank you for the ramen, Ms. Hideyama. Say, I don't suppose you want to join ERAD too? You could be our official ramen provider."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I couldn't do that. Ramen deserves to be available to everyone. Besides, in a way, I feel like I already am…"-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. He rose to his feet and offered the woman a bow. "Keep cheering for us, Ms. Hideyama. I'll bring the team around after the next op- I promise."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [And with that, Subaru turned around and walked down the street.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["… And so with Old Watanabe on our side, I think we're pretty much as ready as we're gonna be for now." Said Subaru.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["No kidding." Said Nanako, giving Subaru an admiring look. "I can't believe you snagged Watanabe himself. Are you sure it's really him? Did you try tugging on the moustache?"-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["I'd rather you do it."-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["Chicken."-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["One of my favourite animals." Said Subaru with a smile. He stood up.-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["I mean what I said earlier, though. Hurry up and heal- there's a hole in ERAD right now, and you're the only one who can fill it." Said Subaru.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["I can't wait." Said Nanako. "… I'll still probably be another three or four weeks, though."-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. I want to complain, but there's no helping it, is there?" Said Subaru with a shrug.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [Nanako merely mirrored his shrug.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["I'll keep you in the loop, though." Said Subaru. "I mean, at least there's a loop to be kept in now…"-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["I was getting a little bored of hearing about half-assed reports on the far right, you know me too well." Said Nanako drily. "… So what's your next step?"-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["We have the team, all we need now is a target." Said Subaru. "I'm hoping we can conduct our first op by this time next week."-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["A big ol' yakuza raid." Said Nanako with a rather excited sigh. "How're you feeling? Rip-roaring and ready to go?"-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["Sure am. It's either that or mortal terror."-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["It could be both."-
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["It probably is." Said Subaru. He gave Nanako a smile; he leaned over and messed up her hair. "I'll piss off, now; you get some rest."-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["About time." She said. "I was worried you'd never leave, and I'd be hearing about your shitty harem for another four hours."-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Yeah yeah yeah." He said with a roll of the eyes.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Anything I can do before I go?" Asked Subaru.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Nanako.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["What is it?"-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Remember something for me?" She asked.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Anything."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["You know how Ito says that there's people in the UN who can raise the dead?" Said Nanako.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["Yeah?" Said Subaru with another roll of the eyes.-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Well remember this: if you fuck up and die on one of these ops, Subaru, I'll be furious. So furious, in fact, I'll get 'em to you from the dead and kill you myself to learn you properly. Got it?"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed for a good seven seconds. "Fine, fine. I promise not to die, not even once."-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["Good."-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [Subaru then leaned down toward her- hesitated, glanced toward the door- then nuzzled her lightly against the cheek. "Don't worry so damn much."-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["You're not my boss." She said, leaning into him.-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [After a moment, he pulled away. "Not yet. But soon I will be! And what fun I will have. I wonder if I can get away with keeping you Inspector forever?"-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["Oh, fuck off." She said with a grin.-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["I'd do it, you know."-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["Bullshit you would."-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [He laughed, then- with one last muss of her hair- he turned and left. "See you later, Nanako."-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["Bye, Tsukuretta Man."-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["Fuck you!"]

Continued in Part 2

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