Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 5b

Continued from Part 1

[21:25] <Minaplo> [Subaru had requisitioned his old department sector for ERAD. The Third Division had protested lamely, but considering that the department's last member had been Subaru, they had no real recourse.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [Each member had their own office, and each had fairly wide leeway in customising it. Ito had already brought her computer rig and various other gadgets in, and had bought more besides; Chinatsu had moved some of her books in, and had set things up so that calls to her old office were forwarded to her new one; Carter had hung his old Imperial Guard uniform up on the wall behind him, where
[21:29] <Minaplo> it sat conspicuously behind a set of shelves, on which sat photographs and awards; Tatsuya had installed a mini-fridge in his, along with a small collection of drinks and food.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> [Kaito had not really done much with his office; he was spending all of his time converting one of the larger rooms into a medical wing.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [And so they spent time acclimatising. On the 13th of October, however, Subaru called his team together to meet in the situation room- which had been the old meeting room for his department.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> [They entered to find Subaru already sitting in the head chair, his hands clasped over his stomach. On the table were a series of blueprints and reports.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Thank you for coming. Please, have a seat." Said Subaru. After they were seated, he continued. "I've called you all here to discuss our first operation."-
[21:41] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya glanced over at the various papers. "Warehouse raid?"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["That's right. These plans- which Ito acquired from the Tokyo-2 Civic Development Archive- represent a warehouse in Koto, which we believe to be home to the Kikkawa-kai." Said Subaru. "Specifically, this warehouse is believed to have received at least a large portion of the contraband that I hoped to seize in-"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["The Tsukuretta Raid?" Said Ito.-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["…Yes." Said Subaru with only a small sigh. "Our goal, then, is to storm the warehouse, take as many suspects as we can for questioning, and secure the equipment within. Our priority is to retake any of the Gojuu Shiki battlesuits- after that, it's arms."-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Looks like it'd be heavily guarded." Said Carter.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Ito did some recon, she said she counted about a regular guard of between twelve and sixteen." Said Subaru. "Relatively light by Kikkawa-kai standards, but too many would attract attention."-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["That's still two-to-one at best." Said Tatsuya. "And half our members are shit fighters. Bad odds, son."-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Agreed, but we have some advantages." Said Subaru. "Firstly, Ito found trucks on site- we suspect that if the warehouse it attacked, about half the guard will man the trucks and flee, which reduces the number of hostiles. Secondly, we seem to be better equipped- they didn't have much in the way of body armour. Thirdly, our fighters are better fighters."-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["We need the element of surprise, though." Said Chinatsu.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Agreed. I didn't intend to plan this attack myself, I want your input." Said Subaru. "Chinatsu, what do you think?"-
[21:55] <Minaplo> ["From previous experience, the Kikkawa-kai usually post at least a third of their forces on the high ground- these upper gantries, for example," she said, tracing the gantry with a finger; she ignored the questioning glances Kaito and Ito shot each other, "where they can cover the courtyard and the warehouse both."-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["So we should knock them out first?" Said Subaru. "How?"-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["Leave it to me." Said Chinatsu.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Subaru. "Watanabe, you next."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["If Ogata takes the upper level, we should storm the bottom from a flanking angle… Here." He said; he grabbed a pencil and drew two arrows going from the courtyard into the warehouse via the western door. "You, me and Bright should be all we need to take a few by surprise."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["I have a different idea." Said Carter.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Shoot." Said Subaru.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["We probably can't get the guards going for the trucks before they ride out." Said Carter. "So we'll need to pursue the trucks. I can take a car and do that."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [Before Subaru could speak up, Ito cut in. "Oh yeah, I like that. Hey, I can go with! I'll bring my computer, and give you some trackers- you can fire 'em at the trucks and we should be able to get a trackig signal within 5km."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["… Alright. I don't like stripping back on our main offense, but they're good points." Said Subaru. "Murata, what about you?"-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["The trucks will flee into the city, correct?" Said Murata. "That means they are more likely to cause civilian casualties. I will accompany Carter's team."-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["Got it." Said Subaru. "Does everyone know what they're doing, then?"-
[22:06] <Minaplo> [Nods.-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["Any questions?"-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["What do we have for equipment?" Said Tatsuya.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Six suits of PSB combat armour, six railpistols, a pair of rail rifles, Ito's trackers, and a flashbang and smoke grenade for everyone." Said Subaru. "I wasn't able to acquire any Sentinel headsets, so use the smoke grenade defensively, not offensively. We all have comm beads and gas masks as well."-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["I've also got my gas grenades and my tesla baton." Said Ito.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["I will carry my medical kit as usual." Said Kaito.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["How come we don't all have tesla batons?" Asked Carter irritably.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["I tried, but anyone who does have them throws a fucking tantrum whenever I ask for them." Said Subaru. "At this rate I'd be better off using the yakuza cash Ito's draining to just buy our gear off the black market…"-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["That's what I did!" Said Ito brightly. "Alves has good shit."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu shot Ito a dirty look.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Any other questions?" Said Subaru.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Are we shoot-to-kill?" Asked Tatsuya.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Subaru.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya nodded. The rest were silent.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Operation launches at 5 PM tomorrow." Said Subaru. "You should all make sure you're fully rested. Dismissed."-
[22:16] <Minaplo> […-
[22:28] <Minaplo> [The Kikkawa-kai guards had holed up inside the warehouse. Chinatsu had counted five on the top level; three on the south, one on the west and one on the east.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [The northern side had no top level or windows; this section housed the warehouse's main loading bay and the large roller door. Three trucks were parked in front of this door, all of them ready to go in a moment's notice.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [It had taken Chinatsu twenty minutes to get into position; she waited for the guard on the western gantry to change before scrambling up the wall as quickly as she could. The building was mostly concrete, and it would've been impossible if the general disrepair hadn't given her more than a few gaps and handholds.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Now she perched above the southern wall. She wore a backpack, which she took off. Chinatsu glanced around, then took out a mallet and a long spike, the flat end of which ended in a loop.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [She hammered it into the ledge, then emptied the pack; out came a rope. She tied one end around her waist, then measured the remainder; at about six metres in length she cut it then tied the other end around the spike's loop.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["This is Ogata." She said into her comm bead. "I'm in position."-
[22:37] <Minaplo> […-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [("This is Ogata. I'm in position.")-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Copy that." Said Subaru. He and Tatsuya were just outside of the warehouse's courtyard perimeter, where they were covered by the high concrete wall. Both carried rail rifles- the only two available. "Bright, are you ready?"-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [("Yes, sir.")-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Everyone check their equipment. Bright, on my mark, go. Ready… Go!"-
[22:41] <Minaplo> […-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [("Ready… Go!")-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [Bright didn't need telling twice. He gunned the car and sent it screaming toward the warehouse's southern entrance.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> [In the rear view mirror, Ito winced; Kaito's grasp on the roof handle tightened.-
[22:43] <Minaplo> [The moment Bright crossed the threshold into the courtyard, he heard shouts of alarm. "They've found us! Chinatsu, you're go!"-
[22:43] <Minaplo> [("Chinatsu, you're go!")-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["Copy that." Said Chinatsu. She stood up, closed her eyes, turned- then fell off the edge.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> [She curled up into a ball as she fell, her leaping fall sending her far from the building. Quite suddenly the rope tightened, propelling her back towards it- right toward the window.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [Beneath her, Bright's car was charging across the courtyard. A Kikkawa-kai goon had run over to the window to see.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu straightened her body out, plunged through the window, and struck him square in the chest with both legs.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [The kick sent the yakuza flying backwards; he barely slowed as he struck the rail and tumbled onto the ground with a dull, wet 'thud'. Five or six Kikkawa-kai on the ground let out yelps of horror.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [There were two other goons nearby, one window away and two windows away respectively; both stared at her with wide eyes and slack jaws. With her right hand, Chinatsu pulled out her railpistol, levelled it at the goon two windows away, and fired three times.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [Two shots struck his chest, the third his ankle; he let out a sharp scream and collapsed.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> [The goon one window away raised his railrifle and let out a wild burst of shots, all of which missed. Chinatsu didn't miss a beat; with her left hand she tore out a knife, cut the rope around her waist, then hurled it deep into the man's right shoulder. He shrieked, his rifle dropping as his hand spasmed.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu charged; she drove her knee into the man's gut, ripped the knife out of his shoulder, grabbed his arm in two places and twisted it until it broke. He let out a keening cry that trailed off as he blacked out.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [She didn't waste time, leaping toward the other goon, who was struggling on the ground. He pulled a short sword off his hip and slashed at her as she approached.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> [But she was too fast; she dropped a knee into his throat, pinned his sword-arm under her weight, then punched him in the face until he stopped moving.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> ["Southern wall is clear." Said Chinatsu; she turned her gaze toward the lower floor, where the band of Kikkawa-kai below had split up, with two running toward the west. "Move now, Hirano!"-
[23:03] <Minaplo> […-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [("Move now, Hirano!")-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [It had been easy for Subaru and Tatsuya to move up to the western wall in all the confusion. The door wasn't locked; Tatsuya kicked it open at the same time Subaru tossed in his flashbang. They both looked away at the last second.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> [The boom reverberated in Subaru's stomach and made his ears ring, but considering the screaming from the yakuza within, he'd gotten off lightly.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya was in first. He sprinted the distance to one of the goons and smashed his face in with the butt of his rifle- catching him before he could topple.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [The other goon- still reeling from the flashbang- tried to turn his gun on Tatsuya, but his aim was wildly off-target. Not that it mattered- a second later, Subaru caught him in the chest with five shots, and he went down.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [Now they were in. Subaru and Tatsuya ran to take cover near a series of shipping containers about ten metres away from their door; Tatsuya dragged his captive with him and dumped him unceremoniously at his feet.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Subaru automatically headed for the right corner of their container, Tatsuya to the left. Subaru peered out from behind; the moment he did, a rake of railgun fire sent him scrambling back into cover.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [But he'd seen enough. "Bright, they're going for the trucks!"-
[23:13] <Minaplo> […-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("Bright, they're going for the trucks!")-
[23:14] <Minaplo> Bright had pulled his car around, drifting sharply to the right as he'd charged toward the southern wall. He'd managed remarkable speed as he tore across the courtyard, up the eastern wall and then toward the north, where the trucks were.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> [Bright saw them- six goons, running for the truck cabins. He turned the car and charged toward them.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> [Two of the goons were too far ahead, but the other four had to dive wildly out of the way. He'd effectively split the group into two- four to his right, with the trucks- and two to his left.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> [He tore his railpistol free and opened fire to his right. He caught one of the goons square in the back of the head with a shot; he went down, a little mist-cloud of red shrouding his head as he toppled.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [This didn't slow down the other three, who kept running for the trucks. Bright levelled his pistol again, but before he could the two goons to his left raked his car with rifle fire; he skidded the car counter-wise and hunkered down.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [In the back, Kaito grimly winced. Ito, meanwhile, had already been looking green around the gills; now she shrieked in terror and dove for the floor of the car.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Hey! Pull your shit together! Gimme that tracker-gun already!" Shouted Bright.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [But Ito wasn't listening; she fumbled for her belt, tore off the smoke grenade and hurled it out the window. It burst, shrouding the car- and the yakuza- in a thick cloud of smoke.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["You motherfucker!" Shouted Bright, bringing his foot down hard on the brake.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> [Kaito pulled off his belt, reached down, patted Ito reassuringly on the head, then grabbed the tracker-gun. "Allow me to borrow this."-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Hey, wait-"-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [But Kaito was already out the door, running through the cloud.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, right, of all the people to get for this fucking team, I get all the non-cop assholes." Said Bright angrily. He slammed his foot down on the pedal, trusting to his memory to guide him right.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [A few seconds later they cleared the cloud, just in time to see the trucks leave. One yakuza was hanging out the window, on a walkie-talkie; as he saw Bright emerge he pulled himself back into the truck cabin.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [Kaito had managed to make it free too; the tracker was still in his hands.-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [As Bright passed, he reached out and tore the tracker-gun from Kaito's hands. The gun was quite long, and turning it to fire was a deeply awkward prospect. Bright pulled himself back inside the car, braced it against his shoulder, leaned out, aimed at the nearest truck and fired.-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [The tracker-probe was about four inches long, and looked like a needle with a dozen little needles jutting out of the middle. It propelled itself through the air- and nailed itself into the back of the truck.-
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["Got one!" Said Bright, his foot still hard on the pedal. "That's how it's-"-
[23:32] <Minaplo> [They'd cleared the courtyard. A second later, something- another car- slammed square into the right of Bright.-
[23:34] <Minaplo> [For a split second they were airborne. Their car was bodily lifted into the air, where it skidded a solid ten metres sideways on the two left wheels. There it teetered… Then toppled over, landing on its side.-
[23:35] <Minaplo> [Bright's vision swam for a moment.-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["S-son of a bitch." He muttered, unbuckling himself. "Ito, get your ass up!"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> [Bright climbed upwards, peering out of the right-hand side window.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [He saw the car, except it wasn't a car. It was a man. The man was eight feet tall and wore thick, heavy power armour. His helmet lenses glowed a murderous red, and strapped along his right arm was a shortened multi-maser.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [Bright's blood froze.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["Hirano! Hirano! They have an Iron Guard!"-
[23:37] <Minaplo> […-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [("Hirano! Hirano! They have an Iron Guard!")-
[23:40] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu had grabbed one of the downed goons' rifles and had started spraying fire over the heads of the yakuza below, keeping them suppressed. There had been two other guards on the top floor- the one on the western wall had been the first shot with the rifle, whilst the one on the eastern wall had hidden behind a rather thick metal plate haphazardly bolted onto the railing; from behind
[23:40] <Minaplo> this he occasionally raked her position with erratic bursts.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [But when Bright had called out, Chinatsu snapped her head upwards; her eyes narrowed. She bolted right, toward the cowering yakuza.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [The yakuza peered out, levelled his gun, fired- and nothing happened. It had jammed.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [He threw it aside and tugged out a pair of short swords, one in each hand. With these in hand, he now ran out, charging toward Chinatsu.-
[23:43] <Minaplo> [She fired her rifle at him, but the shots went wide; there wasn't time for another burst.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [The goon swung high in short, quick swings, forcing Chinatsu to duck backwards; she snapped a kick at his knee, causing him to stumble. She leaned back on her heels, pivoted forward and leapt into a rising punch, but he managed to sidestep.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [Sudden pain flashed through Chinatsu as his right sword caught her across the stomach.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["Ugh-"-
[23:45] <Minaplo> [He lifted his left sword and swung down toward her neck. Although in pain, Chinatsu was still fast; she twisted to the right, grabbed his arm in both hands and threw him as savagely as he could into the wall.-
[23:45] <Minaplo> [The impact stunned him for a moment; he dropped his left sword. Chinatsu let him go, whipped the sword out of the air and swung at his throat.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [The goon parried with his remaining blade and stumbled backwards.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [The two faced off now, each with one sword. The gantry was too tight and narrow for them to circle the other.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu lunged, and the goon leapt backwards once again. A moment later he slashed out, hoping to catch her off-guard.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu turned his blade aside with her own, then dropped the left shoulder and charged at him. She caught him square in the chest and knocked him to the ground.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [Her knife was out in a flash; she stabbed it through his sword hand, pinning it to the gantry.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [Without pausing, she grabbed his sword, rose, and began to run. "Hirano, Bright won't be able to handle an Iron Guard by himself! I'm going to help!"-
[23:49] <Minaplo> […-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [("I'm going to help!")-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Like hell you are! Ogata! Ogata! Goddamnit!" Swore Subaru.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [With Chinatsu providing covering fire, Subaru and Tatsuya had managed to advance about fifty metres toward the last remaining four Yakuza. But now they were once again pinned behind crates by railrifle fire- and to Subaru's dismay, the Kikkawa-kai had a lot more spare ammo than he did.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["I'm gonna kick her ass later." Growled Tatsuya. "We don't have the firepower to handle a Guard, son."-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["I know that! I-"-
[23:53] <Minaplo> [Something bounced two metres to Subaru's right. He turned to look at it.-
[23:53] <Minaplo> [It was a Valentine Treaty standard fragmentation grenade.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> [Subaru and Tatsuya shared one horror-struck look before they both flew to the left, diving behind another series of crates. A moment later the grenade exploded.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [Subaru and Tatsuya had been separated- there was a gap between their crates, and it was into this gap that another grenade fell.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [They dove away, but this time Tatsuya went left whilst Subaru went right; they were split up.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya was now behind a pillar, whilst Subaru had found himself in front of an open shipping container. Tatsuya peered out from behind his pillar for a second.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["They have grenade launchers!" shouted Tatsuya.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["How many?"-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["Two!"-
[23:58] <Minaplo> [Subaru swore. Grenade launchers had been so far out of his reach, it hadn't even been funny.-
[23:58] <Minaplo> [The Kikkawa-kai having rifles to his pistols was one thing, but in Subaru's estimation, once a crime organisation obtained grenade launchers they ceased to be merely a criminal gang and closer to a sort of uprising.-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["This is ridiculous! Do I need to call in the army to level the score?" Shouted Subaru into his bead. "Bright! Bright! Get back here with your team! Don't worry about the trucks, just get back here!"-
[00:00] <Minaplo> […-
[00:00] <Minaplo> [("Don't worry about the trucks, just get back here!")-
[00:00] <Minaplo> [But Bright was barely listening. The Iron Guard was starting to walk towards them.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [A moment later, Ito peered out of the rear right hand side door- the door itself had actually crumpled and torn off during the impact.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [She rubbed at her face- hidden behind both gas mask and cat mask, which was slightly askew- then saw the Guard.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [She too froze.-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [A second later she shrieked, twisted around, grabbed the car roof and propelled herself out.-
[00:03] <Minaplo> [The Guard raised his arm and let loose with the multi-maser, showering the air around the car with masbolts. Bright ducked, but Ito tumbled onto the ground- unhit but terrified. She now cowered behind the car.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." Swore Bright. He gripped his gun tightly, took a deep breath, then rose back out. He aimed his pistol and fired.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> [He struck the Guard three times in the head.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> [The Guard did not even slow down.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["No way." Whispered Bright. "It can't be true…"-
[00:04] <Minaplo> [Bright fired again.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> [And again. He fired until the clip was dry, but he would've achieved the same results if he'd thrown the pistol at the Guard.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> [Bright's vision swam.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [His hands were covered in blood all of a sudden, the grim lighting of the alley giving it a strange blackish hue.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [He didn't want to look down. He didn't want to look down and see him in his arms-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [Pain suddenly shot through Bright's body. The vision faded.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [What he saw was worse.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [The Guard had grabbed Bright around the neck and had pulled him completely free of the car.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [For a few horrific moments, Bright hung in the air, kicking furiously, struggling against that titanic hand.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [A moment later the Guard casually tossed Bright aside. He threw thirty metres, struck the ground, and bounced for another ten.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> [He did not move.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> [The Guard turned back toward the car. Ito was still cowering behind it.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> [The Guard placed a foot against the underside and kicked. The car toppled; Ito scarpered away a split second before it would've crushed her.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [The Guard stepped- stepped up onto the belly of the car- now exposed to the heavens. The metalwork frame began to crack and sag beneath him.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [Ito was on the ground, staring up at him, her eyes popping with terror.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [The Guard stepped off the car toward Ito. He raised his right hand, curled it into a fist, and swung.-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [The fist never hit home.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Kaito had placed himself between them; gripped like a shield in his right hand was a car door.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [The door began to buckle, but miraculously the fist had slowed; Kaito struggled, his entire frame quaking from exertion, but he remained standing.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Ms. Ito, please… R-run." He growled.-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [Kaito's voice had snapped her out of it; she scrambled to her feet. "B-But you-"-
[00:14] <Minaplo> ["Don't worry! There's something none of you know about!" He shouted.-
[00:14] <Minaplo> ["W-what?"-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [Kaito fell into a crouch, and let out a roar; he threw his weight behind the car door.-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [The Guard stumbled backward.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> [Kaito rose to his full height. "I'm stronger than I look."-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["…" Ito stared at him for a good long second.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["Grab my bag and get to Bright! I'll hold him here for now! Go!" Shouted Kaito.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["O-Okay!" Ito did exactly that- Kaito's bag was only a metre away. She grabbed it and ran.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> [The Guard stared at Kaito. His expression was impossible to read… But for some reason Kaito saw admiration in those red eyes.-
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["Kaito Murata, Tokyo University Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Class of 2011!" Shouted Kaito. "Let's go!"-
[00:19] <Minaplo> [Kaito raised his fists, and swung.-
[00:19] <Minaplo> [The Iron Guard took one step back, raised his multi-maser, and shot Kaito eight times in the chest.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> [It wasn't enough to stop Kaito; the punch still connected, snapping the Guard's head back slightly.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> [But almost instantly Kaito began to sag, the strength bleeding out of him.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [In desperation, he raised both hands and clawed at the helmet, pulling it toward him.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["C-Come on… Hurry up…" Said Kaito.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["Do you want to die?" Said the Guard. His voice was leaden and distorted through the helmet.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["H-Heh." Said Kaito. "I wasn't talking to you."-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [A moment later, Chinatsu leapt off an overlooking wall, fell onto the Guard's shoulders, and plunged the sword into the gap between helmet and armour- the gap made by Kaito's pulling.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> [The Guard spasmed for a moment, his shoulders seizing up. Kaito took the opportunity to allow himself to pull away, rolling backwards, one hand to his chest. "Thank you!"-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [Whilst the Guard was still reacting, Chinatsu levered the sword slightly, opening the gap wider- then she plunged her hand into the armour and tore something out.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["Murata, here!" She shouted, tossing it to him.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [It was a pack of biogel; Chinatsu had torn it out of the Guard's AutoDoc system.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [Kaito snatched it out of the air, tore it open and began to smack it into his chest wounds.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [But the Guard was reacting, now; with unnerving speed he reached up, grabbed Chinatsu by the leg and threw her free.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu tucked into a roll as she landed, softening- but not nulling- the blow. She still let out a groan of pain as she landed.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["Captain Hirano! I am aware that you are occupied, but we can really use all the help we can get!" Cried Kaito into his comm bead.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> […-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [("We can really use all the help we can get!")-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["That's my line." Growled Subaru. "Watanabe, let's end this! We need this lot taken down now!"-
[00:30] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Tatsuya. "Alright, son, follow my lead. I'll draw their fire, you run over and cop 'em."-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["Are you sure? There's an awful lot of fire to draw right now!"-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["Yeah? They need it, too. Flash out!"-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya threw his flashbang across the room- it landed perfectly near two goons, one of which was packing a launcher.-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [They turned away, but not fast enough. A moment later Tatsuya was out in the open, sprinting toward them.-
[00:33] <Minaplo> [The three other Yakuza turned toward him now, two of them with rifles, the third with a launcher. The rifles fired wildly; Tatsuya was struck seven times across his right arm and chest, but he didn't slow down at all.-
[00:33] <Minaplo> [As he returned fire, Subaru broke cover. He threw the smoke grenade toward the three goons, then sprinted as fast as he could.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [The smoke went off, shrouding the three Kikkawa-kai in an impenetrable smoke.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [Subaru ran.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [A few seconds later, he was over the hump of cover they'd been skulking behind. One yakuza turned and saw him, his eyes widening-
[00:35] <Minaplo> [Subaru swung his railrifle into the man's face with both hands. It struck home, sending the man skidding across the ground, blood gushing from a head wound- and snapping the rifle in half.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> [He tossed the rifle aside and pulled his pistol free. A moment later the other rifle-armed yakuza stepped into view, a pair of spiked knuckles on his hands; before Subaru could react the yakuza drove the right knuckle into Subaru's gut.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [Subaru cried out in pain. He raised his pistol, but the goon clubbed it aside; Subaru's hand slackened and the gun skidded free.-
[00:41] <Minaplo> [For a moment, he felt unnervingly light-headed, and a sense of vertigo flooded him; but then it passed, and just in time; the yakuza threw another punch, this time at Subaru's head.-
[00:42] <Minaplo> [Subaru tumbled backwards, landing on his back. He rolled away from a stomp, and scrambled for the pistol.-
[00:42] <Minaplo> [A second before he could reach it, a large foot stepped on it. Subaru looked up to see the other Yakuza- the launcher.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [A sudden weight fell on him; Knuckles had leapt onto his back. He grabbed Subaru by the hair and dashed his head against the concrete floor.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [His vision swam-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [He'd fucked it.-
[00:44] <Minaplo> [There were all sorts of things he could blame. The lack of equipment that meant that Kikkawa-kai outgunned his unit at every turn. The moles in the police force. The stubborn resentful conservatism that denied support to ERAD from its natural allies.-
[00:45] <Minaplo> [… But to him, at the moment of death, these seemed like the most idle and trivial of thoughts. Despite the pain, he saw lucidly, perhaps for the first time, that he was at fault.-
[00:47] <Minaplo> [He saw people. His parents, weeping as they waved their only child away; his team, especially for some reason Ito and Carter, who he'd dragged into this; he saw little Hoshiko at the park, clutching an autographed notebook to her chest. He saw Nanako, sternly making him promise that he wouldn't die.-
[00:49] <Minaplo> [That at last made him struggle; with all his strength he bucked upwards, unbalancing the goon on his back. For one brief second of crazy hope, he had a chance-
[00:49] <Minaplo> [The Launcher-goon kicked him across the head.-
[00:49] <Minaplo> [And quite suddenly, Subaru's second wind was gone.-
[00:50] <Minaplo> [He lay there on the floor, bleeding and exhausted. Dazed, he managed to look upwards at his killer-
[00:50] <Minaplo> [Just in time to see the Launcher yakuza's head explode.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> [The smoke cloud had dissipated, and so Subaru was quite able to see the yakuza's headless body tottle backwards for a second before crumpling.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> [His other tormentor, Knuckles, stared at the corpse blankly for a few seconds; then he let out a whimper.-
[00:53] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya stepped out from behind a crate; in his hand was a smoking revolver, a very old-fashioned revolver. It was really more of a handcannon.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> [Rather idly, Tatsuya pointed the gun at Knuckles.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> [Knuckles promptly threw himself to the ground, hands behind his head.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Tatsuya, holstering the gun and taking out a pair of cable-tie cuffs instead.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["I… D-Don't think that's… Police issue." Said Subaru weakly.-
[00:55] <Minaplo> ["Fuck police issue." Said Tatsuya.-
[00:55] <Minaplo> [He cuffed Knuckles, then dragged Subaru to his feet. "Y'all right, son? Bit close there, huh."-
[00:55] <Minaplo> ["A little." Coughed Subaru. "You alright?"-
[00:55] <Minaplo> ["I'll live." Said Tatsuya. "Here, take this."-
[00:55] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya shoved one of the grenade launchers into Subaru's hands.-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["Found something you'd like." Said Tatsuya.-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["You mean… B-besides the launcher?"-
[00:57] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya had, under his left arm, a munitions box. He roughly thrust it outwards.-
[00:57] <Minaplo> [Subaru looked inside.-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["… Anti tank grenades?"-
[00:58] <Minaplo> […-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [The Guard struck Kaito with such force that the ground beneath him splintered.-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [Kaito buckled, being forced to his knees; his wounds hadn't perfectly healed yet, either, and he was out of breath. The car door was starting to look like it had been savaged by feral dogs, too.-
[01:01] <Minaplo> [Before he could react, the Guard threw a roundhouse kick into it; this time Kaito's strength gave out, and he was knocked clear off his feet, landing heavily a few metres away.-
[01:02] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu's sword had long since broken, and she was no longer using her right arm. Nonetheless she raised the sword- broken blade and all- and charged, jinking at the last second to the right.-
[01:02] <Minaplo> [She jabbed the blade at another gap in the armour, but missed; it struck nothing but armour plate.-
[01:04] <Minaplo> [The Guard backhanded her; she sailed into the car and struck it heavily.-
[01:05] <Minaplo> [The Guard reached for his hip, where he kept his combat knife; with one tug he pulled it free. Although a 'knife', it was easily longer than Chinatsu's sword had been.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> [With one quick thrust, he stuck it through Chinatsu's good shoulder and into the car. She let out a cry of pain, spasmed, then cried a little harder; she was pinned.-
[01:08] <Minaplo> [A moment later, the car door struck the Guard in the back of the head.-
[01:08] <Minaplo> [The door had been twisted into a vaguely javelin-like shape, and it had been thrown true- the Guard staggered forward.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> [The Guard turned, back toward Kaito.-
[01:10] <Minaplo> [Kaito was standing again. His armour had long since broken, and his shirt had been torn to pieces. His body was bleeding from a dozen wounds, some of which were still in the process of scabbing over.-
[01:10] <Minaplo> [Kaito promptly fell back into a boxing stance.-
[01:10] <Minaplo> [The Guard stared at him for a second, then raised his maser once more.-
[01:11] <Minaplo> [The gun began to spin up, its chambers flashing momentarily with energy-
[01:11] <Minaplo> [Carter fired. The bullet flew true, straight into the multi-maser's firing chamber.-
[01:12] <Minaplo> [The explosion blinded Kaito and Chinatsu both, and knocked the Guard clean off his feet, sending him sprawling several metres to the left. The right arm armour had been half-incinerated.-
[01:12] <Minaplo> [Indeed, so had much of the flesh- they could all see right to the Guard's bone.-
[01:13] <Minaplo> [Carter, vision swimming, sat propped up against a wall; Ito had just poured a pack of biogel down his throat, and he was still coughing slightly.-
[01:14] <Minaplo> [… But then the wound began to close before their very eyes. First the tendons and muscles reknit themselves around the bone, layer after layer, and then finally the skin, until the arm was good as new.-
[01:14] <Minaplo> ["Regeneration…" Whispered Ito. "They really are immortal…"-
[01:14] <Minaplo> ["That was m-my last shot." Mumbled Carter.-
[01:15] <Minaplo> [Ito promptly thrust her own pistol into Carter's hand.-
[01:16] <Minaplo> [Carter levelled the pistol and fired, striking the Guard in the hand; but even without armour, the Guard didn't seem to really be hurt by it.-
[01:16] <Minaplo> ["D-Damnit…"-
[01:17] <Minaplo> [Ito paused to take stock of the situation. Kaito was winded, still seriously injured, but standing. Chinatsu was pinned through the shoulder to the car, and Carter was using every bit of concentration to stay awake. Ito, on the other hand, had nothing but minor scratches.-
[01:17] <Minaplo> [Unfortunately, Ito mused, she wasn't about to tip the scales of this fight…-
[01:19] <Minaplo> [She should've run. In fact, she rose, half intending to do just that, to vanish into the night.-
[01:21] <Minaplo> [Yet instead she did the opposite. She unhooked her baton off her belt and extended it to its maximum length. She grabbed the dial and cranked it up to a setting that was marked, simply, 'lethal'.-
[01:21] <Minaplo> ["… Hey." Said Carter blearily. "D-Don't."-
[01:21] <Minaplo> ["Don't tell me what to do." Snapped Ito. A second later, she was off, sprinting toward the Guard.-
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["Ms. Ito, no! Stay back!" Cried Kaito. "He's too dangerous!"-
[01:23] <Minaplo> [But Ito didn't listen.-
[01:24] <Minaplo> [The Guard turned toward her, and raised its armoured hand. The instant she was close, the hand snapped out, freakishly fast-
[01:25] <Minaplo> [Ito dropped, skidding between the Guard's legs; not a second later she twisted, bent upwards, leapt, and jabbed the baton into the gap between the Guard's armour and his power pack.-
[01:26] <Minaplo> [At the same time, she grabbed one of the cables running along the shaft of the baton and tore it free.-
[01:26] <Minaplo> [The baton lodged firmly in the gap, she rolled away, narrowly avoiding a massive foot crushing her skull. She sprang to her feet and held the cable up.-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["Recognise this?" She asked.-
[01:27] <Minaplo> [The Guard didn't stop, preparing to swing-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["Overload protector, cocksucker!" She said. With her free hand, she dropped the smoke grenade.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> [A second later, the tesla baton oversurged. Electricity arced across the Guard's body, and he seized up, letting out a bellow of pain. He fell to his knees, the armour suddenly becoming rigid. The eyes flickered and died.-
[01:29] <Minaplo> [The smoke grenade exploded, shrouding them all.-
[01:29] <Minaplo> ["Got you." Said Ito. "Got you! Can't see with your power armour not working, huh?"-
[01:29] <Minaplo> [Ito walked out of the cloud. "Kaito!" She shouted. "You ok?"-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["I'll manage." He huffed. "What happened-"-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["I disabled his power armour." Said Ito, preening; she puffed her chest out proudly. "He's not going anywhere for awhile."-
[01:31] <Minaplo> [Kaito saw it before Ito felt it- a sudden shadow moving within the cloud.-
[01:31] <Minaplo> [A second later, the Guard emerged, grabbed Ito around the legs, swung her twice into the pavement, then hurled her as far and as high as he could.-
[01:32] <Minaplo> ["No!" Shouted Kaito, his expression one of horror. He was moving automatically, managing to run and catch Ito before she struck the ground.-
[01:32] <Minaplo> [Nonetheless, she'd gone limp, and her mask had cracked straight down the middle; her face was covered in blood.-
[01:33] <Minaplo> [The Guard's armour was still occasionally seizing, and the eyes kept flickering; but nonetheless it was still moving. A little slower, perhaps, but still moving.-
[01:35] <Minaplo> [Kaito cradled Ito to his chest protectively. He watched the Guard approach.-
[01:35] <Minaplo> [The Guard was starting to build up speed- breaking into a run.-
[01:35] <Minaplo> [THe last time he had done this, he'd flipped the car.-
[01:36] <Minaplo> [Kaito braced himself, ready to shield Ito with his body-
[01:36] <Minaplo> [At that moment, a grenade sailed through the air, struck the Guard's left arm, and exploded.-
[01:36] <Minaplo> [The force of it sent the Guard sprawling across the ground.-
[01:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru- looking pale, bloodied, slightly limping- cycled the grenade launcher, then raised it once more.-
[01:38] <Minaplo> [In that moment, the Guard made a calculation- and came to a conclusion. He leapt to his feet, pulled three grenades off his belt, and threw them- one toward Subaru, one toward Kaito, and one toward Chinatsu. The grenades were red cylinders with little flame icons on the side-
[01:39] <Minaplo> ["Firebombs!" Yelled Subaru. He turned and ran. Kaito did the same-
[01:39] <Minaplo> [But Chinatsu couldn't run.-
[01:41] <Minaplo> [She stared up at it, her eyes shrinking-
[01:43] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya ran towards her; at the last second he leapt, smacked it out of the air away from her, and landed- between Chinatsu and the grenade.-
[01:44] <Minaplo> [A second later the area burned. The flames quickly covered Tatsuya, who didn't have time to get free.-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [Tatsuya rolled furiously, beating at his own body, trying to put the flames out.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> [It took a minute for Subaru and Kaito to reach him; there they did their best, smothering the flames with their clothes (or what remained of Kaito's) and the contents of their meagre water bottles.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> [The flames burned stubbornly for far too long- but eventually they died out.-
[01:47] <Minaplo> ["Burning…" Muttered Tatsuya, after they'd dragged him free. "Doesn't hurt as much as I thought."-
[01:47] <Minaplo> ["It damages nerve endings. Or it's shock." Said Kaito.-
[01:47] <Minaplo> ["H-Heh."-
[01:47] <Minaplo> [Subaru smiled at them both weakly, then looked up.-
[01:48] <Minaplo> [Carter was unconscious once again; Chinatsu was bleeding profusely. Ito was limp, lying where Kaito had placed her. Tatsuya was burned, and Subaru had been trashed.-
[01:48] <Minaplo> [The car was in pieces. Most of their ammo was spent.-
[01:48] <Minaplo> [The Iron Guard was nowhere to be seen.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> [The trucks had long since vanished, too.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> [Subaru felt a sudden wave of exhaustion overcome him. He stumbled and fell backwards.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [He wearily reached for the comm bead. "This is Captain Hirano to TMPD base, Koto…"-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [It was time to call this one in.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> […-
[18:33] <Minaplo> [The only ERAD officer who didn't need to be hospitalised at least over night had been Kaito.-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [Subaru and the others had been ferried away in ambulances whilst Kaito remained behind to do his best for the Kikkawa-kai. A few hours later, he'd arrived at the hospital, beelined for Ito's room and, checking that she was stable, had started to visit each other member in order of descending severity.-
[18:36] <Minaplo> [Subaru had been asleep for that, but that had been two days ago.-
[18:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru had been the best off out of all of them bar Kaito, and so by the next day he was free to walk around, if not actually leave the hospital. Now, Kaito was checking up on him as Subaru lay in bed.-
[18:37] <Minaplo> ["You know," Said Subaru, "being shot several times in the chest with military-grade weaponry would slow some people down."-
[18:39] <Minaplo> ["Normally I would agree." Said Kaito. "But people who do not know better often underestimate the healing ability of biogel."-
[18:40] <Minaplo> ["What is it?" Said Subaru.-
[18:42] <Minaplo> ["The explanation is long and difficult, and strictly speaking I am not supposed to talk about it." Said Kaito. "But it is a type of living liquid tissue. Extremely difficult to replicate, and requires laboratories specialised around genetics. In fact, we cannot produce it domestically; it has to be imported from the UN or the Federation."-
[18:43] <Minaplo> ["How did a criminal Iron Guard get their hands on some, then?" Asked Subaru.-
[18:44] <Minaplo> ["They possess a special organ that manufactures it in small quantities. Usually it is used to aid their own healing abilities, but if they are unharmed, they can excrete it. I believe they are able to produce the equivalent of a single doses' worth in one week." Said Kaito.-
[18:45] <Minaplo> [Subaru stared at him, then fell back against his bed. "Fucking hell."-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["That's about the correct response, yes." Said Kaito.-
[18:52] <Minaplo> [For the next minute or so, Kaito continued his checkup in silence.-
[18:54] <Minaplo> [But eventually Subaru sighed. "We secured the warehouse and took some captives, but we failed to stop the trucks and we took heavy injuries doing what we did. I like what we took from the warehouse, but it's not enough, not worth knocking ERAD out of action to this extent."-
[18:55] <Minaplo> ["You couldn't have expected an Iron Guard, Captain." Said Kaito gently.-
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["I know, but that's half my point." Said Subaru. "I didn't expect an Iron Guard because I didn't realise just how outgunned we were. We're struggling to outfit our team with enough rifles to go around whilst the Kikkawa-kai are packing enough heavy weapons to knock out a tank column."-
[18:59] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps you can inform the chairman of the threat we face. Perhaps knowing that Iron Guard are walking his streets will spook the Government into lending us greater resources." Said Kaito.-
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["Maybe." Said Subaru. "But there's only so much stuff to go around. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced the Chairman intended for ERAD to fund itself primarily through what it can take from our enemies."-
[19:01] <Minaplo> ["That seems irregular."-
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["Well, we're an irregular lot." Said Subaru. "Not many outfits feel the need to take a fistfighting lawyer and a rotten little hacker girl on parole in their lineup."-
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["… How is Ito?" He said a moment later, seeing the crestfallen expression on Kaito's face.-
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["Ami… Is alright, relatively speaking." Said Kaito eventually. "She could've very easily died. Instead she broke six ribs and both legs. She's awake, but obviously in a great deal of pain. She probably won't be ready for missions for at least a month."-
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["Damn." Said Subaru. "Well, she has both arms still, that means she can use a computer."-
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["…Mmm."-
[19:13] <Minaplo> [Subaru looked over at Kaito. "… Bringing Ito was a mistake on my part. She wasn't ready for live fire, and she was too careless around the Guard."-
[19:25] <Minaplo> [Kaito frowned; he rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. "She was quite competent when we attempted to capture her, and she very nearly got away- she vaulted down the building with unusual ability. Yet in a fight with the Kikkawa-kai…"-
[19:26] <Minaplo> ["She was willing to be gutsy with us because she knows I wouldn't shoot her. The Yakuza don't have such scruples; she knows that too." Said Subaru. "But her showing against us was strong enough that I forgot that she's relatively green."-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["I hope she will improve with time. She is inventive and resourceful, and she contributed as much to driving off the Guard as anybody." Said Kaito. "If there's anything to take away from this, Captain, it's that by and large your strategy of finding specialists has paid off."-
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["Thanks, Kaito." Said Subaru. "I appreciate that. But as much as I hate to admit it, equipment means a lot. If that Guard had been packing a bolter…"-
[19:59] <Minaplo> [Kaito winced. "I'm well aware, yes. But how do we even the odds quickly enough?"-
[20:16] <Minaplo> ["I… Don't know. Maybe something will come up." Said Subaru with a shrug.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["There are factions within the government who possess high-level tech." Said Kaito. "We couldn't petition them for help?"-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["We could, but at the moment the TMPD is deeply resentful of lending us a pair of fucking railrifles. If we can't get basic kit off them, I can't imagine the Imperial Keepers or whoever will be willing either." Said Subaru.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["A pity. Even a single Keeper would even the odds tremendously." Said Kaito.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["It would. But even if they were willing to help, the Chairman was pretty explicit: no AT Fields." Said Subaru.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["Why not?"-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["I didn't bother to ask. If I had to guess, he's trying to demonstrate that Japan can protect itself without superhumans." Said Subaru.-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["What do you think about that?"-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Well, I have to admire his conviction." Said Subaru. "But if we're his demonstration of that principle then he must be feeling rather sour at the moment."-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Ah, well." Said Subaru. "I don't suppose you have some siblings? Nine or ten maybe?" He asked hopefully.-
[20:32] <Minaplo> [Kaito gave Subaru a dirty look. "I have three, but they're all native-born Japanese. I have no blood relatives."-
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Damn." Said Subaru. "Well, I know one thing- I won't be finding any solutions lying in bed."-
[20:33] <Minaplo> [With that, he swung off the bed and stood up. "I'm going to go for a walk around the grounds. Keep me posted if anything happens."-
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Yes, Captain."-
[20:33] <Minaplo> […-
[20:38] <Minaplo> [It was a sunny, clear day. There wasn't a cloud in the endlessly blue sky.-
[20:38] <Minaplo> [In the endless summer of modern Japan, that meant heat. The air was wet with humidity, and the sound of humming cicadas was never far away.-
[20:43] <Minaplo> [And so Subaru sat on a bench beneath the shade of a persimmon tree, quietly regretting his decision to leave the sterile yet cool corridors of the hospital.-
[20:53] <Minaplo> [Despite the bright day, Subaru's thoughts were gloomy. Too often, he thought of the sight of that night- Chinatsu's bloodsoaked clothes, Tatsuya's twisted scars, Carter's unfocused gaze, Ito's frail form seeming too small for the harm she'd taken…-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["There you are, Tsukuretta Man."-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [Subaru looked up in surprise.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [Standing a few metres away was Monica Messina, wearing a white linen sundress along with a white umbrella, which she held over her face.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Ms. Messina? What are you doing here?" He asked- but only after a few seconds of thoughtless gawking.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["I came to visit you." She said warmly, walking over. "May I?" She asked, gesturing at the bench.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Uh, sure, but how did you find me…?"-
[20:55] <Minaplo> [Monica sat; she simply gave Subaru a knowing look.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["… Right, of course, that was stupid of me to ask." He said sheepishly. "Well, um. I appreciate it."-
[21:01] <Minaplo> [Monica beamed.
[21:01] <Minaplo> [But too quickly, her smile faded. "It sounds like you guys got your shit kicked in, huh?"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, well. Everything worked fine, except that they had an Iron Guard." Said Subaru.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [Monica's eyes widened. "Huh, no shit? A Guard, working for Kikkawa?"-
[21:03] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Subaru. "I mean I assume he was. He might've been a Guard just out looking for kicks I suppose, but I'm pretty sure he was on their side."-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["You guys are lucky you're all alive." murmured Monica.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["No kidding. In all honesty, my team performed spectacularly." Said Subaru. "We gave the Guard a hell of a fight- we did plenty of harm to his armour, at least."-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["That's good. Unless the Kikkawa-kai have a person who can repair Guard armour." Said Monica.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I suppose."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> [They fell silent for a few seconds before Subaru continued. "They're horrifying."-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["The Guards?" Asked Monica.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."-
[21:39] <Minaplo> [Monica nodded after a moment. "They're incredibly strong, and nearly impossible to kill."-
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Kaito says he saw that one regrow half his arm. And they're much faster than you expect…"-
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["Did this one have a chainsword and bolter?"-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [Subaru shook his head.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["You're lucky, then." Said Monica.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Subaru listlessly.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["…" Monica turned her eyes upwards, toward the branches of the persimmon tree. "The LN War was only won because of the Evangelions. The battles that didn't involve any Superheavies or Evas ended in a LN victory three times out of four."-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Well, I don't have any Evangelions. I don't have any Superheavies, either." Said Subaru, rising quickly to his feet. "I don't have any AT Field users, I don't have any unstoppable supersoldiers and I don't have any power armour. I don't even have bolters."-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["Here's what I do have," Said Subaru, anger creeping into his tone. "About a hundred railpistols, half that in railrifles, thirty anti-tank grenades, twice that in frag grenades, and four launchers with which to fire them. I barely have enough rail battlerifles to rub together to make a damn fire."-
[21:55] <Minaplo> ["At this point, finding a fucking maser rifle would make my day." He said, punching his left hand into his right palm a few times.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["My entire team bar the Kiwi colossus is laid up in hospital with injuries, which I could hasten if we had more biogel, which we don't. Our enemy does, though, becasue their super-soldiers sweat it." Said Subaru furiously. "But that's not all they have!"-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["They have fucking endless numbers of asshole goons who can kill one of my officers with a single burst of their guns. They have at least one Iron Guard, probably more. They have a handful of cutting-edge battlesuits that they've either sold, or are figuring out how to use. They have seemingly endless cash reserves, political influence and spies in nearly every branch of law enforcement."-
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["The battlesuits, of course, came from us," He growled, "Because we can make incredible weapons turning a normal man into a juggernaut, but we can't do something more useful and outfit our police force with maser rifles. I don't even have Sentinel headsets!"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["And so, Ms. Messina, this is what I'm asked to do- take these incredibly talented people and throw their fucking lives away fighting a foe with more money, more weapons, and more men than we could ever dream of having."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["That's who we are! A glorified police squad! We aren't Walpurgis Night, or Promised Land, or the Knights of the Round Table, or Evening Primrose. We're barely the Covenant of Light. We sure as fuck aren't Spetsnaz, the Fed-SOS or the Navy SEALS."-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Everyone keeps saying we need to even up the odds, but how?! The only answer I get is to take what we need from our enemies, but to be able to do that, we need better equipment- which we can only take from them! It's an impossible situation, and I'm in the middle of it!"-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [His voice was becoming a shout, now; a few patients in the distance turned to look at him.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["I thought the Chairman was different. I thought he hated the corruption, that I'd been made an eternal Inspector because someone had a point to make. But it turns out he's just the same- he's just making a different point."-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Damn him! Damn them! I can't-"-
[22:11] <Minaplo> [Monica stood, leapt to his side, then wrapped him up in a hug.-
[22:12] <Minaplo> [Subaru froze. A moment later the strength seemed to bleed out of his body and his voice; he sagged in her grasp.-
[22:12] <Minaplo> ["I wanted to make a difference." He mumbled, his voice tinged with weary hurt. "All I'm gonna do is get good people killed."-
[22:18] <Minaplo> ["And Ito." Said Monica softly.-
[22:19] <Minaplo> [Subaru let out a choked laugh-sob. "Y-Yeah, and Ito, too. God, that kid really drives me nuts, but her flogging cash off the Yakuza is one of the few things keeping us afloat."-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["I figured." Said Monica.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> [They stayed like that for a few seconds longer; then Subaru pulled away. He flopped back down onto the bench; he looked pale and drained.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["I need to speak to the Chairman. I need to tell him that ERAD in its current state isn't viable. That it should be dissolved." He said with a sigh. "I know the Chairman wanted to prove that the Japanese people could stand on their own two feet without the help of Bioexotics, unlike the Emperor, but… He's wrong. I know that, now. If Japan's going to survive the New Century, we need our own Bioexotics. The Emperor understands this, that's why she made the Keepers…"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> [Monica gave him a bittersweet smile and joined him back on the bench.-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["You agree, huh?" Said Subaru dispiritedly.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> ["I… Have seen a lot of things." She said hesitantly. "Iron Guard are terrifying. Impact Ferals are monstrous: I've had the misfortune of seeing Manslayer Eagles shred a troop VTOL, then starve out the occupants. In some parts of the world, fishing fleets have been all but wiped out by Titanic Squid."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Then there's Angelspawn." She murmured. "Annihilators can split a tank like a can opener. In some parts of the world, they're attacking in numbers of a hundred or more. I've seen entire towns turned into rambling hordes of virus-vessels. And then there's Apocalypse Engines…"-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Humanity opened Pandora's Box eighteen years ago." Said Monica. "And I'm afraid the world's changing faster than humanity can handle. It needs saving, and we need a power more than just humanity to save it."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["… But." Monica turned toward Subaru and gave him a pretty smile. "People like you give me hope."-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["Hope?" Said Subaru in surprise. "Hope for what?"-
[22:44] <Minaplo> ["That there might still be a place for humanity after all." Said Monica.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["That seems like a long shot. If you're pinning your hopes to prove humanity's worthiness on me, then you might be waiting a long time." Said Subaru.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Ahaha~. I disagree."-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh really?"-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Mmmhm. Are you familiar with Sufism?" Asked Monica.-
[22:46] <Minaplo> [Subaru shook his head.-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["It's a sort of mystical Islamic philosophy. One of the concepts in it that I find quite intriguing is the idea of essence… Each drop of water contains the essence of the ocean. In the same way, every human being has inside them the essence of humanity." Said Monica. "So in that way, I feel confident seeing hope in you."-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["… I see." Said Subaru, not quite understanding but feeling oddly humbled nonetheless. "Thank you, Ms. Messina."-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["Hm~"-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [A minute or so passed in silence before Monica spoke up again.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Subaru, you and I are friends, right?"-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["H…uh?" Said Subaru, turning toward her quickly. "Is that important?"-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Would I ask if it wasn't?"-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["Well… I guess not, but it's a strange question." Said Subaru. "I barely know you. You showed up one day and gave me some information. You're here and being encouraging, which I appreciate, but we still don't know each other that well."-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["That's true, I guess." Said Monica. "Would you like to?"-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Subaru.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Great. I'll pick you up at six tomorrow. Be ready, ok?" Said Monica, leaping to her feet.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["… Wait, wait, wait. Did you just trick me into a date?!"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [Monica beamed; she was already running off, the hem of her sundress bouncing tantalisingly. "Six tomorrow! Don't you dare forget, and I'll see you then!"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Wait, Ms. Messina-"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [But she wasn't listening anymore, and Subaru didn't have the strength to pursue.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["Aw, goddamnit!" Muttered Subaru.-
[23:17] <Minaplo> [He slumped against the backrest of the bench. "I hate my life."-
[23:17] <Minaplo> […-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["You better have a good reason for dragging a hurt cop out here, Messina."-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [Monica had arrived at five to six in a small, efficient little car. She arrived wearing a red knee-length strapless dress and a handbag in which Subaru quickly discovered a pair of masguns.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [The fact that the date had started with him finding illegal weaponry was ominous. The fact that his reaction had been one of excitement had been merely sad.-
[19:49] <Minaplo> [The excitement of finally acquiring a maser weapon- considered to be the policing firearm- had worn off fast as Monica drove away from the bright, well-lit parts of Tokyo-2 to the… Other parts.-
[19:49] <Minaplo> ["No, really." Said Subaru. "Are we in fucking Ikebukuro now? This is going to get me killed, Messina."-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["Just relax, will you?" Said Monica cheerfully.-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["I will not relax." Said Subaru huffily.-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["Geez."-
[19:54] <Minaplo> [Monica parked her car in a vertical garage before exiting out into a distressingly familiar- in type if not in actuality- type of street. "We're going gambling."-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["As if this entire thing weren't a gamble already." Muttered Subaru. "Kikkawa-affiliated groups own the gambling in Tokyo, Messina…"-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["It's okay, this place isn't yakuza. But it is worth checking out. And the reason why should be arriving any second now…"-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [A minute later, a van appeared around a street corner and pulled into the garage. A few minutes later the owner walked out into the street. He was a European man of average height with slicked back light brown wavy hair and muddy brown eyes. He wore a sharp, custom-tailored three-piece suit. Behind him was a very tall, bald, muscular man- to Subaru's eyes, pure hired muscle.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["He looks important." Murmured Subaru.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["That's Mr. Vulcan." Said Monica.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Vulcan, I…" Subaru's eyes narrowed. "Hold on, I read that name the other day, in… In a report on Iron Guard. The guy who designed their equipment- that was his codename!"-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["Mmmhmm. A top LN scientist, right here in Ikebukuro. It's like your own personal Werner von Braun, if von Braun were a smarmy dickhead only in it for the money."-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["Sounds like a winner. So what are we gonna do? Take him in?"-
[20:32] <Minaplo> [Messina waited until Mr. Vulcan had passed before she continued. "Yeah, but not right now. This clever boy's no doubt brought a lot of shiny tech with him, hidden somewhere away… We're gonna track him back to wherever it is and take him and the motherlode with it."-
[20:33] <Minaplo> [Subaru grinned. "You're my favourite person right now. Gonna bug his van?"-
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["He changes vehicles, so no." Said Messina, whipping a very expensive-looking watch out of her bag, which she snapped onto her slender wrist. "We bug him instead. Follow my lead."-
[20:49] <Minaplo> [The gambling den had the decency to be hidden in the backroom of a bar instead of just impudently sitting on the street, which Subaru appreciated.-
[20:58] <Minaplo> [The people in the bar shot Subaru and Messina suspicious looks as they entered, looks which Messina parried with charming smiles- which to Subaru's discomfort, still drew plenty of attention on their own.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> [He took the place in carefully. The signs were all written in English, and most of the clientle looked to be European or African. In fact…-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Messina," He began, but she quickly shushed him. After buying two drinks from the bar and swapping words with the bartender, she led him by the hand into the back parlour.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [No mahjong here. Here the order of the day was poker.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["… A foreign crim bar." Murmured Subaru.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> [From the moment they entered, all eyes were on them- or rather, on Messina.-
[20:46] <Minaplo> [Some looked away quite quickly, but others stared, and Mr. Vulcan- who sat at a table in the corner with two other people- was gazing at Messina with a peculiar, stricken expression that Subaru suspected he himself had shared not so long ago. At least to Mr. Vulcan's credit he recovered quickly.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> [Of the other two people at the table, one was a tall, muscular, bald Indian whilst the other was, young, thin, and white, with messy blonde hair. The Indian raised a hand toward Messina and beckoned. "Come join us, Monica, eh?"-
[21:00] <Minaplo> [Messina beamed, and quickly did so. Subaru went to follow- only to run into another goonish heavy.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Chakravati asked for Ms. Messina. Didn't say nothing about you." Said the heavy threateningly.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["R-Right." Said Subaru. "Only, I came here with Ms. Messina, so, you see, we're sort of…"-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["Go away."-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure if you asked- Ms. Messina? Ms. Messina, hey-"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [But Monica was engrossed in conversation and didn't hear him. "Oh, Joao? Joao Alves, is that you?" She said to the blond man. "It's been awhile, how are you? What are you doing in Japan?"-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [The heavy gave Subaru a smug glare.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> ["… Right, okay." Said Subaru with a sigh. He slunk back and occupied an empty chair at one of the less prestigious tables- this one occupied by two female Arabian twins and a thin African wearing a pinstripe suit.-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Sorry to see you flame out, friend." Said the African sympathetically.-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["You're welcome at our table. We won't muscle you around." Said one of the twins; her sister gave the heavy an ominous look.-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Well, thank you." Said Subaru.-
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["Don't think I've seen you in here before." Said the African.-
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it's my first time." Said Subaru. "You all are regulars, then?"-
[21:17] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said one of the twins, the one who'd glared at the heavy. "We've been here about three months, but he's-" she nodded at the African, "has been here years."-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["No kidding?" Said Subaru. "You must be either really good at your job or really bad."-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [The African laughed. "Sometimes it's a coin toss, friend. I'm Alfonso." He said, offering Subaru a hand.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["It's a pleasure." Said Subaru, taking the hand and shaking it.-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["I'm Nima." Said the first twin.-
[21:22] <Minaplo> ["And I'm Haniyya." Said the second.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Nice to meet you." Said Subaru.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["So where are you from?" asked Alfonso.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Me? I'm from Nara."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Nara?" Asked Alfonso with a frown.-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Nara Prefecture? It's over in Kansai…"-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Ohhh, you're actually Japanese?" Said Alfonso.-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["Born and raised." Said Subaru. "I'm, uh…"-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["… Makoto." Said Subaru.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Cool." Said Alfonso.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Nara." Said Haniyya. "Isn't that where they have the deer?"-
[21:36] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. "Yeah, that's right. That's what everyone seems to know Nara for, at any rate."-
[21:41] <Minaplo> ["We've considered going once we're legal." Said Nima. "What else is in Nara?"-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["History, temples, you know, the usual." Said Subaru. "It's really famous for its archaeological dig sites- actually, that's why my parents moved there before I was born- they're both archaeologists, and they work with the museum in Nara. The region's one of the oldest in Japan, and they say that it's where the first pan-Japanese government was born- there's a bunch of old dig sites around
[21:42] <Minaplo> the town of Asuka that deal with finding old palaces and such."-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["That's pretty interesting." Said Nima. "We know all about old ruins, don't we, Haniyya?"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> [Haniyya smirked.-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [Before Subaru could follow up on that, Alfonso nodded at him curiously. "Rare that locals come here of all places, Makoto. What brought you here?"-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["I noticed." Said Subaru. "I'm actually here escorting Ms. Messina, but she seems to be having her fun without me, so…"-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["You know what'll help fill that void, friend? Hand of poker." Said Alfonso.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. "Sure, okay. Deal me in."-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [A game came and went quite quickly- in Alfonso's favour.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Subaru, meanwhile, had been trying to pay attention to Messina. He'd managed to take a seat that looked over at Messina's table, which made it all much easier.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Relax, Makoto." Said Alfonso good-naturedly. "Nothing bad's happen to your charge."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry." Said Subaru awkwardly. He coughed.-
[22:12] <Minaplo> [Nima chuckled. "You're new, so you get a pass, but this place is actually pretty safe."-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [Haniyya nodded enthusiastically. "Some of the bigshots bring their own guards, but they're mostly for show or for the way to and from."-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Huh. Sorry, I didn't mean to come off as overly cautious…" Said Subaru.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> [Alfonso waved at him dismissively. "It's cool."-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Thanks."-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["But that's odd. Why's this place so safe? You all seem pretty comfortable here, even." Said Subaru.-
[22:21] <Minaplo> ["Necessity." Said Nima.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["Think about it." Said Alfonso. "How many expat bars have you run into?"-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["This would be my first- oh." Said Subaru. "I see…"-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["Exactly. Most places like this are Yakuza dives." Said Haniyya. "We, well. We stick out."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["And the yakuza aren't your friendliest bunch." Said Alfonso. "Especially not at the moment."-
[22:34] <Minaplo> ["They're all riled up. Dunno what's got them all so angry…" Said Nima.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [But Subaru wasn't paying attention.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> [Messina had just lost her second game in a row, and Mr. Vulcan's grin was growing- as was his pile of money. Stacks of it all in neat little mounds sat at his elbow, and Messina's expression was growing grim.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["Makoto, hey, snap out of it." Said Nima.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["What-? Oh, was I doing it again…?"-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [Over the next hour and a half they played another five games, Subaru winning the last two- and thus saving some face.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [The same could not be said of Monica. She won a single game, but it hardly made a dent in Mr. Vulcan's winnings.-
[23:08] <Minaplo> [Finally, the stacks of money in her handbag had run dry. She gave Mr. Vulcan a half-pleading, half petulant look…-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [He glanced at her watch. Messina- frowning deeply, looking almost about to cry- slid the watch off and placed it on the table.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [In the game that followed, Messina took an exceedingly long time to actually lay a hand down- she scrutinised every hand and delayed to the point where the patience of everyone else at the table had bled away. Finally she committed-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [And lost.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [She made one final plea to Mr. Vulcan, who roundly ignored her as he took the watch- then, smirking at her, slipped it onto his own wrist.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [Messina stared at Mr. Vulcan- then rather abruptly stood up, stormed toward the door, clicked her fingers at Subaru, then left.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["Duty calls." Said Subaru, throwing down his hand. "Sorry- you've all been really friendly tonight, so why don't you use my winnings to buy yourselves something to drink? Or eat," He added to the twins.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["Cheers, Makoto." Said Alfonso warmly.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["You're welcome anytime. Don't be a stranger!" Said Nima as Subaru left.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Subaru had to run to catch up to Messina, however, who was already out onto the street.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Hey. Wow. That looked pretty bad in there." Said Subaru.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [But Messina didn't answer.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["I'm… Uh, I can reinburse you with ERAD money." Said Subaru sympathetically.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> [Still no response.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["I'm really sorry about your watch." Said Subaru quietly as Messina was unlocking the car.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [Messina couldn't handle it anymore; she slumped against the car door and laughed.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [She laughed and laughed until she started to cry with laughter.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [Subaru stared at her, his expression contorted into one of concern-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Then something clicked, and his expression became astonishingly flat. "Oh. Right. The watch was the bug."-
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["Ding ding!" Gasped Messina in between giggles.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru felt a flush creeping into his cheeks. "Yes, you're very clever, and here I am being a big embarrassment to years of training and experience. Are you satisfied yet, Ms. Messina?"-
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["Not yet." Said Messina cheerfully. "But I will once we pop that smug creep a few times with a masgun."-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Let's not waste any time." Said Subaru shortly, hopping into the front passenger's seat.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> […-
[20:25] <Minaplo> [Tracking Mr. Vulcan, as it turned out, took over an hour. Not because the signal was weak, but because the man was remarkably paranoid.-
[20:26] <Minaplo> ["You know, you'd think the sort of man who changes cars like he changes his underwear would think twice about taking a watch from a stranger." Said Subaru, eyeing as Mr. Vulcan's fifth car of the night pulled out into the street.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["It's probably because he was too busy trying to slide his foot up my thigh." said Monica irritably.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["… Ew."-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that's about right." Said Monica. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to shoot out his tires here and now."-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["Is… That a shot you could make?" Asked Subaru skeptically as the car took off.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["I could give it a good try."-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Well it's too late now, you'd probably crash his car."-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Still kinda tempting."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Yeah yeah. Get going, Annie Oakley." Said Subaru with a smirk.-
[20:36] <Minaplo> [Monica rolled her eyes and started to pursue.-
[20:40] <Minaplo> [Eventually, Mr. Vulcan came to a stop at a small, innocuous apartment building in Akihabara. He got out, and let his heavy drive the car away.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["We probably only have fifteen minutes before muscle gets back." Said Subaru, taking out his maspistol. "You ready?"-
[20:46] <Minaplo> ["Worry about yourself, copper." Said Monica, stepping out of the car.-
[20:52] <Minaplo> [The apartment building lobby was quiet and sterile. It was clean and tidy but looked distinctly unlived in- the building message board had only a single post on it, which Subaru noted was from 2017.-
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["Creepy." Said Monica. "There has to be more than one occupant, surely?"-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, place is probably full." Said Subaru. "They probably don't talk to each other much is all."-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["Odd."-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["Not really. This is Akihabara, the Mecca of asocial shut-in creeps." Said Subaru, heading for the staircase.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["That your professional opinion, Inspector?" Asked Monica, following him.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Sure. We have an asocial shut-in creep up in the hospital. You ever heard of Ami Ito? I'll introduce the two of you," Said Subaru; he started to climb.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> [After about a minute of climbing, they came to the 4th floor, where Monica clicked her fingers. "This is it."-
[21:18] <Minaplo> [Into the hallway, then over to the third door on their left.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> [Monica took up position against the left-hand side of the door, Subaru to the right.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> [Subaru held up a hand showing three- then two- then one-
[21:26] <Minaplo> [Monica levelled her maspistol at the lock and fired.-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [A tight beam of red light burned right through the metal, leaving behind a melted hole; without pause she kept the beam up, cutting up through the latch.-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [Subaru swung about, kicked the door in-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["What the fuck-"-
[21:45] <Minaplo> [There wasn't time. Subaru aimed and fired-
[21:46] <Minaplo> [He struck Mr. Vulcan in the left shoulder; Vulcan yelped, but dove to the right, falling behind a coffee table. He grabbed something out of his coat-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [It was a large pistol made of a black, non-reflective material. As he aimed it at Subaru, the casing shucked open and slid backwards, revealing a silvery steel firing chamber, which telescoped outward.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["SUBARU! LOOK OUT-"-
[21:53] <Minaplo> [Subaru dove to the left just in time; a blinding-bright white-blue blast of light burst out of the barrel, ripping right through where he'd been standing. It tore through the door and the wall behind him completely, blasted into the apartment behind, then out into the night.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [The blow-back propelled Subaru mid-dive farther than he'd intended, slamming him head first into a refrigerator.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [His vision swam, and he became unbearably heavy-headed. By the time his head cleared, he wasn't sure if a minute or an hour had passed.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [He was in a kitchen, separated from the living room by a partition wall. The floor here was tiled in plain white, whilst the walls were painted an off-peach colour. Behind him was the refrigerator, whilst to his left was an oven.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [Monica was up against the partition wall, maspistol held high.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["M-Messina, what was that?" Said Subaru groggily.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Positron pistol." Said Monica. "On a high setting, too. If you hadn't dodged, there wouldn't be enough of you left to fit in a matchbox."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["Positron-?!" Subaru swore. "I hate Akihabara!"-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["He's retreated deeper into the house. Don't know what to- bathroom? Bedroom? Probably arming himself up." Said Monica.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["Oh good." Muttered Subaru, getting to his feet. "I can't wait to see what the over-equipped underworld of Tokyo-2 is gonna serve my ass up on tonight!"-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["It's still two to one-"-
[22:07] <Minaplo> [There was a low, machine-like 'whirr whirr' sound.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> [A thick black disc hurled itself down the hall and into the kitchen, turning sharply around.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> [It was held up by a burning red repulsor on its underside- and to Subaru's dismay, that wasn't all it had on its underside.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [A double-barrelled advanced-looking gun rotated around, locked onto Monica, and spat forth a rapid spray of blue energy bolts toward her.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> [Monica leapt aside, landing on her hand- and managed to propel herself upward onto her feet, the guns tracking her all the while.-
[22:11] <Minaplo> [She made another dive, this time further into the living room, landing behind a large fat sofa. The guns followed her, spraying a wave of bolts that ripped easily through the stuffed sofa-
[22:12] <Minaplo> [Subaru grabbed his maspistol, thumbed the fire setting to 'beam', aimed at the repulsor and fired.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [The maser-beam hit home, burning through the drone's repulsor and into its soft underbelly. It spun wildly out of control, whizzed menacingly into the hallway, and embedded itself two feet thick into the wall opposite.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Monica breathlessly.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, hey, what was that?" Shouted Subaru as he took up cover by the partition wall.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["That was a motherfucking UN combat drone with a modded casing." Said Monica.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["And the guns?"-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Pulse carbine."-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Argh!" Subaru swore. "God, I hate this fucking ward!"-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["I'm starting to see why." Muttered Monica. "Fuck me, what next?"-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["I didn't think he'd be this hard to take down." Said Subaru. "But if we don't hurry, that goon-"-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I know, I'm thinking!" Said Monica.-
[22:18] <Minaplo> [A third voice entered the conversation now- Mr. Vulcan's. Subaru had trouble placing the accent. "Who the fuck are you guys?"-
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["ERAD, PSB!" Shouted Subaru. "Give yourself up or face the consequences!"-
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["PSB? The motherfucking Public Security Bureau?" Snapped Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["What other PSB do you know, asshole?!"-
[22:19] <Minaplo> [And then something unexpected happened- Mr. Vulcan stepped out into the hallway.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["Fucking hell. I thought you assholes were triads or Yakuza or something." He said irritably. "If you'd just told me you were cops I wouldn't have tried to vape your stupid ass."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["We were hoping to take you by surprise." Said Monica.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["Yeah? Well fuck you, honey." Said Mr. Vulcan. "If I were that easy to take, the 14k would've fucked me in the ass halfway to Taiwan."-
[22:23] <Minaplo> [Subaru kept his maspistol trained on Mr. Vulcan's chest. "So… What, are you surrendering?"-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Let's say I'm negotiating, sure." Said Mr. Vulcan. "Triads or Yakuza don't really negotiate, but cops…?"-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["How do you know we're not just pretending to be cops?" Asked Monica.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["You're too poorly armed to be Kikkawa-Kai hitmen." Said Mr. Vulcan with a shrug.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["Son of a bitch." Swore Subaru.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> [Monica coughed suspiciously several times.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["So, officers." Said Mr. Vulcan, taking a seat in a plush armchair. "Is there a reason you've kicked your way into my apartment without warning?"-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["You're an illegal alien," Said Subaru, but even as he said it Mr. Vulcan was whipping out a passport.-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Gimme that." Snapped Monica, snatching it out of Mr. Vulcan's hand. "A Chinese passport, huh?"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, you look real Chinese." Said Subaru drily. "Light that fake up, please, Monica."-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["I'm from Hong Kong." Said Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Subaru saw Monica's expression twist into one that he usually associated with a crushing migraine.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [Subaru could, at this very moment- his head still pounding from being thrown into a refrigerator- sympathise.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> ["Do you even speak this, asshole?" Said Subaru, slipping into flawless Cantonese.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> ["I hope a mangy dog fucks your mother," Said Mr. Vulcan- in Cantonese.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Subaru sighed.-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Tell you guys what," Said Mr. Vulcan, smirking, "we'll skip past the part where you guys nail me for illegal possession of unauthorised firearms and get right to the point. You're here to offer me a job, right?"-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["Maybe." Said Subaru, trying to sound non-committal.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure. ERAD goes up against an Iron Guard, gets its ass kicked, a week later they're kicking in my door. That's a real coincidence."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["So you heard about that, huh?" Said Monica.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["News travels fast underground." Said Mr. Vulcan. "You guys wanna even up the odds. That's cool. But I don't come cheap."-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["Why offer to us?" Said Subaru. "You could offer to the Yakuza, or the… Uh, Triads. You know there's no actual triads in Tokyo, right?"-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["Haha. You believe that? That's funny." Said Mr. Vulcan, ignoring Subaru's stricken expression. "Anyway, that's a good point. Maybe I will."-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["Go ahead." Said Subaru.-
[22:43] <Minaplo> [But Mr. Vulcan didn't move.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> [And now it was Subaru's turn to smirk.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["Let's see. You're packing weapons and tech that the Kikkawa-kai and triads would literally murder to get." Said Subaru. "And you're fairly sure they won't negotiate either, which is why you shot to kill. You hear we're cops, and you surrender just like that… A little too quickly, actually."-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["Rubbish." Said Mr. Vulcan, but Subaru noted the way he glanced away nervously.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["It can't be money you're after, the Kikkawa-kai are loaded." Said Subaru. "You could be fleeing UN agents, but if you did, why would you leap at the chance to join an organisation that just very famously got infiltrated by them?"-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["I, uh…"-
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["I don't think you're lying about pissing off the 14k." Said Subaru. "So you fled to Japan, perhaps trying to sell your shit to the Alves, but also trying to get protection from the Kikkawa-kai. But somehow you fucked that up, you pissed them off, you…"-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [Subaru glanced at Monica… And then his eyes wandered downward, where Monica's skirt ended about mid-thigh.
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["… Did you sleep with someone you weren't supposed to, Mr. Vulcan? A yakuza's daughter, maybe?" Said Subaru.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan's head sunk into his hands.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed, but it was a cruel laugh. "You bad, bad, bad boy, Mr. Vulcan. Don't tell me you knocked her up, too?"-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan began nodding furiously.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["You stupid motherfucker." Said Subaru. "You're lucky they didn't feed you into a woodchipper."-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["You can't be that stupid." Said Monica. "Surely not."-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["She seduced me!" Protested Mr. Vulcan through his muffled hands.-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["What, she seduced you so hard you couldn't put on a condom, asshole?" Said Subaru, grinning viciously.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["I didn't have time!" Said Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["Oh fuck off. You had time. They don't take long."-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["I didn't have any on me." Muttered Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["You could've bought some from a vending machine." Said Monica. "There's one on the ground floor, even."-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, because that's a winning trade in Akihabara." Muttered Subaru.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["I could've, but they're made for Japanese men; they're too small." Said Mr. Vulcan waspishly.-
[23:00] <Minaplo> [There was a moment of silence.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [Then, before anyone could say anything, Monica stood up, crossed the distance, and drove a taser into Mr. Vulcan's chest.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["That's for trying to feel me up, creep." Said Monica as Mr. Vulcan fell, twitching, onto the ground. "Want a go, Subaru?"-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["No, no. If I do it it's police brutality, but if you do it, it's art. Please continue." Said Subaru lightly.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Monica with a smirk. "C'mon, let's dump this guy in the trunk and get going."-
[23:03] <Minaplo> ["Good call." Said Subaru, holstering his maspistol.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [30 minutes later, the two of them had carted Mr. Vulcan off to PSB HQ, dumped him into a cell, and were already on their way back to the hospital- over Subaru's lame protestations.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> ["So," Said Monica as they pulled into the carpark, "what do you think now? Closer to evening those odds?"-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Absolutely." Said Subaru. "Mr. Vulcan seems like the real deal, rotten-egg personality or no. He'll probably be expensive, but with Ito hacking Yakuza accounts I don't think it'll be too much of a problem. If he can outfit us properly… That's a load off my mind. That's a fighting chance."-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["I'm glad to hear it." Said Monica with a grin. "You guys fought your hearts out against that Iron Guard- you deserve this, if nothing else."-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["Thanks, Monica." Said Subaru.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["… Did you want me to pay you for your help tonight?" Asked Subaru. "It sounds like you earned some sort of reward."-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["Hmmm. My heart says I'm doing it because I like the company, but my brain says I actually do need money…"-
[23:17] <Minaplo> [Subaru laughed. "How much do you want?"-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Million yen?" Offered Monica.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Alright, consider it done." Said Subaru. "Paid in yen or francs?"-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Oh, half and half?"-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Sure. Come by the office next week and I'll set you up." Said Subaru, getting out of the car.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["I'll be there." Said Monica, blowing him a kiss. "Rest up, Tsukuretta Man~"-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Oh, shut up."-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [And so Monica drove off, laughing; Subaru shook his head wryly and walked into the hospital.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> […-
[20:39] <Minaplo> [A week after the apprehension of Mr. Vulcan, Subaru sent down a message to the TMPD's special anti-Yakuza task force, requesting yet another in-force attack on a Yakuza warehouse.-
[20:49] <Minaplo> [Late that night, Snr. Sergeant Hideki of the TMPD went home, ordered dinner from a nearby takeaway, had a shower, then went out to grab his food. As he entered the crowded restaurant he approached the counter, leaned over and dropped several notes of cash into the clerk's hand- along with a note. He then took his food and went home.-
[20:49] <Minaplo> [The clerk passed the note onto the manager, who rung up the owner.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [In turn, the owner made a call of his own- to his son back at home, who sighed, walked outside, leapt on his motorcycle and then took off, arriving 20 minutes later by a dingy warehouse.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [He barked a warning at the toughest, largest yakuza on site, then promptly went home.-
[20:53] <Minaplo> [That yakuza in turn began shouting at his underlings, gesturing toward the three half-laden trucks that sat by the main gate. His goons quickly went to work, throwing crates and bags into the trailers.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [By the time the police task force arrive and kick in the door, the warehouse is once again empty, except for crates filled with, once again, Tsukuretta dolls.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [But this time, the Tsukuretta Man isn't there.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> […-
[21:09] <Minaplo> [The three trucks rolled along the road, the only things on it bar themselves. The street lights here barely worked, and the buildings on each side of the road were either boarded up or just empty.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [In fact, so empty was the street that the three trucks travelled abreast, taking up all four lanes.-
[21:17] <Minaplo> [Behind the wheel of the middle truck was a tall, muscular man named Katsuo- the very same man who'd ran the warehouse.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [Sitting next to him, a railgun resting carelessly in his lap, was Susumu, a smaller, thinner man. Where Katsuo was shaven bald, Susumu wore his hair quite long at the back, and also had a small, ragged goatee.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["Stupid fuckers fell for it again." Said Susumu.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [Katsuo smirked. "DIdn't think the cops would make the same mistake twice. They gotta know by now, right?"-
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["They're probably shitless." Said Susumu. "Ol' Tanky fucked 'em up the other week, now they don't wanna go anywhere without another 40 coppers behind 'em."-
[21:25] <Minaplo> [Katsuo chuckled in response, then fell silent.-
[21:27] <Minaplo> [For a few minutes, the only sound in the cabin came from the radio, as the station played Lune la Pucelle's newest song, Angelic Face. Susumu and Katsuo let the singer's emotional pop wash over them, letting them slowly tune out of the dull, washed out surroundings of this dilapidated part of Tokyo-2.-
[21:28] <Minaplo> [Yet above them, about fifty metres above, soared a small object. It was like a round oval, made of black, non-reflective metal…-
[21:28] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:34] <Minaplo> [Once again, they all gathered in the operations room, a little more battered and beaten than last time, yet still kicking. Ito had to come in a wheelchair, dutifully pushed along by Kaito.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["Alright, everyone. I'd like to introduce you to our newest member." Said Subaru.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> [All eyes turned toward the man sitting to Subaru's right. The man shot them a smirk.-
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["As we all saw and felt the other night, we're more than a match for any yakuza in terms of skill and smarts, but our equipment is inferior as a whole. We can try to even this up over time by appropriating their goods, but if ERAD has even a small hope of surviving as an org, then realistically we need to close that gap now."-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["This man is Mr. Vulcan. He's how we close it." Finished Subaru.-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["Hi." Said Mr. Vulcan.-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["So what's the plan?" Asked Watanabe.-
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["This is the plan- we have the location of the trucks. So what we're gonna do is call the TMPD in to storm the place." Said Subaru.-
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["But the moles-" Began Carter, but Subaru held up his hand.-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["Will warn them, yes, and the trucks'll run, but we want them running." Said Subaru. "We're going to track the trucks and intercept them en route."-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["How're gonna track 'em?" Asked Ito.-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["That's where you come in, honey." Said Mr. Vulcan, ignoring Ito's visible recoil. He walked over to her and held out what looked like a computer strapped to a gauntlet.-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["What's this?" Asked Ito.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["This is a remote control device for a UN New World Army Combat Drone." Said Mr. Vulcan with a smirk. "Although my drone's a lot better than their mass-produced crap. You can load it out with a pulse carbine, an underslung grenade launcher, a short-range EMP director or a mid-strength kinetic barrier. And it's all yours- so long as you promise not to stalk me with it."-
[21:46] <Minaplo> [Not even the lame joke could stop Ito's eyes from widening. "A combat drone?" She said in excitement. "Oh man, I've always wanted one of these-"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Fucking nerd." Muttered Subaru.-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Gimme that." Said Ito, snatching the gauntlet out of Mr. Vulcan's hand.-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Hey!"-
[21:49] <Minaplo> [Within a second, Ito had the gauntlet strapped on and the computer up and running. "Fucking wicked." She breathed.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> [/-/
[21:50] <Minaplo> [Back at PSB HQ, Ito sat alone in the office; in front of her was a large television screen through which she watched the drone's feed. On her arm sat the drone control, and on the chairs to her left and right were several kilograms worth of soft drinks, pocky, chips and ice cream.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["This is Ito. Trucks have crossed the line. Kick their ass!"-
[21:50] <Minaplo> […-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [("This is Ito. Trucks have crossed the line. Kick their ass!")-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu Ogata looked out over the street.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [From her perch atop the tallest building in the area, she could see quite a lot- the trucks heading toward the intersection as well as Carter's car rushing in to cut them off.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [Carter came to a full stop across the intersection, parking so as to block most of it off- and exposing the right side of the car to the trucks.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [As Chinatsu expected, the trucks started to slow- not because they intended to stop, but out of simple caution.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [She closed her eyes, took a breath-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [Leapt backwards, then ran toward the edge of the building. As her heavily booted feet struck the roof's edge she coiled, then sprang into the air.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [The building and the street below fell away, and for a split second, she felt weightless.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu began to tilt forwards, turning the jump into a forward somersault. As she did so, she grasped the two knives in her hand firmly- but these weren't ordinary knives. They were connected to her gauntlets by a strong, yet thin cable, and the knives themselves resembled black, bladed yoyos more than anything.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [She hurled them downward.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [The two knives struck the roof of the rightmost truck's cabin; they pulled Chinatsu downward, carrying her weight. She tucked her feet tightly together, finished the somersault…-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["For you, Ms. Ogata, I've got these." Said Mr. Vulcan, popping onto the table three pairs of objects.-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["These," He said, holding up a pair of thick metallic boots, "are mechanical boots, similar to the sort you'd find in power armour, but they don't need an external power source. They'll give real heft to your kicks, and since you like bouncing around so much- not that I'm complaining, heh- they'll make you fucking fly."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [Subaru rolled his eyes.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["And these are the matching set." Said Mr. Vulcan, holding up a pair of thick-looking gauntlets that terminated in studded metallic gloves. "Stun gloves. You'll punch harder, break more bones, but they can be set to deliver a really painful taser-shock in case you feel like taking them in alive."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["And finally, well." Mr. Vulcan picked up the yoyo-knives. He smirked.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["You hardly need me to explain these, do you?" Said Mr. Vulcan in Cantonese.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu stuck him with such a dark look that his smile fell from his face in a second.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." She said, her voice hard.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:10] <Minaplo> [When Chinatsu struck the cabin roof, she didn't just hit it, she smashed straight through it.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [The impact was enough to halt the truck in its tracks for just a second- and so the trailer promptly slammed into the cabin.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [The cabin stuck on the ground and lurched forth, suddenly balancing precariously on its front bars. The two yakuza within were smashed brutally against the dashboard and windscreen by the impact; the passenger, who hadn't been wearing his seatbealt, was hurtled through the screen and out into the street, his body slashed by dozens of shards of glass.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu had punched straight into the cabin, practically unharmed- she had been expecting this after all, unlike the hapless yakuza. Before the driver could recover, she punched into his chest with both hands and squeezed. Sudden jolts of electricity surged into his body; he spasmed and flailed in a jerky, stiff manner, until Chinatsu released him, allowing him to fall hard against the
[22:13] <Minaplo> steering wheel.-
[22:18] <Minaplo> [Watanabe saw all of this, waiting as he was in the back seat of Carter's car. He quickly leapt out-
[22:21] <Minaplo> [The two yakuza riding shotgun in the surviving trucks were leaning out of the windows, railguns in hand. They levelled them at the car and fired wildly-
[22:21] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["So I went over the reports of your last fight. Looks like you guys got your asses kicked." Said Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["No fucking shit." Said Watanabe.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Thing is, most of you guys had an excuse, but your boss got his fucking shit wrecked by some random yakuza mobsters." Said Mr. Vulcan, his tone mocking. "Sad, right? So I figured you'd all appreciate these."-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [He placed a large black case on the table and cracked it open. Within was a suit of armour, made of interlocking black plates with some mesh areas around the joints.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Power armour?" Said Carter hopefully.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["Nah." Said Mr. Vulcan. "Power armour's a little tricky at the moment- it requires its own pretty heavy duty power source- so for now I'm sticking you all with this."-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Carter looked disappointed, but Watanabe nodded at Mr. Vulcan. "I take it it's an improvement?"-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["Over your shitty combat armour it is." Said Mr. Vulcan. "The armour's refined surovite, and I've used surovite mesh on the lighter areas. The angle of the armour should cause a few slugs to deflect away, and it's pretty rugged too. It also comes with an overlay of shadowline- helps when you want to keep a low profile. And the helmet… I was shocked, truly fucking shocked, to find that
[22:29] <Minaplo> you guys didn't have any Sentinel headsets. Well, I fixed that."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> [Suddenly Carter was interested again, his eyebrows rising. "Oh yeah? Hey, that's pretty cool."-
[22:30] <Minaplo> ["But you," Said Mr. Vulcan, pointing at Watanabe, "You get a special suit."-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Up came another case; in this one was another suit of armour, but the plates were obviously thicker. The shoulder pads were heavier as well, and extended down over the bicep. Attached to the back of the armour via a magnet was a large, round shield.-
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Watanabe's eyebrows rose. "You gave me a shield?"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Surovite shield with an ablative layer." Said Mr. Vulcan. He took the shield off and tossed it to Watanabe, who caught it.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["Nice." Said Watanabe appreciatively, testing the weight. "Not too heavy either. Hey, there's a button here-"-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, wait-"-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [The outer edges of the helmet suddenly retracted; at the same time, a band of short clubs extended out of the shield, their tips suddenly sparking with electricity.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [Watanabe frowned. "You gave my shield tasers."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Tesla clubs, yeah." Said Mr. Vulcan. "Sticking shocky things on shit was kind of our deal back in the LN…"-
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["Heh. Well, I think I can take it from here…"-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:37] <Minaplo> [Quick as a flash, Watanabe had the shield out along his left arm. He brought it up, throwing himself between the car and the guns.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Most of the rounds ricocheted harmlessly off the shield; a few struck elsewhere, across his armoured legs, and didn't do much there either.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [A few lucky ones managed to strike the mesh areas along the back of his right knee. One was deflected harmlessly, but another punched through.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Son of a bitch!" He swore.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [Within a second, Kaito lunged out of the car and onto the ground; he rolled to the left, behind Watanabe.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["Hey, you. Big guy." Said Mr. Vulcan.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["Yes?" Said Kaito shortly; he'd been wearing a scowl ever since Vulcan had creeped on Ito.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> ["You're a doctor, right? Here. I figure this should make you happy."-
[22:50] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan dumped yet another gauntlet onto the table. This one was long- it extended from Kaito's wrist to his elbow. It was quite bulky too, and built into the side of it was what looked like a random assortment of syringes (attached to various dosage capsules), cutting tools, scalpels, tweezers, coagulators and other medical tools.-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [Kaito's face brightened, however. "A mediglove? I've only ever seen one from a distance- I can have this?"-
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Mr. Vulcan with a smirk. "I've also brought along six shots of biogel, but it's all I have so don't waste it."-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [/-/
[22:10] <Minaplo> [Kaito lunged out with his medigloved hand and grabbed Watanabe firmly by the leg. By themselves, the meditools went to work, cleaning the wound, extracting the bullet, spraying the injury with a very small injection of biogel, then stitching the wound shut… All within a matter of four or five seconds.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Fuck me." Swore Watanabe, wincing slightly as the bullet came out.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Next time, get less shot." Said Kaito flatly.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, yeah, why don't you wear this armour and we can all crouch behind you, wiseass?"-
[22:21] <Minaplo> [The two yakuza were too distracted by the car and Watanabe to pay attention to the skies. Even if they did it wasn't likely that they'd see the combat drone flying in low.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> [A metal ring running along its underside began to pulse, then spin quickly. The drone flew low, just above the right-hand side truck's cabin, then tilted downward-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [The ring suddenly stopped, sending a strange electric pulse rippling through the air. The pulse quickly flowed through the cabin.-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [The gunner's rifle suddenly jammed.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [A moment later the steering wheel turned hard to the left; the whole truck careened off the road. A second later it ploughed through a dirty abandoned factory with enough force to hurl the gunner through the window.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [Atop a building on the far side of the intersection stood Subaru.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Excellent work, Ito. One left. Carter, can you handle this one?" He said.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Can do!" Said Carter. He reached for his gun holster-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [/-/
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Now." Said Mr. Vulcan. "I know there's something you've all been waiting for."-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [The group stared at him, the general mood a cross between bemusement and irritation.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan sighed. "God, you lot could stand to be a lot more receptive."-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [He lifted up onto the table one more black box. He cracked it open-
[23:15] <Minaplo> [Within were six hard holsters, each holding a single black, sleek pistol.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["He~llo." Said Carter, a sudden spark coming to his eyes. "What're these?"-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["These," Said Mr. Vulcan, a smug glee reentering his voice, "are one of my babies." He took one of the pistols out.-
[23:17] <Minaplo> ["This is an upgrade on your standard Mk-2 UN positron pistol. It features a lightweight design, a more efficient power pack and the same maximal super-settings that your larger positron guns have. It also has a non-lethal maser setting because I guess you're cops or some shit."-
[23:17] <Minaplo> ["You call that an upgrade?" Said Ito. "That sounds like it's in a whole different category."-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Well yes, I agree." Said Mr. Vulcan cheerfully. He tossed one to Carter, who caught it out of the air.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["Pretty light." Said Carter in surprise. He tested the weapon's weight, turning it to and fro; then he aimed it at the wall. He pushed a nub on the side, and the black casing slid open; the firing barrel extended. "Oh man. How many shots does it take?"-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Six per fuel cell." Said Mr. Vulcan. "Three on higher settings. The maser setting is good for around a hundred shots. On a full setting it can shear a car in half."-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Cool." Said Carter. "What do we call 'em?"-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Well, I had an extremely righteous name for them," Said Mr. Vulcan airily. "But in light of your, ah, purpose…"-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["You may call them 'ERADicators'."-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [/-/
[23:30] <Minaplo> [The ERADicator came out smoothly into Carter's hand.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [He leaned out the window, set the nub to 'maximum', and aimed.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> [The casing slid cleanly back, the firing chamber extended, and for a moment the crackles of light gathered around the chamber and the casing both-
[23:40] <Minaplo> [A second later a bright blue beam burst outward. It flew toward the truck cabin, pierced right through the middle, then out the other side.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [A massive gout of flame burst out of the back of the cabin, followed a split second later by the cabin exploding, a raging fireball expanding in all directions.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Target is down!" Said Carter. "I repeat, target is eradicated-"-
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Don't encourage him-" Snapped Chinatsu.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Did that really happen?" Murmured Subaru to himself. "We just took down three yakuza trucks in about eight seconds flat. It was easy…"-
[23:43] <Minaplo> ["Fuck that, I'll give Mr. Vulcan a big fucking kiss when I get home if I have to!" Said Carter cheerfully.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["We shouldn't be so gleeful." Murmured Kaito. "It's no good thing to take life-"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [("Oi!") Shouted Ito over the comms. ("I hate to break up the party, but Skybat just picked up a real hot heat sig heading right your way!")-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [The group went silent immediately.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["Ito, can you verify visually?" Said Subaru a moment later.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [("Gimme a sec-")-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [("Yep. It's him. Tank-kun's on his way!")-
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["Everyone, in position!" Shouted Subaru.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [Watanabe and Kaito leapt around the car, taking cover behind it; Chinatsu dug herself out of the wreck of her truck cabin and Skybat flew higher into the air.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [("OH SHIT CARTER GO-")-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [Carter instinctively slammed the pedal; the car skidded off. It didn't matter where-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [A moment later a juggernaut of flame and metal landed where the car had been. The impact was so heavy that it cratered the asphalt and knocked Watanabe and Kaito off their feet.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [It was the Iron Guard.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [But this time had one of those hulking jump packs.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [In his left hand was a hefty, brutal bolt pistol, and in his right…-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [The sound of a revving motor filled the air.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["Hyper sword." Murmured Subaru. "Fucker's got a hyper sword!"-
[20:11] <Minaplo> [The Guard fired his pistol twice at the car; the first shot went wide but the second pierced the rear-right wheel, which tore apart in a burst of flame. The car skidded in a wild, erratic circle.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> [The Guard was already moving, however; he leapt at Kaito and swung his sword down, the whine of the vibration hanging menacingly in the air.-
[20:22] <Minaplo> [A second before connection, however, Watanabe jumped forward and punched the sword aside; it struck the ground, cutting a foot into the asphalt.-
[20:30] <Minaplo> [A long gouge had been seared across Watanabe's right gauntlet, but it hadn't gone any deeper than the armour.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> [The Guard shouted in frustration, raised his left leg and tried to stomp Watanabe in the chest. Watanabe rolled to the side-
[20:31] <Minaplo> [The Guard pointed its pistol at him-
[20:31] <Minaplo> [Watanabe tugged his ERADicator free at the same moment and fired.-
[20:34] <Minaplo> [The Guard had fired too, but the bolt shell hadn't left the barrel before the positron blast hit.-
[20:35] <Minaplo> [The bolt detonated, ripping the gun apart from the inside and shredding the magazine. A chemical roar filled the air as ignited propellant shrouded the Guard's left arm in a curtain of flame.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [The Guard's gauntlet remained mostly undamaged, nonetheless. With his other hand he pulled his hyper sword free.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [By now Kaito had rolled to his feet and now stood a few metres away, both arms up in his boxer stance.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [The Guard lunged, sword aimed at Kaito's chest. Kaito dodged aside, just in time for the Guard to swing the blade outwards- nicking Kaito in the side.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> [Before Kaito could recover, the Guard was bringing his sword up in a vertical cut, right towards Kaito's right arm-
[21:08] <Minaplo> [A pair of yoyo-blades spun through the air and across the Guard's arm, one of them slicing through a tiny gap in the armour at the elbow. The swing went wide-
[21:09] <Minaplo> [Slashing across the surface of Kaito's arm instead of straight through it. Blood splashed from the wound, but now Kaito had time to jump backwards, putting distance between himself and the Guard.-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["Watch out for that sword, Ogata!" Cried Kaito as the Guard turned to face Chinatsu.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [The Guard swung upwards, trying to cut the yoyo-blades' cables, but they withdrew too fast.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu leapt forward under the Guard's swing; she rammed both fists into his jaw. The stun-shock barely fazed the Guard, but the impact itself caused him to stagger backwards slightly.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Now," Said Subaru, seeing it all through his tactical helmet- at any one time he could see through the helmets of his team, and a digital map overlaid their positions on the surroundings. "Pin him down!"-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [Kaito lunged forward, grabbing the Guard's sword-arm with both hands whilst it was still in the air. The guard tried to swing down- but Kaito's muscle and sheer bulk pinned the arm almost in place.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [The Guard prepared to jump, his pack's turbines staring to shriek; but Watanabe dove to the side, firing his ERADicator point-blank into the Guard's left jet. It blasted apart, the Guard barely rising an inch only to be jerked violently to the right.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> [As the Guard stumbled, Chinatsu unleashed a powerful spinkick into the Guard's left knee. Already off-balance, it was enough to send the Guard tumbling toward the ground, where he fell to his knees.-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [("Taking Tank-kun down!") Shouted Ito. Skybat the drone entered a sharp dive, spun upwards behind the Guard, and fired one of its disrupting pulse bursts into the Guard's armour's backpack reactor.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [The Guard spasmed- then went still, the reactor's power seemingly flickering.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [("Fuckin' got you this time!") Shouted Ito over the comms- before letting out a long piercing whoop.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [Subaru winced, reflexively clapping a hand over his helmeted ears- to no use.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["I'm not gonna take any chances this time. Someone grab that sword and get rid of it-"-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu was already leaping up the Guard's armour, reaching out to punch the sword free-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [When the Guard surged, smashing Chinatsu square in the side with its flaming arm. Chinatsu flew back a dozen metres, managing just barely to tuck into a safe roll as she landed.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Kaito strained against the Guard's sword arm, keeping it pinned, but the Guard smacked Kaito around the side several times with his flaming fist; Kaito staggered, but remained firm.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [So the Guard simply surged toward Kaito in a brutal tackle- enough to buckle a car, and certainly enough to send Kaito sprawling.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> [The Guard rose to his full height now, and took a few steps back. He eyed the group- now scattered- warily.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Trash child! Why didn't it work?" Snapped Subaru.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [("Argh- his armour's shielding is too strong. The drone's just doesn't have a strong enough pulse generator-")-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["You can't… I dunno, reroute power or something?"-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [("No, you idiot! I mean, yes, but I'd have to turn everything else offline too!")-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["Son of a bitch."-
[23:02] <Minaplo> [The Guard raised his sword, point extended outwards toward the group. With his flaming hand he grabbed a pouch off his belt and threw it to the ground.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> [It burst, a large puddle of some sort of liquid spreading onto the ground.-
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["What's he doing…?" Muttered Subaru.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [The Guard then ripped open another, larger pouch, and took out what looked like a coil of rope- albeit a metallic rope.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [The Guard tossed the rope into the liquid, then plucked it out of it with his flaming hand.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [In an instant, the liquid burst into flame, as did the rope.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [The Guard lifted the rope and cracked it like a whip- a long, flaming whip.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["No fucking way." Swore Carter, who had just pulled himself out of the car- holding in his left hand a long extended barrel for his pistol.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["And here's us without a wizard." Muttered Kaito.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [("Haha, good one.")-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["Alright. That rope can play keepaway real well, but he can't be everywhere at once. All we need is to distract him and take him down with our ERADicators." Said Subaru. "Bright, take aim at his head- we'll tie him up so that he can't juke out of the way."-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["Got it."-
[23:07] <Minaplo> ["Ogata, Watanabe, you're on first. Attack from the sides, try to keep opposite each other!" Said Subaru.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu and Watanabe both charged at the same time, running at opposed angles.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [And so the Guard chose Watanabe, putting Chinatsu at his back. The Guard flicked his flame-whip out, caught Watanabe around the left leg, and pulled.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [Watanabe suddenly tumbled to the ground-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [And before anyone could react, the Guard leapt the distance, brought his sword down and sheared Watanabe's left arm off at the shoulder.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Subaru's jaw dropped- just as Watanabe began shrieking.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Oh my God." Murmured Kaito to himself.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> [Even Chinatsu was stunned, stopping in her tracks to stare.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Fuck." Swore Subaru. "Alright. Chinatsu, pull him away from Watanabe- Kaito, I need you to stabilise him. Carter- covering fire."-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [At the same time, Subaru grabbed the top of the rope that led over the edge of the building's roof, pulled himself over and began to slide down.-
[13:42] <Minaplo> [There was about sixty metres between Subaru's position and the centre of the fight. Subaru began to run toward it, tugging his ERADicator free.-
[13:44] <Minaplo> [He'd appreciated the firepower and score-evening Mr. Vulcan's weapons and equipment had given his team, but now it was becoming readily obvious that it was saving lives, too: as Chinatsu ran in toward the Guard, just barely leaping over a crack of the whip, Subaru realised that without the gear, the Guard would've been free to simply finish Watanabe off- Chinatsu wouldn't have even posed
[13:44] <Minaplo> a threat.-
[13:46] <Minaplo> [As it was, the Guard had to react to Chinatsu, her augmented gauntlets, boots and yoyo-knives posing at least some semblance of a threat. It backed away shortly, swinging its sword out in an arc, creating a deadly zone.-
[13:47] <Minaplo> [Indeed, between sword and whip, simply trying to get close to the Guard unharmed was a nearly impossible task for any of them.-
[13:48] <Minaplo> [Fortunately, that wasn't as much an issue now than it used to be- Carter fired several times, positron bolts streaking toward the Guard.-
[13:49] <Minaplo> [Not even a Guard could afford to simply soak up positron fire, and it juked out of the way- creating space between Guard and injured Watanabe. Carter kept firing until his power canister ran dry- then took out Kaito's ERADicator and kept up the barrage, forcing the Guard further away.-
[13:51] <Minaplo> [The Guard was also finding it hard to swing the whip and juke away at the same time, finally giving Chinatsu her chance. She slid in quick, barely two metres from the Guard, and flicked out her yoyo-knives. They wrapped around the Guard's neck, and Chinatsu pulled- the blades slashing through the flexible rubbery seal between chestplate and helmet.-
[13:52] <Minaplo> [Blood spurted outwards in both directions, and on any normal enemy it would've been an almost certain kill- absolutely a crippling blow. The Iron Guard merely staggered backwards, sagging for a moment at the knees- before the blood stopped of its own accord.-
[13:55] <Minaplo> [It was all Kaito needed; he rushed in, hoisted Watanabe up across his broad shoulders, grabbed up the lonely dismembered arm and ran away toward the cover of a nearby building. Once there, Kaito dropped Watanabe gently and went to work with his mediglove, smearing biogel on both shoulder and arm and trying to stick the two back together.-
[13:56] <Minaplo> [Carter, meanwhile, landed a shot square on the Guard's chestplate, sending it reeling to the ground- the melted, cratered impact sending an acrid trail of foul-smelling smoke curling into the air.-
[13:57] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu charged in; she stamped her foot as hard as possible on the Guard's sword hand, doing only a little damage to the hand itself but crushing the sword's hilt into twisted ruin.-
[13:58] <Minaplo> [The blade spun off across the ground for a solid twenty metres before coming to a halt.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [Before Chinatsu could finish the job, however, the Guard spun its legs up in a round, wide kick, catching Chinatsu across the left side and sending her body careening for a dozen metres.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [The Guard then leapt himself to his feet, narrowly ducking under one of Carter's charged positron blasts.-
[14:00] <Minaplo> ["Damn! Reloading!" Shouted Carter, who crouched down, ejecting his pistols' steaming power packs and grabbing two more from his belt.-
[14:00] <Minaplo> [It had seemed to Subaru that they had the Guard on the back foot, but…-
[14:01] <Minaplo> [Watanabe was out for the fight, Kaito was looking after him. Chinatsu was picking herself up off the ground, Carter was reloading and Ito's electronic shock hadn't worked.-
[14:02] <Minaplo> [Subaru was the only one able to actually press their hard-earned advantage at the moment in the all-too-tight window before it was lost. He raised his pistol and began to fire-
[14:02] <Minaplo> [But the Guard weaved and danced away, the bolts burning themselves harmlessly through nearby buildings.-
[14:02] <Minaplo> ["Damnit, he's too fast." Swore Subaru. "I can't get a proper hit-"-
[14:03] <Minaplo> [The Guard leapt toward Subaru and cracked his flaming whip outwards- it caught Subaru in the chest, and even the impact of it was enough to send Subaru crashing to earth.-
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["Augh-"-
[14:04] <Minaplo> [Through pure instinct, Subaru began rolling to the side as quickly as possible- just quick enough to evade the whip striking where he'd been a moment before.-
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["We- need to- slow him down-" Gasped Subaru as he kept rolling, then clumsily got to his knees just in time to see the Guard looming over him, about to kick his head in.-
[14:06] <Minaplo> [In panicked reflex, Subaru raised his pistol, set it to the highest setting, and fired point-blank upwards.-
[14:06] <Minaplo> [It missed the Guard- wasting valuable energy- but it was enough to force the Guard away from him.-
[14:06] <Minaplo> [Subaru got to his feet.-
[14:06] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu was up now, and Carter had finished reloading…-
[14:07] <Minaplo> ["Ito, you said you could shock him properly if your Skybat had more power, right?" Asked Subaru.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [("Yes, but I'd have to turn everything else off- propulsion, everything, it'd be worthless!")-
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["… Mmm. Chinatsu, I need you to run interference again. Just keep it distracted." Said Subaru.-
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Chinatsu shortly- and then she was off, charging toward the Guard, leaping over the whip-
[14:09] <Minaplo> ["Ito, I want you to do it. Turn everything off and put all your power into the electronic shock." Said Subaru.-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [("But propulsion-")-
[14:09] <Minaplo> ["Leave it to us! Just do it!"-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [Ito let out a short growl of frustration. A moment later, the Skybat began to fall out of the air, its repulsor jet going dead.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> ["Carter, once that pulse shocks the Guard, hit him with everything you've got." Said Subaru.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> ["Got it." Said Carter- he reached behind him, grabbed the extended barrel and twisted it onto his pistol.-
[14:11] <Minaplo> [The Skybat was a mere second away from crashing into the ground- when Kaito grabbed it out of the air.-
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["Ito!"-
[14:11] <Minaplo> [("What?")-
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["Here's your propulsion!" Shouted Kaito- he held the drone against the crook of his right arm, coiled his body low, then with a mighty shout, hurled it like a discus toward the Guard.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> [the Skybat whizzed menacingly toward the Guard, spinning quickly and wildly as it went.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu had maneuvered the Guard away from Kaito- the Guard's back was turned.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["Now!" Shouted Subaru.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> [The Skybat unleashed its pulse a milisecond before impact.-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [the resulting flash of light was bright enough to nearly overwhelm their senses. Subaru and Kaito both threw her arms up to shield their eyes.-
[14:15] <Minaplo> [When the light died, however, they were rewarded with a truly beautiful sight-
[14:15] <Minaplo> [The Guard, near frozen in place by its own dead armour.-
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["Got you." Whispered Carter.-
[14:16] <Minaplo> [The Guard turned- achingly slowly- just in time to see the high-powered positron bolt strike it square between the eyes.-
[14:16] <Minaplo> [Subaru closed his eyes again.-
[14:17] <Minaplo> [When he opened them, he saw the Guard, body standing in the middle of the road- very obviously headless.-
[14:17] <Minaplo> [The Guard's body stood still for a moment, then toppled backwards like a falling statue, clattering to the ground- arms still absurdly held at the same position they had been a second ago.-
[14:18] <Minaplo> [There was near silence, except for the sparking of the dying Skybat and the slow sound of melting metal.-
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[14:19] <Minaplo> [("D… Did we do it?") Whispered Ito.-
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["I… I think we got it." Said Chinatsu, allowing herself the luxury of collapsing to the ground, lathered in sweat.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["Thank fucking God." Said Carter- he fell back into the car and started laughing.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["How's Watanabe doing, doctor?" Asked Subaru as he approached the prone Guard.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["he's stabilised. If he hurry now, we might be able to save the arm." Said Kaito.-
[14:21] <Minaplo> [("I've already called in our emergency reserves along with an ambulance.") Said Ito.-
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Thanks, Ito." Said Subaru sincerely. "You're ok."-
[14:22] <Minaplo> [("Yeah, yeah… I'm not helping for you, I-")-
[14:22] <Minaplo> [But Subaru had reached the Guard. He gave it an experimental kick.-
[14:22] <Minaplo> [For one absurd, horrified moment Subaru swore he saw the Guard spasm, about to stand up- Subaru leapt away in terror.-
[14:23] <Minaplo> [… But the Guard hadn't moved.-
[14:23] <Minaplo> [Laughing nervously to himself- especially under Chinatsu's gaze- Subaru stepped back over toward it and gave it another kick.-
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["Take that, you stupid overdesigned juggernaut son of a-"-
[14:23] <Minaplo> [Chinatsu cleared her throat.-
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["… Ugh."-
[14:24] <Minaplo> [Subaru sighed, kicked the Guard a third time, then began to speak. "I'm legally required to inform you that you have been charged with…?"-
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Possession of firearms and attempted murder?" Offered Chinatsu. "Along with assault with a deadly weapon, unauthorised possession of a deadly weapon…"-
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Oh, yes." Said Subaru. "All that. And-"-
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Possession of an authorised flying apparatus-"-
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that too." Said Subaru. He nudged the headless Guard again and said, sternly, "You have the right to reman silent."-
[14:26] <Minaplo> […-
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["How's the arm, Watanabe?" Asked Subaru.-
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, still stiff." Said Watanabe. "Nearly fucking lost it, though-"-
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Language, Watanabe." Said Ms. Hideyama reproachfully as she placed a bowl of vegetarian ramen in front of him.-
[14:31] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, Ms. Hideyama." Said Watanabe sheepishly- he bowed his head apologeticaly.-
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Said Ms. Hideyama, before moving on to serve the others.-
[14:32] <Minaplo> [It had been two weeks since that day.-
[14:33] <Minaplo> [In the hour after their defeat of the Guard, extra police arrived to secure the area, paramedics came to take Watanabe away and treat the others, and the military showed up to take back one of the precious Gojuu Shiki suits- which had been found in one of the trucks.-
[14:34] <Minaplo> [But then of course came the media.-
[14:35] <Minaplo> [And so the next day on all the papers was a picture of Subaru sitting primly on the stomach of the dead Iron Guard, the shot composed in such a way as to frame the three trashed trucks behind him.-
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["TSUKURETTA MAN TERRORISES TERRORISTS", had read the headline, which was a sure sign that media was a rubbish industry.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> [But nonetheless, things had improved almost instantly. A SSDF general had come out, talking about how impressive it was that ERAD had taken down an Iron Guard. The TMPD commissioner admitted that they'd recovered a truly impressive array of stolen goods and equipment from the trucks, and even had taken one of the drivers alive (which had frankly surprised everyone in ERAD).-
[14:38] <Minaplo> [After that, suddenly doors were opening. Bureaus and agencies that had completely ignored Subaru or merely deeply resented his presence were now much more receptive, willing to lend him personnel, information, even equipment.-
[14:39] <Minaplo> [Chairman Hitoyama himself had personally praised Subaru, telling him that his conduct with the Guard and Kikkawa-kai was 'exactly what he had wanted to see'.-
[14:40] <Minaplo> [And best of all, the group was now here, enjoying bowls of ramen- Ito was here, having mostly recovered from her injuries, and Watanabe even kept the arm.-
[14:41] <Minaplo> [They'd even allowed Mr. Vulcan to come.-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["I'm hungry." Complained Ito. "Can we start eating yet, shill-kun, or what?"-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Just wait a little longer, trash child." Said Subaru irritably- he glanced at the still-empty chair next to him.-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Your noodles will go soggy, Suba-chan." Said Ms. Hideyama worriedly.-
[14:43] <Minaplo> ["I know, I-" Subaru sighed, and glanced back at his team.-
[14:43] <Minaplo> [Mr. Vulcan had already started- Subaru fixed him with such a dark glance that he hurriedly dropped his chopsticks.-
[14:44] <Minaplo> [A minute passed.-
[14:44] <Minaplo> ["Fine, that's it. I can't wait anymore." Said Ito, picking up her chopsticks. "Let's go-"-
[14:44] <Minaplo> ["Sorry I'm late."-
[14:45] <Minaplo> [The group looked up- and Subaru smiled.-
[14:45] <Minaplo> [Nanako- free of the hospital, wearing a dark blue business suit with skirt- sat down next to him. "You didn't have to wait for me."-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Yes we did. Your stupid boyfriend made us wait, because oooh noooo gotta have your picture-perfect fuckin' kodak moment-" Started Ito.-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Shut up, trash child." Said Subaru and Nanako at the same time.-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh look, Ami." Said Chinatsu brightly. "Mummy and daddy are home."-
[14:47] <Minaplo> [Ito scowled, her face going such a brilliant red that Kaito started to laugh.-
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["D-Don't you start too, Kaito-"-
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["Well, I don't know about you, but I've been dying for proper dodgy street ramen for weeks." Said Nanako, taking her seat.-
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["Oh, Nana-chan, how could you say that about my ramen?" Said Ms. Hideyama, looking heart-broken.-
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["Dodgy is good! It has character." Said Nanako warmly. "Adds flavour."-
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["Hmmmm…"-
[14:49] <Minaplo> [A bowl was placed in front of Nanako, and she beamed, grabbing her chopsticks. "Let's eat!"-
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["Let's hear it for ERAD!" Shouted Carter. "The nastiest Yakuza-killers Tokyo's ever seen!"-
[14:50] <Minaplo> [The team cheered, completely ignoring the scandalised looks of bypassers.-
[14:50] <Minaplo> [Beneath the bench, Nanako's hand found Subaru's- they squeezed together and intertwined their fingers.-
[14:51] <Minaplo> [As they started to eat, Subaru would dimly hear the roar of a powerful motorcycle as it went past.-
[14:51] <Minaplo> [He glanced idly back…-
[14:51] <Minaplo> [Just long enough to catch a glimpse of a truly beautiful western woman riding a silver motorbike.-
[14:51] <Minaplo> [Subaru smiled.]

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