MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 1

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Zerro
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Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 1

Post by Zerro » Mon Sep 19, 2022 5:14 am

“So, we’re gonna kidnap this scrawny kid, Sir?” Daniels queries as he glances at the photograph in his hand, an eyebrow raised and his head slightly cocked to the side.

TL nods, “That’s right, Sport. Omoya Shinda, 16 years old, a student at Hiradongumi Senior High School. Apparently he’s managed to get his hands on some prototype program Warden has been developing. Obviously, they’d like it back as well as to have a word with our young gentleman.”

“Must be important if they put an Omega-2 out for it.”

“Affirmative,” Irwin confirms, standing nearby with a detached expression, “The program is related to Warden’s domestic mecha production project. To my understanding, it’s a pilot introduction simulation.”

Daniels’ eyes widen and he immediately shifts his gaze from the picture to his older Cellmate, “Woah! Really?? What the hell would a 16 year-old want with something like that? Is he one of those child-soldier spec ops kids, or something?”

“Negative. I believe the appeal is due to the training program being presented as a game.”

“...What?”

“The training software was modeled after several popular, multiplayer mecha games. I speculate that this was to assist younger candidates adapt to the speed and capabilities of a standard unit while disguising team-building and competitive exercises as casual fun.”

Daniels glances over towards Irwin with confused visage, “Why though? Giant robots are cool as hell! What’s the point of hiding the fact that its training software?”

“It’s basic indoctrination, Champ,” TL interjects, “Children and young adults are more susceptible to training when they don’t know they’re being trained. If you can make it fun and appealing, that only doubles the impact. Another reason, which is currently working in our favor, is camouflage. By disguising it as a game, Warden is less likely to be blackmailed or alert unwanted attention if the program falls into the wrong hands. Case and point: our current assignment.”

“Why do I feel like I’ve seen this in a movie...?” Daniels winces in contemplation, trying to remember the exact film.

“‘There is nothing new under the sun,’ Sport. I’m sure one or more of the design team’s ideas were influenced by popular culture. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good decision. As cheesy as their decisions may be, Omoya-san doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten his hands on. Unfortunately for him, he’s about to find out.” The Cell’s captain glances through the nearby window, upon detecting a vehicle pulling into the driveway, “Good! Derrick’s here ahead of schedule. Let’s load up and get this done, gents.”

Daniels and Irwin affirm and they all move outside with their gear. As they load the vehicle, Daniels stops upon noticing some peculiar about the van.

“Is it just me, or is the van bigger?”

TL looks over his shoulder with a smirk, “Not just bigger, Champ. Notice how you can barely hear the engine?”

“Hmm... Oh wow! Yeah!”

“Its thanks to that power cell I had installed. She’s fully electric now!”

“Is that all, Sir? I was hoping for more after spending so much cash.”

TL grins, “Oh, there’s more, Allen. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself.”

“Huh,” Daniels scoffs, “You’re not normally this vague about stuff, Sir.”

“Well, this is a rare occasion, Sport. It’s not everyday a Cell gets to exclusive ownership of a V.M.U.”

“A what?”

“Opps! I’ve said too much~” TL chuckles to himself before suddenly growing stern and shifting his gaze towards Irwin, “Also, not a word, Mr. Johnson! We’ll let this one be a surprised.”

Irwin raises an eyebrow, “...Understood.”

They all finish stowing their gear in the trunk section and pile in.

“What the-“ Daniels gripes as his knees press against the same portion of the front passenger seat as they have before, “Why is it bigger on the outside but the same size on the inside? I was hoping for more leg room back here!”

“Sacrifices had to be made, Allen.” The Cell’s senior-most agent replies, glancing over his shoulder with a knowing grin.

“With all due respect, Sir, I’m feeling some serious buyer’s remorse right now.”

“That’ll pass, Sport, trust me. When the time comes, you’re going to be laughing at what you’re saying right now.”

“If you say so, Sir...”

“I do, Allen, just be patient. In the mean time, we have a teenager to abduct. Let’s get this show on the road, Derrick.”

“Hell yeah!”

The Cell’s second-in-command speeds the van away from the Cell house, towards Tokyo. As their vehicle cruises through crowded, suburban streets, Daniels glances over towards his immediate superior.

“Hey Irwin, is Warden really making their own mecha? I thought they didn’t have the resources for that, or something.”

“Correct. Currently only certain manufacturers in this country have the knowledge and infrastructure to construct large, humanoid, mechanical units. Recently, however, Warden has made several breakthroughs in negotiating with a small amount of those companies and have already begun outsourcing construction of nearly a dozen unit. These units aren’t of the same scale as those even used by the TPCD, being nearly half the size but, they still represent both a substantial achievement and a significant addition to MSCOF’s arsenal.”

“Irwin’s right, except for one thing. Since we came back from our little excursion in Yamanashi, Warden actually has 13 mechs.” The Cell’s Team Leader responds cheekily from the front passenger seat.

“TL, would it not be better to simply show-“

“Uh-uh-uh! Not a word, Irwin.”

Daniels groans, “Dammit! I hate it when you guys do this, Sir. Makes me feel like the dumbass of the Cell. We all know that’s Derrick’s job!”

Keeping his eyes on the road, Derrick turns his chin towards the rear, “Ay man, fuck you!”

“Love you too, bro~”

“Hmm..” TL ponders for a moment as he glances ahead, noticing that they are approaching an intersection, “Alright then, have it your way, Allen. Take a left at next light, Derrick. There should be an empty lot nearby...”

Following his captain’s directions, Derrick drives over to a nearby, vacant lot.

“Yo, what we doin’ here, Boss?”

“I almost forgot that you don’t know about this either, Derrick. I suppose I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from telling you two, anyway,” TL remarks before glancing over his shoulder, to the two men seated behind him, “Irwin, Allen, assume the fetal position.”

“Huh,” Daniels grunts and tilts his head to the side.

“Bring your knees up to your chest and hug them,” Irwin instructs, somewhat tersely.

“Uhh... Like this, Sir?”

“Yes, just like that. Now, hold them there,” TL ensures that both of his subordinates have followed his instruction before sitting back properly in his seat, “Good. Now, Derrick, do you see that new lever, to the left of the steering wheel?”

“Yeah Boss.”

“Notice the numbers?”

“Yeah.”

“Move it to ‘2’”

Derrick cautiously moves the lever to 2. Suddenly, without so much as a chime of warning, the van transforms, retracting its wheels and replacing them with 4, 3-prong metallic claws attacked to 4 bending limbs. The back row separates, rotates 180° and reconnects with the front.

“Gentlemen, introducing the Cell’s brand new Vehicular Mechanized Unit! More affectionately known as a Veri-Mech Unit.”

“Holy shit!!!”

“Yooooo!! Dis is cash money, dawg!”

“Hmph,” Irwin grunts with a satisfied nod, “Despite having trained to pilot it, I admit, it’s still an impressive sight.”

Daniels, on the other hand, absolutely loses his composure to giddy excitement. “Dude! DUDE!! I can’t believe it! We have our own mecha!!”

“Technically, its a mech, Sport. I’d explain the difference but, for now, lets just be happy with this beauty, shall we?”

“No objections here, Sir!”

“This is Form 2,” TL explains, giving the Cell a few minutes to comprehend the configuration before spurring onward, “Mr. Cartwright, Form 3, please. Gents, fetal position again.”

“Affirmative.”

“Roger!”

The van transforms again. Various portions twist and shift as it changes from quadrupedal to bipedal. The rows of seats slip apart and are rearranged so that, when the process is finished the driver seat and passenger seat are back-to-back, situated above the rear passenger seats, which are in the same position. From his place, underneath the driver’s seat, Daniels looks up and sees Derricks legs resting on a slim, t-shaped cradle over his head, the vehicle’s pedals underneath his feet.

“And here she is, in all her glory, gentleman. This is our V.M.U’s true face,” TL announces proudly, “Irwin, you’re sitting at the rear gun emplacement. When we decide what secondary weapon system we want for her, that’s where it’ll be.”

“What about me, Sir?”

“Allen, that’s the primary troop carrier seat. Look to your right. Do you see that yellow panel with the switches and red button?”

“Uhh...”

“The one that’s illuminated.”

“Oh! Yeah, found it, Sir.”

“Don’t do rough anything right now but, if you engage each of those switches and press the button, it will eject you wherever you aim the reticle in the window. Otherwise, you can use the door handle and manually climb out.”

“That’s it?? What about your seat, Sir?”

“The front passenger seat becomes the Commander seat in Form 3. From here, I monitor the V.M.U’s systems and control her features and countermeasures.”

“And Derrick’s in the driver’s seat. Not too hard to figure out what that one does.”

“Bingo. Movement and primary weapon.”

“Geez, how come I always get the worse seat in the-... SHOTGUN!”

“That’s not proper protocol in a Mech, Sport. What you mean to declare is- COMMANDER!”

“PILOT!” Irwin calls out, within the span of a milisecond.

“GUNNER!” Derrick follows immediately after.

Taken completely by surprise borne of ignorance, Daniels sits there helplessly, “Aw c’mon!”

“Heh,” TL chuckles slightly through a sympathetic expression, “Sorry Allen. Everyone knows and abides by the universal rules of ‘Crew Call.’ Maybe next time, Champ.”

“Yo,” Derrick calls as he looks down from his seat, positioned directly above Daniels, “Who’s dumbass of da’ crew now, dawg?”

“Bite me!”

TL chuckles again at his team’s antics for a moment. Then the older male sighs wistfully as a proud smile comes to his face. “Soak it in, gentlemen. With this lovely lady, we’ve set ourselves apart from most other Cells. Personally, this is a first. I’ve never had the privilege of being a joint owner of a mech before. I’m proud that I get to share this opportunity with the three of you, fine men.” The smile on his face deepens as he casts gaze at each of the MSCOF agents under his command, “You know, its not-“

“What’s the catch, Sir?” Daniels interrupts with a flat tone and an equally flat expression.

“What?” TL replies, taken aback.

“I share the same question.” Irwin chimes in from his seat, below TL.

Derrick shifts his body and looks over his seat, “Yeah Boss, you ain’t tellin’ us somethin’.”

“...That easy to read me these days, huh?” TL sighs and shakes his head before shrugging, “Well gentlemen, we all know there’s always a price-tag that comes along with any major equipment. Maintenance, ammo, oil changes, software updates...”

“How much, TL?” Irwin asks with a somewhat impatient edge to his tone.

“$100,000” TL begins.

“Oh,” Daniels breaths a sigh of relief, “Well, that’s not that-“

“Wait for it.” Irwin interjects.

“....A week.”

“““WHAT THE FUCK?!”””

“For a grand total of $400,000 a month.” TL concludes before immediately shifting his tone to soothe the Cell, “Good news is, that’s the estimates for 160 kilometers in Forms 3. Form 2 drops that to a little over $200,000 and sticking squarely to Form 1 and Form 1.B keeps us firmly in the $150,000 ballpark.”

“““...”””

“Hey Derrick?” Daniels says, momentarily breaking the silence.

“Yo?”

“Can you put us back in Form 1, dude?”

“Yeah.”

The Cell waits quietly as the V.M.U reverts to Form 1, the vehicular configuration.

“We are required to spend over $1M annually to keep this vehicle in functioning order...” Irwin says in disbelief, speaking more-so to himself than his Cellmates.

“Dude... What the fuck...” Daniels follows up, staring blanking into the air in front of him.

“Yo, dis is not cash money...” Derrick grumbles, carefully removing his hands from the steering wheel, completely disinterested in touching it any longer.

Silence once again falls over the Cell. The muffle sounds of early spring insects outside barely penetrate the vehicle’s newly armored segments.

“Hey now, come on men,” TL says, rousing his subordinates from their dejection, “I know that seems like a daunting amount but, when you think about it, we all earn roughly twice that amount, collectively. All we need to do split the costs four ways and hold ourselves accountable for upholding our portion. If we wanted to spurge, drawing an awful lot of unwanted attention in the process, and used only Form 3 everyday, for a month, each of us would only have to pay $100,000. Since we’re all intelligent individuals, I think its safe to say we’ll be keeping the dial on Form 1. That being the case, we’ll each only have to pay...”

“$37,500 a month, Sir,” Daniels states, almost instantly.

“Exactly! Now, does $40k sound like such a big pill to swallow? Maybe for some Cells but, not for ours!”

After a moment of thought, the youngest member of the Cell scoffs, his head teetering from side to side, “I guess you’ve got a point, Sir.”

“That’s the spirit, Champ!”

“What are the consequences if all four of us are unable to pay?”

“Well, Irwin, this is now a piece of military-grade combat equipment. Missing a tune-up or skipping an oil change can potentially lead to any number of issues. Especially for platforms with as many moving parts as this, the constant maintenance keeps these systems at their best. If for some reason we can’t or don’t pay for upkeep, we put ourselves at increasing risk of experiencing malfunctions. Imagine your rifle jamming in a firefight because you didn’t keep it lubricated. Now imagine the right arm of your mech won’t rotate while you’re facing down a Kaiju. Every payment you miss is like playing a round of Russian roulette except, when you don’t blow your brains out, you a bullet in a chamber. Eventually you won’t even need to spin to lose.” TL looks behind out at his men, “Of course, I don’t intend to allow things to get that bad. If you miss a payment, I’ll just take the money from any assignments you complete. If you don’t participate in enough assignments, you lose your riding and driving privileges.”

“What if we’re sick or laid up, Sir?”

“Well, that’s different, isn’t it? If that’s the case, the rest of the Cell will cover your part while you heal,” TL says before a spark of realization hits, “Thank you for reminding me by asking, Allen. You are exempt from payments only if you are injured during assignments directly issued by Warden. If you get hurt fighting monsters, helping unassociated friends or getting into fights at nightclubs, you will still be expected to pay your due, in full and on time. Understood gentlemen?”

“Yes Sir...” Daniels replies and avoids direct eye contact.

“Word.” Derrick response with a casual shrug of a shoulder.

“Understood.” Irwin nods easily.

“If we end up in a situation like we did after our escort mission with Takeo-san, I ask those of us who are able to do what they can to meet the financial costs. If we miss... Hm... I’ll say two. If we completely miss two tune-ups I’ll have to put our girl here in cold-storage. That comes with its own price-tag but, its substantially cheaper than maintenance. The drawback being, there is an extensive and costly process to render a stored V.M.U ready for operation again and the folks at the Garage won’t allow us to skip it.”

“Geez, so many rules...”

“Welcome to Mech Ownership, Sport. With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

Daniels raises an eyebrow, “Isn’t it ‘power, Sir?’”

TL dons a similar look of confusion, “‘With great privilege comes great power?’ That doesn’t exactly inspire maturity, Sport.”

“No, Sir, I meant... Nevermind.”

“Just remember that she’s our responsibility. She’s our baby.”

“Yo, what we callin’ dis bitch anyway?” Derrick asks, looking over towards TL.

“Yeah, Sir’s been calling it ‘she’ and ‘her’ like a ship,” Former sailor Daniels adds.

“That’s because Mech Owners typically name their units. To be honest, I was actually looking forward to this part of our little show-and-tell. Its time to decide what we’re going to christen or lovely, new Mech!”


The four men present glance at each other as a silence falls over the mech’s interior. Then, all at once, they erupt in a storm of suggestions, retorts and putdowns.

“M.E.G.A.S!”

“No!”

“Big-“

“Copyrighted, dawg.”

“Voltr-“

“Also copyrighted, I’m afraid.”

“Wing Zero!”

“She can’t fly.”

“Wait, seriously?!”

“Seriously. Next.”

“Gunda-“

“Dude, all of the copyrighted!”

30 MINUTES LATER...

“Optimus-“

“Are you even trying anymore?”

“Daishi”

“She doesn’t have laser weapons.”

“Jahutey.”

“Sure, if you want the Kojima Regiment to bombard us from orbit.”

“Pulsar Inferno Typhoon Ome-“

“No one is going to understand that reference.”

“All the good names are taken, Sir,” Daniels huffs as he throws himself against his seat.

TL nods grimly, “I suppose that’s what happens when you become a Mech-owner 40 years after everyone else...”

“Yo dawg, jus’ call dis bitch somethin’ corny. She’a military bitch, like a tank, right?”

“You have a point, Derrick. Still, let’s not name her something too generic...”

“TL,” Irwin shifts his gaze from the window, “will we be developing an insignia to match the name we devise?”

“I didn’t spend extra on the Form 3, hex-grid display for nothing.”

“In that case, I suggest ‘Black Cat.’”

“‘Black Cat?’ That’s super generic, though,” Daniels groans.

“An idea is only generic when there is no meaning behind it” Irwin counters, “For our Cell, ‘Black Cat’ is symbolic. As TL stated earlier, our V.M.U is the 13th unit constructed by Warden. The number 13 is associated with superstitions of bad luck. Furthermore, TL insists on referring to it as his ‘baby.’ As a spouse of a bakeneko, his offspring would be part human-“

“-Part cat,” TL concludes. He grunts softly before glancing upwards and stroking his chin, “I think I see where you’re going with this Irwin. Hmm... how about ‘Shadow Cat?’”

“That seems generic as well...” The information specialist rebuts.

“Eh,” Daniels chimes in, “I kinda like it. Oh! Maybe Cat’s Shadow?”

“Black Cat’s Shadow?” Irwin suggests.

“Shadow of Cat-lossus,” Daniels calls out proudly, causing everyone present to glance in his direction.

“Sure,” TL replies nonchalantly.

The amusement quickly drains from the youngest man’s face, “What?! No! I was just joking!”

The eldest agent continues, ignoring the youngest, “All in favor of Shadow of Cat-lossus?”

“Aye,” Irwin shrugs, obviously incapable of forcing himself to give the matter another iota of consideration.

“Man, whateva’,” Derrick scoffs, just as bored with the conversation.

“No! Veto! For the love of God, don’t call it that!” Daniels begs as he clasps his hands together in front of his face, “Let’s just go with ‘Shadow Cat.’”

“Are you sure, Sport?”

“Yes! Seriously, anything’s better than Shadow Of Cat-lossus.”

“What say the rest of you?”

“Yo, jus’ name da damn thing!”

“I concur with Derrick’s sentiment.”

“Alright then, ‘Shadow Cat’ it is.” TL huffs, somewhat satisfied, “Well men, this little presentation has put us right back on schedule to catch Omoya-san. We should arrive at his home just as he’s coming back from school. Let’s go take care of business so we won’t have to worry about keeping the gears turning in Shadow Cat, here.”

The Cell affirms as Derrick speeds off. They arrive in the residential area of Zushi and park along the side of a two-lane road, spanning a quiet neighborhood. They turn off the engine and wait.

“TL, something concerns me about this assignment.”

“What’s that Irwin?”

“This is an Omega-2 assignment, the second highest rating outside of Micro 1 classification.”

“Ah, you want to know why our young, soon-to-be acquaintance rates so highly.” TL glances over his shoulder, “Truth be told, I don’t know. I have a few hunches but, until we have more information, I can’t afford to have the Cell act as cautiously as I’d typically like to. This assignment has a deadline, after all.”

“36 hours,” Irwin states.

“Exactly. You all know that I prefer to err on the side of caution but, sometimes that’s a luxury we can’t afford.”

“Would it not be better to conduct reconnaissance on the target?”

“I’d love to, Irwin but, we’re four foreigners in the middle of a Japanese neighborhood. Sure, we’re close to the naval base but, we’re still very conspicuous,” TL reasons, “Four shady, gaijin sneaking around, watching the comings and going of an adolescent male. That tends to grab one’s attention.”

“Yeah, kinda hard to ignore something like that...” Daniels reluctantly admits.

“Ay yo, there he is!” Derrick points through the windshield.

The Cell watches through the tinted windows as their target walks along the opposite side of the street, accompanied by two young women who appear to be around his age. The girls are each holding onto one of his arms and seem to be bickering with one another as the young man simply stands in the middle with a helpless, exacerbated look on his face.

“Yo, homey’s a play’a~”, Derrick cackles.

“The file didn’t mention any significant others or romantic attachments. Let alone two.”

“Hmm...” TL’s eyes narrow, “A bag and grab will be difficult with two witnesses... Who’s up for an Invade-And-Prey?”

“Without a building layout?”

“I understand your concern, Irwin but, as I’ve said, time isn’t on our side. This is the better option, in my opinion. Once inside, we’ll have concealment from any passersby. Let’s not forget, we also need to recover Warden’s training software. I don’t like the risks anymore than the rest of you but, this is the best plan of action. We’re doing it.

“Understood.” The info specialists replies, revealing neither approval nor disdain for the decision.

“Yo, I’m down fo’ whateva’.”

“Sir...” Daniels begins meekly.

“I know, Allen,” The Cell’s captain replies, “This won’t be like last time. Stealth isn’t absolutely necessary. At least, not for the entire engagement. Besides, we’re better prepared. We’ve got tranq darts and shock rounds. No need to get physical with anyone until they’re already down. Alright?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Good. Masks on,” TL commands and everyone slips on their balaclavas, “Are we ready, men?”

The Cell affirms in unison.

“Gears!”

“““Turned!”””
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

Zerro
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 2

Post by Zerro » Mon Sep 19, 2022 5:26 am

1 HOUR LATER...

Irwin and Daniels quietly enter the Omoya house from the back door. TL and Derrick slowly descend from the roof, using ropes. Daniels and Irwin cautiously inspect the ground floor, Irwin at point. They gingerly peek around doors and down the main walkway. Irwin suddenly holds up a closed fist and makes three quick gestures with his non-firing hand. Daniels silently swoops to a nearby corner and raises his pistol slightly. He nods his masked head. Irwin backtracks a bit and hides behind the open door of a nearby closet. He readies himself just as a young girl casually strolls in from an adjacent room. She sees neither of the men as she passes, drinking from a slim glass. She stops to bottom-up her beverage before releasing a content sigh.

<“Big Bro, do you want some orange juice?”> The girl calls out, causing both men to tense their bodies.

A replied is yelled back a few seconds later from the building’s second story, <“Yeah! That’d be great! Thanks Sis!”>

The young girl smiles before turning around only to gasp and drop her glass when she spots Daniels. Irwin, who had already been covering her movements with his pistol, pulls the trigger, firing a dart directly into her neck before immediately tumbling forward, catching the glass before it hits the floor. The sedative of the projectile takes effect almost immediately and the girl stumbles before collapsing. She is spared from impacting the hardwood by Daniels, who performed a tumble of his own and grabs her at the last second. Glass in hand, Irwin scans the room for additional contacts before gesturing towards the closet with a twitch of his head. Daniels nods and quietly hefts the girl inside. He gently sits her down and carefully removes the dart before backing out and closing the door. He then takes up overwatch as Irwin begins to key the microphone of his headset in a fast, yet discernible pattern.
From his position on the side of the house, TL keys his mic twice in response. He and Derrick carefully plant their feet against the wall and lower themselves to a window. Peering inside, they see a queen-sized bed, a vanity and several other pieces of furniture. TL looks over to Derrick and shakes his head before gesturing upwards. Derrick nods and they both ascend.
On the ground, Irwin and Daniels move into the kitchen of the house. Irwin covers the entrance as Daniels gently opens the doors of a storage nook. Seeing nothing, he ensures that the door leading to the outside is locked before filing in behind Irwin. A pat on the shoulder starts them moving again.
Having returned to the roof, TL and Derrick belay down the northern face of the building. This time they stop their descent near the leftmost of three windows. Light pours out from around curtains and blinds and the sounds of voices can be heard. TL nods to Derrick before making several gestures with his free hand. Derrick nods in response before carefully stretching towards the pane with an extended arm. Another voice can be heard before the short reply of yet another. The muffled sound of a closing door causes TL to quickly seizes Derrick’s hand and push it away before frantically gesturing upwards. Catching on quickly, Derrick rapidly ascends as quietly as possible. TL is right behind him and barely manages to retract his rope before the blinds of the window are lifted and it is opened. The head of one of the young women from earlier pops out. She takes a deep breathe before sighing contently and retracting herself back inside.

<“Your room sure is smelly, Shinda-kun!”>

<“Ah, really? You think so, Ms. Chiori?”>

<“I like how your room smells, Shinda-kun..”>

<“Ah! Is it really okay, Ms. Natsumi?”>

TL groans lightly as he listens to the exchange.

<“Wait! What was that?!”>

TL and Derrick both freeze.

<“Ah, Natsumi-chan, you’ve got that scary look on your face again...”>

<“I heard someone, just now...”>

<“Heh! Hearing voices again, Little Sister Natsumi? Haven’t you gotten over that already?”>

<“Ah! Ms. Chiori, don’t be mean!”>

<“That wasn’t very nice, Chiochi!”>

<“Hmph!”>

The two men on the roof release inaudible sighs. TL makes several gestures to Derrick before he grips the key of his headset, pressing and releasing the button in a rhythmic fashion.

Down below, Irwin stops just before stepping foot on the stairs leading to the second story and keys his mic twice in response. He then raises his hand and makes several gestures. Daniels sidesteps from behind and takes up a position on the older man’s opposite side. In response, Irwin quickly peels away and moves silently towards the front door. Now alone, Daniels waits until the building’s entrance is closed before he begins to creep up to the second floor, step by step.

Once outside, Irwin quickly scans the area. Seeing no one around, he moves towards the rear of the house, via the western side. A sharp noise grabs his attention and he looks up to see TL gesturing from above. He watches for a moment before nodding and turning around. Circumventing the house by the eastern side, he arrives at the building’s power-box. He surveys the area once more before unzipping his back pouch and removing a lock-pick kit. He steadily begins working on accessing the panel of the box.

Having been signaled by TL, Derrick watches over Irwin as he is works. The Cell’s leader, on the other hand, keeps watch over the open window, listening to more of the conversation being held by the three young adults below. Mentally, he counts down and once he reaches zero, he turns his head a second before Derrick looks up and signals. TL nods in response and gestures Derrick over to his side of the roof.

“Lights out,” Irwin whispers into the mic of his headset, “in 10... 9...”

Daniels reaches the top of the stairs and quickly peers to and fro before stepping onto the second floor. He hears voices coming from a door about 5 meters away and readies himself as he passes the door nearest to him and continues on slowly.

“8... 7....”

TL and Derrick begin their descent towards the open window.

“6... 5...”

Daniels stops at the corner where an alcove leads to a smaller room. He nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears the sound of a flushing toilet.

“4... 3...”

TL and Derrick stop just above the window. TL readies his suppressor-equipped pistol as Derrick slowly pulls the pin out of a cylindrical grenade.

“2... 1...”

Daniels presses himself against the wall and prepares to tranq the unseen individual in the commode. Suddenly, all lights in the house go out. Instinct and training taking over, he immediately lowers his tri-scopes then pinches the tips of his thumb and pinky finger of his non-firing hand together, activating night-vision seconds before he hears a yelp from inside the water closet.

TL and Derrick watch as the lights go out. They immediately act as a jumble of startled screams and exclamations sound from within the room. Derrick lowers himself half a meter and underhand throws his grenade through the window. TL lowers himself half a second after it detonates and the blinding flash it produced dissipates. Even louder screams reverberate through the air as TL pushes off the wall, loosens his grip on his belaying line and swings inside. He collides with a body, firing a dart into it as they both fall. Derrick is right behind him, following up by tranqing the feminine figure to his left. It takes the girl a moment to fall over. Using the tension of his rig, TL untangles himself from the unconscious body below him. As he does, Derrick fires a dart at the last remaining target, who was too stunned to even move.

“Clear,” TL declares, lowering his weapon from Alert Carry, “30 seconds!”

“Lights on in 3...” Irwin says through the team’s comms.

Daniels hears the door of the commode slam open but doesn’t have time to react before a figure skirts past the corner. Momentarily surprised, he quickly raises his pistol, ready to fire at the person’s back.

“2... 1...”

In the bedroom, Derrick and TL deactivate their tri-scopes just in time to avoid being blinded by the lights coming back on.

In the second story hallway, Daniels grits his teeth and grunts sharply in anguish as amplified light floods his vision. He quickly removes his tri-scopes and rubs at his aching eyes with his wrist. He immediately remembers his tasking, resets himself and fires through hazy eyes. His dart hits its mark, just as the adolescent female turns the knob of the door. It creaks open and her semi-conscious body it struck thrice more. She hits the ground in an unceremonious heap. Then she begins to seize.

“Oh shit,” Daniel exclaims as he runs up to the doorway and hovers helplessly over the fidgeting body.

“Control yourself, 4,” TL responds emotionlessly, “3: status.”

“Approaching target location in vehicle. E.T.A 20 seconds.”

“2, extract the Target.”

“Yeah.”

Derrick grabs the sole unconscious male in the room and slings the teen over his shoulders before swiftly exiting.

“4, game console.”

“R-roger!”

As Daniels jumps to his assignment, TL quickly unzips his right side pouch and removes a syringe. He strides over to the trembling girl and slips the side of his gloved hand into her mouth. A second later, he feels the full force of her teeth biting down on him, causing him to grunt in pain. Despite this, he restrains her by catching her in a one-arm embrace and jabs her in a bicep with the needle. He injects a couple hundred ccs into her and holds her steady. Fifteen seconds later, her seizure subsides and he gently lowers her onto the floor. He removes the glove of his bitten hand and checks her pulse.

“She’ll live. Its going to be a rather nasty headache though,” He says as he looks over his shoulder towards Daniels, “Let’s move.”

“Roger,” Daniels replies as he tucks Shinda’s console under his arm and retrieves the darts from the girls’ necks and chests. The two quickly run out of the house through the front door and jump into the van, which is waiting a few meters away, with the back door open. Irwin immediately drives off as soon as the door slams shut. He switches off the headlights and proceeds down a side road, using his tri-scopes to aid his vision.

“Alright,” TL says after another turn, “That should be far enough.”

“Understood.”

Irwin deactivates his tri-scopes by pinching his thumb and pinky together. He pushes the now inactive optical equipment up, from his face, and turns the headlights back on just in time to see something in the middle of the road. The van lurches sharply as he slams on the breaks and stops nearly a meter away from a young woman who was crossing the street. Instead of being frightened or startled, the girl has slid into a low, defensive stance, tightly gripping the wooden sword she holds at her hip. Her eyes narrow with aggression as they peer through the sudden light towards the driver’s side of the vehicle.

“Drive, 3.”

Irwin nods and puts the van in reverse, backing up a couple of meters before putting the vehicle in drive and maneuvering past the girl. She tracks the van’s movement with her eyes as it slips out of view.

Derrick scoffs, “Da’ fuck’s up wit’ dat chick?”


The Cell travels away from the area down calm, suburban roads.

“Is the Package bound and bagged?”

“Yeah.”

“Good,” TL nods, “Curtains.”

“““Drawn.”””

“Phew! Glad that’s over,” Daniels sighs, happy to have been given some leeway to breath, “So, we headed to the safehouse?”

“Negative,” Irwin replies.

TL elaborates, “We’re headed to a Shell, 4.”

“Roger,” Daniels nods. A few moments of silence pass and he looks over towards his Leader, “Sir... Thank you... If you hadn’t saved that girl...”

“I promised you it wouldn’t be like last time, didn’t I?”

Daniels releases a calming sigh as a smile spreads over his masked face, “I appreciate it, Sir.”

The Cell arrives at a nondescript warehouse situated near the recreational fields of Kawasaki.

“2, 3: Search and secure.”

“Roger.”

“A’ight.”

Derrick and Daniels hop out of the van and swiftly move towards the building. They locate the front entrance and stack up on both sides before cautiously entering, pistols at the ready. 10 minutes later, Daniels reemerges and gestures. In response, Irwin drives around to the back of the building where Derrick is waiting at its motor pool. He lowers the folding shutters as the van pulls in and ensures they are locked in place. Both he and TL heft an unconscious Shinda out of the vehicle and Daniels shows them were the holding room is. After searching the teen and confiscating his flip-phone, they place him on the bed, situated in the middle of the room, and handcuff him to one of its legs. The Cell reconvenes near Shadow Cat, where Irwin is busy talking on his cellphone and they all do their post-action checks as they wait for his conversation to end.

“Warden has been notified that we have successfully retrieved the Target and the program. They commended us on our expediency.” The Info Specialist reports after disconnecting.

“Good” TL replies, nodding his comprehension, “When can we expect the retrieval team to arrive?”

“Warden reports that the retrieval team will be dispatched 24 hours from now.”

“What?!” Daniels gawks.

“There is a Robot Uprising event occurring near the site they intend to utilize for the boy’s interrogation.”

Unlike his youngest subordinate, TL maintains a steady composure, “Did they explain why another site can’t be used?”

“It was implied that the nearest suitable sites are currently occupied,” Irwin explains. “It was suggested that we utilize our safehouse as a temporary interrogation site however, due to our current situation with the Yanigahara girls, I declined.”

“Why can’t we just interrogate him here, Sir?”

“None of us are certified Interrogation Specialists, 4. Also, this building is directly owned by the company. We can’t leave evidence of this abduction, forensic or otherwise. There’s also the lack of sound-proofing and emission-dampeners in some of the structure’s sections. Speaking of which, did you remove the battery from Omoya-san’s phone?”

“Yes Sir,” Daniels replies, holding said battery for all to see.

TL nods his acceptance but then the contours of his masked face tighten, “Good...”

“Yo Boss, you good,” Derrick asks, noting the change.

Daniels chimes in, having also caught the shift, “Yeah, you’re acting weird, Sir.”

“Hmm,” The elder-most MSCOF agent groans, giving himself a few seconds to solidify his thoughts into coherent statements. “I believe I’m starting to understand why this assignment was rated so highly.”

“Why is that, TL?” Irwin asks, glancing over.

“Well, think about just how many young women we’ve encountered tonight. There were four in Omoya-san’s house and 1 within the immediate vicinity.”

“Is that really weird, Sir?” Daniels shrugs, “I mean, isn’t the guy-to-girl ratio 1 to 4 in Japan?”

“Yes, however, Omoya-san doesn’t seem like the popular short. His school records indicate he’s rather average, as far of young men his age go. To have that many female acquaintances, under one roof, at the same time is... odd.”

“Yeah dawg, homey ain’t no mack daddy that’s fo’ sho!”

“Maybe they’re relatives,” Daniels offers.

“Negative. Omoya-san only has one sibling: Rei Omoya,” Irwin retorts, “They both live away from their parents to pursue their studies at well-accredited schools in the Tokyo area.”

“Wow, the Omoyas must be rich!”

TL waves a hand, dismissively, “That’s neither here nor there, 4. The point is, I think we’re handling something dangerous and I don’t mean that mech training program.”

“Sir, I know we’ve seen all kinds of crazy stuff lately but, I’m really not feeling any bad vibes from that Shinda kid,” Daniels replies with shrug, “He looks like a regular high school dude, to me.”

“Its not Omoya-san I’m specifically worried about.”

Irwin’s expression hardens slightly, “Do you believe one of his female acquaintances is an MG?”

“Maybe...,” TL replies reluctantly, “For now, I want us to prepare for the worst. 3, did you happen to bring the motion detectors?”

“Negative. The parameters of this assignment did not dictate their necessity.”

“Hm, that’s fair. Truth be told, I’d personally expected to have turned the young man over by now,” TL admits. “Since that’s not the case, take 4 with you and head to the safehouse. Grab as much anti-intrusion equipment as we can fit in the va- I mean, Shadow Cat.” The Cell’s leader glances over to his youngest man, “4, explain to our other guests that they’ll need to watch themselves for a little while. Tell them, we’ll all go out to eat when we get back.”

Daniels’ face lifts beneath his mask, “Wow! Really, Sir??”

“Really,” TL replies with a smirk that can’t be seen thanks to his own balaclava, “Also grab everyone’s full kits while you’re there.”

Daniels’ shoulders perks up in excitement, “Special weapons too?”

“Yo, yo’ ass can’t grab my good gats, dawg.” Derrick proclaims.

“Oh, right. ID-tagged lockers.”

“Just get what you can, you two. Something, in the back of my mind, tells me we’re going to need it.”

“Roger!”

Irwin and Daniels depart. They arrive at the Cell’s safehouse 30 minutes later.

“Onii-chan,” Yumi yells happily as she runs up and slams into Daniels’ leg.

“Hey Yu-Yu~!” Daniels replies happily as he bends over and picks her up. He smiles broadly and gently nuzzles her forehead with his own, causing the child to giggle. As he breaks away, he sees Saichi walk up, “Hey Sai’!”

“Hey Nii-san. Hi Irwin-san.”

“Hey,” Irwin responds with a nod.

“Hey girls,” Daniels begins, sighing forlornly, “sorry to spring this on you guys so suddenly but-“

“You’re on a mission and you need us to take care of ourselves,” Saichi finishes his sentence in a bland, sing-song tone as she lazily nods her head from side to side, “How long this time?”

Irwin and Daniels both look at each other in response to Saichi’s casual, somewhat exacerbated attitude.

“You have adapted extremely well to your current situation, Saichi.” The senior of the two MSCOF says to the oldest of the Cell’s hostages.

“Yeah, well, its not like its hard to figure out,” The young woman shrugs, “Anyway, how long?”

“Just 24 hours, Sai’,” The younger MSCOF assures.

“Fine.”

“Thanks,” Daniels replies with a relieved smile, “Oh! Also, TL says we’ll all go out to eat when we come back.”

Saichi raises an eyebrow, “He really said that, Nii-san?”

“Affirmative,” Irwin responds, “It was confirmed it twice.”

“You guys are really growing soft, huh?”

“Hey, don’t say that, Sai’. It’ll make TL want to act tough and cruel again. Shouldn’t you just be happy that things are getting even better for you two?”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Saichi scoffs, dismissing the two with a downward wave.

Irwin and Daniels begin collecting the Cell’s gear. Saichi stops Daniels on his way back from Shadow Cat.

“What’s up, Sai’?”

“Yumi wants to know if your goggles worked.”

“Oh,” He exclaims before turning towards the younger sister, who’s playing nearby. “Yumi, they worked super good! Isn’t that right, Irwin?”

“Yes,” Irwin stops and replies, shifting the weight of the large weapon cases in both of his hands, “I was surprised by how efficient it is to have each mode of vision tethered to a hand gesture. Well done, Yumi.”

Yumi giggles, wriggling as she beams with pride. Unable to stop himself, Daniels drops his load, walks over and lifts her above his head before spinning. Yumi cries out happily and laughs.

“Tch! You really are a softy, huh?” Saichi scoffs as she watches.

“You’re just jealous. Here, you can have a turn too.”

“What?! No!”

Saichi tries to run but Daniels catches her by the hips.

“No! Stop it, Nii-san! No! No!”

Despite her protests, he lifts and spins her in the same way he did Yumi. Saichi screams in defiance but it gradually becomes laughter, despite herself. “Nii-saaaaAAAAAaaaAAAAn!”

Content, Daniels gently places her in her feet.

“Heh! That’s what you get for talking crap.”

Saichi responses by kicking him in the shin before stomping away.

“Argh!”

“Hmph! Baka.”

Irwin and Daniels finish loading the Cell’s gear into Shadow Cat and depart. They return to the Shell 40 minutes later. TL greets them as they enter.

“Welcome back, gentleman. Were there any complications along the way?”

“No Sir, nothing out of the ordinary,” Daniels reports.

“That’s good to hear,” TL replies, nodding contently, “While you were gone, our young ward woke up. He started thrashing around in there but he’s quieted down. Now that you two are back, I can go have a little talk with him.”

The youngest agent’s head lists to the side slightly, “What’re you gonna tell him, Sir?”

“Nothing major, Sport. I’m just going to explain as much of the situation as he needs to know. As I understand, it helps with the interrogation process by giving the subject at least a little info during the abduction phase. Helps them to center their mind,” TL reasons before looking over towards Derrick and Irwin, “2 and 3, you two get to work setting up our anti-intrusion suite. 4, cover me while I talk to Omoya-san.”

The Cell affirms before splitting up to handle their tasks. TL knocks on the door before he and Daniels enter the holding room. Shinda looks up at them with fear-filled eyes. The two approach the young man and he moves as far away as currently possible.

<“Easy, Champ, easy. We’re not here to hurt you. I just want to have a discussion.”> TL makes a calming, downward gesture with his hands as they slowly step towards the bed. “4, remove his gag.”

“Yes sir.”

Shinda flinches as Daniels approaches. The subordinate MSCOF stops and looks over at TL.

<“Mr. Omoya, we aren’t going to hurt you. I just told my man to remove your gag. Be a good boy and let him do that, okay?”>

Shinda’s eyes widen as he hears TL say his name. He nods in response to the request even though his expression is still wild with fear. Daniel slowly approaches and gently removes the gag around the young man’s face. Once done, he quickly marches backwards until he’s standing behind TL, at an angle.

<“Wh-what do you w-w-want?”> Shinda stammers after a few moments of silence.

<“Straight to the point, I can appreciate that,”> TL says as he assumes a casual stance and crosses his arm, <“Unfortunately, that’s a little complicated, Mr. Omoya.”>

<“How do you know my name?”>

<“That’s not important right now, Mr. Shinda. What is important is that you understand the situation you’re in. 3 days ago, you attempted to log into the server of an online game with no title. When you failed, you tried again and again and again until you finally managed to get in. Is that correct?”>

<“Y-Yes...”>

<“Well, unfortunately, that game with no title is actually a very important piece of programming, created by some very power people. No one is supposed to know about it, except for a few specific individuals. You are not one of those individuals, Mr. Omoya.”>

The young man’s expression widens before he slowly breaks assumed eye contact.

<“So, those people tasked me and my men to collect both you and their property. They are upset and worried about the fact that this secret program wound up in the hands of a random, senior high school student. They want to know how that came to be.”>

<“I... I just found it!”>

TL sighs, <“Mr Omoya, I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours. Like I said, my team and I were just sent to collect you. We aren’t exactly keen on the interrogation side of our profession. We’ll keep you here and, by this time tomorrow, another group will arrive and take you somewhere else. This new team will be the people interrogating you. They have the stomachs, the lack of humanity and lack of decency for it.”>

<“Why are you telling me this?”>

<“Because it would be in your best interest to tell them everything you know, Mr. Omoya. Tell them everything without them having to ask. Tell them things you think they want to hear. Tell them things you don’t think they want to hear. Talk about all the times you wet the bed, your first kiss, the first time you masturbated. Everything. Do not hold anything back. If you do, they will hurt you. Badly. Do you understand?”>

<“Y-Yes.”>

<“I hope so because, if you lie to them like you just lied to me, it is going to be a long, painful experience.”>

<“B-But... I... I can’t...”>

TL considers the young man for a moment, <“Protecting someone?”>

Shinda’s eyes grow hard and he quickly looks away.

<“I understand. Believe me, I do. I’ll even applaud you, Mr. Omoya. That’s rather brave. However, I have a hunch that you haven’t been trained to resist the kind of techniques the other team is going to use on you. Even if you were, it would only be a matter of time. The authorities aren’t going to start searching for you until at least a week from now. Meaning, no rescue and no cavalry.”>

<“Y-You’re wrong!”>

“Hm?”

<“My friends will come looking for me! They’ll find me!”>

<“Mr. Omoya, I hope you’re right. If not, things will get unpleasant before they get better.”> TL issues his parting shot before he looks over his shoulder towards Daniels, “Let’s go, 4.”

The younger man clicks his heels together sharply as his stands at attention, “Roger.”

<“I’ll have my men bring you food and take you to the restroom. I suggest you eat as much as you can and sleep as often as you can. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be given the opportunity once we hand you over.”>

TL and Daniels leave the room. Once they close the door and walk about 3 meters TL sighs.

Daniels picks up on his leader’s consternation, “What all did you say to him, Sir?”

“Like I said, Sport, I just explained the situation to him. He lied and said he just found the mech training program so I told him not to try that with the Interrogation Unit.”

“Geez, you told him about those guys?”

“Just the bare minimum, Champ. Just so he knows what he’s going to be dealing with.”

“Ah,” Daniels replies and nods his head in comprehension.

The pair rejoin the other half of the Cell.

“Alright gents, we’ve roughly 22 hours before we hand this young man over to the Interrogation Team. Unfortunately, I still can’t seem to calm this feeling of lingering doubt. I know that isn’t much to go on but, for the time being, I’m trusting my instincts on this. 3, I want you monitoring the perimeter. 4 and 2, you will be roving the perimeter. I’ll be switching out with both 2 and 4 when I’m not guarding the Target. Understood?”

“““Yes sir.”””

“Excellent. At 0600, 1100 and 1600, I’ll swap out with Irwin and send him to grab us something to eat. I promised our friend, in there, that we’d provide meals and bathroom trips. When you’re guarding him, offer at least once an hour. Search him every single time he enters and leaves that room, understood?”

The Cell affirms.

TL nods in acceptance, “Good. If there’s nothing else, let’s assume our positions.”

Much to the Cell’s relief, the night passes by quietly. In the morning its Daniels turn to guard Shinda.

“Ohaiyo!” He says as he enters the holding room, carefully hefting a cardboard tray packed with steaming food.

Shinda, already awake, quickly looks up and adopts a casual posture. Too casual, in fact. Daniels raises a non-visible eyebrow as he glances at the painfully obvious, not to mention painful-looking, marks on the younger male’s wrist, where the pair of handcuffs adheres him to the sole bed in the room. Tell-tale signs of several futile attempts at breaking the restraints.

The older male makes no signs betraying his observation, “Hey hey, c’mon dude, its morning! We went all out and got, like, a huge breakfast buffet! You should- Oh wait, you can’t speak English, huh? Dammit, I guess my luck really has run out...”

Shinda’s head tilts to the side as he raises an eyebrow.

Daniels sighs, “Alright, I guess I’ll just put your food here... Don’t try to pull some insta-knockout on me. I’ve been beaten unconscious by an ancient kung-fu master before. So, something like that shouldn’t work on me.”

<“What...?”>

Daniels waves a hand dismissively before approaching and placing his cargo next to the senior high student. The smells of a hearty breakfast waft through the air as Daniels gestures towards the food with an upturned hand. Shinda stares at the sausages, rice and omelette in front of him for a long moment then quickly looks away in defiance but, his stomach soon betrays his appetite. Daniels just stands nearby with folded arms as a small grin spreads on his masked face. Shinda’s mouth quivers and he gives the cooling food a sideways glance. He look away again, this time glaring at his captor. Daniels responds by gesturing to the food again. Shinda fights his hunger a little longer but suddenly, all at once, gives in and attacks the food with his hands.

“Woah woah woah,” The older of the two males exclaims.

Shinda freezes mid bite. Daniels produces a pair of individually-wrapped chopsticks and spoon from his pocket and carefully extends them towards the teen, who gingerly takes them, giving a slight bow of thanks with his head. Then the younger male begins to contort his body so his free hand can access the hand bound to the bed.

“Oh, right,” Daniels says before holding up a hand. He walks over to Shinda’s handcuffs and begins to fiddle with them. After a few seconds, he nods and stands up before gesturing towards Shinda’s food with an upturned palm once again. Shinda considers him for a moment before moving his captive hand. To his surprise, the handcuffs split apart and he notices a thin, black cord connecting the part around his wrist to the part around the foot of the bed.

“Aaaah..”

He slowly moves his free hand to the black cord but stops when he notices Daniels watching him intently. However, his captor merely gestures him onward. In response Shinda grips at the black cord and tries to pull it apart. After several attempts he sighs and his shoulders slump. He notices that the black cord retracts back into the handcuffs when he doesn’t fight against its pull.

<“Thanks...”> He says before calmly starting at his breakfast again.

Daniels nods before stepping to the door, leaning outside and returning with a demijohn of orange juice and some plastic cups. He pours some and extends a half-full cup towards Shinda. The younger man looks at the offering for moment before carefully taking it and eagerly chugging it down. He bottoms-up the plasticware and lowers it from his mouth with a content sigh. Daniels extends the demijohn and he nods before extending his cup under it.

“Phwaa!” Shinda releases another cleansing breath after downing the contents of the cup a second time.

“Must have been thirsty, huh?”

<“Thank you.”>

Daniels nods before patting Shinda on his shoulder. He strolls over to a nearby chair and sits.

30 Minutes Later...

Daniels escorts Shinda back towards the holding room from the restroom. As they pass the intersection between halls, an idea hits Daniels and he quickly halts Shinda. The young man give his captor a concerned look but Daniels gives him a disarming wave of the hand before pointing towards a nearby broom closet.

“Eh?” Shinda cocks his head to the side, in confusion.

Daniels responds by hastily pushing him in. Shinda begins to protest but the older male gestures him to be quiet. The older male grabs a push-broom and slowly backs out of the closet before closing the door and jamming it in place. Shinda stands there in darkness and confusion for a few minutes. As soon as he begins to think about attempting escape though, Daniels reappears, carrying something underneath his arm. He escorts the young man back to the holding room before revealing what is was he went to grab. He holds Shinda’s game console and controls for all to see, snickering mischievously. Shinda’s eyes light up upon seeing his favorite past time.

“Lets see how good a pilot you really are,” the MSCOF agent says with a masked grin.

30 Minutes Later...

Irwin stops and listens before cautiously opening the door and stepping into the holding room.

“4, it’s time for you to assume-“ The Cell’s second-most certified operator stops dead in his tracks.

Daniels gives him the courtesy of an upwards flick of the chin, “Oh, hey 3. Is it that time already?”

“4, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Killin’ time with Shinda, dude. He’s, like, really good at this game, man!”

“4... How... Why would... That isn’t even a game!”

“Yeah, I know but, its programmed to be like one, right? Me and Shinda were just sitting here, staring at each other so, I figured, ‘why not?’”

“4... that boy is our prisoner.”

“Dude, you know you’re talking to me, right?”

Irwin stares at Daniels with a flat expression which he knows the latter can discern, despite his mask.

“Just get over here, already! Shinda keeps kicking my ass,” the younger agent says, ignoring the look as he waves his older counterpart over, “You’re an actual pilot though, so I bet you’d whip his high school butt! Here.”

As Daniels extends his controller towards his superior MSCOF, Shinda looks over at Irwin with a haughty gaze.

“C’mon man, you gotta make us look good again.”

“...This goes against my better judgement but,” Irwin’s jaw clenches, “I don’t approve of the way he’s looking at me.”

“Yes,” Daniels exclaims as he pumps his fist, “Give em’ hell, dude!”

“I’ll do my best. You need to assume your patrol shift.”

“Oh, right! Let me know who wins,” The junior operator says as he jumps up and heads to the door, waving to the Cell’s captive as he departs, “See ya Shinda!”

Shinda smiles casually and waves as he watches Daniels leave before returning his focus to the television.

AN HOUR LATER...

“Yo dawg, it’s yo’ turn-” Derrick stops mid-stride, after entering the room. “Aw hell yeah! Pass me dem’ sticks, B!”

Not allowing his focus to be swayed, Irwin’s eyes remains on the television as he replies. “Are you certain, 2? Despite his appearance, Mr. Omoya is quite skilled as a mech pilot. Out of thirteen skirmishes, I’ve only managed a 49% success rating against him.”

Derrick reels with exaggerated disbelief, “Yoooo! You let dis scrawny motha’fucka’ beat you, dawg??”

“Negative, as I just mentioned, his skills were surprisingly adept. Had I not underestimated him, I believe I would have achieved greater success,” Irwin responses with a moderate tone and offers the controller to his Cellmate as he stands, “If you choose to engage him, I suggest you view him as a credible threat.”

Derrick scoffs, snatching the console periphery eagerly, “Yo, whateva’ dawg. Boss wants yo’ ass behind dem’ monitors already.”

“Understood. I leave him to you then.” Irwin turns towards his young competitor and bows, <“Thank you for the lesson, Mr. Omoya.”>

He then departs.

ANOTHER HOUR LATER...

“Alright 2, its time to-“ TL stops in his tracks and sighs, “Why am I not surprised?”

“Yo Boss, gimme a sec’. I almost had dis’ fucka’!”

The older, masked man looks over to his captive, <“How bad has he been losing, Mr. Omoya?”>

Cinching another victory, Shinda replies over the aggravated groans of his competition, <“Umm... Eheh, every round, so far... He’s... He’s the worst out of the three.”>

<“I see... And the best?”>

<“The big guy. I think he thought I wasn’t very good but then he started taking me seriously.”>

TL nods in consideration, <“I’ve often told my men to never underestimate someone. It looks like you’ve helped me reinforce that lesson. You have my thanks.”>

<“Sure!”>

“2, you’ve had your fun. Back to work.”

“A’ight, bu’chu gotta beat this foo’, Boss! Can’t let a play’a walk out like no punk!”

TL watches as his second-in-command departs before returning his gaze to the high-schooler, <“It looks like you’ve injured my man’s pride, Mr. Omoya. He wants me to restore it.”>

<“I’m always open to a challenge.”> Shinda replies with a full smile.

<“You seem pretty calm, considering your situation.”>

<“Yeah, well... I was surprised, at first but, I’m over it. This isn’t the first time I’ve been kidnapped, after all.”>

<“What?”> Again TL pauses mid-step.

<“Yeah,”> Shinda sighs <“First was that time when Ms. Reiko kidnapped me and tried to force me to marry her so she could avoid her arranged marriage to this other guy, then Ms. Mitsuko took me to her lab to try and study my brain. Rei got taken by these guys, for some reason, and we all had to get her back. Oh! And Ms. Class President held tied me up in the storage closet, after school one day. I think she wanted to tell me something but, the girls came to rescue me before she could finish.”

A chill travels up TL’s spine, <“I... I see... And that’s the last time you’ve interacted with any of those young women, correct?”>

<“Ah, no. We, uh... We’ve all become really good friends, actually.”>

<“Uh-huh...”>

<“So, yeah, I’m sort of used to this kind of thing. Besides, you guys don’t seem that bad. You haven’t even really hurt me and you all have been really friendly. Especially compared to the guys who attacked me and the girls a few days ago.”>

TL gasps mentally as everything clicks into place.

<“Excuse me for a moment, Mr. Omoya.”>

<“Sure!”>

TL casually strolls out of the room. Once the door closes, however, he immediately breaks into a desperate sprint down the hallway. He runs over to where Irwin has set up the table with all the surveillance equipment, grabs his headset and slips it on before keying his mic.

“Gentlemen, we have a serious problem!”

“Yo, what’s up?” Derrick chimes in through the Cell’s comms.

Daniels hastily jogs over from the direction of the restroom, “What is it, Sir?”

Irwin turns his head towards TL.

“I’m ashamed that it took me this long to figure this out but, I know why this assignment was rated as an Omega-2. We’re dealing with a Harem Lord!”

“Aw, hell nah!” Derrick exclaims.

“Fuck!” Irwin grunts.

“...Um...”

“4, I’ll explain it later. Right now, all you need to know is that we are about to be attacked by a squad of E.Y.Ws!”

“E-“

“Extraordinary Young Women,” Irwin answers almost automatically.

“Ah,” Daniels grunts, “So, they’re not Magical Girls?”

“Hopefully not,” TL answers, a tinge of dread in his voice “But we can’t discount that possibility.”

“Do you have any information concerning the types of E.Y.W we’ll be engaging, TL,” Irwin asks.

“I’ll need to get that out of Omoya-san but, from what he’s already told me, we’ll be up against at least one Tech Girl and either a Ninja or a Sword Girl. Our biggest threat, right now is obviously the TG. Depending on her competency, the entire Harem may already have our scent.”

“Yo, man, fuck dis’! Let’s ditch dis motha’fucka’ and bounce!” Derrick demands.

“Normally, I’d consider it. But, if we can just hold out another... 10 hours, the Interrogation Team will arrive and this will be their fight. Of course, you all know that, as a professional, I don’t like to abandon missions. That’s also a surefire way to get a visit from Mr. X.” Everyone present visibly reacts when TL mentions that particular individual.

“I suggest contacting another Cell and requesting reinforcements,” Irwin says a few seconds later.

“I considered that option, as well,” TL coincides, “I’m going to put that to a vote but, before I do, remember our conversation from yesterday. The Cell needs to make over 1 million a year just to keep our mech in prime condition. That’s not even considering maintaining our personal kits and special weapons. If we call in another Cell, they’ll probably demand at least 50% of the payment from this assignment. Of course, that’s the best case scenario. More than likely, they’ll want to divvy it up by the number of personnel. Then there’s customary add-ons like Rapid Response bonuses and Maintenance costs. You all are free to voice your opinions but, keep all of this in mind. With that being said, who’s for calling in backup?”

Derrick’s shouts enthusiastically into his comms, “Yo, me!”

TL waits a few seconds but no other hands rise.

“Who’s against calling in backup?”

“Me, Sir.” Daniels replies.

“Me, as well.” Irwin says.

“Pssh! Ya’ll motha’fuckas is crazy,” Derrick gripes, making no attempt to hide his frustration, “Shit ain’t worth it, yo.”

“I agree with 2 but, the vote has been cast. No backup. We’re sticking this out on our own.” TL sighs and clear his head for a moment. “Alright men, I’ll need to coax a bit more information out of Omoya-san before we can develop a decent battle plan. As it stands now, this mission has shifted from a Snatch-And-Grab to Asset Defense. I’m pulling our patrol inside. Hopefully we can mask our presence by not appearing fortified. That being said, I want everyone in their full combat kit in the next 5 minutes. I also want a man out here, one at the intersection of the hallways and the last roving throughout each room. Check in every 10 minutes. If the sensors are tripped or somebody fails to respond, check in every 2. If you need to take a restroom break, do it now. I want everyone in position within the next 15 minutes. Understood?”

“““Yes Sir.”””

TL nods in silent approval of team’s resolve before making way his back to the holding room. Shinda is vigorously playing the pilot trainer as he enters.

<“So, you must be a popular guy, ey Mr. Omoya?”>

<“Uhh, not really.”>

<“But you have a lot of young, lady friends.”>

<“Oh, well, I guess I sorta do...”>

<“I bet your girlfriend gets pretty jealous, huh?”>

Shinda rubs the back of his head as he chuckles bashfully, <“Eheh, I... don’t have a girlfriend...”>

TL visibly reels from the revelation, despite already knowing of the young man’s romantic status, <“What?? Seriously? A good-looking, young man like you? Come on, there has to be one special girl you have your eyes on.”>

<“Well,”> Shinda lowers the controller as he glances upwards and thinks hard. A few moments later, he glances over to TL with a happy smile, <“If I had to, I’d say that all of the girls are special to me. They’re my precious friends.”>

<“I see,”> The older male’s expression tightens under his balaclava, <“It sounds like they’re very lucky to have someone that cares about them the way you do.”>

<“Maybe...”>

<“Why don’t you tell me about them?”>

Shinda raises an eyebrow, <“Why would you want to know?”>

<“Hey, I know I don’t look it but, I was young once too, you know. I never had that many girlfriends before though.”>

Shinda’s face suddenly flushes bright red and he fails his arms spastically, <“W-w-wait! You’ve got it all wrong! Th-they aren’t my g-g-girlfriends!”>

<“Heh! The youth of today,”> TL chuckles as he approaches Shinda and sits on the edge of the bed, <“Here, pass me a controller.”>

<“Huh?”>

<“I’m not really one for video games but, I’ve had my share of time behind the controls of giant robots.”>

Shinda’s eyes widen, <“You’re a pilot??”>

TL chuckles, <“Don’t sound so surprised, kiddo. I’ll have you know I’ve gone up against Sentai machines before. Don’t take me lightly just because I’m a little over the hill.”>

The teen considered his masked elder for a moment but then his eyes grow firm with determination, <“...Right!”>

TL and Shinda play a few rounds of one-on-one. As they do, TL manages to get Shinda talking about his friends. He learns of 8 in total and hears hints about what they’re special talents are. He ends up losing 4 out of the 7 rounds but feels accomplishment despite the fact.

<“Phew! The tenacity of today’s youth is something to be admired.”>

Shinda smiles sheepishly as he rubs the back of his head.

<“You’d make a great mecha pilot, Mr. Omoya”>

<“You think so? I’m not really that good compared to Ms. Mitsuko. I haven’t won a single match against her.”>

<“I see. Is she the person you got this ‘game’ from?”>

Shinda’s eyes widen for a second before they narrow in a glare directed at TL.

<“You tricked me!”>

<“Now hold on, Mr. Omoya, no need to get upset. I’m just trying to figure out this whole mess. Like I said before, nobody is supposed to even know this ‘game’ exists. If you help me understand who’s leaking information from my company, there’s a good chance we’ll be ordered to let you go.”> TL makes a calming gesture, <“Think about it. You say your friends are coming to save you but, you know my men and I can’t let you go until we have answers. A fight is inevitable. Someone’s bound to get hurt. However, if you tell me what you know, we won’t need to keep you. More importantly, we won’t need that group of horrible interrogators to come and pry it out of you. What do you say? There’s no need for bloodshed. Help us out?“>

<“I...”> Shinda begins but sighs and turns away after a few moments.

<“Still protecting your friends? For someone in your situation, that’s pretty heroic. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a young woman about almost the exact same thing. I can see why those girls are so enamored with you.”>

<“I-it’s n-not like th-that!”>

TL chuckles, <“I’m sure it isn’t.”>

<“What about you?”>

“Hm?”

<“You care about your men, right?”>

<“Of course. ‘Any worthy leader cares for the men under him.’”>

<“Then you should let me go,”> Shinda replies firmly, <“My friends can be pretty violent when I’m in danger.”>

TL sighs wantonly, shaking his head, <“Yes, that’s what I thought. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. When you’re an adult, you don’t always get to do want you want.”>

<“You mean, you didn’t want to kidnap me?”>

<“Not you particularly,”> TL shakes his head, <“This isn’t personal, Mr. Omoya, this is just a job.”>

<“You do this kind of thing for a living?”>

<“That’s right.”>

<“You guys don’t really seem like that kind of people though...”>

<“Well, I’ll admit, my team is a little... different than what people tend to expect. Especially the man who, I’m assuming, brought you your game console. Unlike the people you mentioned who attacked you before, lately my team’s been trying to remember our humanity. Mr. 4 would say we’re ‘good Bad Guys.’”>

<“Good Bad Guys...”>

<“Well, I think I’ve spoken a little too much about myself today. Think about what I said, Mr. Omoya.”> The older male stands and casually walks towards the door, <“If you help us, we can avoid any unpleasantness with your girlfriends.”>

Shinda’s face flushes red, <“THEY’RE NOT MY-“>

<“Hehe! I was just teasing you, Sport.”>

TL chuckles warmly as he leaves the room. As soon as the door closes, however, his masked face grows stern. He swiftly marches to the temporary command center, his mind already calculating a strategy.

THREE HOURS LATER...

Irwin arrives at the backdoor of the Shell, breathing heavily. Daniels is there to greet him, the barrel of his rifle meeting him first.

“Welcome back, 3. Any unusual activity?” TL calls from the command center, noticing the Info Specialist’s return.

“Affirmative,” Irwin replies, giving a sharp, single nod, “My scanner picked up an odd tracing signal as I departed Matsuya. I maneuvered down several alternate routes but could not lose it. I drove sporadically and gained as much distance as I could before parking Shadow Cat and proceeding the last 3km on foot.”

“I see. Good work.” TL pats Irwin on the shoulder before turning towards Daniels and Derrick, “Men, it’ll only be a matter of time until they find us. I’m not sure how they’re tracking us, but the fact remains, they’ve got our scent.”

Daniels raises a hand, “Sir, shouldn’t we just grab Shinda and get the hell outta here?”

The Cell’s leader shakes his head, “No, for several reasons. Firstly, there isn’t another holding site anywhere nearby. Secondly, our mode of transportation is parked 3 kilometers away. A wise choice, seeing as they are apparently tracking it. Thirdly, Omoya-san may be personable but, unlike the Yanigaharas girls, he’d most likely put up a fight while we tried moving him. Fourth, we don’t know the angle of the Harem’s approach. If we leave now, we could be walking right into them. We can’t risk that with a fidgeting hostage.
Unfortunately, this building is our only advantage now. We have sensors and anti-intrusion set up, we are concealed and we know the layout. Furthermore, we know they’re coming. We don’t know when they’ll get here or how but, they won’t be taking us by surprise. Hopefully Irwin’s fancy driving and decoy tactics will buy us a little more time,” TL glances at his watch, “7 hours, team. 7 more hours at a maximum. Let’s just keep our heads on a swivel and do what we’ve been assigned to do.”
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

Zerro
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 3

Post by Zerro » Mon Sep 19, 2022 5:28 am

TWO HOURS LATER...

“1: 3.” Irwin calls through his throat mic.

“Go ahead 3,” TL replies.

“Received call from Retrieval team. They are inbound. E.T.A 40 minutes.”

“Excellent! I don’t want to jinx it but I think we might just-“

“TL, sensor tripped. Sector 3-A.”

“And as if on cue...” TL sighs, “Okay men, they’re here. Thanks to our grid we have a few minutes to prepare. 3, turn off the lights.”

Irwin taps a few keys on his laptop and every light in the building goes out. In response the Cell pulls down their tri-scopes and activate night vision by squeezing the tips of their thumbs to the tips of their middle fingers.

“Thanks again Yu-Yu,” Daniels muses to himself, the proud smile on his face covered by his balaclava.

“Better switch over to FLIR. They’re bound to have lights of their own,” TL reasons.

Everyone squeezes the tips of their thumbs and pinky fingers together, changing the mode of their tri-scopes.

“Gears,” TL sounds firmly.

“““Turned!”””

All eyes are glued to the Team Leader as he begins making several complicated gestures with his hands. 2 minutes later he, Derrick and Daniels disperse while Irwin resumes his vigil over the command center. Several minutes later, the Info Specialist keys his mic.

“Multiple sensors tripped. 2-D, 3-G, 3-K, 3-A, 3-F and 3-I.”

“Copy,” TL replies before releasing his mic key. He glances over to Shinda, who is occupying the warehouse broom closet with him, <“You were right, Mr. Omoya. You friends did come to rescue you.”>

Shinda sighs in relief but then a troubled look covers his face, <“You should let me go.”>

<“Can’t do that, Sport. Whatever your lady friends might do to my men and I, the people who hired us would that and more. Then they’d go after our families.”>

The senior high school student is at a loss for words as he glances anxiously at his eldest captor.

<“Like I said,”> TL says, having caught the young man’s dour expression, <“When you’re an adult, you don’t always get to choose.”>

ELSEWHERE...

As wordlessly instructed, Daniels stands in the second of two rooms facing north, where the closest intruder was detected. Following his training, he hunkers up within the corner of the room which gives him the best field of view. From his position, he can see both doorways and the frosted-glass of the small window, as well as the entirety room. He controls his breathing and carefully checks his rifle.

Irwin’s cool, collected voice breaks the tense silence, “4; 3: Sensor tripped in your area. 1-C.”

Daniels acknowledges by keying his mic twice before slowly inhaling through his nose and holding it. After a few seconds, he exhales, hearing nothing but the beating of his own heart. To counteract the lack of sound, he begins scanning the entire room from top to bottom. He finishes and starts over, as if he were a surveillance camera. Suddenly, he hears hushed voices near the window. Because FLIR doesn’t display light, he lifts his tri-scopes and stares through the darkness. A circle of light suddenly appears against the frosted glass causing his heartbeat to hasten. He grips the button of his headset and begins to key a precise rhythm to the rest of the Cell to which they all respond with a double press of their mics. Slowly moving his hand back to his rifle, Daniels watches as the light grows smaller and more intense against the glass. The voices on the other side grow more intense as well.

“Motion detectors pinged 3 figures outside of 4’s position.” Irwin reports to the Cell.

“Copy,” TL replies sharply before his tone takes on a more gentle tone, “Stay calm over there, 4. Let them think this is a dead end.”

Daniels keys his mic twice in response.

“Motion detector pinged two figures at front entrance.”

“Copy,” the Cell’s captain replies again, “2, are you in a decent spot?”

A double press is heard.

“Good. Do not engage unless you’re fully discovered.”

Daniels listens to the voices carefully. Even with his growing knowledge of the language, he can’t make out what’s being said. However, he soon hears a loud, one-note call before the voices gradually soften. He releases an inaudible sigh and waits in silence.

“3 to All: They’re at both entrances. Falling back to secondary position.”

“Copy. They’re going to breach. Its a game of cat and mouse now. Carefully fall back to secondary positions. 2, 4: you two are the rearguard.”

Once again, Daniels affirms via double-press. He is just about to move when he suddenly hears a loud, sharp sound coming from outside of the room. A shrill alarm goes off and he hears the excited cries of several feminine voices. Hoping to use the cacophony to mask his movement, he begins to run to the other side of the room only to be surprised when, after hastily arriving at the door, the alarm abruptly stops. He hears a different voice speak in a flat, even tone. Then, there is a loud commanding, albeit feminine voice. It continues a while as Daniels quietly opens the door. The commanding voice ends and a chorus of determination-filled voices call out in response. Daniels just barely manages to step through the door and close it when he hears footsteps approaching. Using his tri-scopes, he quickly finds a nearby doorstop and shoves it under the door before quickly but quietly proceeding through the second room.

He makes it to the other side just in time to see the door he’s approaching slowly swing open. Thinking quickly, he slips behind it and pushes his body against the wall as the flat wood begins to sandwich him. The sounds of shuffling feet mere inches from him, sets his heartbeat through the roof but, he forces himself to stay focused. The door hits him flat on the chest and he hooks the inside of his right elbow around the knob to keep it from bouncing away. Then he waits as the footsteps grow less intense before peering past the edge. Two figures appear in his grayscale field of view. He silently switches to nightvision and observes them as they move through the room, scanning the area with the beams of their flashlights. A sudden banging on the opposite door startles all three present and the two figures, both adolescent women, turn their attention and their lights towards the opposite side of the room.
Daniels immediately seizes the opportunity to quietly skulk from behind the plywood rectangle. He keeps his rifle trained on the backs of the two teenagers as he approaches the door’s threshold and quickly glances around both edges. Seeing no one, in either section of the hall or the room across, he tiptoes out, silently pulling the door shut behind him.
He begins to move down the hall but the sudden appearance of a beam of light, emitting from the conjoining section, forces him to skitter into the empty room beside him. He glances around and decides to utilize the same trick that got him out of trouble in the second room. Carefully, he pulls the door away from the wall and situates himself within the corner before pulling it towards him, concealing himself. 15 seconds later, footsteps approach. They pass as soon as they arrive only for more to return. The door of the room Daniels just exited opens abruptly and pools of light flood into the doorway of his current room, interrupted by sharp shadows cast by two feminine figures. A new voice grumbles with a distinct intensity and is answer by another more dainty voice which Daniels also doesn’t recognize. The flat tone of the voice from earlier speaks but is cut off by the rough voice. The two go back and forth for a bit as Daniels reaches for his headset and keys a pattern to the rest of the Cell. As he does so, the authoritative voice interrupts a heating debate between Flat Voice and Rough Voice. Leader Voice barks harshly before lowering her tone and speaking more level-headedly. Once again, she ends her speech with an upward inflection, to which her companions reply sharply.

““““Hai!””””


Daniels waits patiently as the sounds of footsteps grows fainter and fainter. He is just about to push the door away and move when he hears Tough Voice speaking in a questioning tone. Dainty Voice replies sheepishly just before the sounds of light footsteps grow closer and closer. Once again, light peers through the doorway as a young woman cautiously steps inside. Through her nervous whimpers, Daniels easily identifies her as Dainty Voice. Apparently discounting the amount of space between the corner and the door, she unknowingly keeps her back pointed at the man hidden behind her as she timidly steps further into the room. She scans every inch of the area in front of her with her light before finally moving away from the wall to check behind the furniture. Getting the impression she might eventually check the area he’s currently hiding, Daniels keys his mic in a distinct pattern. A reply comes and he wordlessly affirms.

Cautiously, he silently closes the door, crouches down low and switches his tri-scopes to FLIR as he slings his rifle over his shoulder and slowly draws his pistol. As silent as the grave, he skulks closer and closer to Dainty Voice, who is bent over, looking underneath a pair of bunkbeds as he stealthily sneaks up from behind.

“Pst!”

Startled, Dainty Voice yelps as she desperately scrambles to her feet, unknowingly placing herself in a semi-exposed position. Daniels immediately seizes the opportunity and, in one fell swoop, wraps his arm around her mouth, pushes the silencer of his pistol against her neck and pulls the trigger. The girl’s body twitches sporadically for a few seconds before going completely limp. Daniels catches her weight, holsters his pistol and carefully lays her onto the lower bunk. He pulls the blankets over her and gently pats her on the head before grabbing her flashlight and removing the batteries. He places the now useless tool next to her before retreating back to his corner and whispering softly into his headset.

“1, 4: One tango down. Shocked. Crew quarters. Over.”

A pattern of mic keying is the response.

“Roger. Moving towards 2.”

Daniels holds his breath and waits for a moment. Hearing nothing unusual on the other side of the door, he exhales, switches back to night-vision and opens it extremely slowly, paying close attention to any shift in the green amplification of his field of view. Noting nothing, he peers his head out and glance around the doorframe. Both ends of the hall are empty but, he can occasionally see rays of interrupted light coming out of the room the Cell was keeping Shinda. Due to him needing to rendezvous with Derrick, he forces himself from the relative safety of the Bunk Room, back into the hallway, quietly closing the door behind him. He slinks back across the hall into the room he had managed to narrowly escaped earlier and presses himself into a corner.

“Need decoy!” A deep voice calls into the Cell’s comms.

Daniels eyes widen upon hearing Irwin’s urgent tenor. Thinking quickly, he leans over, grips the knob of the door and pulls it towards the doorframe with all his might. Before it even makes contact, he is already sprinting through to the adjoining room, where his high stakes game of hide-and-seek first started. He just barely manages to skirt past the far wall when the door burst open harder than he had slammed it. Light surges through the doorways of both rooms as he stiffly holds his position. Rough Voice growls and shouts angrily. Leader Voice arrives later and speaks in a questioning voice. Rough Voice grumbles in response. Daniels hears yet another new voice, who responds casually, as if tired or disinterested. Lazy Voice speaks questioningly. They all grow silent. Daring a peek, Daniels peers ever so slightly past the doorframe. He sees three girls standing in the hall, past the room he barely managed to escape twice. They are all looking away from his direction, towards the closed door of the Bunk Room.

Leader Voice speaks hesitantly. She is replied to by Rough Voice, who’s tone seems to have lost a bit of its edge. Lazy Voice scoffs and laughs but her chuckling quickly loses its mirth. Flat Voice comes into hearing range and speaks to the trio in an annoyed, questioning tone. The other girls begin to respond.

“Clear. The assistance is appreciated.”

Daniels shuts the door silently and sneaks to the exit of the conjoined rooms.

“Any time, dude,” He whispers when he feels he’s out of audio range. “1, 4: Sir, permission to cloak?”

A short keying is heard.

“No Sir, it still scrambles my comms.”

More keying.

“Roger. Will decloak in 5 minutes.”

Daniels activates his kits’ integrated active camouflage by pressing the tip of his thumb against the middle joint of his ring finger. Within seconds his body, clothing and equipment becomes translucent rending him nearly invisible but also having the side effect of rendering tri-scopes useless. Despite the darkness, he presses on. Feeling more confident now, he sneaks out of the room and into the hallway connecting the carpool to the rest of the building. He feels for the doorframe and, once his hands find it, he peers around before stepping through. While passing the threshold, an idea comes to his mind. He smirks a doubly invisible smirk as he instinctively reaches into his explosives pouch. He retrieves an object and carefully runs his hands around it, discerning what it is through touch. Once he is content with his choice, he rubs the cylinder in his hands until he feels a very familiar ring. He pulls it before crouching and rolling the cylinder along the floor, which becomes visible after leaving his hand. Judging by the sound, Daniels determines it skittered and stopped near or underneath a nearby recliner. He snickers inaudibly as he once again closes the door behind him. While he slinks away, using the wall for reference, a small explosion can be heard from within the room. The high pitch of feminine yelps echo along the hallway.
Unable to move swiftly due to his impaired vision, Daniels looks around before decloaking. Fully visible again, he releases an inaudible, yet content sigh happy to have his night-vision capabilities once more. Moving fast to make up for lost time, he slithers down the hall and enters the motor pool. Along the way, he glances over his shoulder and smirks mischievously as he sees plumes of thick, white smoke escaping from underneath the closed door. A few seconds later, the sounds of feminine exclamations and coughing can be heard coming from the area. Daniels posts up in a corner and reestablishes comms with the Cell.

“4 to All: Decloaked early. Just set off a smoke grenade in Storage Room A. That should buy time for movement.”

“4, 1: We appreciate the thought but, quit playing pranks and get to your position,” TL orders.

“1, 4: Already here, Sir. Waiting on 2.”

“Yo,” Derrick whispers from from the other side of the room.

“Belay my last, Sir. 2 and 4 in position.”

“4, 1: Good, hold position until 3 arrives.”

“Roger.”

There is keying. Daniels’ masked face grows tense in response.

“3, 1: Can you move if you have another distraction?”

More keying.

TL responds, “Understood. 2, 4: Move to the second hallway and prepare to support 3.”

“Moving!” Daniels whispers sharply.

“Rollin’!” Derrick response with the same, low tone.

There is rapid keying just before the sound of gunfire is heard from the other side of the building.

Daniels and Derrick round the corner just in time to see the backs of four young women heading towards the corner room. Daniels quickly drops to one knee and opens fire. He manages to hit one girl in the leg and is immediately followed up by Derrick who snags another in the shoulder. Both females drop to the floor, convulsing wildly. The girls in front of the first two notice the sounds of their friends’ peril and quickly spin around, shining their lights down the hall. Having seen it coming, thanks to his tri-scopes being in night-vision mode, Daniels ducks behind his corner to avoid being blinded. Having remained in FLIR vision, Derrick continues to engage and thusly has his presence exposed.

“Moving around to assist 3,” The junior operator semi-whispers during a pause in his senior Cellmate’s shooting.

“Get yo ass movin’ then!”

Daniels peels off from Derrick and proceeds back to the first hallway. He makes it half way when we sees beams of light pouring just beyond the corner, growing more intense by the second. Quickly, he reaches into his explosives bag, retrieves a flashbang and pulls the pin. He then breaks into a full sprint before dropping to his knees and letting his momentum slide him across the floor. As he skids past the hallway, he tosses the non-lethal grenade to the ground, all the while, being temporarily blinded by the radiance of several flashlights. His momentum peters out and he ends up rolling past the corner. The flashbang detonates as he transitions from rolling to tumbling and ends in a low stance. The wails of young women can be heard milliseconds later. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, Daniels quickly rushes over and fire blindly around the corner. He hears at least two bodies hit the floor and decides to fire again in the same fashion.

Derrick’s voices floods the comms several seconds later, “Yo, 3, you good dawg?”

“A-Affirmative. Moving to motor pool.”

“Hell nah, dawg. D’ese bitches got cover. Go ‘round, B”

Daniels hastily joins the conversation, “3, 4: First hallway is no good either.”

“3, 1: I’m authorizing use of emergency escape routes. Get out of there.”

Irwin’s deep voice huffs over the sound of gunfire,“3 copies. Much appreciated, 1.”

A loud, deep clink can be heard moments before several portions of the wall suddenly fall away from the building, exposing the interior to the cold night air outside.

“1 to All: I have the Target and have made it safety to tertiary position. Converge on me. Now.”

“Roger!”

“Affirmative.”

“Word.”

Daniels runs back over to Derrick, supporting his efforts at suppressing the E.Y.Ws’ advance with additional fire.

“Yo, these bitches ain’t stayin’ down, dawg!”

“Yeah, I noticed. I’ll cover you. Head to 1.”

“Hell nah! ‘First in, last out,’ motha’fucka’!”

“Fine, I’ll go,” Daniels concedes, “Breaking in 3... 2...1!”

Daniels stops firing and immediately sprints for the nearest opening in the wall. He nimbly jumps over it and breaks into an all-out sprint as soon as his feet touch the grass beyond. He pounds the ground hard, mentally thanking all the training TL put him through for the ability to move so fast in his full kit. Huffing and puffing he skids to a stop when he hears a familiar voice cry out in agony.

“2??” His eyes widen and he quickly turns his eyes towards the Shell. “2, 3: What’s your status? Over.”

There is no reply.

“2 this is 3: What’s your status?? Over.”

More silence.

“2, dammit, answer me!”

“2 is down, 3.”

“Fuck!” Daniels yells as he punches the air.

“1 to All: Copy, 2 is down. Switch to secondary comms channel.”

Daniels grits his teeth as he switches frequencies.

TL’s voice is first to populate the new broadcast wave, “Okay team, breaking radio etiquette. 2’s down. What is everyone else’s status?”

“On my way to tertiary position,” Irwin replies, “I can see 4 from my current location.”

“I’m near tertiary. Scanning for 3, right-” Daniels gasps, “Oh shit, 3, run!”

The Cell’s youngest MSCOF agent quickly drops to a knee and begins to fire at the four young women baring down on Irwin. His shots hit the lead E.Y.W, causing the others to hunker down but they don’t stay there very long. The teens split off into two groups after they help their fallen sister recover. Daniels stands and fully exposes himself, covering Irwin as the senior agent makes his way towards a nearby copse of trees. Expending his magazine in his efforts, he reloads and attempts to reengage but a sudden hissing sound breaks his concentration.

“Huh?? What the hell was- NNGH!”

Daniels stumbles from the force of something suddenly slamming into his chest and falls hard on his back. He lays there for a split second, in surprise, before leaning up and inspecting himself. It doesn’t take long for him to discover the arrow jutting firmly out of his plate carrier.

“Dude, what the fuck?!”

He groans as he stands up and resumes firing at the young women pursuing Irwin. He manages to score a second hit, just before an another arrow flies downward and slams into his rifle, ripping it from his hand.

“Aw c’mon! I just can’t keep a rifle these days, can I??”

Unable to support Irwin any longer from his location, Daniels shifts his focus to the two E.Y.W sent after him. As he retrieves his pistol from his leg holster, he spots a familiar figure approaching and another slightly farther off.

“Wait... Isn’t that the chick we almost hit with the van? The one with the- Uh-oh!”

Daniels quickly returns his sidearm and dives to the ground before fishing a smoke grenade from his pouch. He pulls the pin and casually tosses it towards the girls in the distance. It detonates a moment later, startling both of his pursuers. He waits a few seconds but no other arrows are sent his way.

“Can’t see me when I’m not shooting, huh?” The man smirks mischievously beneath his mask, “Well, I can see you.”

Daniels switches his tri-scopes to FLIR as the smoke cloud spreads, carried by the cold, gentle night breeze of early spring. He retrieves a second flashbang, pulls the pin and, with great accuracy, launches it through the air, pegging Sword Girl in the abdomen. She cries out in pain and doubles over just in time to get the full flash directly in her face. She wails angrily in response.

“Thank you high school baseball~”

Staying low, he circumvents the smoke cloud and approaches the second young woman, Bow Girl, from the side. By the time he’s within 20 meters of her, Sword Girl is already back on her feet and out of the smoke cloud, searching his last known position. He hurries so as to take his target out quietly but, Sword Girl calls out before he can close the distance. Bow Girl immediately begins to scan her surroundings, causing Daniels to stop and lower himself flat against the ground. He considers staying like that until the E.Y.W give up but his hopes are dashed when Sword Girl calls out again. He looks over and sees that she’s following the trails he’s made through foliage and grass.

“Well... Alright then.”

Daniels does his best to get closer to Bow Girl but Sword Girl closes the gap with significant speed. He makes it to within 5 meters before his peripheral vision notices his surrounding brighten. Stealth no longer an option, he immediately bursts up from the ground and charges Bow Girl. Unfortunately, for him, she already had an arrow notched. Having been warned by a shout from her friend, she spins around and looses said arrow directly at his chest but it merely tears a small hole in the fabric of his plate carrier before gleaming off the steel beneath. A feeling of grateful exhilaration hits Daniels as he reaches striking distance of the young archer, thankful that the arrow hadn’t penetrated or simply bounced off and struck another part of his body. However, his relief is cut short when he hears footfalls rapidly approaching from behind. He tumbles backwards, just as Sword Girl releases a vicious cry and swings her weapon, a swift wind passing mere centimeters above his helmeted head. He recovers and is on his feet in a second. Then, with both opposing forces directly in front of each other, they stare. He at them, they at him.

Silence fills the air for a moment. Then another. Neither side makes a move towards their opposition. Noting this, an idea comes to Daniels and he holds up a hand as he slowly reaches into his back pouch. Bow Girl quickly notches another arrow and Sword Girl takes a firm step forward but the man simply waves his hand slightly. He removes his other hand from the pouch and shows the E.Y.Ws the object within: a flare. The two young women glance at each other before glaring at Daniels again. He holds the illuminating device out in front of him and, with one fluid strike, lights it. The resulting magnesium flame casts a blood red light around the area, accompanied by ever-dancing shadows. Daniels holds it out for a few seconds before dropping it. Then he lifts his tri-scopes from his eyes and bows before sliding into one of the defensive stances he learned from his training at Tsumda Dojo. The girls consider him for a moment before returning his bow curtly.

“Osu,” the MSCOF agent says as he steadies his breathing. Continuing to rely on practiced martial arts greetings from his dojo, <“It is a pleasure to to test my skills and knowledge against your own,”>
They stare silently at each other for another moment before Sword Girl drops her flashlight, slowly lowers herself in seiza and bows regally. Despite very much wanting to, Daniels resists the urge to attack her in such a vulnerable position.

<“It... It is a pleasure to test my skills and knowledge against your own,”> Sword Girl replies formally before rising back to her feet. She steps into a wide stance as she grips her weapon and readies herself.

After watching her friend, Bow Girl releases the tension from her bow string and bows deeply, <“It is a... pleasure to meet you.”> She also rises and notches her arrow once more.

With the customary honors concluded, silence once again falls on the trio but only for a moment.

<“Begin,”> Daniels yells before he rushes towards the two E.Y.Ws.

He immediately sidesteps as Bow Girl looses her arrow, only to be struck across his chestplate by Sword Girl. Despite his vision blurring from the blow, the trauma padding beneath Daniels’ steel plate spares him most of the impact and he responds by swiping at her face with a backhand fist. She dodges by ducking under it, giving the man just enough time to see and dive out of the way of another arrow from Bow Girl. He hits the ground and immediately rolls, narrowly avoiding the sharp jab from Sword Girl’s wooden blade aimed directly at his head. He quickly rolls a meter away, stopping on his back before pushing himself up, onto his feet, only to be hit in the chest by another arrow. The impact causes him to fall back down and he tumbles backwards, in an attempt to avoid having his body to take the full force of the impact with the ground. Unbeknownst to him, he just manages to avoid having his legs broken by a vertical slash from Sword Girl. Following his tumble, he comes to rest on one knee and reaches for the pistol holstered at his hip. A shot from Bow Girl causes him to abandon the action and sends him diving to the ground again.
He grunts as he hits the dirt which is immediately followed by a gasp as he sees the wooden blade of Sword Girl swinging down, directly at his face. Instinctively, he pushes with his right arm and rolls himself forward, towards the young woman, colliding with her legs as the length of her weapon grinds into the ground with tremendous force. Sword Girl stumbles from the impact and, sensing this, Daniels kicks at her ankles as she attempts to rebalance. The young swordswoman falls awkwardly as her legs are swept from under her. Seizing the opportunity, the man draws his pistol and fires nearly point blank into the girl’s thigh from where he lays, on the ground. Sword Girl jitters as pulses of electricity course through her. Her trembling stops a few seconds later and she rasps heavily as she grits her teeth and begins to push her body from the ground. She is shot twice more and immediately collapses again, spasming terribly.

“Reiko-san,” Bow Girl calls out with a voice full of desperate concern.

One opponent down, Daniels pants as he catches his breath before leaning up. Almost immediately he is struck near the edge of his helmet by an arrow and falls back down. “AGH! Motherfucker!!”

Realizing his predicament, he rolls closer to the incapacitated Sword Girl and lifts her up, using her body as cover while he stands. Bow Girl gasps and yells at Daniels hoarsely, seeing him using her friend in such a way.

Now on his feet, Daniels carefully glances past the inert body of the E.Y.W in his grasp, towards Bow Girl and his eyes widen in surprise before quickly narrowing when he sees that she only has one arrow left. He shifts his weight and holds Sword Girl awkwardly, avoiding placing his hands anywhere indecent, as he gestures at Bow Girl. Her eyes follow his signaling for a split second and they too widen in shock before landing squarely back on him. A look of pained, regret shows on her face for a moment but is quickly replaced by one of pure determination.
Noticing this, the man nods before gently lowering Sword Girl back on the ground. To his relief, his remaining opponent doesn’t attack as he holds up his hands towards the young yumihiki and makes a show of unloading the magazine from his pistol. He pushes it into one of the pockets of his plate carrier before pulling the slide of his weapon back as he twists his hand, allowing the single remaining round to fall into his free palm. He holds the shock round between two fingers and extends it out for Bow Girl to see. She stares at it for a moment before Daniel slowly retracts his hand and seats the round back into the chamber of his pistol. He disengages the safety and lets the slide ride forward, causing the pistol to emit an iconic sound, familiar to almost anyone. Then the man reengages the safety and slides his firearm back into the holster on his right hip. In response, Bow Girl eases the tension on her bowstring, exhaling deeply. Daniels stands perfectly still and allows the young woman to catch her breath for a few moments. After a short while, her breathing steady and she readjusts her grip on the arrow.

“Ready,” Daniels asks patiently.

The girl looks into his goggled-eyes with an odd expression before her own grow fierce. She nods as she notches her arrow and draws her bowstring back.

Unable to resist the cliche trope, Daniels slides into a bowlegged stance and arches his shoulders back. The fingers of his right hand dances wildly as he glares at the young, bow-wielding woman.

<“Set....”> He says before drawing a breath.

<“Go!”> Bow Girl finishes before surprising Daniels by suddenly sprinting forward.

He quickly jumps up, abandoning his goofy, Western-inspired stance for one he learned from Master Tsumada. Unfortunately, the few moments it takes him to do so are all Bow Girl needs. Having closed the gap between them in a mere instant, she slides to a stop, adopts a wide stance, draws her bowstring back and aims, the tip of her arrow not more than half a meter away from Daniels face. She yells fiercely as she looses.

Daniels’ entire life flashes before his eyes. All the good tiles, the bad times, the joyous occasions and the depressions. In an instant, he looses all sensation. The world stops spinning and the darkness of night closes in. This was it. The end. It was exactly as people had described it. The darkness, the cold, the silence. It was all true. Except, that is, for this odd feeling in his hand. It was biting, stinging. Wasn’t a person supposed to lose all sense of feeling in the great beyond? So why could he feel his hand? Come to think of it, why could he feel a breeze on his face? Why could he feel a soggy, dampness around his crotch.

“Wait a minute...”

Daniels leans up from where he had apparently fallen and looks at his hand. His eyes widen in shock as he notices that, within the gloved fist, there lies an arrow. Expecting this to be some sort of post-death dream, he examines it for a moment before pressing the tip against his left index finger.

“Ow! Son of a- Wait... No way... HAHA! No waaay!” Daniels grips the arrow in both hands and holds it close to his face. “I caught it! I can’t believe I actually caught it!”

He cuts his celebration short when he sees the bewildered look of the young woman standing nearby.

“Oh! Right.”

As he raises himself onto his feet, he becomes more aware of the wetness around his crotch that now dribbles down his leg.

“Good thing we wear black,” He mumbles to himself as he slowly approaches Bow Girl.

The young woman’s expression changes from astonishment to fear and she begins to back away. Her focus purely on Daniels, its not more than a few paces before she missteps and falls, trembling in awe of the man who just defied physics drawing closer to her.

The young woman speaks in a quivering, hesitant way, causing Daniels to stop. As he looks down at her, the haze of combat slowly lifts from over him and he releases a deep, cleansing sigh once his heart rate has settled.

“Daijoubu-desu,” He says gently, noticing the fear on the young woman’s face, “You did what you could. Hell, even I’m not sure how I’m not dead, right now.”

Bow Girl stares up at Daniels, his oddly calm, compassionate tone relieving her of some dread. She lifts herself off the ground and rests on her knees, her hands clenched around the bow sitting atop them and her head hung low. Daniels sighs as he unholsters his pistol and flips off the safety, causing Bow Girl flinches and her body to grow tense in anticipation. Seeing this Daniels kneels down in front of her and gently places a hand on her shoulder. Surprised, Bow Girl opens her eyes and look into his.

“Nice job,” Daniels says before quickly firing from the hip. He holds the young woman firmly as the harsh electricity seizes her body and leans forward to catches her as she falls, lowering her to the ground as gently as he had Sword Girl.

“Man,” He says as he stands up and wipes the sweat from his eyes with the back of his glove, “Japanese women are not to be screwed with! I gotta admit, I’m kinda jealous of Shinda. If I had even one you girls after me, when I was younger, I... Well, things would be different, that’s for sure.”

The battle firmly concluded, Daniels fishes into his back pouch and retrieves four sets of zip-ties. He secures both Sword and Bow girl’s wrists and ankles together, behind their backs, before repositioning them into somewhat comfortable positions. He then pulls the arrows out of his plate and helmet before releasing another cleansing sigh and keying his headset.

“1; 4: Two tangos down, about 50 meters, uh... west, of Shell. Over.”

“Outstanding, 4! Excellent work!” TL’s surprised, yet proud voice responses through the Cell’s secondary comms channel.

“Its not all good news, Sir. My rifle’s damaged, no longer functioning.” Daniels sniffles as he leans over and lifts his broken weapon, examining it in the light of the flare.

“Minor concern. Continue to tertiary position.”

“Roger, mo-“

A flash of brilliant pink light illuminates the area an instant before a tremendous force slams into Daniels’ back, stunning him where he stands.

“GYAAAAH!”

Suddenly deprived of all motor functions, he drops heavily to the ground a second later and once again loses all sensation in his body, only this time its much more definite. His vision blurs and he can barely groan as he hears the muted, desperate voice of TL calling out to him from his earpiece.

“R-Rei-ch-chan...” Sword Girl mutters as she struggles to lift her head.

A familiar, young girl comes running up to Daniels and the two E.Y.Ws. As she gets closer, she stops and gasps upon seeing her friends bound on the ground. She quickly approaches Sword Girl and cradles the older girl’s head on her lap. Her voice is full of deep concern as she speaks to the older female. Though paralyzed and barely conscious, Daniels can still make out certain words. The two spend nearly two minutes talking before Sword Girl nods her head towards Daniels. The newcomer, Rei, growls at him for a moment but quickly turns her attention to her fallen friends.

Much to his utter relief, Daniels starts to regain feeling in his limbs just as Rei begins attacking Sword Girl’s zip-ties with her teeth. He exerts a bit of effort attempting to stand, grunting in the process and alerting the girls to his conscious state.

“Rei-chan,” Sword Girl cries, causing Rei to turn. The young girl stands and spreads her arms out, defending the prone bodies of her friends, as she watches Daniels rise.

“Ow!” He yells as he runs a hand against his plate-protected back. He holds the hand to his face and closely examines it in the red light of his flare and gasps upon discerning the soot covering the tips of his gloved fingers. “Dude! What the hell?! We’re using tranqs and shock rounds but you girls use lethal force?! And you say I’m the bad guy!”

“You are a bad guy!” The newcomer squeaks shrilly.

“Oh! Hey, you speak English! Thank God, the streak continues!” Daniels muses as he performs a small fist pump.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just, a thing... Anyways, so... You here to save Shinda, too, huh?”

“Don’t talk about Onii-san so casually, baka!”

“‘Onii-san...’ Wait, you’re his sister??”

“Hm!” The girl nods firmly.

“Ah, well, at least you’re not another one of his girlfriends.”

“Eep!” Rei’s face goes red. Sword Girl sees this and speaks to her in a questioning voice to which the younger girl replies sheepishly and turns her head away to avoid eye contact. To this Sword Girl glares at Daniels and barks fiercely.

“Uhh... What did she say?”

“Reiko-oneesan says she knew you were a bad man. You acted all honorable when you fought her and Kanna-san but, you say inappropriate things to me. Pedophile!”

“Oh, c’mon I’m not a pedophile!”

Rei scoffs as she turn her head away, “Hmph!”

“Don’t ‘hmph,’ me! I am not a pedophile!”

“You’re still a bad guy!”

“Well... I can’t argue with that...” The man replies, rubbing at his stiff neck. “And what are you, some kind of Magical Girl?”

The young girl visibly is taken aback

“What,” Daniels shrugs, “Its obvious. I mean, that blast didn’t come out of nowhere.”

“Y-Y-You know..?”

“Huh? About Magical Girls? Yeah. I’ve run into a few,” The man replies with a shrug, “Are you trained?”

The young girl blushes and angrily puffs her cheeks, “I don’t need training to beat you, Mr. Bad Guy!”

“Dang it! I was hoping I could talk my way outta this one. Oh well,” Daniels sighs as he unholsters his pistol and aims at Rei.

All three of the young women gasp in absolute horror. Despite having been electrocuted and having their limbs restrained, both Sword Girl and Bow Girl, Reiko and Kanna respectively, lift themselves and shield Rei with their bodies, glaring daggers at Daniels as they do.

“Y-You r-really are a bad guy!”

“What?? They’re shock rounds! Non-lethal. Heck, they’re barely rated effective aga-“

Reiko shouts fiercely at Daniels.

Rei quickly translates, “‘How dare you point a gun at a child,’ she says.”

Kanna chimes in indignantly.

“‘You shameless man,’ Kanna-chan says.”

Daniels looks at the trio then down at his pistol. Groaning, he rolls his eyes as he flips on the safety and slides his firearm back into its holster. “Fine,” he grumbles.

The trio audibly sighs and Reiko and Kanna allow themselves to fall back onto the ground. They both take turns speaking to Rei, their tones full of caution.

“Hm!” Rei responds and nods firmly. She then takes a step forward and points towards Daniels, “In the name of peace and love, I will defeat you Mr. Bad Guy!”

“‘Mr. Bad Guy’...Really?”

Rei assumes a wide stance and takes a deep breath. She clamps her tiny hands together and intertwines her fingers before extending her index fingers and thumbs.

“What, you mocking me or something?” Daniels shrugs before planting his hands on his hips in consternation.

“REI GUUUUUN!”

A beam of pink light explodes from the tips of Rei fingers and flies towards Daniels faster than Kanna’s arrows. He is taken completely by surprised but is saved by the girl’s abysmal accuracy.

“Holy crap!!! What the heck?!”

“Oh no! I missed!”

The man gapes at the small girl, “Dude, I thought we weren’t using guns!”

“Hmph,” Rei scoffs and crosses her small arms, “Its not a gun! Its a special attack that comes from my heart!”

“Ah, I see,” Daniels replies, stroking his chin thoughtfully, “By the way, ‘Rei Gun?’ That’s adorable!”

“Teehee~!” Rei giggles as she rubs the back of her head bashfully.

“You know, I have a special attack too.”

“Really,” the young girl gasps excitedly, her curiosity winning out against the severity of the situation.

“Yeah, but I can only do it when I’m really close,” the man snickers mischievously.

“Oh no, you are a pedo-“

“THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!” Daniels rubs a hand down his masked face and sighs, “Fine, I’ll just have to show you.” He then strikes a sinister pose, “Prepare yourself Magical Girl Rei!”

Rei assumes her previous stance, “Right!”

<“Begin!”> Daniels yells and quickly darts towards the young Magical Girl.

“REI GUN!”

Rei unleashes another beam of pink. Watching her fingers, Daniels anticipates the shot and nimbly sidesteps. The attack hits the ground and explodes with a sparkling flourish. Daniels watches it dissipate before turning and continuing his swift advance. Rei takes another deep breath and prepares for a third shot but Daniels reaches her and pushes her arms away.

“SUPER SECRET BAD GUY ATTACK! POCKET SAAAAAAND!” Daniels roars as he reaches into his left side pouch, pulls out a hand full of sand and dashes it across Rei’s unexpecting face.

“Eep!” The young girl cries in surprise before stumbling backwards and falling onto her bottom.

“Stop,” Daniels commands as the Magical Girl instinctively reaches to rub her eyes, “That isn’t any ordinary sand, Magical Girl Rei. That’s Grade A, Super Fine sand from the shores of Iwojima! Mwahahaha!”

“I-It hurts!”

“That’s right! That’s the exquisite pain which can only supplied by such high-quality sand! Why, it isn’t even sand, at all! Its practically mini volcanic glass, MWAHA-“

Daniels malicious laughter is cut off by Rei’s sudden sniffling.

“It hurts,” she whimpers again just before she begins to sob.

““Rei-chan!”” Reiko and Kanna call out in instant concern. A second later they’re glaring fiercely at Daniels once more.

“...Aw geez...” Daniels groans, shamefully rubbing the back of his head as he watches the young girl cry. “Wait! No no no! Seriously, do not rub your eyes! You’re gonna hurt them,” he warns as he removes the canteen from his belt and hurries over, “Here, I have some water. Lean your head back a little. Okay, now, here’s the hard part. You’re gonna have to open your eyes.”

“I-I-I can’t...”

“Sure you can,” Daniels reassures with a gentle tone, “Here, I’ll help...”

The man calmly places a hand on Rei’s brow and holds it back with a lenient amount of pressure as he carefully pours water onto her forehead. She whimpers from the odd sensation of it and begins to squirm.

“Shhhh.. Shhhh... Its alright. Its just the water,” he whispers softly, “Now, I need you to be brave and open your eyes. Its going to hurt for a little but, the water will get rid of the sand. Okay?”

“...Okay...”

With a herculean amount of effort, Rei pries her eyes open. Watching this, Daniels angles his canteen further and allows more water to wash over the young girl’s face. Her little chest rises and falls fast in response but, she balls her fists, stands her ground and bares it. A few moments later, Daniels lets up as he watches her blinking and moving her eyes freely.

“There. See? All better, right,” the man asks as he carefully dabs his gloved hand at the remaining water on the girl’s face.

Rei nods her head shamefully.

“Good,” Daniels replies and gently pats her on the head, “I guess this means I won, right?”

Tears form in the little girl’s eyes and she avoids making eye contact as her face contorts into a pout, “Mmm...”

“Hey, c’mon, don’t be sad. You did a good job! You all of did! Will you tell your friends for me? If I wasn’t trained as strictly as I was, any one of you could have easily beat me. Honestly, I’m really just lucky.”

Rei sniffles as she translates Daniels’ message to the older girls. Reiko and Kanna both scoff.

“Shinda’s really is lucky to have women like you in his life.”

Rei translates again. This time, Daniels notices the trio’s expressions brighten a little.

“Well okay, I won, so put your hands behind your back, Ms. Rei.”

Rei hesitantly does as she’s told. Daniels gently zip-ties her hands together and sits her down next to her friends. He takes out his canteen once again and offers both Reiko and Kanna a drink. He isn’t surprised, neither when they reject the first offer nor when they cave in and accept the second.

“Heh! Yeah, I’ve been electrocuted before too. Talk about dry-mouth.”

Once they’ve had their fill, he lets Rei have the rest before retrieving it and reacting with fake shock. “None left?? Great. You guys think you’re thirsty? I had to fight three people just now. And one of them’s a Magical Girl!”

“Don’t tell Oniisan...”

“Huh? Why not? Isn’t it a good thing to have magical powers?”

“Mmmm....” Rei’s face scrunches up into a pout again.

The operator waves his hands frantically in response, “Alright alright, I won’t tell.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bad Guy!”

“Ugh, my name isn’t- Nevermind,” Daniels sighs in surrender. “You should at least get some training. I noticed you close your eyes when you use your Rei Gun.”

“The light hurts my eyes, Big Bad Bro.”

“‘Big Bad Bro...’ Best I’m gonna get, I guess,” He shrugs, “Look, I sorta know this retired Magical Girl who trains other MGs. If you want, I could ask her to help you learn how to use your powers.”

Rei’s dour expression instantly lights up, “Wah! Really?!”

“Yeah. Like I said, I’ve met a few MGs. Her name is Tsubaki Watanabe, ever heard of her?”

“No...”

“Eh, that’s alright. I’m sure she’ll be willing-“ Daniels is interrupted by the voice of TL suddenly appearing in his ear.

“1 to All: The retrieval has arrived. I repeat, the retrieval has arrived. Transferring custody of Omoya-san to them.”

Daniels looks in the distance and sees a pair of headlights roughly 25 meters away. The girls follow his gaze and their eyes widen as they watch TL and Irwin dragging Shinda into an armored car.

“Onii-saaaan!” Rei cries wantonly.

““Shinda-kun!”” Reiko and Kanna bellow.

The girls immediately begin struggling against their bindings. Her legs already free, Rei stands and tries to run towards her captive brother but quickly loses her balance and falls. Daniels catches her before she hits the ground.

“Help,” Rei pleads desperately, looking into the man’s eyes, “Please, don’t let them take my brother!”

“I’m sorry Rei, this is my job.”

“No! Please! You’re a nice man! Help us!”

Reiko and Kanna both cry out towards the vehicle in the far distance. Rei squirms away from Daniels’ grip and tries to run again, this time falling heavily on her side.

“1 to All: If either of you is still alive, mission accomplished. I repeat mission accomplished. We’re coming to you. Just hang tight.”

Daniels’s masked brow furrows as he watches the small black figures of TL and Irwin steps away from the armored vehicle. He looks over at the girls, all of whom are crying miserably. As he watches them, his thought turn towards the young man the Cell just delivered. He thinks about the pain that’s in store for the poor kid. The fear, the agony and torture. Of course, once they were done with him, the Interrogation Team would...

“Dammit.... fine,” the man sighs as he pulls his knife from its sheath at the small of his back, bends over and expertly cuts the zip-ties around Rei’s hands.

The young girl’s eyes widen in surprise before her face lights up with a wide, open-mouth smile. He helps her to her feet and pats her on the head before moving over to Reiko and cutting her zip-ties. She quickly springs up and finds her bokken as Daniels sets Kanna free. The two E.Y.Ws glare at him suspiciously to which Daniels points to the armored car now moving away, in the distance.

“Rei, please tell your friends to stop staring at me and help you save your brother before that car gets away.”

“Right,” Rei replies happily before translating. Both Reiko and Kanna glance over their shoulders at the vehicle before looking back at each other and nodding firmly. Kanna bends over to pick up her bow but gasps suddenly and glances all around as she realizes her arrows are all over the field. Daniels catches the meaning behind her expression and walks up to her. Her presents the arrow he caught earlier which she takes, sighing as she places it in her quiver.

“Oh! Daniels exclaims before rushing over and picking up the two arrows he pried out of his plate and the one from his helmet. He hands them over before running over to his damaged rifle.

“Hey Rei, help me get this out, please.”

Rei quickly scurries over and pulls on the arrow lodged in the weapon as Daniels hold it in place. It take no time at all for the two to free the arrow, which Rei gives to Kanna.

“5’s better than nothing, huh?”

“Right,” Rei replies happily.

Kanna considers him before turning and rushing off towards the Retrieval Team’s vehicle. Reiko watches her and quickly follows suit. Rei sees them running into the distance.

“You better go too, Rei. They’re gonna need a Magical Girl if they want to save your brother.”

“Right,” Rei says and quickly speeds off.

Daniels smirks and looks around before tossing his knife next to the zip-ties he cut. He is about to throw himself onto the ground when he is surprised by a pair of small arms wrapping around his thigh from behind.

“Thank you, Big Bad Bro!”

“Heh,” He chuckles, “You’re welcome Rei. Now, go save Shinda already.”

“Right!” With that, the young Magical Girl scurries off, into the darkness.

After watching her leave, Daniels drops himself on the ground and sprawls out, on his stomach. The adrenaline from the ordeal now completely dissipated, he finds it hard to stay awake as the soft, night breeze pulls the heat from his sweaty, urine-soaked body.


30 MINUTES LATER...

“Irwin, TL: I found Allen.”

Daniels is startled awake by the voice of TL.

“Nnngh!”

“Still with us, Champ?”

“1..?”

“That’s right, Sport. Its me,” the older man replies calmly and places a hand on his subordinate’s shoulder, “Lights?”

“Nnngh! On.” Daniels slowly lifts himself up, first onto all fours then slowly to his knees.

“Looks like you had your hands full over here, huh?”

The younger of the two men nods sluggishly, rubbing at his neck as he glances around, “What happened?”

“Well, from the looks of things, after you took care of those two tangos, you mentioned, you got suckered punched. Judging by the heart-shaped scorch mark on what’s left of you back plate, I’d say Magical Girl beam.”

“Seriously??”

“Seems that way,” TL nods before giving Daniels a sideways glance, “Of course, looks can be deceiving, can’t they?”

“Sir?”

“Nothing, Allen. Here, let’s get you up,” TL says and helps Daniels to his feet. “So,” he says as he spares his surroundings another glance, “A flare, huh? You must have respected those young women if you wanted to fight them fair and square. Did you bow?”

“...Yes Sir.”

The older man chuckles as he pats his subordinate on the shoulder, “You would have made one heck of a henchman, back in the good, old days. The kind people used to appreciate.”

“Where’s Irwin? Oh shit! Derrick!!”

“Easy Allen, easy,” TL says and pats him on the shoulder again, “Derrick’s fine... generally speaking. What was he thinking facing an entire Harem on his own?”

“‘First in, last out,’ Sir.”

“Still playing Marine, I see.”

“And Irwin?”

“Mr. Johnson managed to make it to tertiary. He says he had you to thank for that.”

“No way, he actually made it??”

“Mm-hm. Apparently, you annoyed Omoya-san’s girlfriends so badly, they split up. Irwin got saddled with the Tech Girl and a Judo Expert. Of course, martial arts don’t help when the other person has range and a rifle. As for the TG, when it comes to talent versus skill, it was no surprise who’d win in a battle of technology.”

“Lucky him, I got a Sword Girl and a Bow Girl.”

“Yikes! That’s quite the combo, Sport.”

“Yeah, had to play dirty at first. I pegged Sword chick with a flashbang. You should have seen it, Sir.” Daniels smirks mischievously, knowing his superior can read his expression beneath the balaclava.

“I’m sure it was very impressive, Sport,” TL nods. “Too bad it all counts for nothing.”

“Huh?? You mean we failed?!”

“No no, Allen. We accomplished our mission. However, the retrieval team was assaulted in transit. They lost the Target.”

“What,” Daniels exclaims, feigning ignorance, “How??”

“It was the two girls you fought and their Magical Girl sidekick. Bow Girl took out the tires, the MG blasted the backdoors with the same energy blast you had a taste of and Sword attacked our people inside.”

“Fuck...”

“There weren’t any casualties but those fellows are going to be in traction for a few months.”

“Dammit... If I hadn’t-“

“Hey now, don’t do that Allen. Those girls took out 6 men and totaled an armored car. I’d say its a miracle you aren’t dead right now.”

Daniels can’t help but smile, shamefully, “I’ve had good teachers, Sir.”

“Maybe you have,” TL smiles proudly in return, “Come on, let’s go see how badly those young women beat up Derrick.”

“Yeah! I can’t wait until he’s conscious. ‘Now who’s the dumbass??’”
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

Zerro
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

Re: MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 4

Post by Zerro » Mon Sep 19, 2022 5:42 am

THREE DAYS LATER...

Zushi Residential Area - Omoya Residence.

Daniels straightens the cap of the uniform he ‘borrowed’ from a well-known, Japanese delivery service as he shifts the weight of the package he’s carrying from one arm to the other. He clears his throat before extending a hand and rings the doorbell of the familiar, Dandelion-yellow house. For a while, there isn’t any sound other than those of the quiet neighborhood. The hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he quickly looks over his shoulder, only to see nothing. He looks back to the door but, just then, his eyes catch movement from the window, roughly two meters away. He resists the urge to full-on look, so as not to seem suspicious. His nerves begin to falter as he waits and, after 5 minutes, he opts to retreat and fight another day. However, just as he decides this, the door slowly peels open, just enough for someone to peer through the space.

Unable to see the individual, Daniels resorts to his original plan. <“Hello! I... delivery for... Mr. Omoya.”>

He internally cringes, lambasting himself for not rehearsing his lines more thoroughly. Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, his botched speech doesn’t matter in the slightest. He learns this as the door opens wider and he sees both Reiko and Kanna standing on the other side of the doorframe.

“...”

“...”

Doubling down on the charade, Daniels clears his throat and begins to repeat himself in lower, awkward tone, <“Hello, I have a deli-> AGH!”

He nearly drops his package as he feels a sudden, stinging sensation in his arm. He glances down and notices a small dart protruding from his bicep. His face is awash with surprise as he looks over towards the E.Y.Ws and spots the homemade dart gun Kanna is holding in her hand.

“Aww, son of a bi-”


10 MINUTES LATER...

Another sharp pain in his arm brings Daniels back from the depths of unconsciousness. He feels a gentle pressure where it emanates from as he shakes his head to clear his blurry vision. No stranger to being knocked out, he tries to move his arms and legs, to no avail.

“Nnngh... Yeah. Guess I should’ve expected this,” He grumbles as the clouds fade slowly from his eyes. A quick glance tells him all he needs to know. Its dark, but not too dark, the temperature is comfortable, and his shoes have been removed.

He hears a very familiar, authoritative voice just as his vision returns to normal. He’s not surprised to see Leader Girl standing nearby. She speaks at him with a low, aggressive tone while sneering, her hands placed on her hips. While she says her piece, Daniels glances around again, this time with fresh eyes. He sees Reiko standing a little ways behind Leader Girl, her wooden sword propping up an arm, and Kanna, who’s staring at him with a hard-to-read expression. He sees Dainty Voice, peering from behind a corner and Rough Voice, who’s eagerly slamming her fist into her hand, menacingly. He sighs, seeing neither Rei nor Shinda.

“Oi!” Leader Girl yells, grabbing his attention, before speaking to him in a questioning tone.

“Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese.”

Reiko speaks to Leader Girl, with a flat, almost uninterested tone for a moment. Leader Girl scoffs and looks back over to Daniels. She leans up close and examines him. Daniels simply sits still and lets the young woman have her fun, playing interrogator.

“Hmph!” Leader Girl stands erect after a few moments before flicking her chin towards something out of Daniel’s view.

“I know you can’t understand me but, I just came by to return Shinda’s game console. We forgot it at the place we were holding him.”

A flat voice speaks from behind him before an unfamiliar girl comes into view, carefully holding the package he brought arms-length from her body.

“Ugh,” Daniels groans, resisting the urge to roll his eyes, “What? You guys think its a bomb or something? Because that would be dumb.”

Leader Girl catches the attitude in Daniels tone and immediately launches into a verbal assault. Rough Voice grins eagerly steps closer as Leader Girl berates him. Reiko’s and Kanna’s expressions suddenly shift as they listen and Dainty Voice cowards behind her corner.

“If you’re going to threaten me, at least do it in ENGLISH!”

Leader Girl’s expression grows savagely fierce before instantly losing all emotion. She glances over to Rough Voice and speaks low and sharply. Reiko and Kanna step forward immediately and shout at Leader Girl but the authoritative young woman merely scoffs before replying with a haughty tone.

“Well, I guess this is one way to spend a Saturday,” Daniels muses, as the slender, muscular female strides over and stand menacingly close. Rough Voice smiles maliciously and cracks her knuckles before raising her fist. She launches it forward but stops mid-swing when two familiar voices echo from a few rooms over. Daniels’ eyes instantly light up.

“Shinda! Rei!”

Leader Girl quickly presses her hand against his mouth but its far too late. Rei comes bounding into view a few seconds later. She is taken aback, seeing all of Shinda’s friends in one room but then her attention lands squarely on Daniels. A confused look spreads across her face for a moment before she looks over to Reiko. She speaks in a questioning tone to which Reiko begins to reply however, she is cutoff by Leader Girl. As Leader speaks, Shinda enters the room. All of the girls, save Rei, immediately flock to him and exclaim happily.

“Psh! Seriously, how can you claim none of these ladies are your girlfriend?”

Upon hearing Daniels speak, Rei turns to him with an elated expression.

“Big Bad Bro!!” She rushes up and tackles him in a hug, almost knocking over his chair.

“Oof! Hehe! Hey Rei! How's it goin'?”

“I’m fine,” Rei replies as she wraps herself around the captured man, “How are you?”

Daniels glances around at his restrained limbs, replying in a nonchalant tone, “Well, I seem to have been knocked out and tied to a chair.”

“Now you know how it feels, Mr. Bad Guy!”

“Excuse me,” the man protests, “for your information, there weren’t any chairs last time.”

“That only makes it worse,” the girl giggles, “You’re a bad host!”

“Rei...”

Both Daniels and Rei look over to Shinda, who’s looking at Daniels with a cautious, yet inquisitive expression.

“Hey hey, Shinda! I’m glad to see you made it out, dude.”

It takes a moment, but Shinda slowly recognizes Daniels voice. “Eh??” He exclaims before speaking to the older man.

“Hey Rei,” Daniels whispers, “Can you translate for me?”

“Right,” Rei replies happily, “Nii-san asked if you’re that guy from before. The one who fed him and let him play his games when he was kidnapped.”

Daniels looks over to Shinda and smiles as he nods, “That’s me, dude. Actually, I came to make sure you got your console back.”

Rei smiles and translates for Daniels. Shinda listens to his little sister speak before looking back to Daniels. “Eeeh? Honto-desuka?”

Daniels nods, “It's in that package, along with something else.”

As Rei translates, Flat Voice carefully hands the package to Shinda. He sets it down on an end table and opens it. He pulls the console out of the box and wrapping and holds it for all to see. An excited smile spreads across his face as he hugs his old friend to his chest.

“That’s not all~ Take another look inside the box.”

“Eh?”

Shinda follows Daniels’ instructions as Rei translates.

“Hoooh!”

His eyes widen in surprise just before he pulls an advance, deluxe copy of Armored Core 4 out of the box and holds it above his head, as if it were a holy relic. Mimicking, or rather feeding off of his elation, the girls all beam with the same happy energy. Flat Voice happens to glance back down into the box and calls in a moderately excited tone as she removes two packaged controllers from the parcel. The teens all cheer before Shinda glances back over to Daniels. The older man, still tied to a chair, does his best to give a nonchalant shrug as he leans his head to the side.

“I figured you’d want to play 2v2 with your girlfriends,” Daniels smirks. “Just kid- “

Before he can confess his joke, Rei translates. Shinda’s face, as well as those of his female acquaintances, goes beet red. There is a single moment of silence before they all break into a torrent of yells which, even if he could speak the language, Daniels feels would be incomprehensible.

“Hmph,” Leader Girl scoffs after clearing her throat, once they all calm down. She speaks aggressively towards Daniels before glancing at Rei.

“Big Bad Bro, Mina-san says ‘So what if you brought Shinda-kun’s game back? So what if you brought him gifts? Do you think that’ll be enough to make us forgive you? You’re one of the men who kidnapped him.’”

“Eh,” Daniels contemplates, “she’s got a point...”

“But you let us go, Big Bad Bro,” Rei responds with rising concern and frustration. She turns to Leader Girl, Mina, and speaks in a childishly passionate tone. Mina fires back harshly, causing Rei to visibly withdraw.

Seeing this Reiko steps forward and speaks firmly. She holds her wooden sword at her hip as she gestures about with an aggressive, yet stoic decorum. Kanna also chimes in, although a tad more meekly. Her eyes stay focused on the floor for the majority of the time she speaks but, right at the end, she raises them to look firmly at Mina. Now that she has support, Rei reasserts herself into the conversation with young, ambitious vigor. Attacked from three sides, Mina recoils slightly. To her credit, she doesn’t allow the surprise and uncertainty to show on her face for more than an instant. She clears her throat and places her hands on her hips before speaking to the three in a firm tone. Rough Voice sounds off, out of nowhere, as she moves to stand beside Mina. Flat Voice takes a place at the opposite side of the authoritative young woman. The line being definitively drawn, Reiko and Kanna stride over towards Daniels and stand on both sides. Emboldened by their presence, Rei shifts her legs and sits on his lap, hugging his upper body protectively.
The two halves of the Harem stare angrily at one another as a silence fills the space between them. Then, all at once, they all glance over towards Dainty Voice. The massive amount of sudden, unexpected attention makes her yelp and she quickly cowards behind the edge of the wall once again.

“Natsumi-san,” Mina calls, her voice the purest essence of commanding strength.

“H-Hai...?”

Mina speaks sternly and curtly before concluding with a question which, to Daniels, reeks of sarcasm. Dainty Voice replies slowly and hesitantly, her voice barely even perceivable. Mina, however, does indeed hear what the timid girls says as is apparent by the sudden, highly aggressive question she retorts with. Natsumi whimpers and sinks even further past the corner, only a slither of her head remaining visible. She responses even more quietly than before but then, out of the blue, she seems to gain a flicker of courage. Though lacking in resolve, she speaks a tad louder as she glances from Mina towards Daniels and the three young women around him. Her cheeks flush with blood as her confidence seems to build and even though she constantly breaks eye contact, she makes her case passionately before concluding with a hearty, “hmph!”

Mina, obviously shocked by this display, is left speechless for a moment. That moment passes rather quickly, however, and her face blisters with anger. She takes a firm step forward and opens her mouth to speak but, she is interrupted by Shinda, who raises a hand and releases an exacerbated sigh. He places that hand on Mina’s shoulder and speaks with a voice resembling that of a tired parent’s. Mina’s eyes glisten as she listens and she clutches her hands in front of her chest. When he finishes, she immediately burst into an emotional tirade. However, Shinda simply responses calmly before retracting his arm and sliding both hands casually into his pockets. He steps into the space between the opposing members of the Harem and speaks to Rei for a moment. The younger sibling nods with a happy yet resolute expression and her arms lose some of the tension they held around Daniels.

“Arigatou,” Shinda says before looking his older counterpart square in the eyes. He begins to speak, and Rei immediately begins to translate.

“‘So, why did you come here today, Mr. Bad Guy?’”

“Oh c’mon, not you t- Ugh,” Daniels groans but decides to give up rather than digress, “I came here to give you your console back, Shinda.”

Mina’s side of the Harem gasp at the lack of formality with which Daniels addresses Shinda.

“Ahem,” he clears his throat, “I mean, Shinda-san.”

The three immediately lose a bit of their aggression.

Rei translates and Shinda ponders for a second.

“‘Thank you for that but, was it really smart to come back here? You’ve done a lot of bad things, you know.’”

“Yeah, I know. Its part of my job, though. It wasn’t personal.”

“‘My cute, lovable, super smart-‘

“Rei...” Daniels glances over at the young, embellishing translator with a flat expression.

“Ahem, ‘My sister says that you fought and beat Reiko-oneesan and Kanna-kun but let them go when she asked you.’”

“Oh, is that the story we’re going with?”

Rei glances upwards and nods.

“Gotcha,” Daniels replies and winks. “By the way, I have something I want to tell you but, I’ll wait ‘til this is over.”

Shinda cocks his head to the side as he watches his sister and this stranger speak rather comfortably with each other. He interrupts, posing a question to his little sister but Reiko quickly responds in her stead and Kanna quickly supports. Their combined answer seems to quell Shinda’s curiosity for the moment and he begins speaking to Daniels again.

“‘Why would you do that? Aren’t you a bad guy?’”

“Like I said, Shinda-san, that’s my job. Personally, though, I like you dude. You’re a cool guy. You didn’t seem like you were really bothered by us abducting you, you weren’t angry or a jerk and you even played video games with us. I see why you have so many, uh, ‘friends.’”

A wave of pride cascades around the room as Rei translates Daniels’ comments. Shinda, on the other hand, rubs the back of his head and chuckles sheepishly. As he replies, Flat Voice, Mina and Reiko simultaneously blush and quickly turn their heads away.

“‘That wasn’t the first time I’ve been kidnapped.’”

“Pffft! Dude, I change my mind. I don’t think I could handle that kind of attention. It sounds like a hassle.”

“‘You have no idea...’”

As Daniels laughs at his response Shinda joins him. This, in turn, sets off a change reaction and soon everyone in the room is laughing.

AN HOUR LATER...

Somehow, everyone manages to fit comfortably within the living room of Shinda and Rei’s house. Currently, the girls all have their eyes glued to the television as Daniels and Shinda battle it out in a one-on-one round of Armored Core 4. From the offset, Shinda had the advantage, dealing major damage to Daniels’ PA. However, the older of the males began employing tricky maneuvers and breaking line of sight behind props in the environment. Shinda responded to this by engaging from the air, which Daniels replied to by using tracking missile to pepper him. Thus began a battle of whits and tactics that, although lasting the span of a couple of minutes, was fervently fierce. In the end, however, Shinda closed the gap and used his mecha’s beam sword to chinch the match.

“Agh,” Daniels exclaims as his portion of the screen fades, “But I put in 8 hours of practice.”

Shinda smiles warmly and places a hand on the man’s shoulder. Rei, who is sitting happily between the two, translates, “‘You have really improved, 4-san. I had a hard time following your movements.’”

“Heh, thanks Shinda. Still, I feel like a baby turtle being attacked by a hawk, when I go against you.”

“‘I don’t know about that, 4-san...’”

Daniels laughs before glancing at his watch, “Aww, I gotta go.”

“Awww, Big Bad Bro...”

“Sorry Rei, I have to. I kinda ‘burrowed’ this uniform and I have to get back before the company realizes I took out of of their guys.”

Rei’s face strains to maintain a smile as she chuckles nervously. She translates what the man said and everyone else soon dawns a similar expression.

“Don’t worry, I just tranq’d him. Kinda like I did you guys.”

“‘4-san,’” Rei translates for Natsumi, formerly known to him as Dainty Voice, “‘Why didn’t your team use your darts when you were fighting us at the warehouse?’”

“‘Yeah,’” Rei translates for Chiori, known previously as Rough Voice, “‘Those shockers hurt like hell!’”

“Well, tranqs are more effective, for sure but, if you use them too often on a person, they could get sick. We already saw that Mina had a bad allergic reaction, so the guys and I all decided to try something different. The team didn’t want to cause you all permanent damage.”

Leader Girl Mina blushes and turns away.

“I’m sorry about that Mina-san. It's my fault. If I had reacted quicker, you wouldn’t have been dosed so heavy.” Daniels says, lowering his head slightly, “For what it's worth, I was glad to hear that you’d be alright.

Flat Voice, properly known as Mitsuko, steps near Daniels and holds a handheld device towards his face. Puzzled, Daniels cocks his head to the side, “Oh, English!” He reads the screen before nodding, “Yeah, I don’t know exactly what it was but, my Leader injected her right after she started having a seizure.”

Rei translates and Mitsuko taps the screen several times before presenting it to Daniels again. He reads the words and contemplates for a second. “Yeah, that was him. He had to put his hand in her mouth so she wouldn’t bite her tongue off. He bandaged it, so it must have been pretty bad.”

“Hmph,” Mina scoffs before turning back towards the group and speaking in a haughty tone.

“‘Tell your Leader that I thank him but, if you hadn’t attack Oniisan, I wouldn’t have needed your help.’”

“‘What kind of bad guys kidnaps people but then tries not to hurt their friends?’”

Daniels shrugs, “‘Good Bad Guys,’ I guess.”

Rei smiles broadly as she translates.

Daniels prepares to leave and Shinda, Rei and the Harem escort him to the front door.

“Well, its been fun, guys,” Daniels says as he steps outside and looks back at all the younger people crowding around the doorframe, “You all are actually pretty cool. Maybe we can do this again, sometime?”

“‘Sure! Just don’t try and kidnap me next time. And bring gifts for my adorable sister.’”

Daniels smiles knowingly at Rei, “Who says I didn’t bring gifts this time?”

“Eh?”

Daniels reaches into the pocket of his borrowed uniform and removes a small, pristine box before crouching to and holding it out towards the young girl. Her eyes widen in excitement as she slowly reaches out and takes it. She holds it in her hands before looking up at Daniels, with an askant expression, to which he smiles casually and nods in response. Showing an extreme amount of maturity for her age, Rei slowly undoes the ribbon sealing the box before gently pulling the top portion upwards. She and all of the Harem gasps when they see the contents.

A beautiful, shimmering necklace lays neatly on a small, white satin pillow within; a vibrant, heart-shaped ruby, set in a flawless, gold garland pendant of the same shape attached to a golden, threaded chain by a bib adorned with a single, smaller heart-shaped diamond.

The girls all whisper to one another as they peer over Rei’s shoulder. The youngest girl, however, is utterly stunned. She can only stand there, shocked in awe of the majesty of the jewelry. Even Daniels clearing his throat has no effect. It take Shinda stepping over and placing a hand on his sister’s shoulder to get her to snap out of her stupor.

Having realized that giving such an expensive-appearing gift to a young girl would cement his unfounded status as a man of ill-intent towards children, in the eyes of the group, Daniels already formulated a plan for its presentation. Rising up on both feet, he clicks his heels together presses his arms against his sides and strains his abdominal muscles, bowing deeply in the traditional Japanese ojigi custom.

“On behalf on my company,” He declares loudly, with a professional air to his tone, “I apologize for the pain and suffering my team and I have caused your family and your friends. Please, accept this and our other gifts as a small token of our shame.”

Though he doesn’t look up, he can feel everyone’s eyes on him. He maintains his bow until he hears Rei’s shaky voice speaking to the others. Once she finishes, he stands erect again, his arms still at his side and his heels still together. He looks straight ahead, over the heads of the young man and women in front of him with a expression lacking any emotion. If he was back in Boot Camp, he was sure his instructors would compliment him on a superb display of standing at Attention. Fortunately, the sudden shift in his demeanor seemed to have had the desired effect. Shinda bows in response before speaking to Daniels. He looks down towards Rei after he finishes but she is still flabbergasted.

“C-c-can I r-r-really keep it, Big Bad Bro?”

“Of course you can,” Daniels replies as he loosens his stance, “It was made especially for you.”

“It was??”

“Yep! That’s no ordinary necklace, you know. Me and Ms. Watanabe designed it for a certain young girl with special powers.”

Rei gasps, “Really??”

Daniels can’t help but smile as he slides his hands into his pockets and tries to act nonchalant, “Yeah, really. I told you I’d get you help, right? Whenever you feel lost or sad, Watanabe says all you have to do is ‘focus on your heart’, or whatever, and she’ll be able to talk to you.”

Rei’s expression expands into an awestruck, open mouth smile before she huddles herself forward and latches onto Daniels leg.

“Thank you Big Bad Bro! Thank you so much!!”

Daniels gives up on the facade and gently pats Rei on the head, “You’re welcome, Rei.”

Shinda sighs and shakes his head before smirking. He speaks to his little sister, tearing her attention from the vice-grip of a hug she’s currently employing on Daniels’ mid-thigh. She listens for a moment and her eyes light up again. She releases Daniels only so that she can attempt to crush her brother in her abundant affection. She collides with him, almost knocking him over and causing a ripple of warm laughter to radiate throughout the entire group.
Sensing that its the appropriate time, Daniels slowly and quietly begins to back away, as the Harem all focus on the brother-sister pair. He manages to break the line of sight before he turns and begins walking away casually.

“Can’t believe they didn’t call the cops...” He muses as he rounds the corner. He stops for a moment and blinks as he notices Shadow Cat parked a few meters away then he chuckles. The driver-side window rolls down as he approaches.

“How are our young friends, Allen?” TL asks with a welcoming smile.

“Surprising good, Sir. I guess they really are used to this kind of thing.”

“Well, Omoya-san did say this wasn’t his first time.”

Allen glances over his shoulder for a moment, towards the direction of Shinda and Rei’s home. “I would feel sorry for him but, for some reason, I’m actually kind of jealous.”

“Don’t be, Sport. That young man’s standing on a very precarious ledge. If he makes a move in any direction, he’ll fall.”

“Still, it’s gotta be better than being a single loser, like me.”

“You have options and freedom, Allen. Omoya-san... Let’s just hope things work out well for him.”

“Already done, Sir.”

“Hm,” TL grunts as his eyes rest upon something just past his subordinate, “Actually, it seems that you aren’t quite finished, Sport.”

“Huh?”

The older male casually motions somewhere behind Daniels. The younger man follows the gesture and turns around to see Kanna standing there, huffing slightly.

“Looks like she has something she wants to say. Want me to translate?”

“Please, Sir.”

<“Hello again, young lady. I’m a friend of this man. We may have met a few days ago,”> TL smiles charmingly, <“As you may know, he doesn’t speak Japanese. If you don’t mind, I’ll translate for you.”>

<“Thank you very much.”>

Kanna bashfully approaches Daniels, causing him to cock his head to the side and raise an eyebrow.

“‘You caught my arrow,’ she says. Wow, did you really, Sport?”

“Yes Sir, but I honestly don’t know how,” Daniels glances over his shoulder and replies before returning his gaze to the young woman in front of him. “Tell her, I said it was just luck.”

<“He says he was just lucky.”>

“‘It was more than luck. It was a sign.’”

“Uh-oh, this isn’t going where I think this is going, is it Sir?”

“I’m afraid I think it is.”

Kanna steps closer to Daniels and takes his hand causing him to experience a sudden flashback to 3 days ago, when he placed a hand on her shoulder. She looks up into his eyes with an intense gaze and speaks softly.

“She says, ‘When I was younger, my sensei told me that a maiden’s arrow will always lead her to her destiny. When I tried to kill you, my arrows failed but, when I thought about protecting my friends, you caught it.’”

The young yumihiki takes another step forward.

“‘When we fought, you treated me with respect and kindness and you were gentle with Rei-chan too.’” The senior high student’s face brightens with a reddish tinge, “‘I know I’m not old enough right now but, one day, if you’ll have me, I’- AHEM! Well, I think you can figure out the rest, Champ.”

Kanna gently spreads open the palm of Daniels hand and presses a slender object within it. He doesn’t even need to look down to know that its the arrow he’d caught.

“‘Wait for me,’ she says.”

With that Kanna turns, bows to TL and walks away, heading back towards the Omoya residence.

Daniels watches her disappear behind the corner before slowly turning towards TL.

“It looks like Omoya-san has some competition,” TL chuckles once the young woman is out of view.

“Sir...”

“Just kidding, Allen. Come on, we have to go get our gear fixed up.”

Daniels rounds the front of the vehicle and climbs into the passenger seat. After he buckles up, TL drives off. They both spare a glance down the road of the Omoya residence, catch each other looking and chuckle. Soon they lose sight of the house beyond that of several other, tightly-packed abodes. Then they lose sight of the residential area all together.

“I have to say, I’m surprised that you expected to see me here, Allen.”

“Honestly, Sir? I didn’t. But, I know that you know me, so I figured it was only a matter of time.”

The captain of the Cell smiles to himself. “Interested in knowing how I knew?”

“Probably something like the way the zip-ties were cut, or the way the blast marks on my back plate were smudged.”

“No Allen, I knew because this was all a part of my plan.”

“Huh?”

“Think about it. Since when have I ever announced ‘Mission Accomplished’ while any of the Cell were still in the field, actively engaging a threat?”

“Umm... Well, there was... wait, but what about that time... Holy shit...” Daniels stares through the air, utterly shocked.

“Exactly,” TL nods, “Did you also notice how both Irwin and I were standing out in the open when we made our transfer to the Retrieval Team? Out there, for everyone to see?”

“Sir...” The younger MSCOF agent begins, still reeling, “Did you Caesar Sosé me??”

“Since I actually enjoyed that picture, I’ll admit that, yes, I did.”

“But why, Sir?”

“What can I say, Allen? I found Omoya-san to be a remarkable young man. He impressed me. It would have been a shame to hand him over the Interrogation Team.”

“But, what about our guys? The ones from the Retrieval Team?”

“They’ll be fine, Sport. A few compound fractures do a world of good for a man’s character.”

“But won’t they get suspicious or, at least, blame us for failing their part of the mission?”

“That is a possibility but, I doubt it’ll matter, Allen.”

“Huh? Why’s that, Sir?”

“Well, I’d told them several times before they even arrived at the site, that we had been engaged by Omoya-san’s little fan club and that they should expect some kind of resistance. Of course, by then I had already guessed that they wouldn’t make it. Those girls gave three of my best men, who I train personally, a run for their money. There wasn’t much hope that any regular MSCOF grunts would be able to handle even one of them.”

Daniels stares at TL blankly for a moment, “Who are you...?”

“Is it my turn for that, now?” TL jokes, “You aren’t they only one who can show empathy Allen. Although,” He places a hand on his subordinate's shoulder, “I’m proud to say I’ve been re-learning how to do so by watching you.”

Daniel blanks, emotionally stunned for a moment, before smiling warmly, “Thanks Sir.”

The two continue to smile as they shift their attention back towards the road ahead, where new missions and new people surely await.
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

Zerro
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

MegaTokyo: Wetwork

Post by Zerro » Wed Sep 21, 2022 12:42 am

Welcome to the Bad Guys!

So, I've been an MT fan since sophomore year in high school. Loved the comic, bought the merch, reveled in the nerdgasm. One thing I REALLY loved was the idea of corporations owning and maintaining their own, private paramilitary force. Remember this was WAAAAY before games like Cyberpunk.

As someone who's always played Devil's Advocate (for some reason I can always see things from the evildoer's perspective in movies and video games. And no, not just dudes like Thanos. I'm talking, like, REALLY bad guys), I've always like stories from the opposite side of things. So, it was only natural that I'd eventually give writing about members of a private military force for myself. And what better universe than the one that blessed me with the idea in the first place? Seriously, I know MT is really about people but, you gotta admit, the world is just RIPE for all sorts of crazy, wacky adventures. I remember one page when Largo is just taking a casual stroll through Tokyo. He's not even doing anything Largo-like (in fact I think we was sorta depressed). Yet, all around him, all this crazy stuff was happening. There was even a mecha fighting a ****ing dragon!!!

So, sophomore me came up with the idea that would eventually become MSCOF, the Microsoft Clandestine Operations Force. Ya know, since I got an Xbox for Christmas of '01 and all.

My first few attempts at an MT fanfic were....just GOD-AWFUL! Especially how I wrote dialogue. I was so ashamed I deleted most of them before I even got feedback (There's still what was supposed to be the first chapter of something, collecting dust on DeviantArt, as a permanent reminder of my shame). But this time, after giving myself nearly a decade to learn about life, experience the world and military service (kinda important when writing about paramilitary organizations, go figure) and actually live in Japan for 4 years (wonder how THAT could be useful...), I forced myself to publish. This time, no takesees-backsees.

So, here is it, my story about a 4-man team of henchmen, working for Microsoft and living in the wacky, crazy, fun world of MegaTokyo. I'd appreciate any inputs, if you have any. Keep in mind, however, that this really is just a snippet of a larger narrative.

I hope you enjoy.

-Z

P.S.

Please forgive the typos. I set several deadlines for myself to actually post this but, I kept letting then pass, promising to "Do it later". This last time, however, I kicked myself in my masculine genitalia and got myself up at 0200 to submit. Thought I'd be able to post the entire contents of a light novel in one post, figured out I couldn't, started breaking the story into smaller parts, and then my self-loathing kicked in. So I changed a few things as I was trying to keep the character count below 60000. Go figure, that's no the best time to be editing stuff. Lessons learned for the future.
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

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cidjen
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Re: MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 1

Post by cidjen » Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:24 am

Hi and welcome to the Fan Works :)

I'm stoked to see finally the ratio of my writing other than folks, drop down :)

(What if, Piro in MT:E was actually a clandestine MSCOF agent...? Here's an imagination barf for you, do with it as you please...)

I enjoyed reading this a lot, i shall shamelessly plug my previous prose creation on this sub, find and read at your own risk ;)
Слава Україні!
🖕💩🥫🚽🖌️
--------
Translation to polish
and where it happens when I have time to stream

Blessed be those, who, having nothing to say, avoid trying to tell this to the world in their own words - J. Tuwim ( liberally translated )

Zerro
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue May 10, 2022 1:40 pm
Location: SC, WA, VA, CA & JPN

Re: MT:W - Chapter 22 Part 1

Post by Zerro » Thu Sep 22, 2022 4:57 am

cidjen wrote:
Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:24 am
Hi and welcome to the Fan Works :)

I'm stoked to see finally the ratio of my writing other than folks, drop down :)

(What if, Piro in MT:E was actually a clandestine MSCOF agent...? Here's an imagination barf for you, do with it as you please...)

I enjoyed reading this a lot, i shall shamelessly plug my previous prose creation on this sub, find and read at your own risk ;)
Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to read Chapter 22!

I couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception!

As for Piro being a secret member of MSCOF... There’s two issues with that. The idea is fun and rather intriguing but, unfortunately, it goes against my personal code when writing fanfics. See, even though I’ve been a fan of MT for also 17 years now, I don’t know the character that is Piro. Its hard to do such a complex character justice, if you’re not the original author.

The second reason... Well... I sorta dislike the character... Character Piro is... well, he’s not my cup of tea. I also couldn’t really see him keeping pace with a squad of covert operators. Remember, we’ve seen what he’s packing under his shirt. Not Fatshaming but, truthfully speaking, you gotta be fit to be a decent henchman.
Old-school fan of MT, with a renewed vigor.

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