Sending A Message

Participants:

alvin_icon.gif barbara_icon.gif eizen_icon.gif elaine_icon.gif jiba_icon.gif kay_icon.gif kin_icon.gif leroy_icon.gif marlowe_icon.gif monica_icon.gif nisatta_icon.gif otomo_icon.gif taiki_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

kimiko_icon.gif

Scene Title Sending a Message
Synopsis Yamagato Industries prepares for an eventful Q2 2018.
Date April 30, 2018

The sky is an endless sheet of pale blue, no clouds, no birds, nothing but clear blue as far as the eye can see. Where it meets the earth, the land is hammered flat and beige, rippling with heat from the midday sun. Dunes ripple to the east, undulating and yet unmoving waves of sand spreading into the distance. The desert void is cut by a plume of dust moving across the horizon, and the way the sunlight reflects in gleaming glare off of the windshield of a black SUV tearing its way across the sand.

The vehicle follows no known road, no trail, just cuts its own way across the desert at high speed, followed by a swirling cloud of sand that twists and turns in the air kicked up by the vehicle’s passing. Its tire tracks cut deep furrows in the sand, but the wind whipping across the desert already threatens to erase any sign of their presence. A dark speck in the distance is the vehicle’s ultimate destination, a refuge from the scalding heat and burning sun.

The speck is a wooden structure, an A-framed structure with a reed-thatched roof on the banks of a mirror still and thirsty-looking body of water. There are no vehicles this far out, no sign of conveyance, no electricity, nothing but the wood and the windows. Nothing but a stone well and rippling dunes of beige sand. Not until that SUV comes to a stop outside of the building, its ending rumbling, as one door slowly swings open.


Yingge Tugacha

英格图嘎查

Alxa Zuoqi, Alxa, Inner Mongolia

//China


Inside the small lodge, sunlight is filtered through slatted reed blinds hanging over the windows. Old Persian rugs cover the hardwood floor, partly obscured by an old wood table set upon by a laptop. A small stone hearth burns with modest heat nearby, enough to keep a black iron kettle percolating on its surface. The knock at the door disrupts the building’s sole occupant, and she slides her bare feet from beneath cool blankets and touches down to the floor.

Slowly, she rises to stand and walks past the computer, gently reaching out to close the screen as she makes her way to the door. One hand comes to rest on the wooden latch, and as she opens the door to the outside there is a blinding glare of sunlight, turning the man in the doorway into little more than a sleek silhouette. She squints against the light, eyes narrow, expression expectant and chin up.

“任務完成.” The man in the doorway explains, and a smile is slow to cut its way across her face in response. She reaches up, placing a hand on his arm, and steps aside in the same motion to gesture into the small building with her free hand.

“我們有很多要討論的.”


Twelve Hours Earlier

The Yamagato Fellowship Center

Yamagato Park, NYC Safe Zone, NY


A din of voices floods the air within the lecture hall of the Yamagato Fellowship Center. The beige-colored walls evoke a sandstone pattern, with each individual tile of immaculately constructed wood hand-painted to resemble a natural stone. Tiered seating rapidly fills as employees of Yamagato Industries’ New York branch congregate for the first quarterly meeting of 2018. Hundreds will be in attendance from all across the executive and individual-contributing strata of the company.

At the lowest and center-most point of the room, President Kin Egami stands with a tablet in one hand, speaking with Yamagato’s chief technology officer Hachiro Otomo. The two converse quietly, with Hachiro motioning to something on the tablet, then gesturing around the room. Standing at the back of the hall, Eizen Erizawa cuts a tall and dark silhouette, leveling a look over to Alvin Mott where the security specialist stands on the other side of the stage. Eizen makes a slow approach over to him, looking briefly up at the ceiling and then to Egami, then finally to Alvin.

“Everything appears quite green for today,” Eizen admits with a confident firmness to his voice. “I think it’s fair to say we can take our seats now.” Eizen motions to one of the two unoccupied balcony seats and begins to ascend the stairs alongside Alvin. The day’s events are progressing as scheduled, and there is a certainty that what Yamagato Industries has prepared for this all-hands meeting will undoubtedly be memorable.

Monica hasn't taken a seat. She's here, even dressed in a sharp suit, but she lingers near the doors, against a wall. She can see the dias from here, so she deems that good enough. Her arms fold, the cybernetic one hidden by jacket and position. Plenty of people here know her, and she knows plenty of them, but today she hasn't greeted anyone.

In fact, she's been fairly scarce lately. When she's been out and about, it's been friendly enough but always brief. Now it seems she can't muster even that much. She stares ahead as if focused on the stage, but anyone who looks close enough can see that she's staring at nothing. Here, but not.

Taiki is not one of those whose voice adds to the clamor in the hall, at least not just yet. The neatly-dressed auditor made certain to arrive early and has claimed himself a place in the upper tiers, idly watching the dynamics of the people around him. Who files in when. Who chats with whom. Who chooses what seat. …It's something by which to pass the time, if nothing else.

There's a notebook in his lap, turned open to a page blank save for date and heading. Taiki's pen sits idle, nestled in the crease between pages, but there's no doubt that the keen mind behind his dark eyes is taking notes. It always is.

Alvin stands by the side of the stage, one hand clasps the wrist of the other in front of him as he waits patiently, watching people file in in preparation for the meeting to start. Eyes flicker to Eizen as he approaches, a slow and respectful nod from him, not quite a bow, but a bow would require him to take his attention off of the crowd, which he's not going to do. "Appears." Alvin offers with a small humorless chuckle. "I do so hate that word." But he is in agreement with the security chief. Security is as covered as it's going to be, so he walks alongside the man, eyes moving around the room.

"Is there any progress on finding the telepath?" Eizen will know which one Alvin is talking about. The one that's been causing incidents around the park. And the reason he's asking would be obvious to the other security minded man. This would be a horrible time for them to have another telepath incident. He takes his seat once reaching it, eyes scanning the crowd one more time before settling into his seat. There's a tension that knots his shoulders. Waiting for something to go wrong.

“Not even a bit,” Eizen admits in a quiet tone of voice as he takes his seat beside Alvin. “We don’t have a clear facial recognition from the street cameras, and eyewitness identification has been spotty. I have checkpoint security on a higher alert but… I have a feeling we won’t be able to pin him down until there’s another incident, unless either he gets sloppy or we get lucky.” It isn’t the most ideal answer.

Slipping into the room, Elaine makes her way towards a seat in the front. She’s always been the type not to shy away such seating, especially because she had a tendency to pay close attention to what was going on. She passes a few colleagues and gives a few bits of greeting before fully finding her seat without relative difficulty or interruption. Once seated she pulls out her phone, checking it for a moment before silencing it and putting it away.

Kay doesn’t quite rush in to the lecture hall, but she definitely strides swiftly, and with purpose. Like if there’s a reason she’s cutting it this close, it’s a very, very good one.

That good reason happens to be ‘Ella, and it was a band practice. Kay has to remember to unpin from her lapel a homemade button supporting her daughter’s school, and she slides it into her purse as she makes her way down the aisle toward the stage. Sliding into a seat next to Elaine, she flashes her a big smile. “You saved me a seat!” They both know she didn’t, but the wink is conspiratorial. “Good to see you.”

Alvin's head dips in a shallow nod, his face betraying none of the concern that that statement fills him with. "That is… unfortunate." Alvin comments quietly to Eizen, the concern he's feeling showing in his voice at little at least. "And of course, waiting for another incident may not help at all given the widespread nature of the incidents." Alvin shifts in his seat a bit, letting his attention swing around the room to the new entrances, taking in faces, looking for anyone he doesn't recognize. "If you need any assistance with the issue I would be pleased to help." A small smile from Alvin at that, just casual conversation, not big time security concerns. "Do you know what the big thing they're supposedly announcing is Mister Erazawa?" Alvin turns a curious look on the chief of security. “Surprises are nice for most, but I rather hate surprises.” A soft chuckle from the man as he tries, and fails to relax in his chair.

Just a few seats down from Elaine and Kaydence, Barbara Zimmerman sits quietly. Hands folded into her lap and legs crossed, she keeps her eyes on the speakers. She may not be a Yamagato employee like many of the other people seated here today, but she holds a keen interest in what is planned for the future, both for herself and on behalf of the US Government.

And perhaps, after the surprise a few days ago, she's curious to get an eye on how things look around the Yamagato NYC executive staff.

But that, like many things, she keeps to herself. When Kay arrives, she offers the other woman a small nod, before looking over to Elaine - someone she still remembers well from the Ferry days, and one she's honestly not surprised has made a living for herself at Yamagato. Rising up from her seat, she moves to sit closer to the other two - one old acquaintance flanked by a new one. "Hello, ladies," she offers with a smile."It's good to see you both out here today." Particularly since Barbara had skipped the Gala, there were a lot of people she hadn't seen in some time.

Kam Nisatta’s entrance is a quiet one, even as she finishes a conversation with an aide who slips off to higher tiers of seating. The chairman of the Fellowship pauses by Monica, making eye contact just long enough to trail a look to an empty seat. Then she politely slips away without a word and descends a few steps, the wide pant legs of her bone white suit swishing as she walks up to the row Elaine and Kay are sitting in. There’s a raise of her brows and a fond smile as she slips in, taking a seat on the other side of Elaine. “No sense in breaking up a good team,” Kam opines with a Cheshire smile as she reclines back into her seat and crosses her legs at the knee.

Over in the high balcony seat, Eizen leans over to Alvin with a helpless shrug. “Unfortunately, I don’t know either. These big corporate announcements are usually held quite close to the chest for obvious reasons. Though the CEO will be speaking to us in a prerecorded message, so it’s likely to be a product announcement of some sort.”

On the stage, Hachiro has finished preparing the tablet and offers a quick bow to President Egami before hustling over to the stairs, around the back hall, and then over to where Marlowe has seated herself. «You made good time Hachiro» a voice chirps from his digital watch. «There are six minutes remaining until the conference begins.» Hachiro flashes a smile to Marlowe as he takes a seat one chair apart from her.

“Good thing up updated your profile picture in the gateway,” Hachiro notes with a wag of his brows. “Hope it looks good at,” he makes a square with his fingers and spreads them out. “Ten feet by fifteen feet?” There’s a laugh, and whatever he’s just sprung on Marlowe appears to be quite personal in nature. Photographically personal.

«Your teeth will each be four and a half feet tall, Marlowe

Thanks, Jiba.

Monica meets the gaze from Kam and follows it to the empty seat. Her eyes close for a moment, like she might be debating whether or not to comply. But in the end, she unfolds herself and slips into the empty chair. Her legs twist toward the aisle, her hand grips onto the back of the chair, but her attention is on the stage. However she might seem poised to run, it seems to be born of nerves rather than reluctance.

Seated towards the center of the auditorium, but close enough to the front that she's rather easily spotted for anybody gazing out over the hall, Marlowe also has her tablet out and is busily keying in notes. She glances up when there's movement around her, smiling at Hachiro and nodding to the empty seat he takes. "Hey Jeebs," she adds in greeting to the watch, as if the A.I. is sitting in the liminal space between her and the director, "Sometimes, I wonder what he did before he invented you." That's a slight tease for Hachiro, which melts into confusion and then surprise as the Tech Director talks about Marlowe in a photographic sense. "N-nani?" her initial blurt comes out. "Wait, hold up, what do you mean, my teeth?" Immediately, she swipes and then taps on her tablet, pulling up her company profile picture to check. Because if it's bad, it's going to look horrendous in a blown up version.

Alvin snorts softly in response to Eizen's comment. "A product announcement? That would have to be quite an incredible product if the buzz going around is anything to judge it by. Of course there could be nothing at all. People do like to gossip." Alvin leans back in his seat just a bit, trying to force some of the relaxation that he doesn't at all feel as he watches people getting off the stage and to their seats. "Glad I'm not the only one that dislikes having my back to people in a crowded room." He murmurs softly as he spies Monica being told, politely, to take a seat, his voice still pitched low, really only meant for Eizen. "Oh, remind me after this that I need to meet with you about something. Nothing major, just a concern regarding park security." Yeah, nothing major.

Elaine flashes Kay a smile in return. “Well, naturally I saved you a seat,” she says, her smile turning into a grin. Another smile is flashed as Kam slides into a seat next to her. “A dream team, if I might say.” Barbara is noted with a warm smile as well. Smiles all around from her, as she seems genuinely content to be where she’s at. “Good to see all of you.” She tucks her purse down at her feet and folds her hands in her lap as she waits to see what exactly was going to be announced.

“Good morning, everyone!” Hachiro Otomo calls from down on the stage, his voice carried through the integrated speakers in the headrest of each seat, making his voice clear without the need for amplified volume. “Thank you for joining us here on a Sunday. I know many of you would much rather be at home rather than dealing with your,” he wrinkles his nose, “Coworkers. Perish the thought.” The early joke elicits a murmur of laughter from the crowd.

“Many of you are familiar with me, though I see some new faces in the crowd today. I am Hachiro Otomo, Yamagato Industries head of Research and Development here in the New York City Safe Zone.” Lacing his fingers together, Hachiro begins to pace the stage.

“Today I am here, utilizing the lovely accommodations of the Fellowship Center — thank you Kam,” Kam cracks a smile as Hachiro blows her a theatrical kiss from the stage. “ — to talk to you about some of Yamagato Industries upcoming innovations for 2018, and the roadmap ahead for our 2019 initiatives.”

Out of thin air a screen appears behind Hachiro, some fifteen feet wide and ten feet tall. “First, I’d like to talk about a pet project of the CET Division. This is the brainchild of Leroy Jackson,” and behind Hachiro a panorama of the Safe Zone as seen from the roof of the Yamagato Building is displayed. “It’s the Ghost Network, and it is going to revolutionize the way the Safe Zone communicates.”

The screen behind Hachiro now shows a rendering of a quadcopter style drone no larger than a grapefruit. “The Ghost Network, which is entering prototype as we speak, will provide a cloud-based VOIP communication network to Safe Zone residents, replacing the outdated and out-moded cell tower network.”

Next, the screen displays a file photograph of Leroy Jackson side by side with Marlowe Terrell. “The design for the drones that will carry this network was spearheaded by Marlowe Terrell for her Active Handling Universal Narrow-body monitor drones, which were designed to accompany first responders into crisis situations. We’ve refitted the AH/UN designs to collide with Leroy’s own brilliant machine learning software, to provide a cutting edge — and secure — communications network.”

“I’d like to take a moment to recognize Ms. Terrell and Mr. Jackson for their incredibly hard work and diligence on this project. We’re to be rolling out the Ghost Network within the next couple of months in a trial run for one Safe Zone neighborhood. Though, we haven’t settled on which one yet, so more to come on that!” Hachiro raises his hands and starts to clap. “A round of applause for Ms. Terrell and Mr. Jackson.”

«I stand corrected Marlowe, your teeth are not as tall as I had anticipated.» Softly buzzes out of the air beside Marlowe. Thanks, Jiba.

Taiki glances up as Monica settles into the seat beside him, giving her a polite inclination of his head. If he was minded to say anything, however, it's aborted by Hachiro's announcement from the stage. The auditor reorients his attention forward, taking up his pen in preparation for taking notes. He glances only briefly at the screen, but is clearly paying close attention to every word being spoken; indeed, it almost seems Taiki is determined to transcribe them all as his pen flies across the page, script neat and precise despite the speed.

Alvin leans over to say something more to Eizen when the whole thing starts off and he goes quiet, leaning back to settle in his seat, shoulders rolling, shifting the suit jacket on them, tense and anxious. "VOIP? What is VOIP?" He murmurs, mostly to himself, but loud enough that the security chief could hear and enlighten him, should he know the answer to the question that is. He mimes clapping with the rest of the crowd, but there's no heart in it, instead he's taking the opportunity to scan around them. Again. Always people watching, looking for security concerns.

When Monica notices Taiki's nod, she smiles over at him and relaxes into the chair as if she's suddenly decided to stay. Whether it is because of the man next to her or the fact that the presentation has started is hard to say. But as Taiki takes notes, Monica gets distracted from the stage, doing a quick double take before she settles her attention on his work.

"Are we supposed to take notes," she whispers to him during a lull so he doesn't miss anything, "I didn't even bring a pen." A grin follows her words, like she might be making a joke. Although it is true that she did not bring a pen.

Hachiro speaks again and Monica looks back toward the stage. Just in time to catch the giant pictures appearing on the screen. "Holy shit," she says with a chuckle. "Man, her eyelashes are amazing. She could kill a man with those things." Mainly because… they are huge at the moment.

But she's paying attention, honest. She even claps. That's her team, after all, and they're kinda geniuses.

If Marlowe was about to demand answers, the effort stalls out when Hachiro starts in on the welcoming announcement. She slides back into a more comfortable look of attention, focused diligently on her supervisor’s announcements. A light curve of a smile sits on her lips, pride shining in her eyes for the reveal of the collaborative pet project to the company proper. She claps for Leroy, only to pause and stare, wide-eyed, at the giant profile pic of herself next displayed alongside the CE’s. It might look like she’s going for full mortification with the way she’s staring at the photograph. But no.

Marlowe whips out a cellphone and punches in a text message for someone else in the crowd.

omggg r u 👀 me
i look 🔥🔥🔥 amazng 😍😍
think i cud get it 🖼️? lol 😂

Somewhere near where Monica’s sitting, there’s a trio of text message alerts. In fact, it might be coming from Monica’s phone. Sorry Moni.

Leroy waves briefly, then hunches down as if to disappear, before he starts clapping when Marlowe appears. Though he doesn't quite stop hunching slightly. It's much easier to be trapped in a room full of computers, nerds, and whatever one wants to call Marlowe.

Beyonce Stark.

"Thanks." he says, as if the crowd can actually hear him, then starts to slowly sit up and take a breath.

Hey, Monica is here, and other people. It's that redhead who might take his job one day if she decides to expand the functional use of her ability, and security people, yay.

His seat is next to Marlowe, because Hachiro is an awful human being and he's pretty sure it's because of him. So he gets to be awkward a little.

He was forced into a suit, a black suit, he let a stylist do it, Yamagato has those. "This suit isn't comfortable." he asides to Marlowe.

“The Ghost Network is just one of the innovations Yamagato Industries is bringing to America.” Hachiro continues as the clapping dies down. “It is a part of our American Dream initiative, which we will be beginning in 2019.” Behind Hachiro, a graphic displaying the Yamagato mountain symbol rising over a vibrant and park-filled concept art of a metropolis replaces the photographs of Marlowe and Leroy. “Our goal in this initiative is to complete the full revitalization of the New York Safe Zone by 2021, which includes expanding into Long Island, the Bronx, and Staten Island. This would be followed up by the completion of the SEA-TAC Safe Zone in 2024, encompassing most of the Seattle-Tacoma sprawl in Washington.”

Behind Otomo, the display changes again to depict a glass-walled pyramid ninety stories tall looming over an urban landscape that lives alongside nature. “The heart of the SEA-TAC Safe Zone will be the Yamagato Arcology, a state-of-the-art centralized living center covering eight square blocks. It will be a self-contained city and the heart of Yamagato Industries’ west coast growth. From here we will expand our urban revitalization, paving the way for a new America, born from the ashes of the old.”

There’s another change of slides, and the screen behind Hachiro now shows a red question mark with 質問 at the bottom instead of a dot. “This is an extremely ambitious endeavor, which begs the question… how will Yamagato Industries manage this much construction. Rebuilding and reinventing two entire cities in the span of just six years?” His hands spread, offering the question to the audience.

“Part of the answer to that question is an integration of the US’ rapidly growing SLC-Expressive workforce. But that 1% of the population alone won’t be enough… which is why I am extremely proud to announce Yamagato Industries newest innovation.” Hachiro motions to the side of the stage, and there’s a soft hydraulic hum that rapidly approaches. Out from the side of the stage, a bipedal humanoid-shaped robot in shades of white, yellow, and safety-cone orange comes striding out onto the stage with an even and steady gait.

The machine is wearing an integrated hard hat and is modeled to resemble the traditional attire of Japanese construction workers, right down to the tabi-style boots. The machine’s glowing blue eyes iris open and closed, and it raises its hand in a friendly wave. Hachiro walks over, putting a hand on the robot’s shoulder. It stands half a foot taller than him. “Meet tetsujin, Yamagato Industries' first industrial-grade engineering automaton.” The machine continues to wave, and as Hachiro pulls his hand away from the robot’s shoulder, the screen behind him begins to display dozens of these machines walking side by side down a street, some carrying heavy tools, others operating heavy machinery.

President Kin Egami is the first to begin applauding from his seat in the front row, smiling broadly as further simulated displays of the machines working is played in the background, including these bipedal robots navigating collapsed buildings, joined by tiny drones — the AH/UN units designed by Marlowe Terrell.

Alvin's widened eyes is a lot more surprise than he would normally show. But complete reconstruction by 2021 and expanding beyond the safe zone? That is… quite the projection. He looks around himself a little bit to see if this surprises any others sitting nearby, then refocuses his attention back on the announcement. "Oh yes. Robots." The tone of voice in which Alvin murmurs that makes it clear what his opinion on using robots as a main work force is. "They're going to have a labor riot on their hands." He murmurs, lifting a hand to pinch lightly the bridge of his nose. “Well. If there are labor riots, we’ll have some job security.” Alvin comments in a wry tone, half amusement and half resignation.

Spoken to, Taiki looks over at Monica and gives her a small smile. "I expect you're fine," he replies. "I always take notes." He finishes a line without looking down, which lends some credence to that statement, then glances to the page just long enough to reorient his pen for the next line. "I could loan you a pen," he adds, "but you would be on your own for paper." It's difficult to discern whether he's being sincerely earnest, or if that's a hint of humor showing there.

Taiki applauds as applause is called for, with polite restraint rather than enthusiastic energy. Though to be sure, ambition — in all its forms — is indirectly one of the main things that keeps the auditor employed — a thought that all unwittingly echoes at least one other in the room.

The unmistakable sound of a phone vibrating sounds in Monica's pocket and she fumbles a little as she hurries to get it out to stop that before too many people notice. But seeing who the texts are from, she stops to read them. Taiki gets to hear a groan that is half amused and half incredulous as Monica runs a hand down her face.

How could I NOT be seeing you, you're eighty feet tall.

There's a pause before she adds…

You do look good. Blasian goddess~

She spins her phone in her hand and looks back over to Taiki. "I never do," she says as if confiding a secret. "Plus, I'd have to fit it all on my hand somehow. I dunno how many of these you've been too, but that is a true challenge." Because there is a lot of talking. Marathon talking.

And really, she seems as blasé about the presentation as she has implied she is. But certain things get her attention. Like robots. She has a difficult relationship with robots, made all the more complex by her arm being what it is.

Tell me 'tetsujin' doesn't mean 'flippin' killer robot', please.
And speaking of names. You might suggest a rebranding on the Arcology. It's a dirty word around here.

Elaine claps along with the crowd on cue, politely watching the event. When the robot comes out she raises an eyebrow, then grins slightly at the name. “Well, that’s a clever one,” she mutters to herself, mostly. Still, she’s not much of a commenter, she instead prefers to watch and see what else might be unveiled though it certainly would be hard to top tetsujin.

“It definitely a change from the crocs and tees,” Marlowe replies to Leroy beside her, grinning at him still because of the projected photo. Her smile turns crooked as she adds, turning back to watch the presentation, “Kedo, kakkoii to omou na. Ano suit wa Leroy-kun niatteimasu.” The woman chuckles softly with her own play on words, sitting back against her seat and legs crossing. Her attention strays as her phone alerts with new messages, and she checks.

Her thumbs rapidly send back her reply.

❤️❤️😘

The presentation captures her attention next, head bobbing with the ambitious endeavors being announced. Agreeing with it. She’s here for it. When the Tetsujin shows up, she’s one to sit up and when the applause comes from the crowd, she’s with them in standing and clapping. In the midst of the applause, she checks the alert from her phone again and quirks her head at the messages, smile waning slightly at the latter. Marlowe regains her seat and is slower to reply, taking a moment to consider.

TJ? o it is Iron-Man kinna but not Avenger lol
🤖 is cool looking tho no?
considering history, yea but what would u call it? not Luxor lol ™

No no, of course not, Marlowe. We call it The Louvre. Obviously.

Leroy stares at Marlowe, still mildly mortified, up until the Tetsujin is revealed. He's clapping as well, though he adds, "This is how Mega Man started. Let's hope Warren Ray doesn't swoop in and start the Robot Wars."

He can't help but stare at it, still talking to Marlowe. "It even has a hard hat! Just like the first Mega Man robots. We're working for Dr. Light."

He isn't a big player of video games, but he did used to program A.I to beat video game levels.

On stage, Otomo motions to the tetsujin. “This is Saisho, our prototype tetsujin.” Saisho raises one hand and waves again to the crowd. “The production model tetsujin will come fully equipped with automated and articulated tool appendages, capable of serving multiple roles in reconstruction. The tetsujin line of autonomous construction workers can operate independently via scripted virtual intelligence and basic machine learning, like Saisho here, or they can be remote operated by professionals from across the world.”

Hachiro changes the slide, showing a more primitive design of Saisho that lacks a head, largely a walking torso. There are seven of them moving through concrete rubble. “The origin of the tetsujin project came during Yamagato Industries’ assistance in repairing the Fukushima Daiichi reactor damaged in the 2010 tsunami.” The video changes to a still photograph of engineers standing outside of Yamagato Tower, Kimiko Nakamura stands among them with a proud smile on her face.

“The tetsujin workforce will supplement traditional meatbag,” Hachiro laughs to himself, “construction workers, who will— ” Hachiro’s discussion is disrupted when there is an audible crackle of electricity in the air, and a woman in an oversized rainbow colored wool sweater appears on the stage beside Hachiro. Her hair — bubblegum pink in color — drapes down over one eye.

val_icon.gif

Eizen immediately bolts up from his seat, reaching for a gun in his underarm holster. Kam tenses in her seat, eyes wide, Hachiro slowly turns, trying to see what everyone is reacting to. The pink-haired woman drops a backpack on the ground at her feet, and Hachiro’s eyes follow it.

Baochien,” the pink-haired girl murmurs to Hachiro, before she disappears in a flicker-haze of rainbow light right before a gunshot rings out in the auditorium. Eizen has his service pistol clutched in both hands, smoke issuing from the barrel. A single bullet-hole perforates the wall behind where the girl was.

Tetsujin looks down to the backpack, then lunges at Hachiro and wraps his arms around him to—


The Yamagato Fellowship Center

Exterior


The ground shudders as a tremendous explosion rips through the Fellowship Center. A fireball wreathed in choking black smoke billows up from the southwest corner of the building. The hanging photovoltaic partitions on that side come crashing down, embedding themselves in the dirt before shattering and tumbling over. Smoke rises up in a thick column from inside and sirens are already blaring further away in Yamagato Park.

The klaxon of an emergency alarm blares across the area outside of the Fellowship Center, and burning embers rain down from above. Security forces stationed at the adjacent Yamagato Building are already running over, shouts erupting from panicked bystanders. Birds have scattered into the sky for a block around the bombed building.


Inside


Choking black smoke suffocates the lecture hall. Flickering embers of fire rain down from the ceiling, and there is no noise. The deafening sound of an explosion and the thunderous shockwave that came has deafened the room. Fire burning hotly at the middle of the stage where the explosion first erupted. Wood is splintered, the stage is gone save for a smoking black crater fill of crackling wisps of flame.

Kam Nisatta lays on her side, thrown from her chair by the blast. Dust cakes her skin a powdery white, stained in many places by dark blood. Remarkably, Kam’s seat and the seats adjacent to her are nearly unscathed by the blast, and a hemisphere of black soot spreads in an arc around those spaces, as if someone with an ability was able to shield Kam, Elaine, and Kay from the worst of the explosion.

Elaine is two rows back from where she was sitting, laying across four broken chairs. Pain fills her side, she can feel that her left arm is broken, and blood blinds her right eye from a gash across the side of her face. Kay lays nearby, in the aisle between the front row seats. She is missing both of her shoes, a black scorch mark runs up one of her arms, her sleeve is gone, there is blood everywhere. But she is intact.

Barbara has fared worse. She is one row behind where Elaine sat, atop empty seats, with a two foot long length of jagged wood sticking out of her abdomen. The piece of wood sticks out the other side, blood is pulsing out from the injury in a slow trickle. She has a gash at her jaw, one hand is broken, and her world is a series of dizzied colored splotches.

President Kin Egami lays motionless in the fourth row, limbs broken and having been blown through three rows of empty seats. Others around him are in worse shape, there are limbs scattered across the floor with no one attached to them. Cries of pain so loud but still muffled echo from everywhere.

The demolished body of Saisho lays sparking and twisted atop Hachiro Otomo, whose injuries are not readily apparent. Blood stains the ground all around him, however.

Those in the middle tier are only slightly better off. Leroy and Marlowe were both blown out of their seats by the blast. Marlowe wound up in the aisle, her phone demolished and the hand that was holding it trembling and suffering a cut from the tip of her pinkie down to her elbow. That shoulder aches with dislocation. Leroy is on his side nearby, a broad gash across his forehead, dribbling blood into his eyes and hair. His front lip is split, but he’s whole.

The rear row was blown back by the shockwave but managed to largely remain dazed but not seriously injured. Eizen and Alvin were both thrown to the ground by the blast, heads aching and ears ringing. Taiki suffers the same fate, notepad cast somewhere amid the screams and wreckage from the explosion. He has a bump on his head from where he struck the floor, but is remarkably better off than everyone else. Monica, too, was thrown against a wall and — like everyone — had the wind knocked out of her — but is otherwise fine.

The same cannot be said for so many others.

Blinking her eyes open, Monica takes a moment to regain her footing. And reorient herself. But it is just a moment. She's running down toward the stage, dodging bodies and limbs as if they aren't evidence of something truly awful happening around them. But then, whether or not most of Yamagato knows it, Monica is never sharper than when a blade is against her neck.

She heads for Hachiro first, sliding up next to him on her knees before she reaches under the robot to check for a pulse. She pulls a tube of lipstick out of her pocket and makes a mark on Hachiro's hand.

"Jiba," she says to the air around her, "alert the medics. We have wounded. Severely wounded. They need to get here ten minutes ago." She doesn't move the robot, just in case some part of it is holding some part of Hachiro together. "Warn them that it looks like a war zone in here. We need all of them." And then, she stands to turn toward the auditorium, her gaze taking in the room more thoroughly. Eventually, she lands on Eizen, her head tilting in a silent question— she could make chase, but she seems to be letting him make the call.

In the meantime, she moves away from the stage, moving toward President Egami first to check him over, too. And then another person. And another, working her way through the front rows first, but it looks like she's planning on hitting the whole room. At least, all the wounded.

She skips several people. No need to take their pulses. What's left of them.

There is an automaton being studied from afar, and then — there is a chair leg two inches in front of Taiki's eyes, his cheek pressed to cool floor, his ears ringing and a distinct ache on the side of his skull. What happened in between is not… quite… clear in immediate memory.

As the auditor picks himself back up, just a little cautious about sticking his head up over the line of chairs, his gaze sweeps the room. Destruction is clearly the order of the moment… or rather, recovery therefrom. Sharp eyes watch Monica move with intent; a moment later, Taiki follows, observing as he goes. "Your system?" he prompts, in the space between one person and the next; given the briefest of harried explanations, the auditor mentally divides the room in two and assigns himself to one half, producing a second pen from an inner pocket — red, permanent — and proceeding with his own contributions to the triage effort.

The notebook can wait.

The moment that electricity crackles through the air Alvin Mott is up and out of his seat, a hand slipping into his jacket to pull free his gun. The moment his eyes take in Eizen also reacting that way Alvin Mott disappears into thin air. Well, not really. Really his ability reaches out to tap into the minds of everyone within a hundred feet of him and blanks his presence from their minds so their eyes just nope out away from wherever he's at. There's a second bullet hole, grouped rather tightly with Eizen's, and a second bang of a pistol being fired, though no obvious source of it as Alvin continues to pull his Houdini. He starts racing for the front of the stage, only to stop when he sees the robot diving to cover Hachiro. Alvin drops his power, reappearing in the middle of a pair of people who he was squeezing past. "DOWN!" He screams out as he tries to drop hard to the ground behind the seats in front of him, to use them as a blast shield, but he ends up getting slammed to the ground by that blastwave, his hands not quite making it to his ears before he's hit.

The blast hits, and the pressure blacks him out for a few moments. As soon as he regains consciousness though he's up and onto his feet, staggering a little bit as he races down towards the front and the important people seated down there. He has his weapon up and panning around, looking for threats as he moves, visible for the time being. When he sees that there's no immediate threat the weapon is holstered and he reaches into his pocket for his cell phone. Destroyed. It's dropped back into his pocket and he turns to shout for security to go get medical right NOW. His own medical knowledge is very limited, so instead of getting in the way he starts moving towards the front of the stage so he can try to check on Hachiro, and try to start getting that robot off of him.

Marlowe quickly stifles a laugh given Monica's response to calling the planned Arcology 'The Louvre'. She's in the middle of typing out a new text:

noted esp that it's a pyramid not an arc

The draft isn't sent. Her gaze flicks up and towards the stage, attention first snagged by the crackle of energy in the air that makes Marlowe sit up. Her puzzled look at the pink-haired girl who drops the pack on the stage turns into a reflexive flinch at the sound of a gunshot. She ducks away, heart leaping at the sharp sound.

Hard to say whether or not she felt the blast from the stage. When she comes to, Marlowe groans thinly, ears ringing with a high pitch whine and throbbing with the feeling of shock. She coughs, eyes cracking open to take in the smoke curling through the photoreactive air. The ringing fades to be replaced by the sounds of cries, screams, panic. She sucks in a breath, only to cough again before managing a sit up followed by a sharp hiss as her dislocated shoulder makes itself known. The glance down to her trembling hand, the blood dripping down it, is enough to snap her attention back into focus.

Immediately beside her, she limp-crawls over to check on Leroy. "Leroy, are you okay?" she calls hoarsely to him, her good hand reaching for his person to shake him lightly, testing if he's awake. Seeing the large gash on his head and split lip, no other immediate major injuries, is a relief. And then a reminder, and she looks back to the stage in horror. At the crumpled form of Saisho covering the director. Her eyes widen. "Hachiro!" Grimacing, she forces up to feet and heads for the stage as quickly as she can while cradling her injured arm close.

Seeing Alvin trying to move the mangled form of the construction robot triggers an immediate "Stop!" from the woman. "Don't move that thing, you don't know what— oh… god." Her view from the stage of the carnage arrests her for those brief, terrible moments. Then she turns back to Alvin. "Secure the area," she practically commands at him, though it's more a plea, a churning mix of pain, anger, confusion, and desperation. "If there are more bombs…" And she leaves that thought off, not wanting to think about that possibility. Another moment of her gaze scanning out, and it's not hard to see Monica and Taiki, the former's cybernetic arm gleaming in the light. "Moni! What do you need?!"

One moment, Leroy is starting to come down from the attention being taken off of him again. Then he's staring at Marlowe, as he tends to do.

The next moment, he's waking up, ears ringing. He sees Marlowe again, though there's a look of confusion when she then runs off. He didn't quite get a good look of what happened, though he heard the electricity.

Slowly rolling over, then pushing himself up, he tries to breathe, coughing, and following after Marlowe. He notes all the blood, the chaos surrounding them, and he just sort of stares. He's not equipped for this, he has no particularly useful ability or even skill. He's trying to assess what someone like him even does in this situation.

For now, he's just looking to take Marlowe's lead. She's probably just as disoriented as him, but she's doing something.

He tries to stop, and think. Most things he could ask Jiba to do, Jiba is likely already doing. Except… "Jiba, make sure that you're the only one calling 911 from this location, if no one else already has. We don't want there to be even more chaos, especially not on the side of the dispatchers. We have to make sure they aren't getting confusing information."

Not looking down at Hachiro, not really wanting to know what state he's in yet, he instead looks to Marlowe. "Are you okay? I don't really… I'm not sure what to do."

Everything hurts. Her side and her arm and she can only really see well out of one eye at the moment, but Elaine’s living. She breathes deeply, followed by pained coughing as she tries to make sense of what happened. It takes her a good full minute for everything to sink in mentally before she tries to move as her mind quickly starts to pick up speed. Her first order of business is seeing what state things are.

She crawls gently off the broken chairs, cradling her arm as she goes, her eyes scanning for the ladies who were around her. She finds Barbara first. “Oh god,” she murmurs, sucking in a bit of a gasp before she starts to panic. Someone has to be doing something. Someone’s in charge, someone’s finding medics.

“Hey! Help! Someone help! She’s really injured over here!”

The world comes back into focus slowly. Everything’s too dim, then too bright, too fuzzy… Her head is throbbing and her ears ringing. Somewhere nearby, someone is shouting, and it barely sounds like words for a long moment.

She’s really injured over here.

Kay misses the context, but it brings her back to reality finally. There’s blood trickling from a wound in her scalp, tacking her blonde hair to the side of her face as it makes its way down her cheek. The pain in her arm hasn’t even registered yet. “Kam?” She barely hears her own voice in her ears. “Kam!”

It seems like forever, frozen in place, for Barbara. She's still processing the blast that has just transpired before them - and where it's left her in the immediate aftermath. As her vision finally starts to clear, she lets out a croaking cough.

And that's when the pain hits.

Eyes widen, one hand grips into whatever solid thing she can find closest to her, likely the leg of a chair. Focusing, she looks down at herself, at the piece of wood through her. Tries to lift one hand, feels that pain shoot up through her arm. She has been through serious injuries before, though gunfire and explosion several times. Who'd have thought one of the worst would happen someplace like this.

Really, it takes everything she has not to start panicking, not to start giving in to shock as she lays on the floor, bleeding.

There are so many voices all talking at once in the chaos, so much panic, confusion, and pain. Kay’s cries are answered by a sharp cough from behind her. Kam Nisatta is pulling herself from the wreckage of several seats, fear and confusion in her eyes. Kay notices the blood on her dress, the tears, splits, she should be injured but she's moving swift enough it's like she was barely hurt at all. Realization comes that it might not be her blood.

Nisatta hurried to Kay, resting a hand on the other woman’s shoulder briefly, then sees Barbara. Her eyes grow wide, and she's quick to shake Kay verbally into action. “Sit. Sit, you hand— ” she looks over to Monica marking the injured, then diverts back to Kay. “Stay.” Kam is quick to move over to where Barbara lay. As she comes around, the look on Kam’s face is one of horror.

Climbing over the seats, Kam comes to Elaine’s side and looks around frantically to see if anyone else is on their way. No one is, yet. “I've got you,” Kam whispers to Barbara, then looks at Elaine with fear and resolution in her eyes.

“You were mistaken,” Kam says softly, “she wasn't that injured.” One of Kam’s hands quickly covers Barbara’s mouth to muffle the coming scream as the other hand pulls the piece of broken chair from Barbara’s side. The broken sliver is set aside and that hand claps down over Barbara’s gushing wound.

It’s just a flesh wound,” Kam says to Elaine as her eyes change from brown to gold. Immediately, Barbara feels a warmth spread in her side and flow through her extremities. It tingles and comforts, acts as anesthetic in ways no drug could. But when Kam’s eyes turn brown again and her hand is moved from Barbara’s side, there is just a deep scratch there rather than a puncture wound.

“Just a flesh wound,” Kam says reassuringly to Elaine, but also pleadingly. Say nothing.

Further away, Eizen is leaping over chairs and clearing the distance to President Egami. When he gets within arm’s reach there's a look of horror on his face, hand cupped over his mouth. Whatever lays amid the chairs is too much for the security chief. And he takes a step back, shaking his head slowly.

Down on the stage, it appears at though the automaton took the brunt of the blast, but Hachiro is still significantly wounded. He's unconscious and bleeding from a gash in his head, his left leg was mangled by the blast, there's blood everywhere. He needs a tourniquet or he’ll bleed out before paramedics arrive. The machine was destroyed entirely, unable to move off of Hachiro’s body.

Yamagato medical emergency staff is flooding into the room within minutes. A handful of physicians who treat on-site injuries and help maintain prosthetic-using employees. They, along with on-site emergency response paramedics, are grossly outnumbered by the wounded. But in the first few minutes after the blast, it's the best they can hope for.

«Help is on the way.» Jiba’s voice comes sputtering out of the still-functioning speakers in the room.

Monica gives Taiki the quickest run down of her system and watches him join her in the effort with unhidden appreciation. It's less daunting with two. He'll likely get an actual thank you later, but for now she turns her attention back to the work.

"Pressure bandages, splints, stretchers," she calls out to Marlowe at her question, "clean water. Sheets." Those aren't for treatment. Those are for covering the dead. "Slings, too. Crutches. Anything helps." The medics are certainly going to need all the help they can get. Her gaze falls on Eizen leaping over chairs and she lifts a hand to try to get his attention before he looks. But he's focused. She stands and moves over to him, putting a hand on his arm. "Eizen, hey," she says firmly, but quietly, "I got this. You need to make sure there's not a stampede out of here. That there's room for the medics to get in and out. Okay?"

Hearing Jiba's voice, Monica lets out a sigh. "You're the absolute best, Jiba. You're a goddamn treasure," she says as she hurries off to finish marking those worst off. Despite the language, it's clear she's grateful for the A.I.'s help.

Taiki continues on his self-assigned task, methodically working through 'his' side of the room. Occasionally he delays to help someone up, brushing off dust and debris, offering a consoling touch. His demeanor is steady in a way that some find reassuring, and that others might consider appalling — no evidence of horror, no panic, no disgust at wounds and blood and broken things.

Maybe it'll all hit him later. Or maybe he is just that unflappable.

The numbers being marked go up as he proceeds outwards, eventually passing by what had been his own seat. When his gaze skips across the corner of a familiar notebook, Taiki scoops it up, depositing in an inner pocket. And then he proceeds on.

There's a whole knot of people still down near the stage, including his partner in triage. Noting that, Taiki continues on into the other half, now moving from the upper tiers back down towards the center.

Alvin ignores Marlowe's barked order. "Help me get this off of him or get out of the way." Alvin snarls back in Marlowe's direction. "It's weight could be causing further damage." If Marlowe helps him it will make clearing the robot off of the R&D director that much easier, if not he'll do the work himself. Once the robot is cleared a quick assessment tells Alvin all he needs to know about Hachiro's condition. His hand goes to his belt and he undoes it, whipping it off of his waist he crouches next to the man and pulls the belt tight above any noticeable injuries, then pulls it even tighter before twisting the fine leather into a knot that will hold and cut off circulation so the man stops losing blood.

Only once he's done what he can for Hachiro will he get off the stage and start heading for Eizen. The security chief is seeing what Alvin saw on the way up to the stage. "Eizen. Security will need direction as they arrive. Are you fit?" It's a simple question, but at the same time not so simple. Can he handle his job given what just happened? Alvin will direct security if not, but he is not going to usurp the other man's position if he can handle it. There’s a nod given to Monica when she comes to speak with Eizen. If the security chief doesn’t jump into action Alvin will step in to handle it.

She wasn't expecting to get ignored, nor snarled at by the security specialist. Alvin gets a sharp look from Marlowe, at which point the engineer pushes her way forward to lay a hand on the mangled form of Saisho covering her boss. The woman's irises shift into a golden color, blue-white sparks of energy jumping out from her hand and over the construction robot. The entire mangled mess starts to melt and move at the woman's will, as if the solid mass becomes a moldable plasmoid. Pieces of metal, rubber, pneumatics, plastics become a mishmash of colors and materials as seconds tick by. Bit by bit, the robot's form pulls away from Hachiro's unconscious body, revealing the extent of the tech director's injuries and allowing access to them.

When the mangled tetsujin is reformed, though, both of its constructor arms are facing Alvin from afar and they look like a couple of hands flipping the security guy the bird. Double deuce. She's not playing, not right now. She's just mad.

Still, the engineer waits for the man to turn his belt into a makeshift tourniquet and move off to deal with the president and Eizen before she’s dropping down to a quick knee beside Hachiro and assessing his condition again. Too much blood, and she looks to the belt tourniquet before placing a finger on that too and shifting its shape into something a little more secured, a tighter band than a mere knot. "Shinpai nai, Otomo-sensei, we got you," her words spoken to the unconscious man come tight and emotional. Her good hand reaches over to brush the man's bloodied hair out of his face, checking the gash. Then she turns, pushing up to her feet again.

It's a lot to handle at once, but Marlowe's got her game face on now. Monica's call out for supplies gets short nods and a sharp "check!" for the items. Turning to Leroy as he comes up, seeing the gash on his forehead, she purses her lips and stares at his eyes to make sure he's actually okay. "Ok, stick with me. We're going to make a bunch of stuff, and you're going to either run it down to Moni, or pass it to the med teams. Got it?" She doesn't wait for confirmation, but motions with a jerk of her head for him to follow.

Marlowe moves first to the recently reformed tetsujin and places a hand on the sculpted shape again, making a pulling motion with it that draws out the metal into a rough flat pipe-like shape, a makeshift splint. It pinches off and clatters onto the stage after a few quick seconds. "Take it," she says to Leroy, "pass it down to that team over there."

Somewhat at a distance, Eizen is communicating with Yamagato security through a wrist piece that was undamaged in the blast. Though he is taking a separate route as well through the injured. Those the most in pain, as Eizen passes by them, simply fall unconscious. When he finishes the circuit of the room, Eizen affords Alvin a grim look.

“There was a second bomb,” Eizen’s look is hollow and dreading. “They hit Yamagato Tower in Tokyo,” he tries to keep that offered more quietly. “They— they bombed Mrs. Nakamura’s office. I…” Eizen shakes his head in disbelief, then swallows down the frustration and confusion. “Keep an eye on everyone here. Protect Ms. Nisatta — get her to safety — ” wherever that is, “she's the highest ranking executive left as far as I know right now.”

With that instruction, Eizen is headed for one of the doors to see what the situation is outside, speaking into his wrist-piece again as he moves.

Leroy grabs the metal, unsure of what else he can do except take Marlowe's lead. "Okay, just be safe." he says before heading to the medical team, jumping off the stage.

He hands it off to them, his mind in a bit of a haze with all the chaos going on around them. Did he hear that someone bombed Kimiko's office? He isn't sure, but he's soon heading back to Marlowe, waiting for more instructions.

Elaine meets Kam’s gaze, following it up with a small nod. “She’s alright,” she calls to ward off any of the medical team heading over for the minute. Her eyes stay on Kam for the moment, absorbing what she saw before her attention turns back to Barbara. She checks to see just how alert the woman is, leaning over her a bit. “Barbara? Can you hear me?” Another quick check goes over her shoulder to see if Kay is faring okay.

Sit. Stay. Kay can handle that.

That doesn’t mean that she’s going to do that.

Pushing to her feet is not a fun task. The room swims and her stomach lurches, but she holds it together with a deep breath and willpower. Where the hell did her shoes go? What happened to her blouse? The daze has her looking around at the chaos with little comprehension until she settles on the knot of people gathered around Barbara Zimmerman. Kay finds a mostly intact seat to lean against, watching the triage

Barbara gasps for air as Kam's hand moves from mouth her side is… repaired? That warm feeling brings her calm, soothes the panic. When it's over, she's still left with her mind racing and heart pounding. One hand arches still, blood runs down several parts of her, but she's no longer in mortal danger somehow. She looks over at Elaine, and then over to Kam. She is speechless with surprise and amazement.

"I- can hear you, Elaine," is said in a practical whisper, looking down at herself, and then around the room. There's almost an instinctual leap to her feet, but as she goes to move her hand she realises quickly why that's a bad idea. Yelping out in pain, she settles back into her spot on the floor, looking to the translator. "I'll… live," is a statement that suddenly has a lot of weight behind it. "Go see if anyone else needs help."

And then, she looks askance to Kam. But whatever thoughts she has on what just happened she keeps to herself for now.

Kam meets Barbara’s stare with an intense and knowing one of her own, then turns her attention to watch Marlowe and the others huddled around Hachiro. Kam makes no movement to help, acting as helpless as the others in the face of this rampant violence and chaos.

With the weight of the machine off of him, Hachiro’s injuries are plain as day. Shrapnel has riddled his body, one leg is nearly missing below the knee, and he is miraculously alive thanks to the robot that threw itself in front of him to shield him from the worst of the blast. But Hachiro is an older man, and with injuries this severe… there's no guarantee he’ll make it out alive.

Cries of panic and confusion fill the air. Embers still drift up from the site of the blast, and security teams are just now arriving with on-site paramedics just over 3 minutes after the blast. They are forced to step over the dead to reach the living, and those that survive this day will never forget what happened.

In one fell swoop, Yamagato Industries was dealt a near-fatal blow…

…by their oldest enemy.


Yamagato Tower

Tokyo, Japan


Smoke and fire rips through the demolished office space. Billowing black plumes of choking ash are sucked out of the hole in the wall that was once towering panes of photovoltaic glass. The desk belonging to CEO Kimiko Nakamura is demolished, with large shards of glass spread out across the floor. Leather is torn from her chair, and blood covers the floor.

Kimiko lays on her side, blood running from her hairline down across her face. She drags herself across the rubble-strewn floor, leaving a trail of blood in her wake. With each slap of her palm on the marble floor, with each squeak of her body, she draws closer to the man gasping for breath where he lays beside her, blood trickling from his open mouth.

Her husband.

Tears are streaming down Kimiko’s face, black smears of her mascara cut dark lines down her cheeks. She can't get up to stand, can barely keep her eyes open. “Jae, Jae!” She hisses his name, and he has enough strength to turn his head and regard her with scared eyes. A shaky hand moves to reach out for her, slick with his own blood.

The crunch of glass underfoot elicits a look up into the smoke behind her. Two shapes move through the darkness, stepping out of swirling embers and black ash. One is a tall and dark silhouette carrying a gleaming sword in one hand, a shock of platinum blonde hair in a disheveled coif atop his head. The other is a young woman, covering her mouth and nose with the fabric of a woolen sweater of rainbow colors, her pink hair flecked with ash.

adam_icon.gif

Kimiko.” Adam Monroe is a nightmare given form. As the man who killed her father steps away from the pink-haired girl, he turns the blade to show Kimiko her own reflection, casting a glare of light across her eyes.

“Adam, onegai.” She pleads, looking from the sword to his piercing blue eyes. But he is undeterred, approaching her with the patience of a great cat that has finally come in for the kill. But as she wrenches her eyes shut, she hears the soft click of his shoe in the floor beside her, and then horrifyingly behind her as he steps over her prone form.

Iya!” Kimiko snaps around, looking up to see Adam stalking over to Jae. Her husband reaches up, making a pleading gesture to Adam, and it all happens so fast. The sword comes down, between two ribs on the right side of his chest, then twists. Kimiko’s scream pierces the air, turns to ragged sobs as she reaches out toward her husband and watches the light fade from his eyes as he spits up one last bloody breath.

Adam pivots, sliding the blade out of Jae and swinging it in a sharp arc inches from Kimiko’s face so that her husband’s blood sprays across her cheek. Then he draws the sword back, wiping it clean on the sleeve of his black suit jacket, and slides it into the scabbard at his waist.

あなたの為にここに来ません.” Adam clarifies, staring down at Kimiko with cold and emotionless eyes. There is a flicker of rainbow light behind him and that pink-haired young woman reappears behind Adam, one hand reaching out to gently grab his bicep. Kimiko has no words, just the ragged and strangled sobs of raw emotion.

私が言いとき、あなたは死にます.” With that laid out for her, Adam pauses to savor the moment. “でもその前、あなたから全てを取る.” A smile twitches across his lips.

“…and not a moment sooner, love.”

Adam and the young woman disappear entirely, breaking apart into shifting patterns of rainbow-colored light. Kimiko is left with the body of her husband, to join the ghost of her father, mother, and brother. It is then she sees the pattern on the floor, in the blood Adam swung from his sword.

A symbol. The symbol.

This was a message.


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