Paranoia Agent


asi_icon.gif komura_icon.gif

Scene Title Paranoia Agent
Synopsis Major Tetsuyama is called before Director Komura regarding a foreigner in Japan.
Date July 2, 2019 [Local Time]

“«You're sure?»”

Banri Komura is a practical man with little emotive capability under most circumstances. Sitting silhouette at his desk with the bright red glow of a setting sun at his back, he nurses a cigarette in one hand and holds a phone in the other. Outside of his windows the walled city of Tokyo ends a day and descends into night. “«She's on her way up right now, I'll have her resolve the matter immediately…»” He is also a man to not act in haste about something. “«Of course. To you as well, Mr. Prime Minister.»” But there are some things worth changing habits over.

As Director Komura hangs up his phone on his desk, he looks to the pair of photographs on his desktop monitor, nearly identical women with differences only in hair color. Their names sit side by side.


National Public Safety Commission

Director’s Office

Tokyo Restricted Zone

Tokyo, Japan

July 2, 2019

8:19 pm Local Time

The door to Komura’s office opens, and little other than the sunset glow illuminates it for his guest. The lights inside the director’s aquarium spill a turquoise illumination on the walls in contrast with the burning orange-red. Director Komura is still smoking when Asi enters his office, seated quietly at his desk and contemplating the shadows cast by his fish as they drift across the walls of his office.

“«Major,»” Komura greets Asi as always, settling his cigar into an ashtray beside a small bronze statue of two koi fish. “«We have a priority-1 Security alert that the Prime Minister has asked us to handle.»”

Meetings called this late were never short ordeals, Asi knows that from experience. Even good news involved social niceties that extended well into dark, sometimes involving trips off-site. For that reason, she'd quickly fired off a message to the phone-bearing members of the group on the way up. (Thanks, WhatsApp.) She'd been on her way out when she'd received the ping from Komura.

She'd not gone through the motion of removing her jacket before entering, but she does tip her head in a polite bow after closing the door behind her. "«I had a feeling this wouldn't be the average Tuesday,»" she says, any weariness at that kept pointedly out of her voice. She'd drawn a "slightly bad luck" paper when explaining what an omikuji was to Kimberly by buying one recently.

So in a way, she knew something was coming.

"«What's needed? Should I call Sako back as well? He's only just left.»"

“«No, this can stay between us for now. I'm going to be trusting you to take the lead on this one, actually…»” Komura reaches up and takes hold of his desktop monitor and swings it around on its articulated arm to face Asi. Komura’s expression is flat, expectant.

The image of Chess from her passport is unmistakable. The other— Kimberly? But—

“«Lanhua Chen,»” Komura leaves the monitor facing Asi and leans back in his chair, “«is a Praxis Heavy Industries employee. Registered Non-Evolved.” His expression is so flat, devoid of intention. “«The other, Francesca Lang, claims to be an American. Registered Evolved. She arrived on June 5th at Narita airport. Security camera footage of her arrival indicates she was traveling with two other Americans…»”

Komura slides his tongue along the inside of his cheek. “«And met up with you.»” Saying nothing else, it is clear that Komura is waiting for an explanation.

Asi scans the presented image without flinching, calmly taking in the disparate names that pair with the identical women on the screen. Her gaze tracks back to Komura after, waiting for a hint into what he's fishing for. None found, she lifts her chin and directs an indicative out the darkened windows to the world beyond. "«Lang is an acquaintance made while I was on assignment in New York. She, Dawson, and Bellamy came to do some sightseeing.»" Because if he knew about Chess, certainly they'd looked into the others with her, too. "«Dawson was working for Yamagato, but appears to have split with the company.»"

Looking back to Komura, Asi adds, "«She was the security asset that responded when I was assaulted by the bombers in December. I went to welcome them. It had been good to see them again.»"

Her own situation explained, she allows herself a look back at the screen, at Lanhua Chen. "«If Lang isn't an American, she's done a very good falsification on her identity. American Second Civil War vet, with a publicly traceable pre-war record. We spoke, once, about her past — I saw and heard nothing to indicate it could be a lie.»" Her movements are slight, her gestures made with little more than a tip of her head. "«What's the story with Chen?»"

As soon as the words leave her, her eyes flicker with recognition. "«She's not Non-Expressive, if the Praxis leak can be trusted. I remember her name.»"

Komura reaches for his cigarette, focused more on that than Asi for the moment. He holds it, pinched between two fingers, more like a wand than a cigarette. “«That is what we don't know, Major.»” Bringing the cigarette up to his lips, Komura blinks his attention up to Asi. “«Chen is a Chinese National here on Praxis’ merit. If she's falsified her registration she could be deported and Praxis fined. But…»” Komura looks over to his fish, then back to Asi. “«We tried to track down Ms. Lang. No hotel reservations, no surveillance facial recognition once she left Narita.»”

As Komura takes a slow puff off of his cigarette, Asi can tell where this is going. “«Lang was a soldier, so you say. Fought against the US government. I assume her friends may have as well? This doesn't look good. For any of us. Most especially for you.»”

Exhaling smoke out his nostrils, Komura moves his cigarette back over the ash tray and taps off some of the ashes at the tip. “«Where are they now?»”

It's a delicate place to be standing in, for sure.

"«I have a general idea, and I can get more specific details immediately.»" Asi's lie is smooth, lacking the desperation that immediately following the comment by producing her phone might imply. "«I believe any reservations would be made under Dawson's name, actually.»"

She returns the look back at him. It only looks bad if something goes wrong. Even knowing that, she's all too aware of the tightrope she walks, trying not to tip either too much of her own hand, or too much of the Americans'.

But she can't afford to look incompetent, either.

"«There is a good chance they may not have used any hotels directly. Rental sites are becoming more popular— if they're not forthcoming with details, I'll root out their location one way or another. There are options.»" A beat elapses. Use is proved, or at least promised; now for questions. "«Chief, what else is there to this?»"

She'd like to believe a Priority-1 alert wouldn't be put out without suspected criminal activity. "«Is there anything else I need to know before moving to get you that information?»"

Komura looks down at his cigarette, then back up to Asi. “«An Evolved we’d categorize as Class-3 is in our country, potentially acting as an illegal operative for Praxis Heavy Industries. Major,»” Komura says with a narrowing of his eyes. “«You could be tied to this, legally, if anything were to go wrong. The Prime Minister is afraid she's an American terrorist come to destabilize the country…»”

Taking one more puff on his cigarette, Komura frowns. “«I'm giving you a chance to clean this up and set everything right, before we need to involve the others.»” Komura’s eye contact with Asi is steady and unflinching. “«Find Lang, or Chen, whoever she is. Bring her in, and let's get to the bottom of this.»”

Silence is a hard thing to keep in the face of paranoia and conclusions being so quickly jumped to. Chess is simultaneously a Chinese National, an operative of PHI, and also the American War Hero— wait, terrorist, all in the span of a single breath. She's the danger, not the other two who are with her. Asi wonders if the Prime Minister has even heard about the other two with her. It doesn't feel like it's in her best interest (or theirs) to press.

This is a friendly conversation— between them for now, as Komura had put it. He was giving her a heads-up.

She should take it. She can see the pieces lining up for a story just the right whisper could weave. We were worried you wouldn't come back, Tetsuyama had been a tongue-in-cheek joke that could quickly turn into She only came back because…

Fucking politics. Even if it were an act of kneejerk paranoia on the Prime Minister's half, there's so much more it could turn into.

Not to mention, it didn't seem they knew yet about the other group of terrorists and fugitives that slipped in under her nose…

"«Are we prepared for the potential political fallout with the Americans? Pulling an allied-country tourist off the street— a war veteran— over…»" She lifts a hand in a bland gesture toward the photographs on the screen, since that's all that's been openly discussed as a link between the two identical women. "«I thought things were headed in a more progressive direction, Chief. At least, diplomatically speaking.»"

Her hand drops by her side, brow arching. "«The least you can let me do is also issue a mandate to Praxis for Chen to present herself for a recertification of her status.»"

“«What we think and what the Prime Minister wants don't always align, Major. No matter what high-minded ideals may exist in these walls, we’re all still public servants, like it or not.»” Komura says, flicking more ash into the ashtray. It's hard to tell where Komura sits on that political line. He keeps his own council and keeps it quietly.

“«American subversive, Chinese spy, twins, there's too many answers under the sun. I have my theories, the Prime Minister has his, but that's all they are. You know her, and that's information I didn't volunteer to Mr. Prime Minister when he called. It slipped my mind.»” Komura explains, looking down to the burning end of his cigarette. “«I suppose when I remember to tell the Prime Minister that, he may have other insights into your role in this investigation. He may reconsider a great many things…»” Komura blinks his stare up to Asi. The intent is clear. “«Paranoia is rife in the government right now, Asi. Mazdak has everyone worried, China has everyone worried. Have something new for me to distract him with, or we’ll all be answering a series of uncomfortable questions come long enough.»”

Komura's answer about the state of things is the correct answer, of course. It's a stance Asi has lived by for a decade, railing against the state of things either privately or not at all, but the exceptions to that rule have begun to number. Being stuck firmly in the middle of political tinderboxes for the better part of the last year has had something to do with it, one could argue.

Hearing that the old bear 'forgot' to mention her closeness to the matter brings Asi's gaze back up to him instantly, her expression betraying little. She bites down on the inside of her cheek, a quiet click echoing when she lets go.

"«I'll see what I can dig up,»" she answers finally. Her brow lifts as she adds, "«And I'll put out the request to have Chen present herself for a blood test.»" If Praxis refused, that could be an item of interest. If the findings from the Praxis hack hadn't already passed the Prime Minister's desk to make him question letting such a company do business in their country, perhaps that could help, too.

Not to mention…

"«I'll have an update by tomorrow morning for you, Chief. If not sooner.»"

“«I trust you to,»” is all Komura has to say about that as he snubs his cigarette out in the ashtray. But it isn't a vote of confidence.

It's a firm deadline.

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