by Marc Seabass

Midori examined the surroundings of the small recording studio on the 20th floor. Three large windows presented a likely point of entry if the extraction-team arrived here, and her information said they would.

She sighed a bit to herself and began to look back on how she got to this point. It was many years ago, when she first started playing music. She had joined the band with some friends, one of them was Jason. His father was some sort of cooperate bigwig, and he used to bitterly complain about the lifestyle. In fact, Jason seemed to court danger. One day after school, he deliberately missed the bus and took a shortcut through a bad area of town. Midori had followed along to keep him out of trouble, especially since she noticed that a strange man seemed to be following him. Trouble came in the form of two thugs with switchblades. They wanted money, but what they got was trouble. Her fist kick knocked thug #1 senseless, and a sweep knocked the other to the ground. Before thug #2 could recover she kicked him in the gut, grabbed Jason and started running. The thugs had recovered, but there was no real way they could catch up.

Looking over the back of her shoulder, she noticed the rather large man that had been tailing Jason applying knuckle busters to the two punks. At this point it became clear that the man was not stocking Jason, but protecting him. The man paused just enough to give her the thumbs up and disappeared into the shadows. She remember thinking at the time, she didn't envy him his job. She didn't know how right she was.

Then she thought back to several years later. Her life had been a complex morass of directions. She liked martial arts, and she could compete for a scholarship, but what she really wanted was to earn just enough money to pay for college and allow her to find her own direction, maybe join the police academy, or go on to a music career. She wasn't really sure, but she knew she wanted to keep doors open, and money does a fine job of keeping doors open.

That's when the offer came. It was the second week of summer vacation, and she was leaving to look for a summer job to keep her occupied until college started that fall. As she was walking out to her car, a limo pulled up. When the door opened, she recognized the man as Jason's father "I hear you're looking for a job. I have a proposition for you."

"Oh?" she replied incredulously "What exactly do you have in mind?"

"Something that would allow you to develop all your talents. Something you are uniquely qualified to do. As a mater of fact you've done it once and didn't get paid for it.

Midori had a feeling she knew where this conversation was heading.

"One of my men rates you very highly, both in fighting skills and in common sense."

"I see," said Midori not really sure how to react.

"You see, Jason, seems to have his heart set on a musical career, something I don't object to in principle, but you know Jason, he's reckless. My position puts him in danger, people may want to use him to get at me, and unfortunately, he sees keeping a bodyguard, as an extension of my shadow. I haven't seen someone try and slip their protection like that since the Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling saying Secret Service Men had to testify against their bosses. 'Course it took a President getting shot in a Chinese brothel for them to do it. I'm proud that he wants to be his own man, but…"

"But…" Midori interjected "You really wish he wouldn't put himself at such risk?"

"Exactly. At this point the only way I can protect him is without his knowing about it. What I need is an undercover body guard, someone who he won't be trying to ditch."

"So essentially, you want me to join the band and baby-sit?"

"You've got it. I'll pay for cybernetic enhancements to minimize your risk and increase your effectiveness. I know this a bit sudden, but I've researched your background. You're a go getter who enjoys a challenge, and with your musical skills, and history with Jason, it would be impossible to find anyone better suited for the job."

Midori chuckled to herself "That's true, I already have a history of saving his ass. What are we looking at in terms of pay grade?"

He handed her a piece of paper and her eyes grew wide "This contract would last a year, with the possible of renewal for another year or two. There are few things I need to do a my company before I retire in a few years, and with any luck at that point, Jason won't be in the same kind of danger. I don't figure you for the type for a permanent baby-sitting position. But this should give enough cash to support you for quite some time, and expand your options in life, and the experience could open doors for you as well. Keep in mind that any money you earn as a band member is separate and additional to your bodyguard pay. If the band does well you stand to make quite a killing."

Midori turned for a moment "Write up the contract, give me a chance to consult a lawyer, but barring difficulties, I think we may have a deal." "Excellent, I see you have good business sense as well. I'll fax the contract to your parents place tomorrow. If you agree, there's going to be an audition next Thursday. I've got the band's manager in my pocket, and I think I can guarantee you'll be selected. Oh, and keep in mind, you're are going to be a back up singer. You don't want to shine to brightly, or show how much you are making. I don't want you blowing your cover."

"I'll be in touch..." Midori waved as she walked out the door.

Well that was how it started. She'd done a fairly good job of keeping Jason from getting himself offed, without revealing she was baby-sitting, but if today's extraction actually happened, chances are her cover would be blown, and her contract would be up in the air. Jason's father agreed in advance to a hefty bonus if she foiled the plot, so she would be fairly well set even if things came to an end today, but she wasn't exactly sure where to go next. Perhaps it was time for college, or a solo career, where she could really let her abilities show. Baby-sitting had hardly turned out to be the challenge she thought it would be. With her boosted reflexes, and hidden armor, most of the trouble Jason brought upon himself was easy fix. Jason had come to respect her fighting abilities, and thought she was fun to have along. It was possible that, assuming she didn't catch to many bullets, she could keep from being discovered. Still, she wasn't sure this was what she wanted.

Now she realized it was time to focus on her work. She pulled back to the present and prepared to do her back up vocals.

A few minutes into the second song Midori heard a thunk on against the glass. "Everybody down" she shouted in an authoritative voice. She knew how to get people to obey her, and the band managed to drop to the floor just before four men on rappelling lines crashed in through the windows. Over time, the band had learned to listen to her, and trust her judgement.

This was an extraction team, they would be armed, but not heavily, and they wouldn't be attacking Jason, that meant she had to worry about herself and, if she was unlucky the rest of the band. She had to act fast and draw any fire away from the bystanders. She swung the microphone she was carrying around in a circle and then flung it at one of the attackers, wrapping in nicely around his neck. She had just made herself a big target, and had to act quickly. As three opponents drew their weapons, she pulled the cord hard pulling a live body in front of her. The timing was prefect, as the man intercepted a volley of bullets meant for her. In a single smooth motion she lifted the now dead body and tossed it at the extraction team. The corpse slammed into to two of them pushing them out the window. If they managed to keep hold of their repelling lines they might survive, but climbing back up would be stupid, because they could be sitting ducks. Three down, but this last one wasn't surprised; this would be the worst time to get cocky. Still, it wasn't like his comrades had been much of a problem. Like lighting Midori crossed the room and swiftly kicked the man in the head hard enough knock him to the ground and disarm him.

"Now you're going to tell me who sent you, bastard" Midori shouted in the same tone. If she could get evidence of who was responsible it was worth the risk to her cover.

"Never," the man responded and there was a small click.

Oh shit, he's got a bomb, went through Midori's head, as she tried to kick the man's body out the window, but it was too late. There was a flash of bright light and then second later a wave of red pain, and then sweet empty blackness.

She opened her eyes to a hospital room, she felt fine. In fact she felt more than fine. Despite a drug induced haze, she felt clearer and stronger than ever before. Not exactly the feeling she expected after waking up from a C4 explosion. And Jason... oh no, "Jason"

"…Is dead, I'm afraid." The man speaking was Jason's Father

There was a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach "I failed"

"Look little lady, I wouldn't be so hard on yourself. As far as I'm concurred you fulfilled your contract. While I admit that I'm not happy to lose my Jason, I can't say that you were equipped to deal with a C4 explosion. We have vids of the attack; you were unbelievable. We were expecting a team of two or three, you took out four men all by your lonesome. As far as I'm concerned, your contract is fulfilled, and you will get paid in full. Jason may not have survived, but at least he didn't have to go through the torture that they had in mind for him."

Mr. James slowly turned to leave "By the way, Midori, your medical insurance will stay current for a couple of weeks, I suggest you talk to one of the shrinks if you're having a case of survivor's guilt."

Midori shook her head not really knowing what to make of it. Right now the only thing she felt was hungry. Like she hadn't eaten in a month. She was about to buzz the nurse for some food when the door opened again.

"Sleeping beauty has finally awoken" the words were in fluent Japanese, and she recognized the voice.

"Nabiki, what are you doing here?"

"My aren't we cynical, I'm just visiting an old friend in the hospital."

Midori returned with a skeptical look and a grin.

"Okay, You know me to well, I'll cut to the chase. Some of the people I know, are interested in signing you for a recording contract."

" Me?" Midori replied in surprise

"Look, you and I both know that you were playing and singing better than most of the member of Birds of Prey since we were both in grade school. We also both know that most of the time skill, has very little to do with what becomes popular. Right now, thanks to your survival, and a little footage of the recording studio that was dropped to the press, you've hit the spotlight already."

Nabiki clicked on her watch and the TV flashed on "And In lighter news, the sing Midori Stewart who survived the explosion that killed most of the up and coming band 'Birds of Pray' is said to be in good condition and making a miraculous recovery. That's good news for the thousands of well wishes. <click>" Midori was stunned.

" The way I see it you've got a choice. You can take the chance and make your fortune in music, doing something I know you love to do, or you can go back to baby-sitting for pampered rich kids. The choice is yours." "I really have to think about it." Midori sighed.

"Fair enough, this is probably too much information all at once anyway. I'm not going to be in town for much longer, but here's a card for a talent agency I have friends at. Drop my name and they'll give you a good deal." Midori shook her head incredulously "Just one thing Nabiki, how much did they pay you for this little visit"

Nabiki winked "That's on a need to know basis. Oh, looks like the striper is here with your mail."

Nabiki's last words turned out to be true, the striper had a bag with thousands of letters and get well wishes. She began to read the first one, but her stomach began to rumble. She ordered for the nurse. Midori was so hungry that even the hospital food tasted good.

After a while she began to think about what Nabiki had said, she had some songs inside her, and she was tired of playing backup singer. Maybe it was time she grabbed the spotlight and did something with it.


"So Mr. James, why exactly are you doing this?"

"Several reasons, Ms. Tendo. She was a convenient test subject, she was going to die without the treatment. If anything went wrong, there was no way we could be held libel. Saved us from having to test the stuff on some homeless bum that nobody would miss, or having to pay for the nose for a higher quality subject. We can observe results of the experiment. Most of all we have quality material, she is intelligent and athletic, abd she has the ability to put this bio-tech to a real test."

"So why did you want her to be playing music?"

"Controlled environment, we don't want her starving, and we don't really want her working for the competition, where her new upgrades might be discovered. But having her work for us makes her suspect too. This company we've set up will filter enough freelance jobs to keep her in top shape and still give her enough time to record and play. It all adds up to plausible deniability. Heck she may even have enough of a career to make you some money."

"Either way, as long as I get paid…"

"You have a strong mercenary streak. I like that in a woman. You're not married, are you?"

"Not interested."

"Any more like you at home?"

"Spoken for, I'm afraid."

"We'll then, the money will be hitting your account momentarly…"

Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories