EBONY HAIR AND ANGER Written by Michael Surbrook and David Kuijt

I'll tell you something, something new
You're hearing nothing, nothing true
You're killing me, I'm killing you
And I'm guilty too
One Two Three, I found you out so easily
One Two Three, I found in you what you found in me
The time is wrong, the time is right - be careful who you kill tonight
"Guilty" - Gravity Kills

93 Underground was mostly empty as Takeda walked through the door. It was warm inside and a typical cold and damp November afternoon outside, but the regulars were still at work and the tourists wouldn't show until evening.

Takeda glanced around. The bar was nearly empty, although there were a couple of people in booths. Gordon was behind the bar stacking glasses, and nodded towards Takeda. The only person sitting at the bar was Ryder, eating a sandwich.

Takeda sat down beside Ryder. Gordon came over and gave him a ginger-ale without being asked, then went back to stacking glasses farther down the bar.

Ryder turned and gave Takeda a questioning look around his mouthful of ham sandwich. "Hoi, Takeda, haven't seen you in a while. What brings you here?"

"Getting some air," Takeda smiled. "Heh, so where's the Princess?"

"Princess?" Takeda's eyebrows rose in question. Ryder grinned and held his hand out, about waist high, palm down, "You know, Kiyoko?"

Takeda frowned, unsure if he liked the name. "Whoa," Ryder held up both hands, "don't blame me, the name's Amano's fault." Takeda nodded wryly. "Isn't everything. Kiyoko's fine, but she's back at base."

"Too bad." Ryder took a quick swallow of his beer, "I was asking since Megumi was wondering when you'd bring her around again." He gave Takeda a knowing grin, "I think Megumi's working on being a bad influence again."

Takeda smiled. "What, like she stopped?"

Ryder laughed in return, "I think she was born that way."

Pushing his plate away, Ryder drained his beer and then produced a cigarette. Lighting up, he turned to Takeda, "Smoke?"

"No thanks."

"Cool." Sitting back slightly on his bar stool, Ryder took a deep drag on his cigarette, slowly breathing out a cloud of smoke. Eyes closed, he gave a slight sigh of pleasure. Pushing his beer mug forward to have Gordon refill it, Ryder twisted in his seat, looking directly at Takeda. "You know, I..." Ryder's statement went unfinished as his cigarette, casually held between two fingers, vanished, snatched away by a blur. Glancing at each other in confusion for a moment, he and Takeda then turned to look behind them. The woman standing behind the two wasn't very tall, with a supple figure and long black hair that fell to her waist. She was dressed in typical street solo gear; bodysuit, boots, gloves, the works, all in basic black. Holding up Ryder's cigarette, she regarded it with an almost distasteful expression before flicking the offending object away. Cocking her head slightly to one side, she indicated Ryder with a subtle motion of one finger. "You," she breathed, "get." Blinking in surprise and confusion, Ryder looked to Takeda, "Uh... you know her?" Takeda nodded grimly, standing up. His attention was focussed on Marta.

Feeling the slight surge of power from Takeda, Ryder gave him a questioning look before sliding out of his stool and stepping away from the bar. Nodding to Marta, he looked over his shoulder at Takeda, "Talk to ya later." Sauntering down the length of the bar, he promptly dropped into a far booth.

Takeda gestured towards the bar stools in slightly formal courtesy, no sign of a smile on his face. Settling herself in Ryder's now vacant seat, Marta pushed aside his plate and mug with a sweep of her arm. Gesturing to Gordon, she turned her head, regarding Takeda with a cool gaze. "So," Marta said icily. "we have some business to discuss."

Takeda sat down facing her. His face was expressionless, although anger danced deep in his eyes.

Gordon stopped in front of the pair, nodding slightly in Marta's direction. "Ms. Marta," he asked, "What can I get for you?" Marta remained silent for a moment, drumming her fingers on the bar top. She looked at Takeda's glass for a moment. "What's he having?"

"Ginger ale."

Marta almost laughed in response, shaking her head she gave Gordon a slight smile, "Sake, and leave the bottle."

"Sure thing Ms Marta."

As soon as Gordon had stepped away, Marta swiveled in her seat, arms crossed in front of her chest. "So... Mr. Johnson...," she made Takeda's name sound almost like an insult, "I hope you're happy with what you've done."

Takeda's eyebrows twitched down once, but his gaze stayed fixed on Marta's. He didn't respond immediately. When he spoke, it was quiet and direct.

"You have no idea what I've done."

Marta gave a disgusted snort before responding, "Sure I do. You attacked Genom's main tower and extracted some little kid that's supposed to be a clone of my sister. Some how, you talked my sister into helping you, which resulted in her tearing off to fight some Genom sent assassin, my apartment getting blown up, my girlfriend hospitalized, and my sister kidnapped." She paused, having ticked off each point on one hand as it was mentioned, "Did I miss anything?"

Takeda shook his head dismissively, eyes still cold. "You wouldn't listen if I told you."

"And I probably wouldn't want to hear it anyway."

"No, you probably wouldn't."

Marta waved her hand dismissivly, "Then stick it."

Takeda looked at her coldly. "You took your time. I hope your sister isn't paying for it."

"Fuck you, Mr. High-and-mighty!" Marta snapped, "Unlike some, I can't just walk into the nearest Genom tower and rip it apart until I find what I want. For your information I've been following up on leads and putting together enough cash to try and get her out!"

Takeda leaned forward intently, ignoring most of her outburst. "Out of where?"

Marta smiled, her expression lacking any trace of humor, "Oh, now you want to talk to me... Now you think I have something worth listening to."

Takeda's eyes flashed in anger. "If I didn't hope that you had some useful information, I wouldn't have let you delay me this way. Do you have any information, or is this interview a waste of time?"

Marta's eyes narrowed at Takeda's comment, "So... you going to threaten to kill me too?" Marta pointed a finger directly at Takeda's chest, "Last time I saw you you said you were going to rip my sister's head off. Now you're jumping because my sister's missing... Why the big switch?"

Takeda's lip curled scornfully. "You said you didn't want to hear it. If you are looking for a reason to trust me, you'll have to listen eventually. If you want me to be the big villain you can blame for all this, then why are you here?"

"Simple," Marta gave a predatory smile, "since you're the reason all this happened, then you're the one who is going to help me get her out."

"Ah, of course. You don't want me to help because I want to, or because I approached you in the first place. That wouldn't fit with your version of events. You want to MAKE me help, because I'm the person you blame."

"For your information, Mr. Johnson, I've been planning on getting ahold of you for this ever since I found out who did this in the first place." Marta looked straight into Takeda's eyes, "And yes, I blame you for this. I thought my sister knew enough to leave Genom alone, but you had to go and rile her up."

"Blame whoever you wish. Do you have some information, or not?"

Pushing away from the bar, Marta turned to look at Gordon, who was returning with a bottle of sake. He left the bottle and a cup on the bartop, and quietly retreated from the area, pausing only to give Takeda a questioning glance as he passed. Marta filled her cup and quickly drank it down, before returning her attention back to Takeda. Unzipping the front of her bodysuit, Marta reached inside producing a folded sheaf of papers. Tossing them in front of Takeda, she gestured at the pile with one hand. "Recognize that?"

Takeda shuffled through the papers. A streetmap, then a top view of a building, and finally a picture of the building. About ten stories tall, virtually windowless.

Takeda's eyes widened. The building was the one in his dreams, or nearly so.

"It's a Genom research center in Chiba," she answered smugly.

Takeda's voice was far away. "...I've seen it..."

"Fuck!" Marta snapped, "When!"

Takeda's eyes returned to hers, and his voice to its previous cold, functional tone. "In my dreams, every night for the past month or more. Shion, too."

Marta remained silent for a long time, simply staring at Takeda's face.

Takeda stared back, unsure if she would believe him.

Turning away, she drank another cup of sake, before picking up the folded papers and returning them to her bodysuit. "Errr..." she hissed, "I hate this shit."

Turning back to Takeda, Marta fixed him with a cold stare, "And what did you see?"

Takeda hesitated for a long moment before responding, as if unsure how much to say, or how to phrase it.

"I saw you, for one thing."

"Really," Marta responded dryly, "and what was I doing?"

"You were frustrated and angry," Takeda responded, voice as dry as Marta's. "That's when I started searching for you. That's how I found out about Shion's kidnapping, and the destruction of your apartment."

Marta didn't respond, instead she drank down another glass of sake, scowling at the bartop.

"I saw that building," Takeda gestured towards where Marta had put the picture. "I've never seen it before, in real life. It was disturbing. I could feel that it was a Genom facility." Takeda shrugged ruefully. "I've been searching for that building for a month, poring over every image of a Genom facility I could get my hands on."

"Well, it's a minor research center..." Marta shrugged as well, "I don't know if it's the right building, but it's the best lead I got."

"Oh, it's the right building," Takeda said. "She's in there. I'm sure of it."

"How?" Marta made it sound more like a command than a question.

Takeda hunched his shoulders and frowned, hesitant. "I wish I knew how. But I am sure."

Marta shook her head, "Whatever. Have you 'seen' anything else?"

"I see Shion. She is nude, prone, lying on her back. She seems to be asleep. I want her to wake up, but it never happens. Getting her to wake up is very important, although I don't know why."

Marta simply stared, one eyebrow raised slightly. "Un hunh" she muttered.

"Whenever I see her, the image is associated with a feeling of cold. She also seems blue, as if I'm seeing through a blue filter, or she is lit by blue lights, or something."


"There are a lot of machines, running in the background. Strange, half-seen, blinking and humming just out of sight and definition."

"Sounds like some sort of lab..." Marta sipped at her sake.

Takeda nodded. "The sort of lab where they made me."

"Excuse me?" Marta almsot dropped the sake cup, "They made you?"

Takeda nodded, watching Marta closely. "I have a lot of experience with Genom's medical labs, and their genetic and psychokinetic research programs. Personal experience."

"You used to work for them then?" Marta stared intently at Takeda, "Is that why you were so hot to smash up their MT tower?"

"Work for them? No, not really. They grew me." Takeda stared back at her. "I'm a clone. To Genom, that means slave."

"Jesus Fucking Christ!"

There was a sudden ripping sound as Marta clenched her right hand into a tight fist. Looking away from Takeda, Marta carefully set the sake cup down and pulled her hand free of the bartop. Waving her fingers back and forth, she examined the extended finger razors before returning her attention to Takeda. "You're a clone?" Marta shook her head in disbelief, "Of who?"

Takeda looked at Marta for a long moment before responding. "What matters is who I am. Not who I was cloned from. Ask Shion, if we get her out alive."

"When!" Marta snapped. Sitting back in her seat she glared at Takeda for a moment before relaxing, "And I will ask Shion when this is all over."

Takeda nodded. It was a moment before he spoke, coming back to the earlier topic. "There are some other images, and I don't know how they're related. A scramjet. Having a problem, about to explode. A large, shadowy humanoid shape. Very strange, dangerous, associated with the machine images, and with trying to wake up Shion."

Marta put the sake cup down and pushed the bottle away. "Anything else?"

"Nothing definite. Some faces I'm trying to track down. Feelings of threat, destruction, fear, screaming. I don't know if they are memories or visions." Takeda shrugged tightly. "This is all new to me."

Dropping out of her seat, Marta placed a few rumpled bills on the bartop and turned to face Takeda, hands resting lightly on her hips, "Well Mr. Johnson, it's time for us to go."

Takeda's eyebrows rose, questioning.

Marta gave Takeda a sly smirk, "Hong Kong, Mr. Johnson, we're going to Hong Kong."

Takeda's eyebrows stayed raised, now in a look of skepticism. "Ms. Nys. Let us get one thing clear. You are not in charge."

"Excuse me?" Marta's expression switched from smug superiority to irritation in a flash, "You're out of your fucking mind if you think you are! This is my sister we're talking about, remember?

Takeda leaned back against the bar, watching Marta coolly. "I am bringing in my group on this mission. I don't intend to let your temper, irrational behavior, and belligerence endanger their lives or mine."

"Your group?" Marta almost sneered, "And who are they?"

"A merc group. I should think you'd be happy for assistance," Takeda smiled ironically, clearly not expecting that she'd be happy at all.

"Heh," Marta gave a slight shrug, "More people means more targets for the enemy to shoot at, eh?"

"And more of us to shoot them. And useful insertion skills, and escape vehicles, and so on. But I'm going to have to justify including you to them, not the other way around."

"Justify shit, Mr. Johnson!" Marta scowled darkly at Takeda, "I haven't been risking my life digging into Genom's secrets to have you tell me I'm not worthy enough to rescue my own sister!"

"Worthy doesn't come in to it," Takeda said, not without sympathy. "Dangerous to me and my team does."

Marta sighed in an angry exhalation, "Don't worry Mr. Johnson, I won't be gunning for you our your team, I'm after Genom."

"I don't doubt your objective. But you don't have to be gunning for us to get us killed. So far you've been secretive, autocratic, and belligerent by turns. If you keep information from me, that could get somebody on my team killed. You haven't shown any indication that you can work well with others."

Marta gave Takeda a surprised look, "How did you ever manage to work with my sister then?"

Takeda was surprised into a brief rueful smile before his face turned serious again. "That was just me, not the team. But your point is well taken.

"Ms. Nys, this is not up for debate. I am going to attempt to extract Shion. I am bringing Kazei 5, the group with which I am associated. The group does not wish to let Genom have Shion. I have my own reasons to hate Genom, and I owe Shion."

"Damn straight you do."

Takeda chopped his hand down in an abrupt motion. "You know nothing about it. But that is not the point. You can't stop us, and you are not going to be mission commander. You only have two choices. You can be a part of this mission, or not."

Marta stood quietly for some time, simply staring at Takeda. She made several abortive attempts to speak, but each time fell silent, obviously unable to decide how to respond.

Finally, after coming to some sort of internal decision Marta turned to face Takeda directly. "Alright, Mr. Johnson, if you want to run this show, then that's fine... But, I've got quite a bit of time and money invested already, and I still say our first stop is going to be Hong Kong." Crossing her arms over her chest, Marta waited expectantly for Takeda's response.

"Good," Takeda nodded. "What's in Hong Kong?"

Marta smiled, "Stuff."

Takeda frowned. "You want to blame me, even hate me, fine. Don't treat me like an idiot. What is in Hong Kong that would make me want to go with you?"

"Weapons, armor and information." Marta held up a finger as she went down the list, "That good enough for you?"

Without allowing Takeda to speak, she went on, "I've got to meet with my Fixer, a Ling Ling Li, and finalize certain business dealings."

Takeda stared at her for a long moment, then nodded grudgingly. "OK. I have to meet with my team. Wrapping up our affairs may take a couple of days. Do you have a number where you can be reached in town?"

Marta handed him a card, "Here, this has my number and mail drop. Call me as soon as you're ready to leave."

Takeda stood by the bar watching Marta's supple form as she left the room. His eyes were cautious, slightly uncertain.

"Whoa Takeda," Ryder spoke in almost awed tones, "Who the hell was that?"

Takeda glanced at Ryder, then back at the door where the ebony-haired woman had left. "That? That was Marta Nys."

"Really?" Ryder gave Takeda a puzzled look, "Who's her sister she kept ranting about?"

"Shion. Shion Nys."

"Damn!" Ryder swore violently, "That nice piece of ass is the Empress's sister? There any more where that came from?"

Takeda swallowed, unsure if he wanted to choke or laugh out loud. "It depends upon what you mean, I suppose," he smiled.

Takeda turned to face Ryder. "I hope you didn't overhear much of our conversation. It could be dangerous information." Takeda's concerned face made it clear that his statement was not a threat. Ryder shrugged, "I think everyone in the Underground could hear her... but I get your meaning."

Takeda nodded, glancing around. "I would have had this confrontation in private, if I had any warning."

Getting ready to leave, Ryder gave Takeda a friendly smile, "You know, I can't figure you out, everytime I see you, you've got these absolutely gorgeous women bitchin' you out. Shion, that Sonnet babe, and now this Marta woman... What's your secret?"

Takeda shrugged. "Genetics." Takeda's face was entirely serious.

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