by Michael Surbrook and David Kuijt

Hawaii was beautiful at this time of year, and the beaches were bustling with tourists. This particular beach was surrounded by expensive luxury hotels and was marked as limited access. The press of tourists was much lighter here, and hotel room service extended all the way out to the waterline and beyond for the benefit of hotel guests.

Shion sat in the sun in the sea-view balcony of her room, overlooking the beach. Like many of the women down below on the beach, she was dressed in a Riviera monokini, but otherwise naked. Suddenly, she sat up, disturbed. She stood and leaned over the rail, scanning the beach.

Several hundred yards away, down near the waterline, a young man lay in the sun. Although moderately handsome, well-built, and healthy, there was no particular reason for her intent gaze.

Shion stepped back from the balcony and paused. Takeda Johnson? Here? Why? Was he following her? She had last seen him Neo York, working for a merc unit known as Force Five. Why would he be here in Hawaii and more importantly, had he come alone?

Shion returned to the balcony and looked down again, Takeda was still where she had first seen him, lying in the sun near the water. Although she had felt his presence, it would seem that he had not detected hers and it did indeed look as if he was alone. Perhaps, his presence here was mere coincidence. Shion scanned the beach for a few minutes, trying to decide whether to or not to approach Takeda. After a few moments of indecision, she realized that she couldn't let a chance like this pass her by, a chance to find out the truth behind Takeda's origins as well as Kiyoko's existence.

Leaving the balcony, Shion prepared to make her way down to the beach. Walking down would be best, using her Power in any way would only alert Takeda and probably put him into a hostile mood. She also decided that she should get dressed in some way; she was not her sister, putting herself on display at the least opportunity. Wearing her cloak and armor was out of the question, as it would project the impression she was afraid of Takeda and was expecting combat. She finally decided to pull on a white, short sleeved, knee-length sun robe; belted loosely, it would present enough of her to hopefully distract Takeda, while covering her sufficiently so she didn't feel too exposed.

The sand was hot and Shion almost wished that she had remembered to put on a pair of sandals before coming out here. She approached Takeda at a slow, regular pace. When she had gotten within about thirty yards, she wrapped a low-level field about herself, ignoring the sudden swirl of sand this action caused.

Takeda rolled to a sitting position and spun, facing her.

"Hello, Mr. Johnson," Shion stated calmly.

"Shion." Takeda looked quite surprised. As soon as he recognized her he, too, encased himself in a teek field for protection, causing a similar swirl of sand to rise around him.

Takeda stood up warily. "What are you doing here?" He looked her over carefully, then glanced around him as if to see if she had any companions. "I thought you broke the contract."

Although not packed like the public beaches, there were a number of other people nearby. Most of them were oblivious to the two teeks, although the little dust-devils that their protective fields had caused made the pair look a little out of place, as the day was clear and calm.

"I could ask you the same thing," Shion glanced around the beach, "Waikiki is a bit far from Neo York."

Takeda looked around again at the surrounding beach, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Just the usual summer crop of wealthy sun-bathers.

Shion took a few steps closer to the crashing surf and paused; turning to look back at Takeda she continued, "And as for 'the contract', I am currently not working for anyone. This..." she indicated the beach with a gesture, "is supposed to be my vacation."

"I see." Takeda looked at her closely, as if trying to detect if she was lying.

"How about you, Mr. Johnson, why are you here?"

"I guess, in a sense, it is my vacation too." Takeda let his teek field down, although he watched Shion closely, and appeared to be ready to bring it up again at a moment's notice.

"Really," Shion responded dryly.

"I'm on leave from Force Five. On a walkabout, you could say."

Shion visibly relaxed, dissipating her own field as well. She turned to look out over the ocean and seemed lost in thought, the steady breeze tugging at her long hair. After a moment she turned back to Takeda, "Is that so?" she asked slyly. "Have a falling out with your ... 'friends', or did they find you too expensive to keep around?"

Takeda smiled. "No, not too expensive. If Avatar had found me too expensive, I'm sure he would have kicked me out before paying you off, not after. No, taking a leave of absence was my own decision."

He sat down again on the hot sand, eyes straying briefly to Shion's long legs, then looked out at the surf. "Is there some reason you are asking me all these questions? It is really none of your business," he stated, his voice meditative.

"Mr. Johnson, as of a month ago, you were my business and although you are not now, there are still many things about you I feel I must know."

"If you say so." Takeda sounded slightly amused. "Call me Takeda. Whenever someone calls me Mr. Johnson, I feel like an anonymous employer."

"Hmph, I see," Shion smiled slightly and then sat down herself, pausing only to sweep her knee-length fall of hair to one side. "Takeda it will be, if it makes you happy."

Takeda nodded.

"Quid pro quo, then. There are some questions I have, inspired perhaps by your unprovoked attack on me." Takeda smiles ironically. "As long as you answer my questions, I'll answer yours. You can start." He moves his hand, sketching a bow from his sitting position. "What sort of questions?"

Shion idly played with a lock of her hair while contemplating what to say next. Abruptly she turned to Takeda in an almost predatory manner, "What are you?"

Takeda straightened up, the transient humor gone from his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Are...," Shion swallowed slowly, rubbing her left forearm absently while staring steadily at Takeda, "... are you really a clone of Ran?" She winced slightly, as if at a bad memory, her right hand dropping to press against her side.

"Yes." Takeda frowned, as if at a bad memory. "What did Ares tell you about me?"

"Ares..."Shion looked away for a moment and then back, "Ares hired me to extract you ... Takeda, after you had supposedly jumped your contract and fled to the Zone." She shrugged, "It didn't sound like all that difficult a mission at first, I've handled extractions before. They said nothing about where you had come from, only that you were believed to have a class A ability rating."

"My first real attempt to locate you..." Shion swallowed again, "Well, let's just say it didn't go very well and leave it at that."

"When I _ returned from Mega-Tokyo, I asked about these supposed 'brothers' of yours. I was told that information was classified." Shion gave a wry smile, "Even the Empress doesn't get to know everything."

Takeda nodded. "Okay, your turn."

Shion didn't respond immediately, instead sitting quietly with her arms crossed, staring down at the sand. Finally she looked up at Takeda.


"Ah." Takeda didn't seem surprised.

"Tell me more about this girl named Kiyoko, the one that's supposed to be my ... clone."

Takeda looked out at the pounding surf for a while. When he spoke, his voice was quiet, contemplative.

"I was angry at Jagger and Doc for telling you about her."

He make quick cutting gesture, forestalling any response Shion might make.

"I'm not trying to protect Genom. If you told me right now that you were going to go in and destroy their cloning project entirely, I'd come with you and help. I hate them and everything they stand for."

"And I would understand if you were angry, very angry. But Kiyoko is as innocent of her origins as I am of mine. Before I tell you anything about her, I want to know what you intend to do to her."

Takeda looks directly at Shion, waiting for her response.

Shion sighed deeply and thought for a moment, "I don't know what I want to do. When I first heard about this Kiyoko, I considered killing her, but that wouldn't solve anything, Genom would just grow another. I've also considered trying to destroy their facilities, but Genom has at least a dozen locations in MegaTokyo alone..."

Turning to Takeda, Shion then fixed him with a steady stare, "If I decided to destroy this project and her along with it, would you stop me?"

"As I said before, if you decide to destroy this project, I would want to help. More than that, you cannot succeed without me. I know the place. I know the people, I know the security, or at least some of it."

"But if you are going to try and destroy Kiyoko, I will stop you."

"Oh, how noble of you," Shion said in a sarcastic tone.

Takeda smiled ironically, and pretended to bow, but his eyes remained deadly serious

Shion looked away, over the ocean.

"How about you? How do you feel?" she asked bitterly, "Knowing that Genom could grow a dozen more just like you at any time? "

Takeda smiled wryly. "It's different for me than for you, I suppose. You believe that you are unique, and are shocked to find yourself not so. I, on the other hand, have known since I was decanted that I was not unique. For me the crime is not cloning others off me—how could I object, when I myself am clearly a stolen clone? Ran wasn't likely to give permission!"

"Anyway, I grew up with a bunch of twin brothers. We aren't the same—the failure rate on psychokinetic clones is very, very high. They don't try to treat us all the same. I guess it is too risky, since almost all of us died or went insane. Only a handful made it to maturity.

"You may be upset that Genom has done this to you. In Japan, it is theft of your genetic material and battery on your person. Your clone is not a real person, it is property."

"But I believe the opposite. I am not property. I am a person. And to indoctrinate people the way they do is slavery and torture. And if I get the chance I will destroy them for it, and for what they have made me do, trying to escape."

"I met Kiyoko when I brought Yamagata back to the Genom PsiClone project. Doc had shot him, he was dying, and it was the only place I could think of where he could get medical help fast enough."

"You met Kiyoko?" Shion looked a little surprised, "Alone? What about Jagger and Dr. Muldowny? They said they saw her."

"No, they never saw her. Either they were being dramatic, or there was some miscommunication. I was alone, except for Yama."

Takeda's face briefly went grim, then he continued.

"I ported in, then started flying around with his body looking for help, when I got brainburn. She must have sensed my teleport, as she ported to me. She's just a little girl, around twelve years old."

"I see. I was told she was about fifteen," Shion said quietly. She sounded almost sad, as if remembering something that happened long ago.

Takeda glanced at Shion's reaction before continuing. "Yamagata had taken a burst from a needler with his shield down. He was bloody all over, and I was covered in his blood as well. She hadn't seen blood or death before, from her reaction. She tried to help, but she didn't know what to do any more than I did. I sent her away to get help."

"I had seen her before, a couple of times over the last two or three years while I was at Genom. We only saw her at big group meetings; they seemed to keep her segregated from us."

Takeda glances=d at Shion before continuing. "What do you know about cloning?"

"Very little, it's not a common procedure."

"They grew us fast for the first while. Something like six years in the first year, three years per 'real' year for the next two, and then just the injections. Maybe twice normal growth rate for the next four years.

"And you are positive she's me?"

Takeda took a long look at Shion as she sat half-sheathed in her hair.

"Oh, she's your clone. No question. She's exactly you, if you were born in a replicator, raised by Genom, indoctrinated for loyalty, and tortured every day of your brief life."

"Tortured?" Shion asked dubiously.

Takeda shruged. "Pain, unhappiness, loneliness. No parents. Few friends. Every night you go to bed bruised by the shots, not knowing if your friends are going to be 'disappeared' when you wake up. Experiments all the time, pushing the limits of your powers. Brainburn all the time. And if you burn your powers out, you get 'disappeared.' And if your powers aren't strong enough, or controlled enough, or whatever, you get 'disappeared.' And about every two months or so, one of your creche mates goes insane, or kills himself, or dies of brainburn. Most of them just disappear. One morning they're gone, and nobody talks about them any more."

"You can hate Genom if you want—I certainly do. But get this straight, Shion. Kiyoko may, or may not, be a nice person. I never got close enough to know. But she has done NOTHING to you. And she is trapped in a hell maintained by the same people who raped your genetic code."

Shion glances=d at Takeda, as if startled by this outburst, but said nothing.

Takeda stood up abruptly. "Talking to you has made me decide. I'm going in there. I'm going to get her out. If I wait, Genom will mold her into what they'd like you to be—a tool, a loyal instrument of their will, a slave. She deserves a chance to be free, and I'm her only chance. WE are her only chance."

He glared at Shion. "If you are angry, come with me. With your help I can get her out, and maybe we can wreck the division. You said there was no purpose to it--I disagree. All their eggs are in one basket. If we do enough damage, we can set them back a decade. With your skills at datasteals, we might be able to recover or destroy your genetic sample, so they can't do it again. Are you just going to sit back and let them get away with it? Come with me," Takeda appeals, "and maybe we have a chance of really getting those bastards."

Shion stared at Takeda incredulously for several long moments and then begain to laugh, "Mr. Johnson, I do believe you're serious! Attempt a datasteal against the Genom Tower? No thanks!"

Stopping her chuckling, Shion suddenly became much more serious, "Besides, if I did something like that, at the very least, Genom would go to great lengths to ensure that I never found work again."

Takeda sat down again, looking intently at the tall white-haired woman. "I am serious. Are you really afraid of the repercussions? What could they do to you, tell Ares not to hire you any more?"

"Yes. Genom is huge, Takeda, they have towers in a dozen cities and an almost uncountable number of smaller facilities. They have the clout to make things very uncomfortable for me without ever taking any direct action."

She shook her head slowly, staring down at the sand, "Audits, credit investigations, freezing of assets, repossession, eviction, they could arrange all of this, effectively rendering me powerless. I _ walk a very thin line when I _ deal with the Corps, Takeda. My rep ensures that I can demand and receive enormous sums, while my power is such that the Corps are willing to put up with my actions."

"So you are going to do nothing? Nothing at all? Do you really think that you will be out of the game, just because you try not to be involved? Think about it. Kiyoko is 12. She was grown in three years, more or less. In three more she'll be 16, and she'll have half a dozen 12 year old sisters. She might have a bunch of sisters already, and I just haven't met them. In five years Genom will be advertising 'Shion for Sale or Rent.' And the real one, the original model, will be very inconvenient."

"You have a chance right now. And only now. You can't succeed without me, you don't even know what floor they are on. And delay won't help. The longer you wait, the closer Genom will be towards cornering the market on Shions, after they put a laser through your skull."

"Think about it."

Shion shudderd slightly before responding. "A dozen sisters, it certainly is a frightening concept."

Standing, Shion looked down a Takeda, "I will think about it, Mr. Johnson. But, I am not ready to come to a decision now. You are asking of me a great deal and now is not the time or place for an answer."

There was a sudden surge of power as Shion vanished. Only the *foom* of displaced air and a spray of sand marked her passing.

Takeda looked up towards the hotel, hundreds of yards away, where his senses told him Shion had reappeared. He stared for a minute or two, stood and then vanished as well.


TO: Shion Nys (CP/UCA/HA (808)-919-1745, Nys, S)
FROM: Takeda Johnson (CP/UCA/HA (808)-330-2074, Johnson, T)

If you wish to get in touch with me, I am staying at the Waikiki Hilton, room 1745.

Takeda Johnson.



Takeda closed the door behind him. The hotel suite was richly appointed, a contrast to his sandy bare feet and swim trunks.

Passing the videocomm on the way to the shower, he saw that the "messages" light was blinking. He sat down and brought up the menu.


<<on line (12:51:22/8-21-30)>>


TO: Takeda Johnson (CP/UCA/HA (808)-919-1745, Johnson, T)
FROM: Shion Nys (CP/UCA/HA (808)-330-2074, Nys, S)

Mr. Johnson, I have given the matter consideration and have decided to accompany you. I believe it would be prudent for us to meet in order to discuss a further course of action.

Shion Nys


>>PRINT? (Y/N)
- Y


A grim smile grew on Takeda's face. Then, struck by a thought, the smile disappeared. "I wonder how far I can trust her..." he muttered. He leaned forward to the keyboard.


>>REPLY? (Y/N)
- Y

TO: Shion Nys (CP/UNA/HA (808)-330-2074, Nys, S)
FROM: Takeda Johnson (CP/UNA/HA (808)-919-1745, Johnson, T)
REGARDING: Your message of 21-August-2030

Ms. Nys,

I will be pleased to have your company. Perhaps we can discuss further action in this matter over dinner? My schedule is currently flexible.



>>QUIT? (Y/N)
- Y

<<off line (12:56:19/8-21-30)>>

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