by Michael Surbrook and David Kuijt

Takeda had arrived a little early, so he had time to look around. The concierge at his hotel had told him this place was expensive, and it sure looked it. The lighting was muted, and tables were quite far apart.

Takeda wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but when Shion arrived he was a little disconcerted. She was wearing some sort of informal business suit in white, black, and grey, with a tight shirt open to her solar plexus and a dramatic black jacket. Her earrings, rings, bracelets, and necklaces were all pure gold, and she wore her hair gathered at the base of her neck in a long ponytail.

Takeda stood up as she approached, but the impact of her appearance must have shown on his face.

"Good evening, Mr. Johnson," Shion said, stressing Takeda's last name in a slightly sardonic tone of voice, "are you feeling alright?"

"Fine, fine..."

Shion raised one eyebrow in a quizzical expression, "You looked a little... flushed as a I came in, get a bit too much sun?"

"No, not at all." Takeda smiles, aware he is being kidded. "You look very nice. Stunning, in fact. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. You are a very beautiful woman."

Shion inclined her head slightly and nodded, "Why... thank you, Takeda."

Arranging her coat and sweeping her hair to one side, Shion took her seat, "Shall we order?"


Takeda didn't quite know what to make of Shion. The few times he had met her before, she had seemed cold, arrogant, and distant. In the hour or so that passed while they ordered, made small talk, and ate, she was anything but cold, arrogant, or distant. She smiled, joked a little, enjoyed the food and her surroundings. She was acting as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Altogether unlike the 'Empress' persona she portrayed in Neo York.

During dinner they both kept to small talk. After the plates had been cleared, Shion was the first to broach the reason for the dinner.

"Takeda, allow me to handle getting to Mega-Tokyo," Shion took a drink from her Sapporo and gestured with her free hand, "I know the best Fixer in the city, she'll get us everything we need."

"Nabiki Tendo?"

"Why, yes," Shion looked slightly surprised, "You know of her?"

Takeda smiles, getting the reaction he wanted, but does not elaborate. "Yes, she'll be fine."

"I'll call her tomorrow and make the necessary arrangements. But, now, on to business. What do you plan to do about Kiyoko?"

"Get her out of there. The first problem, of course, is that she may not want to go."

Shion shrugged, "If Genom's done their job correctly, she won't. How do you plan to deal with that?"

"She's coming out. Even if I have to drag her out. Even if I have to stun her, drug her, and heft her unconscious body out. I'll try 'sweet reason' first, but she is coming out."

"What if she resists? You said she teleported, something I couldn't do at the age of twelve. She might be more powerful that you think."

Takeda shrugs. "If I can follow you teleporting, I can follow her. And I have some powers that lead me to believe I can capture her, without hurting her."

"I see..."

Takeda pauses, thinking, then continues. "I'll take responsibility for her. If it is necessary to deprogram her, I'll find a way to do it. But I hope it won't be necessary."

"What do you mean, 'take responsibility for her', where are you planning on taking her?"

Takeda grimaces. "Have you ever thought of the problems inherent in trying to deprogram a telekinetic that can teleport? There's only one way, of course. On an island, a small island, out of sight of land. 'Port as you will, there is no where to go."

Takeda watches Shion for a moment as she digests this information. "And as for responsibility, I'm sorry—I may have assumed something .... inappropriately." Takeda looks rueful.

"Assumed?" Shion looks slightly puzzled, "about what?"

Takeda takes a second, as if to try and phrase this correctly. "You... you seem like a loner, like you like to be alone. I assumed... I assumed that you... would feel no real tie towards Kiyoko, wouldn't want to burden yourself with her."

Shion almost laughs, "Takeda, you never cease to amaze me. No, I want nothing to do with... Kiyoko. One sister is enough for me." Abruptly, she sobers and her expression becomes deadly serious, "I have promised that I would not harm this Kiyoko, but... I _ think it would be best if you kept her away from me."

"Fair enough, I suppose." Takeda's eyes are cautious, belying his words. "If I have to get her out of there, I can be back very quickly. I should be able to manage it."

"Kiyoko's twelve. She needs help, protection, assistance. I feel... like she's my sister, in a way."

Shion cocks an eyebrow, "Your sister? What's that make me then?"

Takeda laughs, but doesn't try that one. "What I meant was just that I would take care of her, take responsibility for her, see that she gets... the things I wish I had had, while growing up."

Shion takes a deep breath and then sighs, "It sounds like she's doing better where she is than I was at her age..."

"Maybe. It depends how tough your childhood was, I suppose. But there are lots of kids in the Zone that have a better life than she does."

"How do you intend to explain me? I'm... uh... Kiyoko isn't stupid, she's bound to notice the resemblance."

"I'll tell her the truth. Genom lies to clones; I won't lie to her."

"Oh really? And what about your brothers?"

"They're adults, they've made their choice. If they get in the way, we have to take them out. Use whatever force is necessary. Until they're down, that is." Takeda glances at Shion. "No killing the helpless."

Shion merely glances at Takeda over her glass, but says nothing

Takeda looks at her for a moment, measuring. "Maybe this is the moment to say something else. You and I are going to be depending upon each other, in this. For our lives. We don't know each other very well, so that isn't easy. If you have a problem with anything I'm saying, I want to know it now, not when it comes up in combat."

Takeda takes a deep breath, lets it out. "I apologize. I... don't mean to sound... like I'm ordering you around. We just need to trust each other, even if it is only for this one assault. When I said no killing the helpless, I was reacting to a memory." Takeda's face gets grim, and he looks away.

"I see," Shion says quietly, "I distinctly remember you stating otherwise not so long ago."

Takeda looks confused for a moment, then his face clears up. "Ah, yes. Things change fast--I'd never have thought I'd be sitting at a dinner with you, allies, in a sense."

"I guess I mean unnecessary killing, not really helpless. Doc killed Yama, and it wasn't necessary." Takeda looks a long moment at Shion. "If anyone proved to me that the only way I could stop them from taking me back to Genom or Ares was to kill them, I'd do it. Helpless or not." He looks away, waves his hands a little. "I don't mean that as a threat, Shion. I'm just trying to clarify what I meant."

"I think I understand perfectly, Mr. Johnson," Shion says coldly.

Takeda looks at Shion for a moment, but her expression is not forthcoming. "Forget I said anything. You have a reputation as a professional, I should have just gone with that and not spoken. I'll try to get Kiyoko out of the way and out of your hair. Everyone else in there is an enemy."

"My brothers are going to be the big problem. Nothing else in the normal security forces is that dangerous to you or to me. But they can detect us, and they can pursue us when we 'port."

Shion shakes her head upon hearing this, "Don't forget Takeda, Genom's normal security forces includes cyberdroids, usually BU-55s operating in teams of three to six. Add your brothers into that mix and we will have a major firefight on our hands."

Takeda waves his hands dismissively. "The corridors up there are mostly too small for BU-55s to operate, and there is some expensive equipment up there. Even after the normal security forces are alerted, we'll probably have some time before they get the cyberdroids mobilized and up there. But the important thing is mobility. That place is a maze of corridors. We can both teleport. The cyberdroids can't. When we 'port, they won't even know where we are."

"Takeda, do you know just how big the Genom Tower is? It's over 300 stories, that's something like a kilometer in height. There are vehicle elevators that run all the way to the roof. Some of the hallways are big enough to allow passage for mid-sized cargo haulers. Cyberdroids are kept in security stations all over. Porting from one group might just dump us in front of another."

Takeda nods. "You're right, we'll have to take that into account. But the fact remains that we will have excellent mobility, very fast retreat and regroup options, and we don't have to stick to the corridors. The number of hallways that large in my section is pretty small. If we're smart, we should be able to get in and out without biffing it up with any of the larger cyberdroids."

"My brothers, on the other hand, will be able to track our 'porting and can do it themselves, as well. We have no mobility advantage, and no stealth advantage, against them."

Shion takes a drink and then asks, "How many brothers do you have anyway?"

"Only two my age... left. Doc killed Yamagata, I killed Masaru. Tetsuo and Kaneda are left. I think that if there were any others, I'd know about them."

"You killed one of your brothers?"

Takeda looks directly at Shion, eyes like ice. "I killed him, and almost three hundred other people at the same instant."

"You..." Shion pauses, "never mind, I think I'm better off not knowing."

"What if Kiyoko should come after me someday?" Shion stared directly at Takeda, "What then?"

"Are you going to go after your sister? Am I going to go after Ran? It isn't likely. You'll have to do the same thing then as I'll have to do, if you come after me again. Whatever you can." Takeda takes a drink from his ginger ale.

Shion raises her glass in a mock salute, "Thank you for giving me permission to defend myself."

Takeda shrugs. "Hey, you asked." He thinks for a second. "As for my brothers, I've got some ideas on how we can take them out in combat, or at least have an advantage. Double-teaming, weapons we can get from Nabiki."

"What sort of weapons?"

Takeda stares at Shion for some time before answering. When he speaks, it is wryly, at first. "Trust, eh? I can't help but think that my analysis of my brother's weaknesses is also my weaknesses, and just a few weeks back your having that information might have meant me back in Ares' hands." Takeda smiles ironically, then raises his glass to Shion.

"In for a penny, in for a pound." His smile becomes real as he continues. "I don't like secrets anyway. Reminds me of Genom."

"Energy weapons. My shield isn't nearly as good against energy weapons, and I can't deflect that sort of attacks. My brothers are the same. If we take in heavy PGM blasters, we can take them out."

"Hmm, I hadn't considered that..." Shion looks thoughtful, "Marta was intending on using an assault rifle loaded with gel rounds. She was also going to carry 'flashbangs', figuring you couldn't deflect what you can't see."

"Flashbangs are good. The gel rounds wouldn't have worked too well. If I was blinded, I'd put my field up full and try to turtle, or 'port out of there. And if I turtle, as you know, a tank round might not be enough. Same is probably true of my brothers."

"Can you focus your strikes, to punch through armor or rigid resistance?"

"After a fashion, my normal telekinetic field allows me to physically lift several tons, that sort of power is enough to usually cripple a normal man. With effort, I can focus the field and generate a blade-like effect that will cut through most anything." Shion pauses. "Didn't work too well against you though," she adds , reflectively.

"That's not quite what I meant. I mean more of a really tight needle, sort of like AP rounds. That might have helped--that's what I'm going to do against my brothers, if it comes to that. And something else." Again, Takeda give Shion a considering look. "I've found that I can... interfere with another teek's powers. Enough to almost force down their forcefield. If we combine a little, we should be able to use that tactic to great advantage. I can reduce the field of any of my brothers, making them really vulnerable to one of your powerful strikes."

Shion stares at Takeda for a few moments, digesting this new tidbit of information. "That ..." she swallows slowly, "that sounds like an useful talent Takeda." Her tone of voice indicating that she is anything but pleased to have been told this.

Takeda smiles, rather enjoying her discomfiture. "Of course, my brothers have very similar talents to mine. But they haven't fought you before, and they seem to have much less experience with using their powers in new and different ways. So they shouldn't be as well prepared. The main reason I thought of these new techniques was preparing to be attacked by you again." Takeda's smile turns wicked. "That sort of evolutionary pressure forced me to think of ways to defeat powerful psychokinetics. Seems quite ironic to be using these new variations on my power with you, rather than against you, don't you think?"

"Oh, yes, quite."

"Getting Kiyoko out is my main concern. What about you?"

"Finding who ever's responsible," Shion looks away for a moment and then back, her expression dark, "I'd like to 'speak' with them about this."

Takeda smiles grimly in return. "Fair enough. And I'm more than happy to help."

"I'll write down some notes later, more details. Mr. Maserati was the director of the project. Very polite, but Masaru liked him, and that makes me wary. Dr. Madagin, Kate Madagin, was the exec in charge of the research team. She reminds me of you, a bit. Attractive, tall, very little tolerance for mistakes."

"I'll take that as a complement," Shion adds dryly.

"The main research scientist was Dr. Miriam Yoshida. We were all afraid of him. He was the one overseeing injections and treatments and all the tests and evaluations. He was probably the one who decided who 'went away'." Takeda's eyes unfocused for a second. "He was the bogeyman."

"There were others, scientists, researchers and other directors, but those are the important ones. The others were just flunkies. ... almost all of them. Kiyoko had a 'keeper', someone named Naomi Gibson. Every time we saw Kiyoko, Naomi Gibson was with her. A young woman."

"And I met Chairman Quincy, once. A vid meeting, of course. He gives me the creeps."

Shion smiled, "You should try meeting him in person."

"I bet."

Shion smiled again and raised her glass in a salute, "To success."

Takeda saluted her in return.

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