by Michael Surbrook and David Kuijt

They were both staying at the Tokyo Hilton, in a penthouse suite with several bedrooms opening into a private lounge with a beautiful view of Tokyo bay. Even though they had separate rooms, Takeda had been very conscious of Shion's presence just a door or two away. He had stayed up all night watching the lights on the bay.

It was exactly 6:00 AM when Shion's alarm went off, its incessent chirping continuing until it no longer detected her 70 or so kilos in the bed. Shion rose and stretched, yawning her sleep away. Stripping off her filmy negligeŽ, she walked, nude, over to the bedroom window. The view from the 60th floor was an impressive one. Although it was dominated, as were almost all views of Mega-Tokyo, by the dull bronze cone of the Genom Tower. Turning from the window, she walked over to a closet and removed a satiny gi jacket. Belting it tightly about her waist, Shion stepped out on to the balcony shared between the suite's lounge and two bedrooms to engage in her morning ritual of tai chi.

No sooner did she step onto the balcony than she noticed it was occupied. Takeda was sitting in a lotus position watching the sun rising over the city. It didn't look like he had moved since she'd went to bed last night. Takeda turned his head to greet Shion, but the words were struck out of his mouth by the sight of what she was wearing. He sat dumbstruck, staring at her long bare legs sticking out of the gi jacket that only barely covered her buttocks.

Shion gave Takeda a cool stare, "Yes?"

Takeda ripped his eyes from her long legs, in spite of their resistance. "Ahh.. Good morning."

"I'd like to engage in my workout, if you don't mind."

Takeda looked like several conflicting responses were vying for control of his verbal cortex. "Not at all."

He stood up, smiled at her, and went into the lounge.

Shion spent three quarters of an hour running through a fairly standard series of tai chi sequences. Takeda remained in the lounge, enticed by the fleeting glimpses of long, supple legs that could sometimes be seen through the balcony doors. When she finished, Shion went back into her room and took a shower. When Shion left, Takeda also felt the need for a shower. A cold one.

Feeling somewhat refreshed, Takeda returned to the lounge, clothed but barefoot. Shion was out on the balcony again, eating a breakfast brought up by room service.

Noting his arrival, Shion called him over, "Takeda, I'd like to talk to you."

"Sure, what's up?"

"Get dressed, as soon as I'm done, we're going to see about getting you fitted for a decent suit. It wouldn't do to meet with Nabiki-san in jeans and a t-shirt."

Takeda looks down at the clothing he is wearing. "If you like. Clothing was chosen for us, at Genom, and it never seemed like such a big deal."

"Allow me to put it this way then. I have no intention of going anywhere with you, unless you're properly attired, got it?"

"I would hate to offend your sense of propriety, Shion." Takeda's mild sarcasm is muted by his slight smile. "If you want to help me buy some nice clothing, that is fine with me."

"Good, I'm glad you've decided to see it my way."

The restaurant was the same one where Takeda had met Nabiki before, with Force Five. Now he sat with Shion instead, and didn't feel nearly as safe. Before, it had been an adventure, with mixed bits of fear and curiosity. Now he knew the enemy, and had some idea of what he was up against, and he was very worried.

Shion was wearing a formal business suit. She looked very professional, and very expensive. Takeda had acquired a similar suit, getting her advice on the cut, and alternated feeling out-of-place with feeling nearly as professional and expensive as Shion.

Shion relaxed in a far chair, calmly watching an assortment of tropical fish swimming about in a tank placed in the wall. Odds were, they were even real, this being that kind of restaurant. As usual, she casually held a glass of something alcoholic in one hand.

The click of the door announced Nabiki's arrival. In accordance with her standard operating methods, she was dressed impeccably, wearing a rather fashionable and obviously expensive suit.

Shion turned and stood, offering the Fixer a slight bow. <Konban-wa Nabiki-san, hajimemashite.> Gesturing with her free hand, she indicated a chair, <Please, won't you be seated?>

<Domo, Shion-san, domo-arigoto.> Nabiki quickly settled herself, producing a datapad and laying it on the table top.

<Konban-wa Takeda-san, I hadn't expected to see you so soon.> Nabiki allowed herself a small smile and added, <Are you alone this time, or do have any of your friends with you?>

<Konban-wa Nabiki-san. I am here with Shion-san, this time.> Takeda smiled and reseated himself.

<So ka. So, shall we get down to business?>

Shion resumed her seat and paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Finally, she looked over at Nabiki. <Domo-arigoto, Nabiki-san, for all you have done for us. The rooms you acquired for us are excellent.> Shion paused again glanced at Takeda and then resumed, <There are still several items that Takeda and I require, if we are to accomplish our present business here.>

<So ka. So, what is it that you need?>

Shion looked over at Takeda and nodded.

Takeda slid forward a small datapad. <Here is the list, Nabiki-san. In brief, we would like a heavy PGM blaster, a SPAS-22, an H&K 70A1, a variety of grenades and ammunition, an armored jacket in my size, nose filters proof against the gas grenades, a small field medical kit, narco-patches and a subdermal tracer. Plus one further item: an island, out of sight of land, with some supplies, a generator, and a communications rig. All as detailed in this file.>

Nabiki absorbed this request without comment. Picking up the datapad, she quickly scanned the file, jotting notes on the other pad as she went. Finally, she placed the pad back on the table and sat back in her chair. <A most interesting list, ne? Ah, but sumimasen, Takeda-san, Shion-san, it is not my place to comment on my client's requests. I should have most of the items on this list ready by about this time tomorrow,> she picked the pad up again, <I'm afraid the shotgun rounds, the grenades and the tracer may take a bit longer.>

Looking directly at Takeda, Nabiki continued, <Your island may take some time, a week or more... how soon do you need it?>

<I am not sure I will need it, and I won't know until our business here is concluded. If I need it, I'll need it right after we finish up here in Mega-Tokyo, so we may have to delay finishing here until you have located an appropriate island. You understand that I do not need to own it, just to have privacy on it for a month or so?>

<Ah, yes. That shall my task a bit easier, I think.>

<Domo arigato, Nabiki-san.>

<Do itashimashite, Takeda. Very well then, I shall contact you as soon as I have acquired your equipment.> Nabiki stood and bowed, <Sayonara, Shion-san, Takeda-san. As usual it has been a pleasure doing business with you.>

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