by Michael Surbrook and David Kuijt

Takeda pulled on his new armored jacket, buttoned it to the neck. Striding to the table, he picked up the PGM blaster, checked the power level, set it down again. The stubby, ugly shape of an H&K 70A1 grenade launcher sat beside it like some surly shotgun on steroids, and it got his attention next. Moving surely and methodically, his fingers loaded four magazines for the grenade launcher from boxes of shells on the bed, five shots each. Three of these clips he slipped into velcro-tabbed pockets on his jacket, the other he slid into the launcher.

Standing up, he slung the heavy blaster on a pair of bandoliers to a position lashed to his back. Crouching and swinging, he tested the tightness of the fastenings and adjusted the straps. Satisfied, he picked up the grenade launcher and slung it on the shoulder strap, easily accessible.

Finally, Takeda fitted his nose filters, checking them for a tight seal, and slipped IR goggles over his eyes. After glancing once around the room to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything, he stepped out into the lounge.

Shion stood in front of a full length mirror and quickly adjusted her jumpsuit. Satisfied with it's fit, she zipped it up and fastened the neck snap. Boots came next, then her gloves. Next, her body armor, which snapped clamshell fashion over her torso, it's thick ceramic plating fitting her body snugly. Shion added her gunbelt next, sliding spare clips into reinforced pockets. Picking up her Sedco LD-120, Shion slid a clip home and pointed the pistol to her right. A slight touch produced a small red dot on the far wall. Satisfied, she dropped her gun into its holster.

Shion turned away from the mirror and stepped over to a table. On it was a long bladed sword and a SPAS-22 autoshotgun. Picking up her sword, she thumbed the edge and tested it's feel before sliding the weapon home into the sheath mounted across the back of her armor. A harness containing grenades and magazines for the SPAS-22 was then strapped on over her armor. Finally, she picked up the SPAS, loaded a fresh magazine and worked the action, jacking a round into the chamber.

Checking her gear one final time, Shion returned to the mirror. Pausing to examine her reflection, Shion felt she cut a rather dramatic image, reminiscent of what one would expect to see in some of the better simsense thrillers. The thought produced a grim smile as she slowly attached her cloak's locking tabs to various points on her armor.

Shion stepped out onto the balcony, staring at the image of the Genom Tower rising above the buildings silhouetted before it.


Takeda's question startled her out of her reverie. Looking over, she simply nodded.

"I'm going to jump us first to an observation lounge around the 250th floor. It isn't far from the unit we're assaulting. If we need to retreat and regroup, that's where we should go, so I want you to get a fix on it. From there, I'll port us to the center of the teek unit, and the shit's going to hit the fan."

"Do it."

Kitten sat on her enclosed 43rd floor balcony, surrounded by innumerable bonsai trees. She had a pair of pruners in one hand and a small plant mister in the other. Moving from plant to plant, she carefully trimmed and watered each tree.

Engrossed in her task, she almost didn't notice the sudden flash that occurred at the edge of her vision. Turning, she was just in time to see another flare of light.

That came from the Genom Tower, she thought, what's going on?

As she watched, several brilliant flashes illuminated the top of the tower, followed by a mushrooming cloud of smoke. Small flashes and flares winked on and off through the haze and at one point the brilliant beam of an ion cannon could plainly be seen.

Kitten stared at the spectacle, mesmerized, her bonsai pruning forgotten. Abruptly, two thoughts struck her; the first was that Katsumi Liqueur, her friend and next door neighbor, was on patrol duty tonight; the second was that this explained why Nabiki had recommended that Kitten stay in this evening.

With a deafening crash, the BU-35 slammed into the far wall of the hallway. Raising her SPAS-22, Shion cut loose with a long burst, shredding the cyberdroid's armor plating. There was an almost anti-climatic whine as the machine toppled to the ground.

Ejecting the spent magazine and slapping a fresh one home, Shion turned to Takeda, "Dammit, I thought you said you knew where Kiyoko was kept!"

Takeda didn't look up from checking the loads in his grenade launcher. "No, I said I thought I knew where she was kept. I'm trying to track her now. If she uses her powers, I'll spot her. Don't worry."

Shion looked back down the hall. Wide enough to take a good sized truck, it was strewn with several wrecked security droids, a shattered K-12 Attack LandMate, the bodies of a number of security troopers and a large amount of assorted debris. Spotting more corpsec troops at the far end of the hall, Shion pulled a flashbang from her harness and hurled it the length of the hall, followed that up with a force bolt that plowed its way through the scattered wreckage and then added in a quick three round burst from her autoshotgun for good measure.

With a look of relief, Takeda turned to Shion, "I've found her!"

"It's about time," Shion responded sharply.

Located on the 345th floor of the Genom Tower, Chairman Quincy's office was positively overwhelming. The ceiling was a full 20 meters high and the walls were lined with examples of Genom innumerable products. Cyberdroids, LandMates, cars, weapons, there were display cases and full sized replicas everywhere. Quincy's desk was located on the far side of the room, away from the entrance, in front of series of floor to ceiling windows that gave a panoramic view of Mega-Tokyo.

At the moment, Quincy was seated at his desk, Mr. Maserati and Kate Madagin with him, avidly viewing Takeda's and Shion's efforts in a monitor.

"Look at that, isn't she amazing?" Quincy indicated his viewscreen, which showed Shion hurling a K-12 LandMate the length of a hall. "Such power combined with such beauty. Our little Kiyoko has a lot to look forward to."

"Uhh, Mr. Quincy," Maserati sounded rather nervous, "Our regular security forces don't seem to be able to handle this, uhh, problem. Should I prepare Kaneda and Tetsuo?"

Quincy grinned, "Certainly, Maserati. It's time that our own esper weapons were brought in action. Go and get them ready."

"Thank you, sir."

Madagin glanced over as Maserati left, "I should leave as well, Chairman. The labs might be threatened."

"Don't be foolish, Madagin. The halls are a warzone right now, besides what do you expect to be able to do against that sort of power?" Quincy indicated the screen again. "No, I think you should stay here, where it will be safe," Quincy smiled at her.

"Stay away!" Naomi Gibson stood in front of Kiyoko, arms outspread, "You stay away from... oh, my god." Gibson's face went pale.

Takeda felt Shion enter the room behind him, which explained Gibson's reaction.

"So, this is little Kiyoko," she said icily.

Kiyoko looked past Gibson's hip, eyes wide, staring at Shion, "Who are you? Are... are you my sister?"

Shion blinked in surprise, looking almost flustered by this question. Turning to Takeda, she snapped, "You tell her!"

"You're a clone, Kiyoko. I'm a clone, too. Genom made you, like they made me. And they lied to you, just as they lied to me." Takeda pointed at Shion, "She is the person Genom wanted to copy."

He looked at Naomi Gibson, who was still stunned with shock at seeing Shion. "Tell her the truth, Gibson."

Gibson turned slowly and knelt next to Kiyoko, "What he says is true, Kiy-chan. You are a clone, a copy of... of that... woman over there." She gestured aimlessly in Shion's direction.

Kiyoko stared at Shion, "I... I am?"

Shion walked past Takeda and looked down at Kiyoko. Kneeling, she pushed Gibson to one side and took Kiyoko's face in her hand. Takeda raised a hand, but didn't intervene. He watched Shion like a hawk. Turning Kiyoko's head from side to side, she studied the girl's face intently. Rising, Shion wiped her hand on her cloak and turned to Takeda, her expression dark and furious. "Get her out of here," she rasped.

"If you can't keep your temper, leave. I'm trying to get her out of here. She's scared, and you aren't helping."

Gibson picked herself off the floor and crawled back to where Kiyoko knelt, gathering her in her arms, she glared at Shion, "Leave her alone, she's only a little girl! She's done nothing to you."

Shion stared down at Gibson, eyes narrowed and took a step forward. Before she could complete her intended action, a presence behind her caused her to turn. "Takeda." she said evenly.

Takeda had turned at the same moment, feeling the same presence. All around the room, everything small started to raise and dance in the air as a side effect of the telekinetic power being used. Takeda spoke, his voice as even as Shion's, "I was wondering when you two would turn up."

Kaneda smiled coldly, "Hello, Takahashi. Are you going to introduce us to your friend?"

Tetsuo glared at Kaneda, before turning on Takeda, "What'd you do to Yama?! You kill him the same way you killed Masaru?"

"Do you still believe everything Genom tells you, Tetsuo? I tried to save Yama. I saved both of you. Didn't you wonder how you got back here, when you were knocked unconscious fighting me and my friends? I brought you back. Me. Me alone. If I had wanted to kill you, you'd be dead."

Kaneda shrugged, "I had wondered how we got back, but that's not important." He grinned, "We're here to stop you."

"When did you become the little company boy, Kaneda? Did they need a replacement bully, after Masaru got himself killed?"

Kaneda glowered at Takeda, "You shouldn't have come back, Takahashi. Now we get to trash you; you and your girlfriend here."

"Yeah," Tetsuo's expression was dark, "It's payback time."

The sudden rippling of Shion's cloak marked the manifestation of her shields. "I doubt it," she responded.

Takeda laughed sourly. "Right. You want to pay me back for the last time you attacked me without provocation. Yamagata died because you attacked me, not because I attacked you." Takeda glanced back at Kiyoko, and carefully put his grenade launcher down, his right hand checking the straps where the heavy blaster was slung on his back.

Still kneeling, Gibson tugged on Kiyoko's arm, "Come on, Kiy-chan, we've got to get out of here."

Kiyoko shook her head, "Don't worry, Miss Gibson, I'll protect us."

For a moment, no one moved, then Kaneda and Tetsuo attacked. Tetsuo leaped at Shion, his fist glowing with telekinetically augmented strength. Shion stepped back and casually slapped his wrist aside. Smiling viciously into his shocked eyes, she threw him through a reinforced wall. Kaneda threw a series of telekinetic spikes at Takeda, only to have him bat them away like huge screaming wasps, each one tracing a path of destruction through the room and punching holes in the walls.

"Stop it, Kaneda! You'll kill Kiyoko! She's not part of this," Takeda yelled. He stood between Kaneda and Kiyoko, attempting to deflect the force of his brother's attacks.

"Waaaaahhhh," Tetsuo screamed, flying through the air at Shion, but she ducked under his strike and added some velocity with a telekinetic slap as he passed. "AAAAAaaaaaghhhhh!" Tetsuo's voice continued as he smashed through another wall and into the room beyond.

"I'm not very impressed with your brothers, Takeda," Shion said as she stalked over to the hole Tetsuo had disappeared through, cloak swirling behind her.

Kaneda was starting to look desperate. Tetsuo was being thrown around like a monkey, and Takeda was deflecting everything he threw at him.

"That's it, Takahashi! No more playing around! You've had it!" Kaneda summoned all the power he could muster and threw it into a single sweeping attack, too broad for Takeda to deflect or dodge. The ceiling panels and floor split in a line from Kaneda through where Takeda was standing. Although his forcefield held, the force of the attack smashed Takeda to his knees.


Takeda glanced behind him. Kiyoko's bed had been right in the path of destruction, and was now ripped in two. Kiyoko was safe, protected by her forcefield, but Naomi Gibson had had no such defenses. She lay crumpled on the floor, one had still clutching Kiyoko's sleeve. Kiyoko, splattered with Naomi Gibson's blood, screamed again and again.

"You BASTARD", Takeda yelled. His hands punched the release to the straps that held the blaster on his back, grabbed the weapon and swung it up. Kaneda's eyes grew wide as he threw up his hands, trying to block the coming blast with his forcefield.

A lance of violet fire spiked out, fragmenting on his field but flinging him against the wall like a toy. Kaneda tried to get up, but a second bolt from the blaster smashed him down, and his forcefield failed as he passed out.

Shion spun and ducked as Tetsuo swung a telekineticly augmented punch. Rising, she responded with a flat palm strike that sent him through a wall. A moment later, Shion lashed out with a force bolt, slamming Tetsuo across the room and into the hall beyond.

"stop it..." Kiyoko's faint voice was barely audible above the din of the battle.

Takeda stepped over to where Kaneda lay, stunned by the blaster bolt. Even now, fighting for his life and freedom, he couldn't bring himself to kill his brother. Holding the heavy PGM blaster in one hand like a toy, he gripped Kaneda by the vest and slammed him once, twice, into the floor. That oughta hold him, Takeda thought, turning to see if Shion needed any help.

"Stop it!" Frantic with fear, Kiyoko's voice gained intensity.

Shion's attempt to continue her pursuit of Tetsuo was cut short as a thick mass of cables and pipes erupted from the floor and ceiling, wrapping her tightly.

"STOP IT!!!" Kiyoko screamed and lashed out blindly at full power. The floor exploded in a shower of fragments as the blast ripped a wide swath through the room, finally punching through a far wall.

Takeda turned to look at Kiyoko. She was kneeling on the floor amid the ruin of her bed, holding the bloody corpse of Naomi Gibson in her arms. Sobbing uncontrollably, she hugged the body close, "Wake up, Ms. Gibson... Please, won't you wake up... Ms. Gibson... please... wake up."

Takeda glanced over to where Shion was ripping her way through the sheath of pipes and wires. He slung his blaster and stepped over to Kiyoko.

"Kiyoko! There's nothing you can do for her, Kiyoko. I'm sorry, but there's nothing you can do. She's dead. Kaneda and Tetsuo killed her, and Genom'll kill you, too, if I don't get you out of here."

Kiyoko looked up at Takeda, tears streaming down her face, "Go away! I hate you!"

Takeda grabbed Kiyoko's shoulders and shook her gently.

"Kiyoko, listen! Listen to me! Ms. Gibson tried to protect you, to take care of you. She can't do that any more. I came here for you, to get you out of here. Genom will kill you without a second thought, just like they did Ms. Gibson, if you stay. Or they'll enslave you, until you are a killer like Kaneda and Tetsuo. You MUST come with me! It is the only way you'll be free. It is what Ms. Gibson would have wanted."


There was a sudden surge of power as Kiyoko summoned her energy to lash out at Takeda, but the emotional strain proved too great. With a grinding crash, Kiyoko sent the pieces of her wrecked bed spinning across the room to fetch up against the far wall.

"It's not fair," she sobbed, "I was happy here."

Takeda gently took Kiyoko in his arms, letting her weep into his chest, and blocked the sight of Naomi Gibson's body. After a moment, Takeda looked around, then he and Kiyoko faded away.

Kiyoko's room lay empty and quiet for a moment, until Shion reentered through one of the numerous gaping holes that had been blasted in the walls. Dabbing at the blood flowing from her scalp and down the side of her face, she glanced about the room.

"So Takeda... you've rescued Kiyoko..." she smiled, "Heh, now it's my turn."

Dropping her now useless SPAS, it's barrel having been twisted in the fight, Shion looked up at the ceiling and inclined her head. "Quincy..." she whispered.

Some time later, a half squad of security personnel stood in Kiyoko's bedroom.

<Nobody moving here, Sir. Heavy damage to the walls, ceiling, floor. Two Genom casualties: Ms. Naomi Gibson KIA, Kaneda Shima unconscious and wounded, med-evac'ed. No sign of Kiyoko, no intruders.>

While the officer listened to a response, one of the corpsec troopers whispered to another, <I'm bloody glad they're not here, either. Did you see what happened to that BU-55? I sure don't want to meet anyone who can do that!>

Suddenly, with a loud bang, Takeda appeared in the center of the room. The officer screamed, and the stunned troopers swung up their weapons and fired, but even shots that seemed on target were deflected away from his body, and he quickly disappeared again, fading into thin air.

It took the officer several minutes to regain control of his command. Two troopers were down with injuries from friendly fire, and the rest were badly spooked.

A deep booming explosion from the far end of Quincy's office announced Shion's arrival. The main doors were highly decorative, fine woodwork hiding the fact that they were armored underneath, but they blew off their hinges as if they were plywood.

"QUINCY!!!" Shion lowered her hand, scanning the cavernous office. Spotting her target sitting calmly behind his desk, Shion stalked forward, walking at a rapid but steady pace.

"Ah, Ms. Nys, I was wondering when you would finally arrive." Quincy's tone was almost conversational.

"I'm here to kill you, Quincy."

"Really? Well, I'm afraid I can't allow that."

Shion sneered, "Try and stop me."


With a hiss of hydraulics and the booming crash of armored feet, four BU-55C cyberdroids stepped from the shadows, surrounding Shion. A low hum marked the energizing of the 'droid's ion cannons.

The floor splintered into a maze of cracks and fissures as Shion manifested her shields. All around the room, glass display cases shattered and long cracks appeared in the windows. Fragments of flooring were ripped loose and flung towards the ceiling. Shion stood rigid in the center of the maelstrom, cloak billowing and hair swirling about from the force of her power.

Madagin stared speechless, amazed at the magnitude of psychokinetic power being displayed. Quincy, meanwhile, gave Shion a condescending smile and motioned to the cyberdroids arrayed in a square around her.

"Eliminate her, please."

As one, the four droids cut loose with their ion cannons, the room illuminated with a blinding blue-white glare as the intense energy encountered Shion's telekinetic shields. A moment later, the beams dissipated, revealing Shion standing unharmed.

"Heh," Shion smiled, "not good enough."

Madagin looked surprised, but Quincy's smile didn't change. "We know a lot about you, Shion. You can stand the ion cannons for a short time, but only if you don't respond. How long do you think you'll last?" Quincy laughed. Suddenly one of the BU-55s almost exploded, ripped in two pieces. The two parts fell, showing a young man standing behind the cyberdroid.

"Sorry I'm late," said Takeda, smiling.

Shion gave Takeda a sour look, but said nothing.

The battle was titanic, but quick. Shion stood over the last cyberdroid's broken shell as Takeda pulled himself from the hole in the wall where that 'droid's ion cannon had embedded him, shaking off the dust and limping badly. Shion turned to look at Quincy, still sitting behind his desk.

"Quincy, you bastard." Shion snarled through gritted teeth.

Quincy said nothing, but merely gave Shion an inquisitive stare.

Shion stepped forward stiffly, picking her way among the debris that littered the floor.

"You bastard," she repeated.

Kate Madagin stepped in front of Quincy's desk, a heavy pistol gripped tightly in her hand, "That's far enough."

Shion stopped and spared Madagin an emotionless glance before continuing her advance.

Madagin raised her pistol and fired a shot. There was a loud 'spang' as the round ricocheted away from Shion's body. Nonplused, Madagin fired a second and then a third time, with similar effect. Abruptly, her pistol fragmented in her hand, the pieces falling to the floor with a clatter. Shion stopped again and turned her full attention on Madagin, her brow furrowed in anger, her eyes cold and impassive. Madagin made a move to back away, when a bolt of rage-intensified psychokinetic force picked up her body and slammed it into a nearby wall. Madagin fell limply to the floor.

Quincy stared at where Madagin's body lay and then slowly pivoted back to face Shion. It seemed that he only now realized that there was nothing to prevent Shion's continued advance.

Turning, Shion now focused her attention on Quincy, a wicked smile beginning to form on her face. Takeda watched with a grim expression.

Quincy pushed back from his desk, his composure gone, "Shion, don't do anything foolish. We can work this out! "

Shion laughed, raising her right hand above her head, "You should have considered that before you made... HER!" Shion punctuated this exclamation by driving her fist through Quincy's desk, sending shattered pieces flying.

"No!" Quincy stumbled backwards, "Stay back! Don't kill me!"

"Too late," Shion's voice was like ice.

Stepping through the broken remains of Quincy's desk, Shion reached over her back and methodically drew her sword. Holding the blade out to one side, she dropped into a flow crouch and then thrust forward with the sword, vanishing a moment later. She reappeared instantly behind Quincy, wrapping one arm around his neck while simultaneously punching the sword through his back, leaving a full foot of blade projecting from his chest.

The body fell slowly to the floor. Shion stared at it for a moment and then turned and walked off, wiping her sword on a ragged scrap of curtain before returning it to the sheath on her back.

Takeda also stared at Quincy's fallen form, then 'ported over to the corpse and turned it over. It seemed too easy. It shouldn't have been this easy.

Mocking laughter filled the room as Quincy's image sprung up on a huge vidscreen, ten meters high.

"Ah, Miss Nys, you are so predictable. And Takahashi, too. I hadn't expected my little trap for her to bring in you, as well! But I do so like surprises, don't you?" His voice suddenly became cold. "I do hope you enjoy the one I have prepared for you"

With an inarticulate scream, Shion lashed out at the wall, reducing the vidscreen to shambles. Takeda felt a sharp bolt of pain lance though his mind as Shion's power peaked and then leaped to an almost unimaginable degree. Then, just as suddenly, the sensation was gone, Shion's power having virtually vanished to the point of being undetectable.

Shion staggered and then fell to her knees, retching violently. Rising, she wiped blood and sputem from her mouth, only to double over again as another wave of nausea hit her.

"T-Takeda..." she gasped, "get me out of here."

Takeda staggered towards her, almost falling as he put his weight on his damaged leg.

With a deafening crash, the far wall of the room erupted inwards. Through a cloud of dust and smoked stepped a dozen huge figures. Four were BU-12Bs, towering man-shaped cyberdroids mounting 44mm recoilless rifles and gatling cannons. The rest were GUGES LandMates, designed for speed and destructive power, holding a battery of weapons that made Takeda's heart sink. Autocannons, shoulder-mounted heavy lasers, flamers. Takeda's grenade launcher and blaster were popguns in comparison, and wouldn't even dent the armor on those monsters.

Takeda stood slowly, his shoulders sagging. One hand gripped Shion's shoulder as she bent over in pain, the other let his grenade launcher sink down, muzzle pointed at the floor. He looked defeated.

Suddenly Takeda fired his grenade launcher straight at the ground under his feet. Before anyone could react, a cloud of smoke billowed out from the impact point, enveloping Takeda and Shion.

"Dammit, a smoke shell! Get them!" The GUGES commander swung up his weapon. Thunder shook the shattered room as the LandMates and BU-12s opened up with all their armament. Heavy lasers stabbed the smoke, the wall behind exploded outwards with the force of the autocannon fire, recoilless rifle shells, and other ordinance. After a few seconds the squad leader called a cease fire. Wind from the shattered windows quickly cleared away the smoke cloud. The only bodies visible were that of Madagin and Quincy's double. Shion and Takeda were gone.

The GUGES commander scanned the room nervously, looking for any trace of their quarry before activating his comlink, "Mr. Chairman, they're gone. They must have teleported away."

Another wall lit up with Quincy's image, and his eyes flicked around the room before speaking. His face was grim.

The GUGES leader started to sweat, watching Quincy's face. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Quincy spoke.

"Ah, well, it was too much to expect, I suppose." A small, cruel smile lit his eyes. "But this, too, should be useful." He chuckled evilly as he cut the connection.

Takeda stood in the doorway to Shion's bedroom. He had managed to get her cleaned up, drugged out, stripped, and put to bed. From where he stood she looked almost peaceful. Turning his head, he was struck by the resemblance of pose with Kiyoko, also unconscious, lying on the couch. The sleeptab should keep her under for twelve hours, and he had another couple of them. Like the woman, the girl was swathed in a swirl of hair.

Takeda staggered to the vidphone, his uneven gait half limp and half total exhaustion. Shion would be out for a while, but he had no way to predict her mood, and he was not prepared to risk Kiyoko on the odds she'd wake up happy. Takeda quickly punched a series of digits into the vidphone dialer

The connection cleared and Nabiki's visage appeared on the vidscreen, looking awake and alert, despite the late hour. <Mushi musai. Ah, hello Takeda-san, how can I assist you?>

<Konichi-wa, Nabiki-san. Ms. Nys and I have completed our business here. I would like to leave immediately for the island. I also have an additional small job I would like your assistance with.>

<I will send over a car immediately. With luck, you should be on your island in a little over 24 hours. Good enough, ne?> Nabiki smiled, <Now, what else do you need done?>

<Domo arigato, Nabiki-san. The other task is simple.> Takeda glanced back at the open door to Shion's bedroom.

<Shion is exhausted and resting, and I would like to make sure that she is not disturbed until she recovers. Could you send up an appropriate bodyguard? Ideally, it should be someone that Shion is familiar with, and connects with you.>

<Hmm... Shion has never really required personnel from me... I'll send Ms. Ramis around, if you'll be so kind as to explain what needs to be done, I'm sure that everything will be all right, ne?>

Takeda relaxed. <That would be ideal, Nabiki-san. As always, I appreciate your professionalism. Domo arigato gozaimasu.>

Takeda signed off, and sent two quick datamail messages, then collapsed on the sofa, fighting off the sleep of total exhaustion.

<<on line (09:33:22/9-04-30)>>


TO:  Kenwood Muldowney (NA/UCAS/NY (212)-919-2772 Muldowney, K)
FROM:Takeda Johnson (PR/JAP/MT 06-303-3511 Johnson, T)

I need your help immediately, and desperately. I have gotten
Kiyoko out of Genom, but I need someone who can help me deprogram
her. You can contact me through Nabiki Tendo, who knows where I am. I
have told Avatar what is happening, but nobody else. Please do not
discuss this with Blade or Jagger. Use your judgment on anyone else.


<<on line (09:38:04/9-04-30)>>

TO:  ***** (NA/UCAS/NY (212)-555-1212 *****)
FROM:Takeda Johnson (PR/JAP/MT 06-303-3511 Johnson, T)

In alliance with Shion, I have broken Kiyoko out of Genom tower in
Mega-Tokyo. I am asking Doc to help me deprogram Kiyoko, if it is
necessary. I have rented an appropriate facility through Nabiki
Tendo. If you need to get in touch with me, you can do so through
her. I'm sorry about the expense of all this--I shudder to think what
it is costing you.


The ring of the doorbell cut through the haze of Takeda's exhaustion. Getting up, he almost fell immediately. His thigh was probably only severely bruised, but it had cramped up while he was lying down, and now he could hardly walk.

He answered the door carefully. The woman standing in the hall was of average height, with dark skin and coal black hair. Takeda recognized Kitten immediately. As usual, she was dressed in her 'working clothes', long coat, dress shirt, tie, gloves. She appeared unarmed, carrying only a large duffel bag, but Takeda thought he detected the slight bulge of a shoulder holster under her jacket.

"Kitten. Thank god you're here." Grabbing her arm, he pulled her inside.

Kitten seemed surprised at Takeda's strength. "Hold it a minute, Takeda. What's going on? Ms. Tendo told me to expect trouble."

"Shion is out in the other room. You are to protect her until she wakes up and can protect herself."

"Shion? I'm supposed to protect Shion? From what?"

"Nothing, I hope. Worst case, BU-12s and BU-55s, whatever Genom has left that we didn't leave in pieces up on the 250th floor." Takeda wiped his eyes, looking totally exhausted. "If that happens, please delay them a few seconds." His attempt at a smile failed utterly.

"I've got to get some rest, and I need to get Kiyoko out of here soon." Takeda waved in the direction of Kiyoko's sleeping form.

Kitten followed Takeda's outstretched arm, "Who the hell is that?"

"Kiyoko. Shion's clone. I broke her out. I'll tell you more later, I promise. But I've got to get some sleep until our plane leaves. Can you guard us for a few hours?"

"Calm down, Takeda. As I said, Nabiki-san told me you might be expecting trouble," Kitten reached into her carrying case as she spoke, removing an immense autocannon. Slapping it's stock, she smiled, "This should do fine."

Takeda approached the door that led to Shion's rooms and opened it slowly, not wanting to disturb her rest. Behind him, Kitten stood impassively in the center of the lounge, armed with a cannon that looked big enough to put a hole in any of the LandMates they'd encountered last night. He'd offered her a seat, but she'd taken one look at the chair in question and had replied that it would probably be better if she stood.

Takeda looked inside Shion's bedroom. She was laying in her bed, a glass of juice in one hand, looking much better, having rested, showered and eaten. Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing normally. She looked peaceful and very beautiful.

Shion looked up, "Hello, Takeda."

"How are you feeling?"

"Better, it's been a long time since I've had to use my power at that level."

Takeda nodded.

"You didn't do too bad," she paused, "for a rookie."

Takeda smiled. "Thanks. And I wanted to mention that I thought you kept your temper pretty well," he paused, "for a hothead."

"Watch it, Mr. Johnson, I'm not that weak." Shion's slight smile tempered her tone.

Shion sipped at her drink and then gestured at the door to the lounge. "You know, Takeda, in a few years, Kiyoko is going to be sixteen, which means she'll pretty much look as I do now."

"Yes. And you are very beautiful."

"Yeah," Shion smiled weakly, "so try and keep her away from my sister, ok?"

"Will do. It would seem sort of ... incest, I guess."

Shion shrugged, "Marta has strange tastes, Takeda. She's also extremely possessive and might view Kiyoko as... a threat or perhaps... an affront to myself and thus, her as well."

"I'll be careful. I must admit, I was more afraid of how you would react than how Marta would."

"Don't underestimate her, Takeda. Marta's temper can cause her to act quite rashly. I've promised not to harm Kiyoko, Marta hasn't." "Okay. If she intervenes, I'll handle it."

"Yes, Takeda, but remember, she's still my sister." This time, there was no smile to lighten her tone.

Takeda smiled mischievously, "I promise to treat Marta as I would treat you."

Shion snorted, "Yeah, well I don't think you're her type."

Shion sighed, "I can't promise that when we meet again, we won't be at cross purposes. You've got your view on life and I've got mine. And..." Shion stopped and looked away for a moment. Regaining her composure, she turned back to Takeda and held out her hand, "Goodbye, Mr. Johnson."

Takeda limped over, but instead of shaking her hand he bowed over it, and kissed it. "Goodbye, Ms. Nys. It has been a pleasure."

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