The door to Director Rally Cheyenne's office opened to admit Chief Noriko Kobayashi, her new patrol uniform pressed and polished to perfection. The tails of her long black jacket billowed out behind her as she walked into the room to stand before Rally's desk. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed two other women sitting to her right.
<Good morning Rally-sama,> she said while bowing sharply, lowering her eyes as she did so. Straightening Noriko stood patiently, waiting for Rally to explain the purpose of the meeting.
Rally stood, extending a hand in Noriko's direction. Inclining her head slightly she looked to the other two women. "Please allow me to introduce Chief Noriko Kobayashi. She is responsible for maintaining our Tokyo Office." She then turned back to regard Noriko directly, "Noriko, I'd like to introduce two of our new officers. Mana Isozaki, who has been appointed chief of the Osaka office, and Captain Angela Ellis, formerly of the New York Police Department."
Mana stood up and nodded her head slightly upon being introduced. She was, Noriko noticed, fairly tall... well, for a Japanese woman. She stood close to 5' 8", with a broad shouldered, narrow waisted build that emphasized a surprisingly large bust. Her hair was short, covering her ears, but not much farther, and fell in loose strands across her face. She was dressed quite formally, wearing a well tailored business suit. Her expression seemed to be one of calmness and serenity, although Noriko felt that below this outer tranquil surface resided a steel core. She wasn't certain, but Noriko felt she liked the new department chief already.
Noriko bowed slightly, <I am pleased to make your acquaintance.> She then turned to look over at the other woman.
Angela was dressed in a much more casual manner, wearing a skirt and jacket ensemble that looked somewhat rumpled. She paused to grind out a cigarette before rising, exhaling a cloud of smoke as she got to her feet. Noriko raised an eyebrow as the woman stood up, Angela was shorter than even Noriko herself, looking to be possibly Yuki's equal in height. Of obvious oriental heritage, Angela had dark skin and long, glossy black hair that fell well past her shoulders. She gave a slight cough, and then extended one hand, "Kunei... Khoni... Kinechi... aw crap, good morning."
Noriko was surprised at the American accent that assaulted her ears, but hid it well as she bowed. <I am pleased to make your acquaintance.> Noriko inhaled sharply as she realized what she had done. "I... I am sorry. I am pleased to meet you," she said in adequate English, shaking Angela's hand. Noriko would never quite get used to the idea that so many Japanese lived in the United States and couldn't speak their cultural language.
Her hands again folded behind her back, Noriko looked at the two individuals before her. She began to speak, but caught herself before Japanese came out. "I have not yet had a chance to look at your records yet, may I ask you a few questions?"
Mana answered with a slight nod. "Certainly," she responded, her English bearing a noticeable accent.
Angela, on the other hand, simply shrugged. "Fine by me," she rasped in a voice that spoke of too many cigarettes.
"I would like to know how long you have been police officers..." Noriko said as she took a seat next to Rally's desk. Mana and Angela returned to their chairs as well.
Mana raised an eyebrow at the question, but didn't make any response. Angela, meanwhile, lit another cigarette, breathing forth a thin cloud of gray smoke as she gave Noriko a steady stare.
"Ten years. Worked my from patrol officer to precinct captain. I've got three citations for bravery, been shot twice and have never once received any form of disciplinary notice." She coughed as way of punctuation to her answer.
Mana gave Angela an appraising look before speaking, "I wasn't aware that previous experience as a police officer was necessary."
"It isn't," Noriko answered. "I am just establishing how much ground work must be covered before you are comfortable in your duties." She turned to look at Angela, "A most impressive record."
Angela shrugged slightly, "New York's a tough town, I do my best."
"Have either of you had the misfortune of dealing with an Entity before?" Noriko asked bluntly.
"Personally?" Angela shrugged again, "No. But I've seen what they can do. We've had a few cases..." Angela paused and took a deep drag on her cigarette, "Mostly messy ones."
Mana's answer was more direct. "Yes."
Noriko nodded politely in Angela's direction before turning her attention to Mana. "In what capacity if I might ask did you encounter the Entity?"
"Capacity, Noriko-san?" Mana questioned, "I was walking down a Tokyo street when I was accosted by two... 'gentlemen' who had decided to appoint themselves as my escorts for the evening. My disagreement on this matter was cut short by a large snake-like creature biting off the head of one man."
"And you escaped the Entity how?" Noriko asked.
"I destroyed it."
A raised eyebrow was Noriko's only response.
"Now," Rally intoned in a serious manner, "I would like to show the three of you something." Rising from her desk, she gestured to the door. "Please, follow me."
Rally lead Angela, Mana and Noriko out of the AMP offices proper and down the hall to the far side of the building. Finally stopping in front of a large set of double doors, she paused to enter a series of numbers into a coded lock. Finally, the lock beeped and a single red LED switched to green. Rally set her hands upon the doors, paused, and looked over her shoulder at her officers. "This room has never been used," she paused and smiled ever so slightly, "A situation I hope will be changing in the near future."
Inside was a large auditorium, dominated on one side by a huge AMP shield and logo that formed the backdrop of an elevated presentation chair. On the other side of the room, set on the steep angle that Noriko remembered oh so well from college lecture halls, were row after row of combination desks and chairs. Hazarding a quick estimate, Noriko figured that there were enough seats for over one hundred officers. A seemingly excessive quantity, considering that the AMP's current roster scarcely topped fifteen.
Noriko stood in awe at what spanned before her. This, she decided on the spot, was why she joined the AMP. To be a part of something noble and elite like this... her thoughts drifted on as she looked around the room soaking up the details.
Mana and Angela had halted in the center of the room. Mana was giving the room a seemingly casual examination, while Angela has lit a new cigarette and was leaning against the low wall that separated the seating area form the open floor. Rally, meanwhile, had stopped at the base of the podium. Turning in order to look at the three of them, she indicated the surrounding room with a sweep of her arm. "What you see here is, in essence, my dream of the AMP's future. A full sized police force that can deal with the threat of Entities properly. Even now, 7 years after the AMP's founding, I have to fight for all the funding I can. The city government is well aware of the threat that the Entities pose, but in the same token, they balk at the expenses required to run the AMP even at the size it is now."
Rally paused and stepped towards the center of the floor. Seeming to gather her thoughts for a moment, she then raised her head to regard the three officers before continuing, "To make matters worse, it seems quite apparent that the threat of the Lucifer Folk is growing, not abating. New York, San Francisco, Kyoto, Osaka, Hong Kong, the situation is getting worse with every passing day. This is why I've taken such drastic measures as opening a new Department so suddenly. We can't afford to wait a year training new officers, we're going to have to do what the AMP did in '23, learn on the job."
Although Noriko definitely disliked the concept of learning on the job, she finally saw Rally's point. Time is of the essence. She just hoped that as many of these new officers could be pulled from already existing police departments as she had been...
"So... I'll pick you up around eight-thirty?" Takahashi flashed Amara a broad grin as he leaned casually up against her desk.
"Sure," Amara nodded enthusiastically, "I'll be ready and waiting."
"See you then." Stepping away from her desk, he walked to the men's changing room, whistling what sounded suspiciously like Van Halen's 'Everybody Wants Some'.
Kiddy made a low 'tsk-tsk' noise and sighed as she watched the scene. "Poor Katsumi," she announced to no one in particular.
"Excuse me?" responded the subject of her comment. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing," Kiddy shrugged, "I was just commenting on the fickleness of love."
Across the office Amara blinked in surprise, virtually speechless. What was Kiddy talking about?
Kiddy turned to look at Katsumi directly, a sly smile pulling at her cheeks. "Doesn't just break your heart so? To be tossed over so easily for a set of broad shoulders, blond hair and bright blue eyes?" She laid the back of one hand upon her forehead in a seeming parody of sadness and despair, "And you would have made such a wonderful couple to."
Katsumi's response was an inarticulate gurgle as what ever response she'd planned upon got caught in her throat and died there. She settled for simple pointing her finger at Kiddy and shaking it back and forth, "K.. K... Kiddy!" she managed after a few tries.
Kiddy simply ignored the outburst, turning to Amara instead, "Don't you agree, Amara dear?"
For the possibly the first time in her life, Amara decided that discretion was the better part of shooting your mouth off. Glancing at her watch, she quickly stood up, hastily buttoned her jacket closed, snatched her katana off her desk and made for the door. "Oh! Look at the time, I've gotta patrol to do! Seeya all later!"
When Linda Maverick stuck her head outside her office a few moments later to find the source of all the racket, she discovered Kiddy virtually sprawled across her desk, laughing so hard that she looked to be crying. Katsumi, meanwhile, red-faced with anger, stood over her, smacking with a rapidly disintegrating broom. "I <thwack> can't <thwack> believe <thwack> you <thwack> said <thwack> that!" Linda stepped back inside and wisely shut the door, there were some things that one just didn't ask about.
Thank goodness for the ocean breeze, thought Katsumi Liqueur as she made her way down the beach, Otherwise I'd probably melt in this heat. Tugging at the collar of her uniform, she tried to loosen her tie slightly. The bodysuit and armored jacket she wore may be fine for Tokyo and Los Angeles, but here on the Java coast it seemed almost unbearable. Stepping over a chunk of driftwood, she wondered, not for the first time, exactly what Rally expected to find here.
Rally, meanwhile, had cleared the tree line and had stopped some distance ahead of her. The wind, blowing straight off the water, whipped the ends of her jacket about and blew her long, silvery hair about her shoulders. She stood motionless, regarding the figure of a woman that was slowly walking their way from further up the white strip of sand.
Katsumi stopped a few feet behind her commander, kicking her feet back and forth in an attempt to find a better purchase for her boots in the soft sand. The other woman halted a few feet in front of Rally as well, her posture relaxed and seemingly unconcerned with her surroundings. Katsumi decided that she couldn't be more than 20, of average height, with a slim build and a thick mass of reddish-black hair that that was knotted into a long ponytail at the back of her head. Loose strands fell down and across her face, blowing about in the constant wind. She was dark-skinned, darker even than Kiddy, with bright green eyes. Long black lines were painted under each eye, while a presumably mystical sygil was painted upon her forehead. Katsumi found it slightly irritating that she didn't recognize it. The woman was barefoot, and dressed in dark purple shorts with a bright white tank top. To Katsumi, she didn't really look like a possible AMP officer; but then, she reflected, who did?
"So," the woman stated in accented English, "you have returned."
"Yes," replied Rally in virtually the same flat tone, "Have you come to a decision?"
The woman looked out over the bright blue ocean, watching the wave crashing against the bright sand. The wind tugged at her hair, causing it to ripple and dance. After a long, silent moment, she turned back to Rally. "Yes."
Rally inclined her head, "And?"
The woman didn't seem to have heard Rally's request, instead she continued as if the other woman had never spoken, "When you told me that the creature I fought wasn't alone, but a member of a whole race intent upon the domination of humans, I thought you to be mad." She smiled slightly, as if she found the whole situation slightly ludicrous, "So I decided to find out for myself." She then shrugged, causing the loose fitting tank top to slip off of one shoulder, "My auguries revealed that you spoke the truth, and that the your AMP was responsible for defending the... world against this... threat."
"And so," Rally asked again, "Your decision?"
"I will join you, Rally Cheyenne of the AMP. I will fight these Lucifer Folk for you in defense of the people of Japan and the world.
Rally smiled and nodded. "Katsumi," she said, turning around, "this is our newest AMP officer, Jamadagni Renuka. Jamadagni, allow me to introduce Officer Katsumi Liqueur."
Standing on the beach, watching the sun slowly set over the expanse of the Indian Ocean, Katsumi adjusted the weight of her armored jacket over her shoulders. Now, between the sun going down and the constant breeze it was getting positively chilly. She shook her head, crazy weather.
"Jamadagni," she asked, turning to the woman standing next to her.
Katsumi smiled, "Jama then. Can I ask you something?"
Jama shrugged again, managing to not loose her tank top this time, "Sure."
"How did you destroy a Lucifer Folk... by yourself?"
Jama smiled, her green eyes bright in the last rays of the sun. "My father instructed me in the ways of magic, as did his father before him and his father before that. The sorcery I know is limited, but powerful."
"Ahh..." Katsumi raised an evaluative eyebrow, "Can you give me a demonstration?"
"Certainly," Jama laughed and pointed, "See that dead palm tree over there?"
Jama took a step away from Katsumi. Her left arm hung loosely by her side, her right was held behind her back, the hand clenched into a tight fist.
"JAN." she intoned in a loud voice. Her right hand made a circular motion behind her back.
"KEN." The right swung out in front of her body, the fist opening flat.
"PON." Her hand was now curled into the familiar shape of the American 'peace' symbol, except Jama's was held level with the ground.
"SCISSORS." Jama snapped her middle and index fingers together with a flaring of greenish light.
Katsumi's eyes widened as the dried and desiccated remains of the palm exploded into two pieces. The top half had been neatly severed from the rest of the trunk a good eight feet or so from the ground, it fell with a muffled crash onto the beach, kicking up a cloud of sand that vanished quickly, carried away by the breeze.
Jama turned around with a grin, "Like that."
It wasn't the sound of the office's main door being opened that alerted Noriko to something being wrong, it was the sudden drop in room temperature. That and the sound of Captain Ellis's voice stating "Chief, I think you need to see this."
Noriko was brought back from her deep thoughts by the statement. It took a moment for her to realize exactly what had just happened, but as the newcomer rounded the door the name had already escaped her lips. <Mara.>.
Standing out past Aye's desk was a figure that Noriko recognized all to well. Of average height, slender, with white hair and a long, rime covered coat, Mara was quite unmistakable. She stood quietly, hands behind her back, looking at the various desks with a quizzical expression.
Catching sight of Noriko and Angela, Mara bowed with the sound of shattering ice crystals, <Hello Officer Kobayashi, is Officer Jones here today?>
Smiling slightly Noriko shook her head. <No dear, I'm afraid he's gone.>
<Oh...> Mara looked downcast for a moment, <Does that means he's at home, or out on patrol, or...> She trailed off, staring almost forlornly at the floor.
Smiling like a parent would smile at a small child, Noriko shook her head. <He has been transferred. I will happily give you his current location though, I'm sure he misses you very much...> The sentence trailed off as Noriko opened the top drawer of her desk. Gotcha! she thought as she turned and handed Mara a business card. <If you want I could call him and let him know you stopped by, or would you prefer to... surprise him?>
Mara stared at the card for several moments before answering, <Oh... uh... Thank you Officer Kobayashi, I don't want to be any great trouble.> She looked at the card again, <He has gone to America?>
<Yes Mara-san, he is currently in Los Angeles,> she answered. Then as an after thought added, <And he's probably very lonely too.>
Mara smiled, sliding the card into a frost coated pocket of her jacket, <I've always wanted to visit Hollywood.>
<Have a nice trip, and tell Officer Jones that I send my regards.> Noriko smiled broadly.
<I most certainly will.> Mara bowed again, sending a small cloud of ice flakes floating to the floor, <Thank you Officer Noriko.> Drawing her coat closer about her, she virtually ran for the door.
Captain Ellis had watched the proceedings with goggle eyed amazement. As the ice demoness departed she turned back to Noriko, "What the hell was that?"
<Have we got a lot of work to do with you...> Noriko said, before covering her mouth with her hand and rephrasing. "That was an Ice Demon."
Standing under a tree, Mana Isozaki did her best to ignore the early summer's heat. She had removed her jacket, carrying in the crook of one arm, and had loosened her tie, but other wise seemed oblivious to the lines of sweat that slowly trailed down the sides of her face. She stood silently, looking out at the wide fields that lay to the back of the house, watching quietly the scene presented before her. A short distance away, a young woman, dressed in a simple kimono and hakama stood amid a series of bamboo and straw wrapped figures. She held a long naginata lightly in her hands, with the blade down near the ground, a stance that bespoke a readiness to attack or defend against her make-believe enemies.
The woman took a slow, shuffling step backwards and brought her weapon up over her head, spinning it about in a blur of glittering steel. Mana's eyebrow raised slightly as the long blade seemed to ripple with a faint yellow fire. A sudden kiai snapped Mana back to the events at hand, as the woman slashed her polearm through one target, cleaving it in two. She twisted and spun again, slashing through another target, her naginata truly seeming to blaze with a brilliant golden flame. Two more bamboo figures fell, and now the female warrior stepped before a towering construct of wood. Standing before it, she again spun the weapon over her head, producing a blinding flash of golden light that outshone even the sun for a moment. She then leaped forward, driving the weapon deep into the center of the wooden effigy, cutting it almost in half. Tugging the blade free with furious wrench of her shoulders, the woman leapt clear, to land back in the center of the bamboo targets, her breathing audible even at this distance.
Mana stepped out from under the tree, taking her time while approaching where the would-be samurai maiden stood, her white kimono dusty and sweat stained from her exertions. "Tomoe Shiko..." Mana stated in a low voice.
The woman looked up immediately, eyes wide with anticipation. Seeing Mana, she immediately fell to her knees, head bowed. "Mana-sama," she asked excitedly, "Is it time?"
Mana nodded her head, a slight smile on her lips, "Yes Shiko, after 400 years of waiting, once again the Golden Naginata will be able to prove it's worth in battle."
Sitting at her terminal, trying once again to write a coherent account of her last Entity encounter, Amara Asano stared virtually vacant-eyed at the screen. She had a tough enough time trying to remember all that went on in any fight with the Lucifer Folk, much less write it down. Of course the fact that anytime she entered her 'berserker' state she couldn't remember anything made it that much harder...
A sudden chill made her shiver. Amara silently cursed as she shifted about in her chair, trying to angle her seat out of the draft. She was currently dressed in her office uniform, an outfit she despised. Given her choice, Amara would wear her full AMP uniform when ever possible, she liked the feeling of ... power that it gave her. Besides, it was a lot more impressive looking than some plain old white shirt and black skirt outfit.
Amara shivered again. Was it her imagination or had it gotten positively cold in here. Pushing away from her desk, she stood up, glancing quickly about the spacious office. Upon spotting the woman leaning against a far desk, Amara was unable to do more than stare in open mouthed amazement.
The woman wasn't exceptionally tall, but she was slim, with a wild mass of white hair that fell down across her shoulders and shaded her face. Her eyes were a bright blue, and almost seemed to glow, as did the thin lines that marked her cheeks and forehead. She wore a long coat, virtually a duster, that looked to be encrusted with ice across the shoulders. The desk she was leaning on, Takahashi Jones', Amara noted, was also developing a thin film of frozen water.
"Uh..." Amara began, before swallowing and trying to start again, "Can I help you?"
The woman seemed to start slightly. Turning, she caught site of Amara. The stranger smiled and bowed slightly, ice cracking and flaking from her jacket, "Good afternoon AMP Officer, please allow me to introduce myself, I am Mara. I have come here looking for Officer Jones. Is he in?"
"Officer Jones?" Amara repeated, wondering if she had heard the name properly, considering the odd sound of the woman's voice.
"Yes," Mara replied, "Officer Takahashi Jones of the Attacked Mystification Police. Is he in? I was told he had come here."
"He's out on patrol." Amara answered distantly, wondering if she was dreaming. "Ah... can I ask why you need to see him?"
"Ahh... uh..." Mara stammered for a few moments, looking to almost blush slightly, "I was lonely and he had been so nice to me before, showing me around Tokyo and all, so..."
"I see," Amara stated darkly. She was definitely going to have to talk to 'Taki-kun' when he got back. Especially about his choice of ex-girl... uh... whatever... friends.
The sound of the front door opening made Miko Akizuki look up from her monitor screen immediately. Following the ruckus caused by the Ice Demoness Mara simply walking into the AMP offices, everyone had become a bit more attentive. Hopping down from her chair, Miko stepped around the corner of her desk, giving an inquisitive look towards the office's main doors. A woman stood there, tall (well, everyone was tall to Miko), with darkly tanned skin and long black hair that fell in waves down her back. She was dressed in the sort of clothing one usually associated with your average office worker, except for a long strip of cloth that had been wrapped around her face, completely covering her eyes. Miko raised an eyebrow at this strange sight, but didn't make a comment.
The woman took a few hesitant steps forward, and then seemed to focus directly upon Miko. "Hello," she said in the flat accentless tones of a West Coast native, "I'm here to see Linda Maverick."
Miko found herself a bit surprised by the woman's actions. It was obvious she was blind, but it was almost as if she had been looking right at Miko when she had spoken. Shaking her head to clear away such confusing thoughts, Miko gave slight bow, realizing to late that her visitor certainly couldn't see that. "Certainly, if you will wait a moment I will let Chief Maverick know you are here. Who may a say I calling?"
"Carmencita Ibanez." The woman gave a slight bow in return.
To say that Miko found the normally polite gesture a little unnerving was an understatement. Keeping one wary eye on her quite odd guest, she punched up the office intercom.
"Chief, I have a Carmencita Ibanez here to see you." Miko tried to mimic the sounds she'd heard Carmen make, but felt she had absolutely slaughtered the name.
"Excellent Miko, send her right in."
Turning back to Carmen, Miko bowed again. "Miss Ibanez the Chief will see you now. If you could... uh..." Miko paused, trying to decide exactly how to tell the woman to find the proper office. 'Follow' me was right out, and leading her by the hand seemed... improper somehow.
Carmen smiled, rescuing Miko from her dilemma. "If you show me the way Officer, I assure you I can follow you with no problems."
Returning to her desk a few minutes later, Miko shook her head in utter confusion. Not only had Carmen followed her right to the Chief's door, she had walked all the way across the main office with out ever bumping into or touching >anything, almost as if she could see where everything was... This could only mean one thing, that Carmen was an Esper..., but what sort of Esper could do that?
The steady 'thwock-thwock' noise of flesh striking wood was audible even from the outside of the small building. The house wasn't much to look at, having at most two bedrooms. It's placement was the most unusual thing about it, for it was located far up in the mountains that ringed Hong Kong Backed by thick stands of woods, for the front one could see the ocean on a clear day. Today was such a day, and Rally Cheyenne paused for a moment to look out over the shining expanse of the Pacific before walking around the end of the house to the field behind it.
Scattered about the small clearing was an assortment of objects that Rally presumed to be devices for training ones self in the martial arts. Most seemed to be constructed of thick logs wrapped in heavy rope. Standing in front of one such length of tree trunk was a tall, broad shouldered man. He was powerfully built, with thin beard and long black hair that had been gathered into a loose pony tail at the base of his neck. Dressed only in loose trousers and a t-shirt, he was driving his fists into a wound mass of ropes with enough force to raise a cloud of dust with each impact.
He stepped back from the post with a loud whoop, shaking his hands as if to loosen his fingers. Turning, he caught sight of Rally, standing quietly in the shade of a low maple. <Hah! Rally Cheyenne!> he exclaimed in a loud voice, <You have returned!>
"Yes I have,> Rally nodded, <And this time I have come for you. Are you ready?>
<Hahaha!> The man's laugh was loud and boisterous, giving one the impression that he never did anything quietly. <Of course I'm ready! Is it not my fate to destroy demons and their ilk no matter where they may be or what shape they may take?>
Rally smiled slightly, <So you have said. Well then Chan Fei, welcome to the AMP.>
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