ITEA HQ, London, England
Takahishi Nakamura tried not to yawn as he sat in the briefing room with the rest of Team Delta, just glad that when he'd gotten the call to come in early for an assignment briefing he'd already shaved. The field agent glanced around and noted that while the team leader, Caesar Francisco, was dressed and ready to go he hadn't shaved, though he did sometimes grow a beard, thus Tak figured he was doing so again. Marcus Corrado, the team's heavy puncher, had actually shaved for once but instead of a wearing a suit he was in cargo pants and a sleeveless shirt, Tak guessing he'd been at the gym that morning when he'd gotten the call. Rurik Chekhol, the team's newest member, had managed to look professional but was now unfortunately slumped over, clearly catching up on lost sleep.
“It looks like even you super-agents aren't immune to suffering when you get a last minute call in to work,” whispered a voice next to Tak, causing him to smile and glance over. Sonia Castillo, the new director of the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, had been instituting new policies left and right since she'd arrived. A medical wing had been established, a new department for general response had been set up, and most recently she'd expanded HQ's staff. The person talking to Tak was one such new staff member, Team Delta's secretary Dianna Traynor. A brown-eyed American girl around thirty with dark brown hair, Dianna had a very striking face, in particular a big smile that really showed off her dimples. Tak found the new girl quite cute, if not hot, and had seriously considered flirting with her, given Caesar was married, Marcus had a girlfriend and Rurik had remarked he preferred blondes. If Tak were to consider flirting though, he'd first need to see where he stood with the woman he loved.
“Well if someone had planned ahead and brewed coffee...” grinned Tak, Dianna having joked the other day about being a terrible secretary for not having made coffee. The American smiled back as the meeting room doors opened and in walked a small parade of people, surprising Tak a bit. First in was the love of his life, Lucienne Christophe, assistant director of the ITEA and apparently the one who was going to brief them, as Sonia Castillo was most likely busy with something else as she frequently seemed to be. Next were Zachary Song and Ariel Landry, members of the Espionage Wing that, as Tak recalled, specialized in creating backgrounds. Zach, an Australian-born Korean, was IT's graphic designer who usually made sure any fake documents would pass inspection to a T, while also working on various projects such as bogus websites to lure in potential Type-7 dealers. Ariel Landry, who in Tak's eyes was the second-hottest French-speaking woman in the room, was a former model who helped create social backgrounds and profiles for undercover operations. After Ariel came Larissa Penbrook, a local Interpol agent whose presence probably meant Interpol would be involved in whatever operation Delta was going to be sent on. After Larissa came Kimberly Ewart, IT's travel coordinator, which meant they were probably going somewhere far away, and finally Chita Francisco, Caesar's wife. Chita had just been hired by Sonia to work as a special correspondent for the Global News Agency, spinning any IT operations that might become public into Interpol operations to keep the secret agency's existence a bit more secret. The very public raid on the Stilton Corporation in New York had made having someone with Chita's skills a must.
“Good Morning Team Delta, the briefing will now begin,” announced Lucienne, stepping up to a lectern, with two large screens lighting up behind her. Zach had taken a seat at a computer desk and appeared to be running the visual part of the briefing.
“Three days ago Interpol intercepted a shipment arriving in Tokyo, Japan,” began Lucienne, the Tokyo part in particular getting Tak's attention as it was now fairly clear why Delta had been given the assignment. “The shipment contained Type-7 Chips. Team Beta is running down the supplier, who is suspected to be in Indonesia, but we need a team to look into who had purchased the Chips as well. While the smuggler has himself a lawyer and isn't saying anything, data suggests this isn't the first time he's tried to supply someone.” As the director talked, images from the case were shown on the screens, including Indonesia at one point but primarily photos of the smuggler's ship.
“What have we got for leads?” asked Caesar, looking far more alert now, as were the other members of the team.
“Interpol agents working the case believe it is connected to the Yakuza, though which clan or alliance, that's currently unknown,” explained Larissa Penbrook, speaking up after Lucienne prompted her to stand in front of the lectern. “Thanks to his regular taxi driver, who was far more cooperative, we have roughly twenty possible locations in the Minato Ward of Tokyo that seem like a possible place they may meet for the exchange.”
“Hostess clubs are a top priority since data suggests one of them to be the most likely place for there to be a demand for Chips,” added Lucienne. “You'll be working a joint operation with Interpol. Two agents have been assigned to work directly with you and several more will be at your disposal if needed.” At the mention of the agents, photos of two people appeared on the screen. One was a woman Tak didn't know but she looked young, but the other Tak had worked with in the past: Jake Driscoll, an old friend of Tak's, a Canadian agent who'd spent years undercover in the Japanese underground. While Jake wasn't a Japanese native, his experience with the local crime syndicates and underworld contacts could prove valuable, so Tak was glad to know he'd be working with his old friend on the assignment.
“What's a hostess club?” asked Rurik Chekhol, surprising Tak since he thought Marcus might be the one to ask.
“A place where you buy... companionship,” explained Marcus, again surprising Tak. “It's kind of a club where you can rent a friend, for lack of a better analogy. The hostess engages with you, becomes your friend for the evening, and in return they get a percentage of anything you buy while there. Some of them also perform sexual services, but most are above board.”
“I've always thought of it like a strange kind of therapy, since you can talk about yourself to strangers in a relaxed setting,” added Tak, deciding to chime in. “You think they're chipping women to serve as hostesses? I know that business can get very competitive...”
“We don't know, but that's the working theory,” confirmed Lucienne, she and Larissa then stepping aside so Zach and Ariel could step up.
“It was decided that agent Nakamura would pose as a local, bringing some male foreign tourists to clubs to show them Tokyo's nightlife,” revealed Zach as Ariel held up a set of passports. “We've set up all up with false surnames and given you a shared bank account for the assignment.”
“I've included dossiers on how you're expected to act and dress to pull off your covers,” expanded Ariel, indicating some USB drives that the team would also be taking with them. “Stock brokers made the most sense to me so you're international traders on a working vacation, agent Nakamura being a local who is showing his fellow men around.”
“To help keep up appearances you're booked to fly in with Stone Enterprises and be staying at the Minato Kami,” offered Kimberly Ewart, who moved up to put the plane tickets and such she'd gathered into the stack with everything Ariel had.
“Any further questions?” asked Lucienne, the briefing now over.
“Are we cleared to carry firearms?” questioned Tak, knowing the Japanese restrictions on weapons.
“You'll have permits, but for cover purposes it would be best to leave the hardware in your field kits unless you need them,” Lucienne told her lover. “You do all possess a degree of close-combat training and gas sprayers are still viable, so hopefully that will do.”
“Okay, I think we're set,” nodded Caesar, standing up from his seat. “When does the flight leave?”
“Four hours, so you'll have some time to run home and pack,” Kimberly told the team.
“Not to mention dress appropriately,” added Ariel, focusing on Marcus as she spoke.
“Alright then, lets get to it,” announced Caesar, reaching to collect the documents the team would need. Everyone started moving around at that point and Tak decided he needed to use the bathroom, thus he quickly exited the room to do so.
Upon exiting the bathroom, Tak was surprised to see Dianna waiting for him, two cups of coffee in her hands. Tak hadn't really gotten a chance to look closely at her before but now saw she had a nice red blouse on with a black skirt that looked a bit frilly but worked well, stopping at her knees and matching her heels. Something Tak really noticed was that Dianna's arms were pretty bare, lacking jewelry save for a simple silver watch on her right wrist, she did not even have nail polish on her fingers. “I figured I owed you for yesterday,” chuckled Dianna, offering Tak a cup.
“Thanks,” smiled Tak, the secretary's kindness again making him wonder if he should rethink his commitment to Lucienne. Tak had started seeing his boss before Sonia Castillo had come along and gotten her demoted within her own agency, back when Lucienne and Tasia had seemingly broken up following the Ashley Tisdale case. Tak had carried a bit of the torch for Lucienne ever since she'd been his mentor when he'd gotten his start with Interpol and, even though at the time she'd insisted they just be together while she froze herself, he had been fine with it. Now however, with Tasia back and Lucienne clearly unsure of where to go, Tak was wondering if Dianne might be a better avenue for him to go down, even though he wasn't entirely sure if she was just being friendly or interested.
“There are a lot of coffee machines around this building,” remarked Dianne as she took a sip, which caused Tak to realize what was about to happen. Too late, Tak didn't bother voicing a warning as Dianne drank the Type-7 laced beverage and just watched as she froze in the middle of lowering her cup. Dianne's eyes were closed, as if savoring the coffee, and a toothless smile was on her lips, the cup held at about neck height.
“So much for coffee,” came a voice, causing Tak to turn. Lucienne Christophe was standing there, having stepped out of the meeting room.
“She's only been here a few days, she'll learn,” shrugged Tak, taking Dianne's free left hand from her side and placing his cup in it so she held it by her waist. “Good call sending our team on this mission, even if I wasn't with Delta it would be good for them. As it is only half of our team is single...”
“That's not funny,” insisted Lucienne, clearly picking up that Tak was talking about himself.
“Look Lucienne, I gave you some time what with the whole new boss situation, but I can't wait around forever,” insisted Tak, shaking his head. “I've shown I'm just happy to be with you, but I guess you're taking that for granted, and really... well...”
“Tak... I know what I want to do,” revealed Lucienne, suddenly moving close and putting her hands on Tak's shoulders. “It was hard, I'd been with Tasia for over a year... but I want you. You're right, I was just taking you for granted, but I don't want to do that anymore.”
Tak's emotions bounced off of one another in his head as he felt Lucy's warmth against his body. A part of Tak worried about the meeting room door opening and someone seeing them together, since it was generally considered inappropriate for public displays of affection in the workplace in spite of there being no policy against dating co-workers. Another part considered that Lucienne had pretty much just said she loved him, which she'd never said before. “You're saying...” mumbled Tak, trailing off as Lucienne brushed aside a loose lock of hair on his brow.
“I love you,” revealed Lucienne, leaning in and kissing Tak right there, heedless of who would see. As the couple's lips parted Tak was fairly sure no one had seen but didn't care, focusing on the situation.
“I love you too,” confessed Tak, then moving away from the assistant director as he spoke. “But... I've got an assignment right now, and I still need to process this. You're sure?”
“I am. Tasia's just not the same woman I fell for,” admitted Lucienne, looking a bit sad. “You've changed too, Tak, and I watched it happen. A part of it might just be the pride I feel for having helped make you the man you are, but I know my feelings.”
“Okay...” breathed Tak, rubbing his face for a moment. “It's always about timing... after this case is over, we'll talk this out, make sure we both still want to go forward.”
“Do you now?” asked Lucienne, seeming to want a good idea of where they stood at the moment.
“I don't know,” answered Tak, nodding in spite of his words. “I feel the same way but... I was about to say we should stop seeing each other before you told me you'd make up your mind. Not exactly easy to go from one state to the other.”
“Now you know how I felt, at least a bit,” pointed out Lucienne, shrugging and smiling in spite of everything. “Go home and pack. When you get back, let me know how you feel...”
* * *
The Minato Kami Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
One Day Later...
“I hate flying sometimes,” muttered Takahishi as he entered his hotel room, one he'd be sharing with Caesar and Chita. Tak was wearing a loose dress shirt, white with blue pinstripes, tight gray pants on his legs and had his shaggy hair slicked back. Tak had been put in charge of handling the team’s field kit thus he wheeled it into the room while also dragging his suitcase and hefting a computer bag on his shoulder. The hotel room was fairly nice, having a separate bedroom and a small kitchenette as well as a couch, so Tak dumped his shoulder bag into the bed in the main area of the room, leaving the other room to the married couple.
“I know what you mean, effectively losing a day can be a bit loco,” chuckled Caesar as he entered behind his fellow agent, dragging two suitcases while having a duffel bag slung over his own shoulder. Caesar had just let his naturally straight hair stay as it was, dressing in a white dress shirt and sports jacket with matching black pants.
“Look on the bright side, now you've got a chance to get some rest,” pointed out Chita, bringing up the rear. Chita's hair was down but had a bit of curl to it, with a pair of wraparound sunglasses perched just above her sparkling green eyes. Chita's outfit was a wearable version of an abstract expressionist painting, white as the base with drips of black, pink, yellow and green on it. The colorful dress had thin straps, showing a decent amount of cleavage and had a pleated skirt portion that was knee-length; white stiletto heels were on the journalist's feet. Like the rest, Chita's cover was that of a stockbroker, though Caesar and Chita weren't supposed to be married thus they'd hidden their rings in their bags.
“Yeah, after I unload all this,” groaned Takahishi, opening up the team field kit. While every agent had a field kit contained inside a fake first aid box that they put in their regular suitcases, the main field kit was its own suitcase, which contained larger equipment than those usually easy to conceal, like an electronic nose and a miniature water purity test lab.
“No need to yet; we still don't know what we're dealing with,” pointed out Caesar, shaking his head. “We'll disguise our gas sprayers as mouth fresheners and maybe take a few emergency field supplies, but nothing major.”
“Alright, I think I'll go ahead and get that rest then,” mumbled Tak, not even bothering to move his bags but instead plopping down backward onto his bed while Chita and Caesar audibly chuckled. Tak felt like he'd just gotten a few moments of sleep when he heard the door knock.
“I’ll get it, might just be the others,” offered Caesar. Tak didn’t bother to stir as he had turned to lay face down, perpendicular rather than parallel to the bed.
“Hi, you're Caesar right?” asked a voice a few moments later as the door opened; Tak vaguely recognized it as he tried to get up. “I'm Jake Driscoll, this is my partner Grace Tremblay.”
“Good to meet you both in person. I've read your dossiers,” replied Caesar. Tak slowly sat up and looked just in time to see his old friend Jake walk in, his partner behind him. Jake was in his thirties and in solid shape, fit but not overly muscular. The brown-haired, brown-eyed man with the chiseled jaw nodded at Tak, dressed very casually in only a sleeveless red shirt and jeans. Jake's partner Grace, whom Tak had never met since, according to her dossier, she'd only joined Interpol a few months ago, was also dressed casually, wearing a black tank top and jeans. Grace looked young; Tak remembered she was born the same year as him, and had brown hair that just went past her shoulders with matching eyes, looking a bit unremarkable save for her striking smile.
“Tak my man, been a while!” exclaimed Jake, moving over and giving his friend a slap on the back as well as a handshake. “Still not used to flying?”
“I don't see how people can ever be,” managed Tak, smiling in spite of everything. “So are you up to date?”
“Yes, I believe we've got a good plan in place for which clubs were visiting when and how we'll be working it,” confirmed Jake, pulling out a CyPocket to apparently go over the listed details. “But first, you are...?”
“Chita Francisco,” greeted Caesar's wife, being very friendly with European-style kisses on his cheeks in greeting, doing the same with Grace. “Was my role included in your notes?”
“I was told you'd be involved but the details were left out,” admitted Jake. “You're a reporter, right? How much clearance have you got?”
“Maximum; knowing everything makes it easier to lie about it,” revealed Chita, grinning as she proudly boasted about her status with the ITEA.
“You're pretty comfortable with that, huh?” chuckled Grace, but Tak noticed the woman was looking at her partner rather than Chita.
“I can accept that everyone doesn't need to know everything at every time,” confessed Chita, shrugging. “Secrets can protect people, and privacy is important.”
“If I didn't know what you did for a living I'd swear you weren't a journalist,” laughed Jake, shaking his head before focusing on his pocket computer. “Okay so Caesar, your team is going in as a group. I'm registered as a Super Senter executive here in Japan to work on store expansion, so I can follow you guys to clubs but be on my own, giving you another set of eyes in the clubs. Grace will be our mobile base operator. What will you be doing, Chita?”
“She'll be in the van with Grace,” explained Caesar, speaking up for his wife.
“I have maximum clearance but I'm no fighter if things go badly,” expanded Chita, looking a bit meek.
“It's alright, nice to have company in that van,” offered Grace, the two women sharing a nod.
“Okay then, we begin hitting clubs at seven,” noted Jake, pocketing his device. “Gives you a few hours to get some sleep if you need it, Tak. We flew in from Toronto yesterday and even with plenty of coffee in me I could probably use a nap myself. Can't wait for our transfer to Vancouver to be official.”
“Yeah, I think I'll grab some sleep too,” nodded Caesar, heading for the separate bedroom. “Meet you in the lobby around six?”
“Yeah, I was just going to stay for a few, catch up with Tak,” confirmed Jake; Tak nodded in agreement with his friend's statement.
“Okay, I'll be back in our room,” announced Grace. Tak noting she gave Jake another look before heading for the door.
“See you later!” called Chita before following her husband into the other room. Jake promptly plopped down next to Tak on the bed, causing Tak's unopened computer case to slide off the other side as a result, hitting the deep carpet with a muffled thump.
“You're quiet, really are tired huh?” asked Jake, grinning a bit as Tak rolled his eyes.
“Just feels weird, being back home, well, sort of,” admitted Takahishi, flipping around and sitting with his back against one of the bed's pillows. “A shame I probably won't get a chance to hop a train to Kanazawa and see my parents.”
“What about your sister; I thought you said she was working as a cop in Tokyo,” mentioned Jake.
“Hikaru is with Public Safety, it’s too soon to say yet if we'll have time to meet up,” mused Takahishi. “What about you? Any ulterior motives for coming on this assignment? I know agents do move around but agents from Toronto getting a temporary assignment here?”
“Hey, don't underestimate me; the Tojo are still major players in the Yakuza world and if they're behind this you might just need my knowledge,” insisted Jake, referring to his undercover past. While Jake had eventually managed to shut down the Tojo clan's underground death-matches during his time undercover, the clan was far from crippled for good. Tak knew this too since he'd helped make a few Tojo arrests.
“I'm just glad anyone who is likely to know me is still in jail,” chuckled Tak, then decided to ask about something that been bugging him for the past few minutes. “So you and your partner... how long has that been going on?”
“What?!” exclaimed Jake in surprise, glancing at the bedroom door for a moment before focusing on Tak whilst lowering his voice. “What makes you think...”
“She was giving you quite a few glances, and pretty sure those were the, 'I can't wait for you to come back to the room so we can get it on' kind of looks,” observed Takahishi, grinning ear to ear now since he liked seeing Jake a little flustered. “Seriously, it’s fine. Something like ten percent of all male-female partnerships seem to lead to some kind of relationship. Especially when one's a mentor.”
“Yeah, you'd know that all to well,” smirked Jake, shaking his head. “You still nailing Lucienne on the side?”
“Funny thing, before I left we said we loved each other, and that we should start dating for real,” revealed Tak with a sigh. “Trick is, I was pretty much decided on ending it, so now I don't know what to do... You and Grace been together long? You must have some insight.”
“We just started this yesterday,” admitted Jake, leaning back on the bed and looking like he was having some fond memories. “Funny thing, having someone who's practically a student. I've had many, including my old mentor, say it’s more of a friendly bond, but now...”
“Let’s change gears,” suggested Tak, realizing Jake might not have more insight to offer. “Obviously I'm not going to blab about this though, I know Interpol's regulations. But speaking of relationships, you know your ex is working for us now...?”
“Nicole?!” laughed Jake in surprise.
* * *
“I think we're safe in saying this place is clean,” remarked Grace Tremblay as she worked the communication system in the back of the observation van. The young Interpol agent was, as assigned, sitting in the vehicle with Chita Francisco. It didn't shock Grace that she was stuck with being in the van; with the mission being to investigate hostess clubs it was a lot easier to avoid drawing attention if just the men went in, though Grace knew it wasn't unheard of for women to also visit them. Grace didn't mind overhearing Jake having deep intimate conversations with other women; she was not the type to get jealous, especially since she still wasn't sure where their newly-consummated relationship currently stood. What was a problem for Grace was her present company.
“I still can't believe you guys can just turn cellphones into microphones,” commented Chita for, by Grace's tally, the fourth time that night. Grace had been a bit impressed with Chita at first, admiring her stylish dress and her comfort with her role with the media. Now however Grace was realizing Chita loved to make annoying small talk, and was a bit of a complainer.
“The joys of having maximum access, huh?” remarked Grace, pressing a few buttons on her keyboard to adjust the audio levels as background noise had just spiked. There was a wireless surveillance camera network in the club that Grace had managed to tap into, though that was more the expert software she had than her own skill with computers, but the cameras didn't pick up sound. Even if the cameras had though, putting their cellphones in microphone mode made it easy for them to communicate without sophisticated earpieces or anything like that.
“Really isn't as much fun as you'd think,” declared Chita, sighing and doing a quick spin in her chair. “You'd think getting into the meat of secret operations involves a lot of intrigue, but what little I've done so far has pretty much all been... this. Waiting. I do like the cover-up writing, it’s kind fun, but the boredom has really taken the romantic notion of the spy life away for me.”
“Imagine a James Bond film where he just does his paperwork,” smirked Grace, hoping that would be the end of it.
“Oh the paperwork is nothing, it’s just these stake-outs where you've got to watch for details but more than likely nothing happens!” exclaimed Chita, getting louder now, which made Grace happy the reporter wasn't required to be actively connected to the communication link. “Seriously, I might as well just have regular clearance...”
“Well—” began Grace, only to get cut off.
“I mean, I know this kind of thing isn't all tuxedos, parties and shoot-outs; I'd freak out a bit if I knew my husband was always facing that kind of stuff, but—” Chita had continued, only to suddenly stop as Grace put a hand on the reporter's leg. Chita had suddenly gone rigid, her mouth open and her eyes wide, her hands up by her head with her fingers spread, her legs up on the edge of a console. Grace, having grown tired of listening to Chita, had pulled out what the IT agents had called a Stasis Disk and applied it to her chatty accomplice. As promised during the tutorial she'd received earlier, Grace was pleased to see Chita instantly turn into a human mannequin.
“Much better,” breathed Grace, taking a moment to rub her forehead before focusing on the woman she'd just frozen. Grace had been briefed on ITEA technology, both back at home and in Tokyo, but seeing it in action was something else. Getting up from her chair after removing her headset, Grace moved over to and, as an experiment, spun Chita so her rigid legs were off the console, chuckling as she saw the reporter's limbs remained in mid-air.
“Lets see just how flexible you are,” muttered Grace, bending over and tipping Chita forward, resulting in the frozen reporter being placed on her feet while at an awkward angle. A quick waist adjustment fixed the angle problem and Chita now stood as if in mid-description of showing a fish being caught a certain size.
“Like a life-sized doll,” laughed Grace before getting back to work, being a professional in spite of everything. It turned out that putting the headphones on was a good idea as not two minutes later the club investigation seemed to be wrapping up.
“This place seems clean...” commented Marcus Corrado over the microphone connection.
“Perfect Sakura is next on our list,” announced Rurik Chekhol. “Maybe third time is the charm?”
“I'll get the van moving,” confirmed Grace into her own microphone. While the cellphone trick was being used to avoid having larger communication devices like the NI Ghostchatter, which looked like a hearing aid, in play, each team member did have a small item in their ears that usually required tweezers to remove. As Grace prepared to get the observation van moving however she realized she couldn't leave Chita standing up or else she'd fall over.
“Can't have you getting all bruised, that will just get everyone mad at me,” declared Grace, pushing Chita backwards so she flopped down into the mounted chair she'd been sitting in before. Once that was done Grace reached under the chair and pulled out the seat belt it was equipped with, securing the immobilized reporter.
“One last thing...” decided Grace, reaching up and grabbing Chita's wrists. The green-eyed beauty soon had her hands placed palms down over her mouth, as if the visual representation of 'Speak No Evil'.
“I believe the phrase is, 'better seen but not heard?'” chuckled Grace as she moved to the front of the van, not bothering to lower Chita's legs to the floor.
* * *
Perfect Sakura, Minato Ward
The entrance to the club looked very classy for the most part, but Takahishi was used to that. Aside from the white sign with pink cherry blossoms on it, the club's entrance was dark textured, looking like the entrance to a bar right out of the 1940s. A small group of businessmen was standing to one side of the entrance but apart from that, the streets were fairly quiet for the hour; even the alleys beside the club were deserted.
Tak led his group towards the bar, all of them were dressed in open-collared shirts and sports coats that matched their pants. Jake was in a black suit with a yellow shirt, Caesar was in black with white, Rurik white with red, Marcus purple and black, and Tak himself had gone red with black pinstripes with a black shirt underneath. All five had a bit of sake in them but had been careful about consumption so none were noticeably impaired, allowing them to achieve an almost sort of power walk as they sauntered up to the man watching the door to the club.
“Good evening,” greeted the doorman, speaking in excellent English. “Welcome to Perfect Sakura, it is your first time here, yes?” Tak looked at the doorman, noting he couldn't be more than twenty-two, but was finely educated if his almost total lack of an accent was any indication. Tak himself had only managed to more or less bury his own local accent after years of work in Interpol, and the bouncer's English seemed too good for just regular school. The doorman, possessing styled longer brown hair and a somewhat effeminate look as he stood dressed in a purely black suit, didn't strike Takahishi as ordinary, but it was too soon to read much more into it than just being unusual.
“Yes, I was looking to show my foreign friends a good time,” replied Takahishi, purposely making his own accent a bit thicker and slightly slurred to go a bit more under the radar. “I do not require company but these four do.”
“Excellent, we can accommodate you,” nodded the bouncer, opening the door. “I am Yosuke, please come in.” The door opened to reveal an sophisticated interior that matched the exterior, the walls were a soothing beige with plenty of wood paneling, on the floor was fine dark-tan carpet mixed with black tile; the several people he could see were also dressed elegantly. The bar didn't have hosts, just hostesses; a wall exhibit showing some of their photos was on the left as the undercover group entered. They quickly encountered a male staffer who led them to a circular booth with a low table, the space being one of the largest in the club, thus having plenty of room for at least ten people to sit.
“Lets start with the house wine and a basic platter,” ordered Takahishi in Japanese as the group sat down; he deciding to take one edge next to Caesar, with Jake across from him so there would be a fluent Japanese-speaker on each side. While Jake's cover wasn't directly connected with the others, the requirement for his language skill had forced a small change of plans.
“Everything seems okay so far,” commented Grace over the radio.
“That bouncer's bugging me though; a guy that young and clearly possessing a solid education... could just be the owner's son or something though,” remarked Takahishi in a low voice. Moments later, the first hostess approached the table. The woman was young; Tak pegged her as no older than twenty-six, and she wore a tight black dress with her hair combed perfectly straight on the side of her shoulders. The dress had a high collar but no sleeves and left a window right around her cleavage but it looked fine on the hostess. Tak could tell just by the way she walked that she was, if not the top hostess at the club, at the very least ones the newer girls would imitate, Tak in particular noted at least three women around that seemed to be emulating her to some degree.
“Good evening, my name is Kaoru,” greeted the hostess, offering the traditional bow. Tak watched her quickly scan the table and single out the space between Marcus and Rurik, as Rurik looked the most nervous as he'd never really relaxed at the earlier clubs either. Tak knew a good hostess would win over the toughest of potential clients and that seemed to be her goal as she moved to sit between Marcus and Rurik.
“Good... to meet you,” managed Rurik, Takahishi sure the agent was playing a role to a degree but not all of it was fake. Rurik shifted nervously, his hands between his knees.
“Why don't you tell me what you do?” suggested Kaoru, breaking the ice.
“I'm a stockbroker,” revealed Rurik as the food and drinks arrived, along with a second hostess.
“My name is Sakura, nice to meet you,” introduced the new hostess. The woman looked to be into her thirties but Tak could see she had some appeal, possessing black hair that she wore like Kaoru while sporting a dark red strapless dress whose skirt was split well above the knee. Sakura moved to go between Caesar and Marcus as Tak wondered how many were amused that a woman named Sakura worked at a place called Perfect Sakura.
“Hello, my name is Morgan, nice to meet you,” greeted a third hostess. Unlike the last two, the new hostess was a blue-eyed blonde over average height, which didn't shock Tak since quite a few clubs were big on foreign women. Morgan had long hair with a bit of curl to it, but it was all nice and swirled uniformly around her head, the hostess wearing a smaller thin-strapped silver and black dress that showed her long legs well. The blonde moved to go between Rurik and Jake.
“So you're stockbrokers, just taking a break from business to enjoy what the city has to offer?” asked Kaoru as everyone settled in. Sake was soon poured and the conversations quickly kicked off. Caesar ended up engaging Sakura while Marcus and Rurik both talked with Kaoru and Jake focused on Morgan. Tak relaxed a bit, his cover not requiring him to get too involved unless translation was needed, thus he mostly observed. While a few things were bugging Tak, including the way Sakura and Morgan seemed more eager to emulate Kaoru stood out as being odd, as well as the well-educated doorman. Tak wasn't sold that anything was wrong just yet, though he did think they'd need to do a follow-up on the place sooner than the other clubs they'd visited already that night.
“Hello,” came a voice about ten minutes later after everyone settled in, making Tak look up as his eyes widened. “My name is Hikaru, nice to meet you all.” A black-haired woman around thirty moved to sit in between Caesar and Tak; she was wearing a tight white Chinese-style dress, but that wasn't what made Tak jump.
“Since when are you a hostess?” Tak asked the arriving hostess in almost a whisper, while everyone else focused on each other, thus aside from Grace over the radio no one could hear Tak's conversation with the woman.
“Relax little brother, we can trade notes soon enough,” replied Hikaru, offering a small smile.
* * *
The Minato Kami Hotel
Two Hours Later...
Takahishi opened the door to his hotel room and let his sister Hikaru in. The pair were alone; Caesar and Chita were downstairs at the hotel bar while the rest were in their assigned rooms. Hikaru had changed out of her hostess outfit and now wearing a casual white T-shirt with a red convertible printed on it and a pair of jeans, her hair in a ponytail. Tak wanted to immediately spin around after the door closed behind Hikaru but he instead made to the area by the beds before finally doing so. “I thought you were working in Public Safety,” fired off Tak as Hikaru raised her hand, her mouth open.
“I was just recently transferred to Organized Crime Control, I didn't get a chance to tell you,” answered Hikaru.
“So you're working undercover to try and find yakuza?” questioned Tak, bringing up the name for organized crime families in Japan.
“Pretty much, except we already know Perfect Sakura is a yakuza property, owned and run,” revealed Hikaru, looking a bit uncomfortable as she clearly didn't seem to expect to encounter her brother, and of course Tak hadn't expected to run into her either.
“Wonderful, my sister's actively working as a consort in a place run by gangsters, that should calm me right down,” muttered Tak, pacing around for a moment as he rubbed his forehead. “Okay, my superior cleared me to tell you a little about what we're doing here, so here it is: we're looking into hostess clubs that may be receiving illegal shipments of these little computer chip things that, when placed on someone’s neck, can make the wearer pretty much become a robotic slave.”
“You weren't joking about dealing in the real science fiction stuff now,” smiled Hikaru, having never learned too much about the ITEA but well aware that it dealt with some really weird technology. “Well the good news is that you've found the club alright.”
“So Perfect Sakura definitely has received shipments of these chips?” asked Tak, looking for proper confirmation.
“Not only that, pretty sure that's why a bunch of the new girls all seem to act the same way,” clarified Hikaru, nodding. “Some girls put something on the back of their necks before they go to work, and a bunch of them always keep their hair down as if hiding something. At first I thought they were all just mirroring Kaoru since she's the top girl, but if such a thing could make them actually act like her...”
“She definitely wasn't wearing one, but I'll bet they found a way to create an AI using her own mind as a map,” determined Takahishi, crossing his arms as he fell deep in thought. “Yes, I've heard of that being possible if they have the right equipment. So which yakuza clan are we dealing with?”
“A smaller one, the Imagawa,” replied Hikaru, putting her hands on her hips as she glanced around the room before continuing. “They claim to be direct descendants of Yoshimoto Imagawa, that famous warlord Nobunaga Oda killed in the Warring States period, and there's all this talk of finally making their clan mean something again. So far the only crimes we can properly prosecute them for are laughable, but if we can prove they're using illegal goods in their main hostess club...”
“You sure they're not kidnapping anyone?” inquired Takahishi, hoping to expand upon the possible list of Imagawa crimes. “I mean, you make it sound like the hostesses who use the chips are willing, and while using them is still illegal, this could put us in a potentially gray area in a trial...”
“Good point, the clan may try and push a case in the vein of no one’s getting hurt so is it really a major crime,” noted Hikaru, shaking her head. “I don't think anyone's being forced, so I doubt there are any kidnappings. I've got an earlier shift tomorrow, I could check and see if there's any girls who show up that I don't see put on a chip but are clearly being controlled by one...”
“Ugh... I really don't like the idea of you being with me on this case, but you’re probably our best bet,” admitted Tak, slowly nodding. “Okay, I'll talk it over with Caesar and the rest, but that should work. Either way I think we're going back to Perfect Sakura tomorrow...”
“You really don't need to worry about me, little brother,” chided Hikaru, nonetheless smiling as she put her hands behind her head. “So since we've got an impromptu family meeting here, how's the personal life? Last time we spoke you mentioned things with Lucienne had gotten slightly... complicated?”
“Oh, is that ever an understatement,” nodded Tak, letting out a sigh as he sat down on the foot of the nearby bed, with Hikaru doing the same on the other. “Lucy wants to end things with Tasia for good and focus on us... she even told me she loved me.”
“You tell her the same thing?” asked Hikaru, her arms crossed in her lap.
“Yeah, but before she did I was pretty much ready to end things, so now I need to decide if this really does change things or not,” mused Tak, falling backwards with his arms spread out.
“Well if you do love each other, at least give it a proper shot before considering ending things,” suggested Hikaru. “Come on, you used to spend hours telling me how great Lucienne was back when she was just your mentor with Interpol. You're finally able to date her, properly, and now you hesitate?”
“Well timing was an issue, given we got together when she was on the outs with her girlfriend and we weren't official,” noted Takahishi, sighing. “Lucy seems to have realized Tasia isn't the same though, so she might really be done with her even if I don't want to be with her.”
“So she does seem to realize what she wants,” nodded Hikaru, slowly leaning back. “Yeah, you should just go for it. Live out that fantasy of yours... and not the one involving Sophia!”
“Hey, I'm over my crush on Sophia; that was years ago!” insisted Tak.
“So was the one you had on Lucy!” fired back Hikaru, softening the jab with a smile.
* * *
The Next Day...
Shingen Imagawa sat in the comfortable leather chair that rested behind his desk, his hands pressed together in front of his face as he stared at those before him. Shingen's office was full of trinkets and trophies, the walls covered in masks, tapestries, scrolls and swords that he'd collected over the years. Shingen enjoyed surrounding himself with things that would fill him with pride, but now with a few simple words he found that he could no longer count his son amongst those things. “You disappoint me, Yosuke,” Shingen told his son, one of two people in the office besides him.
“But father, this is a perfect way to use the Chips!” insisted Yosuke, using his arms for emphasis as he spoke, an expensive leather jacket being worn over Shingen's son's stylish clothing. “It's a lot easier to make money when we don't have to pay our hostesses!”
“Yet where does it end, Yosuke?!” yelled Shingen, rising from his chair. The other person in the room, Kaguya Saito, didn't flinch as the argument became more heated, though her hand did seem a bit stiffer as she rested it on her belt. Kaguya was Caucasian, unlike what her name would suggest, a blue-eyed redhead who looked like an attractive female rock star. Shingen had never asked where Kaguya had gotten her name, he just knew she was a talented enforcer and thus had hired her to be one of his personal bodyguards. Kaguya was currently wearing tan pants, black leather stiletto boots and a black tank top, her long hair swept to the left and a sword on her right hip. Given the firearm restrictions, Shingen felt more comfortable arming his bodyguards with swords and knives rather than one of the illegal guns that he had stashed.
“We could have rival clans bowing to us in no time!” answered Yosuke. “This technology-”
“We've taken enough shortcuts, I want this business to be legal!” snapped Shingen, cutting his son off. “You come to me now and admit that some of your recruits have been kidnapped and forcibly given a Chip?! Everything we're working to achieve here will be ruined!”
“We can't get caught!” insisted Yosuke. “No one will miss these random women! They're single tourists!”
As if in response to Yosuke's claim, a knock came at the door. Shingen waved at Kaguya and she moved to open the door. Kaoru walked in backwards, dragging another girl in on her heels. Kaoru was in a leopard print halter-top and black knee-length skirt, her hair tied in low twin ponytails with curls. The other girl, who was standing absolutely motionless with her knees slightly bent and her arms raised in surprise, Shingen quickly identified as Hikaru Morimoto. She was clad in a knee-length white dress with thick shoulder straps but no back, her hair was hanging free with the tips curled up. Surprise was frozen on Hikaru's face. “Care to explain?” asked Shingen, confident he knew what Kaoru was going to tell him but letting her speak all the same.
“She was eavesdropping, I'm thinking she's either a spy from another clan, or worse a cop,” revealed Kaoru, confirming Shingen's suspicions. “I put a Chip on her neck before she could react.”
“There you have it,” sighed Shingen, gesturing at Hikaru. “Yosuke, I want you and Kaoru to stash this one downstairs with those special mannequins in storage. Tonight you're letting everyone know this is the last night any kidnapped girls will work here. Tomorrow you let them go.”
“But-” began Yosuke.
“Do as I say!” yelled Shingen, slamming his fist on his desk. “Do not dishonor me with your backchat. You've caused enough trouble already!”
“Very well, as you wish, father,” muttered Yosuke, anger palpable in his voice as he bent down and lifted Hikaru up by her feet. Kaoru quickly moved to catch the frozen girl's shoulders. Soon the pair held Kaoru horizontal and moved to carry her out of the room, with Kaguya holding the door open. Upon the departure of Shingen's son and his top hostess, Kaguya closed the door. After a few moments to compose himself, the clan chairman sighed once more.
“I fear my son has become too impudent, Kaguya,” Shingen confided to his bodyguard.
“He merely wishes to please you, to show you he can be a leader,” pointed out the redhead.
“A nice sentiment, but defying my wishes is not the way to show leadership,” grumbled Shingen, leaning back in his chair and tapping his hands on his armrests. “I fear this location may need to shut down soon. A pity.”
“Chairman, if I may...” began Kaguya, moving to stand directly in front of Shingen's desk, “I highly recommend you not stay here tonight, in case the spy had allies.”
“I am not about to run and hide like a scared child just because of a possible threat,” dismissed Shingen, shaking his head. “The pride of the Imagawa is on the line! I will stay and hold this place, for as long as it stands. It is my duty to those under my care.”
“So you say, chairman,” nodded Kaguya, though Shingen noted she looked a bit uncertain.
* * *
Chita tried her best to yawn and stretch as quietly as possible as she once again sat next to Grace Tremblay in the observation van while it was parked near Perfect Sakura. Following the annoying experience of having been frozen the night before, Chita had decided to try and avoid needless provoking Grace as she worked the radio. Chita had also elected to dress more conservatively, wearing tight white pants and a pink long-sleeved shirt with no logo on it, thus showing far less skin than usual. Grace meanwhile was in a black business dress complete with pantyhose, with even the tie atop her white blouse black.
“Bouncer looked pissed for some reason,” Chita heard Rurik say over the radio.
“Could be having a bad night,” suggested Marcus.
“I can't wait to find out what the rest of the place is like,” finally commented Chita, breaking a ten-minute silence.
“Probably dressing rooms, storage, and maybe some offices upstairs,” suggested Grace, not even looking Chita's way. The lack of attention actually pleased the reporter, as for what she had planned she wasn't looking to draw Grace's eye.
“That's odd, Hikaru's picture isn't up on the board tonight,” observed Tak from over the radio.
“That is a bad sign, we should ask around casually,” noted Caesar.
“Hmm... I really hope this isn't a bad omen,” muttered Grace, not transmitting as she wasn't pressing the button. Chita noted how the brunette was sitting, facing away with her arms stretched over the computer equipment and her headphones on; oblivious to the fact that Chita had stood up behind her and pulled an object out of her purse.
“I'm sure everything'll be fine,” whispered Chita, striking with one quick swoop, placing a stasis disk in between Grace's shoulder blades. The Interpol agent immediately went rigid, making it hard for the reporter to not cackle as she casually removed the brunette's headgear.
“Payback really is a bitch, huh?” chuckled Chita, spinning Grace around so she wasn't leaning against anything, resulting in her falling forward onto her knees, hands and head. “Oh... that might have hurt. Let me stand you up...” With a great deal of glee Chita quickly stood Grace up so she was posed with her legs shoulder-width apart, her hands then going on her hips with the bottom of her wrists pointing towards the ground. A slight frown was frozen on the Interpol agent's face, which Chita then morphed into a large, fake-looking grin.
“Don't worry, I just want to get a look inside,” Chita assured Grace, patting her on the head before heading into the front of the van. Soon enough Chita had her digital camera, which she had stashed in a fanny-pack, and hopped out of the van through the passenger-side door. The streets were decently busy so Chita made sure to lock the vehicle, though she did take a set of keys with her.
As Perfect Sakura was a sort of hole-in-the-wall club, there being a few other businesses attached to one side, Chita only had one alley she could wander into, but luckily no one really seemed to notice when she did. The alley was empty and there were elevated windows, the kind Chita had learned how to open from the outside thanks to her fingernails. The main challenge was how to reach the window, which was too high up to jump for, but there were dumpsters nearby so after carefully checking around Chita managed to push one a mere ten feet so it was close enough to use it for leverage. The edge of the dumpster was thin so Chita was forced to abandon her black heels, but they were one of her cheapest pairs of shoes so she didn't have a problem if they were lost by the end of her venture. People were still walking by the front of the alley so Chita had to act fast, hopping up and then quickly finding a groove with her fingernails that she could force open. Upon finding what she was searching for, Chita managed to get the window open and quickly pulled herself up with her fanny-pack rotated around so it wouldn't stop her descent after her breasts were inside. It was a tight squeeze but Chita managed to rotate as she fell, landing on her rear end and thankfully on nothing sharp, just some plastic crates.
“Okay, I'm in, but where?” muttered Chita to herself, opening up her fanny-pack to produce an ear-piece that she'd linked to her phone, which was also in the pack. Turning it on, Chita now found herself listening to the team inside the club again as she also searched for her small flashlight.
“Okay, sounds like Hikaru’s scheduled to be here and is just late,” Chita overheard Tak telling the others. “She might just be hiding somewhere. I mean, they're still here and you'd think if they caught her they'd be gone.”
“They might not realize who she is if she was caught, or that there's an investigation going on,” pointed out Caesar. “Lets get a table with some of the girls from last night, if they're available, and maybe see what they know.”
“Okay, Kaoru's off the board but we can get Morgan and Sakura,” observed Jake. Chita meanwhile finally found her flashlight and turned it on. It was quickly clear the room was meant as storage; Chita spotted racks, crates, and a few large boxes. One box that quickly caught Chita's eye was a tall one that, Chita noted, had a mannequin visible inside wearing a shimmery purple dress.
“Nice,” whispered Chita, liking the dress's style and moving in for a closer look. Opening the box further, Chita saw that the dress was on a very realistic-looking mannequin, one that resembled a Caucasian brunette with blue eyes around five-foot six. For a moment Chita even wondered if the mannequin actually was real, but after a quick inspection, including a peak down and up the display figure’s dress, confirmed that while highly detailed she wasn't fully real, everything was still too smooth and perfect.
“Bit creepy though,” muttered Chita as she poked the mannequin again, then looked past it. Another mannequin caught Chita's eye as she casually shone the light over the box's contents, wanting just one more look before she got down to business. While Grace had frozen her for a bit the other night, Chita had still been awake when Hikaru was formally introduced to the team so she quickly recognized the lifelike mannequin that stood there, the color draining from her face. That stiffened statue was Tak’s sister! Hikaru was posed with a blank look on her face and her arms held at her sides but Chita wasn't fooled; she didn't even need to touch the woman to know she was real.
“Oh...” gasped Chita, quickly fiddling with her phone as she stepped away from the large box. “Caesar, Caesar, can you hear me?”
“Chita?” whispered Caesar. Chita was not sure where her husband was but given what she'd been hearing, most likely at a table, possibly with two of the hostesses. “What is it? Why are you-”
“I'm inside!” hissed Chita, cutting her husband off as she fiddled with her flashlight. “I've found Hikaru in a storage room by the alley! They've frozen her!” It was then that Chita heard a clicking sound, that of a door on the far side of the room opening. In the doorway stood the silhouette of a woman, bathed in light.
“Help me!” Chita then cried before her voice suddenly cut off.
* * *
“Right, I need to go rescue my wife,” announced Caesar in a cool voice as he moved to stand, Tak quickly joining in. The five men of the field team had all gone for collared shirts and dress pants, Tak with a black short-sleeved shirt and white pants, Rurik meanwhile had chosen a white long-sleeved shirt with brown pants, Jake a red short-sleeved shirt with tan pants, Caesar a black long-sleeved shirt with black pants, and Caesar a long-sleeved purple shirt with white pants. The five all stood practically in unison, Rurik pulling out a Freeze-Key he'd been carrying in one of his pockets and activating it.
Morgan and Sakura were the two hostesses currently at the table with the five men, both looking up at a person beside them who'd stood with their right arm raised. Morgan had a coiled ponytail down her back and was in a V-cut white dress with holes at the hips, while Sakura's hair was down in twin curled ponytails with a strapless short pink floral dress. Both hostesses were now frozen in place, the last confirmation the team needed that the pair were wearing Chips. “Nobody move, police business!” yelled Tak in his native Japanese, though he already knew what the result would be. Luckily, so did Team Delta.
“You are not welcome!” yelled a man in a black suit with a white shirt who came running at the team, his attire making it clear he was a member of security as he even had dark glasses on in spite of it being indoors. Marcus stepped up, firing off a powerful punch that connected just below the man's jaw, dropping the security man flat on his back. A former prison guard, Marcus was more than familiar with methods for quickly taking down threats. Patrons of the club were now staring in astonishment, but Team Delta wasn't going to sit around.
“This way!” hissed Caesar, taking the lead as the rest of the team hurried towards the back of the club. At least four more men were headed in Marcus's direction now, but Tak was amused to see only one of them had a weapon, and it was a baton. Sure enough just before Tak moved out of sight from Marcus he saw his teammate disarm the guard and quickly use his club against another man.
Into the back of the club Caesar took a quick right, which was where the storage room Chita had described would logically be. “Rurik with me, you two head left!” Caesar quickly ordered, the Russian then quickly joining the Mexican as they dashed towards an open doorway. Tak, before turning to move with Jake in the opposite direction, thought he saw Kaoru, and he was sure that beyond was something that looked like a storage room.
After going around a corner Tak and Jake quickly found themselves in a bad-looking situation, facing a man standing before them holding a sword while, beyond him, stood another, older man that was similarly armed, the bouncer Tak remembered being named Yosuke beyond the second man. “I am Shingen Imagawa, and this is my business!” shouted the second, older man, who was pulling off a suit jacket as he spoke. “You will leave this place or pay the price!”
“Interpol, that isn't happening,” replied Jake as the first of the three men, whom Tak figured for a bodyguard given he was dressed like the other members of security but wasn't wearing dark glasses or a black tie, stepped forward with his weapon at the ready. Jake however was apparently willing to take the lead as he quickly dropped and kicked with both legs while using his hands for leverage. Jake's left foot caught the swordsman's hands while his right caught his groin, causing him to drop as well as his weapon.
“Father, run!” yelled Yosuke, trying to pull Shingen back as Jake caught the fallen man's sword while Tak gave the bodyguard a quick spray from his pocketed Type-7 bottle, freezing him as he lay on the ground in pain.
“No Yosuke, this I must do!” insisted Shingen, slapping Yosuke in the face before readying his sword, Jake now doing the same. Shingen looked around fifty but Tak wasn't about to doubt any skill he may possess with a blade, but luckily swords were one weapon Jake had used during his time undercover. Tak had training of his own, it having been his martial art of choice as a youth, but Jake was the one currently holding a sword. Yosuke, meanwhile, his face now red, suddenly bolted away, appearing to go up some stairs just behind Shingen.
“Go after him, I've got this,” whispered Jake, and Tak reluctantly nodded.
“You won't get by me!” warned Shingen, but Jake was suddenly on the offensive, springing forward and swinging deep, thus forcing Shingen to step back as he blocked each swing. Soon enough Shingen had been forced far enough away from the stairwell for Tak to safely slip by. Takahishi was considering trying to spray Shingen but with him locking blades with Jake there wouldn't be a clear opening, at least that he could see.
“Take him down,” urged Tak as he ran up the stairs before Shingen could try to catch him.
“Die!” came a yell no sooner than when Tak reached the top of the stairs, the IT agent having to dive forward to avoid the tip of a spear. Spinning around Tak saw that Yosuke was there, armed with what was apparently a decorative spear as there was another in the hands of a statue of a peasant warrior, the one Yosuke had just tried to kill Tak with now broken at the tip. To Tak's right, or Yosuke's left, was a slightly open door that appeared to lead into a large office, while left there was a sharp corner that Yosuke would most likely cut off if Tak tried to go in that direction.
“Drop the weapon, there's a chance for this to end peacefully,” insisted Tak, but Yosuke wasn't having it, instead swinging the broken spear around to try and catch Tak across the head. As planned, Takahishi rolled to his right and sprung into the office. The room was lavish and most likely the boss's office, though most peculiar was the person in the room. A redheaded Caucasian woman that looked fairly tough, her long hair behind her left ear but not her right, was standing with a blank look on her face and a sword raised forward, assuming a classic fighting stance for samurai. The katana in the woman's hands looked real enough so Tak was quick to pry it from her firm grip, confirming she was indeed frozen.
“You've ruined everything!” howled Yosuke as he burst into the office, the second decorative spear in his hands. Tak's training took over as Yosuke lunged at him, the tip of the spear jabbing nothing but air as Tak sidestepped and stroked, splitting the cheap weapon in two.
“I'll say it again: give up,” warned Takahishi as Yosuke jumped back, grabbing at a display. The display happened to be a tachi sword, which Yosuke managed to brandish. Yosuke then eyed the female statue but Tak reached out before his opponent did, stopping the tachi's blade from getting anywhere close to the woman's neck and stepping in between him and her.
“See that's your problem, you give a damn about the lives in this room; I don't!” mocked Yosuke, then trying to press forward. Takahishi however also moved up, pushing Yosuke's blade to the far right and shoulder-charging him. Yosuke hit the wall on the opposite end of the office but then struck, using his right hand to grab a small statuette and smash it across Takahishi's face. The IT agent stumbled and rolled, Yosuke trying to pounce but his blade catching only the floor. Tak could feel the bruises and cuts forming on the left side of his face but smiled through the pain.
“You're really sloppy,” chuckled Takahishi, causing Yosuke's face to go red. Sure enough the taunt was enough for an already very angry Yosuke to flail ungracefully, thus allowing Tak to put all his weight behind a single strike that promptly disarmed the young yakuza. Tak didn't stop though, spinning around Yosuke as he stumbled from the shock of the disarming strike and readying his sprayer. By the time Yosuke spun around to follow where Tak had gone, he was greeted with a freezing blast of Type-7, leaving the young man looking like a scarecrow, which is how he stood before falling backwards from balance issues.
“Ugh, I'd better ask a paramedic for some ice,” mused Takahishi as he reached into his pocket and dialed an emergency number. In his earpiece Tak could still hear how things were going with the rest of the team, and it all sounded good.
“No one else seems to want a piece of this,” chuckled Marcus over the radio.
“I've got my wife, and I see where Hikaru is,” Caesar reported seconds later.
“Kaoru's frozen by the way, she just froze Chita before we got to them, no one hurt though,” added Rurik. “I'm headed upstairs now.”
“Go ahead, I've got the boss here pinned to the wall, succeeded in disarming him,” chimed in Jake. “He managed to give he a light but long gash on my arm though so if someone could call an ambulance...”
“Working on that now Jake,” answered Tak as he placed the phone call, relieved that his sister was safe.
By the time Tak had finished his call Rurik had arrived upstairs, a scratch on his face but a pair of sprayers in his hands. “What happened to you?” asked Tak as he pocketed his phone.
“Kaoru scratched me before we managed to spray her,” admitted Rurik. “So that's the bouncer kid from the other night...”
“Appears to be the boss's son,” offered Tak, nodding.
“Who's this?” Rurik asked next, indicating the redhead who, without a sword in her hands, looked like she was reaching forward to dramatically grab someone's arm, or possibly pull a large lever.
“No idea, she was frozen when I came in, might be a kidnap victim,” suggested Tak, moving to join Rurik and reaching behind the woman's neck. “Yep, Chip, stand by...” With a firm yank the Chip came loose and the redhead jumped back in surprise.
“Ah!” screamed the woman, backing away. “Who are you?!”
“Interpol ma'am,” replied Rurik, putting the sprayers together in one hand as he offered the woman his free one. “Were you kidnapped?”
“The last thing I remember is walking down Taihei...” whispered the woman, starting to cry. “You... thank you!” The redhead charged forward and suddenly put her arms around Rurik, squeezing him tight. For a second Tak wondered if it might be a ploy, but then the woman proceeded to plant her lips on Rurik's.
“You know, words are usually enough,” remarked Tak with a grin as he watched the woman continue to kiss an unresisting Rurik.
* * *
The Minato Kami Hotel
One Day Later...
Takahishi was sitting in a private part of the hotel lounge, his carry-on bag next to his chair. The rest of Team Delta's luggage had already been sent to the airport, and now Tak was just killing time as he waited for the taxi Rurik would be bringing after he'd dealt with a few things. Marcus was off with Caesar, the pair at Perfect Sakura to finish clearing a few things up while Chita would be doing a special report for GNA on the incident. Grace, Jake and Hikaru were sitting with the IT agent. Having spent the time following her rescue being debriefed by her own people, Hikaru was only now getting caught up on what had happened the previous day.
“So the Imagawa Clan is going to get kidnapping as well as smuggling charges?” confirmed Hikaru, summarizing what she'd been told over the past few minutes.
“Attempted murder too,” nodded Tak. “Kaoru Yoshimoto's getting some conspiracy charges too as Yosuke was all to happy to blame her for coming up with the kidnapping idea to help fill out the ranks.”
“I knew something was off about her,” sighed Hikaru, shifting a bit in her seat. “This is really embarrassing, I have to say, being rescued by your little brother...”
“Hey, I was left frozen in the van and they didn't think to even check on me until well after the action was over!” pointed out Grace, amused but still carrying a bit of anger in her voice. Jake, sitting next to his partner, took her hand and kissed it.
“I am surprised you don't get any more time here,” commented Hikaru next. “Why are you going back so soon?”
“Well smuggling is the only real issue for our agency and Yosuke's already agreed to give up their supplier,” explained Tak, shaking his head a bit. “Would have been nice to go home to Kanazawa, visit mom and dad, but we need to report in.”
“Kind of a shame our first real reunion since you got this job is this short,” mused Hikaru, leaning back in her chair a bit.
“You ever consider joining him, or Interpol?” asked Jake, jumping in. “I mean, you did get caught but your superior was still pretty happy with your performance from what I heard...”
“I don't think I could ever have a house anywhere but Japan,” replied Hikaru, shaking her head. “Besides, moving halfway across the world to be closer to your brother? Kind of weird...”
“Not as much as you'd think,” chuckled Takahishi, thinking of the Blake siblings that had followed Sonia Castillo to Spain from Australia before heading to the UK for the ITEA.
“So I never asked, what happened with Rurik and that woman that practically cut his head off with her tongue?” inquired Grace, having finally let go of Jake's hand.
“Turns out her legal name's Kaguya Saito, though I never got an explanation for that as near as I can tell she's pure Caucasian,” answered Tak, smiling a bit at the memory of seeing Rurik just accept the surprise kiss. “Marcus said Rurik never came back last night, but when I called him earlier he insisted he was just helping her get through the police interviews and get to the docks. She's going on a cruise someplace and he promised to take her to the ship.”
“We're sure she's not a member of the Imagawa?” added Grace.
“Never saw her, and she's not in their file, or the available database,” replied Hikaru for the rest. “There's no evidence right now that she was aligned with them, so innocent until proven guilty.”
“Seemed like a legit victim though,” nodded Tak before feeling his phone vibrate, causing him to pull it out. “Speak of the devil, he's apparently out front. I guess this is goodbye.”
“Good to meet you!” exclaimed Grace, getting up and offering Tak a handshake.
“Until next time buddy,” smiled Jake, also shaking Tak's hand but giving him a pat on the back as well.
“Now you go and you tell the love of your life you want to be with her,” Hikaru told Tak as they embraced following Tak's goodbye exchange.
“Give mom and dad my love,” Tak told Hikaru in turn before parting from her. With that Takahishi grabbed his bag and headed for the lobby, and beyond that the exit where a taxi was sitting idle, Rurik inside.
“Hey,” greeted Rurik as Tak climbed inside. Tak noted his teammate looked a bit worse for wear, his clothes crumbled and his hair a bit of a mess. “Narita International Airport,” Rurik told the taxi driver, and the vehicle started to move.
“So...” began Tak, settling into his seat, “You get her number? Or an email?”
“Nope,” admitted Rurik, who nonetheless looked a bit more chipper.
“Worth it though?” Tak then asked, noting Rurik nearly started grinning before stopping.
“Yep,” nodded Rurik, which caused Tak to start laughing. A few moments later Rurik joined in. Tak could have been hard on his teammate, pointing out whatever he'd done was more than likely against most ethical codes in law enforcement, but Tak wasn't the kind to judge since he was planning to have a long and passionate night with his boss when he got home.
* * *
Chita Francisco sat in a make-up chair, doing some last minute touch-ups inside the GNA trailer before she prepared for her interviews. A designated police spokesman and two of the former hostesses would be giving statements, but those were just going to be prerecorded, along with a statement that Interpol and the ITEA had cooked up that Chita would be reading. Arun Chopra, the news agency's senior Asia correspondent, would be introducing the segment, thus Chita would be working with him.
“Hmm... I could really use an assistant for this stuff,” muttered Chita to herself as she finished with her eyes, having on with a small amount of eyeliner and mascara. Thinking about assistants prompted Chita think about her sister Adora, who was working for Stone Enterprises as a personal assistant to Erika Stone. Chita doubted she could lure Adora away from such a no-doubt exciting job but found herself liking the idea of employing people she knew.
A knock on the trailer door disturbed Chita from her thoughts as she did one last application of a subdued pink lipstick. “Come in!” called the reporter as she capped the make-up tool and stood up, adjusting her long curly hair so it rested more comfortably behind her shoulders.
“Hi there, Serena Hamm, I don't believe we've met,” announced a blue-eyed brunette of around average height as she came walking into the trailer, sporting an all black outfit: heels, skirt, blouse and jacket. “I'm Arun Chopra's producer.”
“Hi, Chita Francisco, nice to meet you,” greeted Chita in return, casually shaking the woman's hand. Chita noted Serena shared her hair to a degree, the producer's hair curling right around ear level, though not to a large degree.
“I have to be frank, I don't like the idea of you doing all the interviews and reading the statement from the police,” revealed Serena, casually putting her hands on her hips. “Arun's an established correspondent and actually Asian, where as you aren't on either count.”
“But I'm the one who actually was present as things happened, and he's Indian, not Japanese,” countered Chita, now starting to regret thinking she had anything in common with Serena.
“He's still Asian,” shrugged Serena, Chita not sure how to take the callous comment. “Being there doesn't make you the best to present the piece either. Arun's one of the best interviewers Global has. We don't need complaints from viewers about our star not being able to do his job because of some rookie.”
“Okay, you said producer, right?” asked Chita, her voice drenched in sarcasm as she dug her hands into her dress blazer's pockets. “You sure you're not his agent?”
“I'm just trying to do what's best for the field piece!” yelled Serena, leaning forward as she spoke. The position was too perfect; Chita couldn't stop herself. With a quick motion Chita pulled out a sprayer bottle and blasted Serena full in the face, freezing her on the spot, leaving her brow furrowed and her mouth hanging open with an annoyed sort of smile on the corner of her lips.
“Loving this job more and more every day,” chuckled Chita, kissing the bottle before returning it to her pocket. Looking at Serena, Chita first considered just leaving her as she was but then instead had a more playful idea. Getting around behind the American producer, Chita wrapped her arms around Serena's waist and, with a bit of difficulty, got her up onto the counter of the make-up table, sitting on her rear and her back straightened so she was up right. Next Chita played with Serena's face, closing her eyes and changing her mouth to a puckered shape. Next Chita got Serena's legs up on the counter, managing to force them underneath so the woman was sitting on her knees. Finally Chita turned Serena around and placed both her hands and lips against the mirror, thus making it look like Serena was kissing her reflection.
“Really hope someone photographs that and sends it to a scandal website,” smiled Chita, casually taking a photo with her phone before leaving the trailer.
Outside Chita could see Caesar and Marcus chatting with some local police, the pair not involved in the story but Chita's escort to the airport, where they'd meet up with Takahishi and Rurik. The street out front of the hostess club was clear and Arun Chopra was standing in front of a camera crew. Nearby were the interviewees, including former hostesses Sakura Ashikage and Morgan Russell. Chita eyed the women and then looked at Arun, a plan formulating in her mind on how to play the filming. Ultimately Chita gravitated towards Arun first, the senior correspondent looking around forty who possessed nice short hair, a prominent nose and a sharp-looking suit, minus a tie.
“Ah hello, Chita Francisco right?” acknowledged Arun and Chita approached, offering her a hand and immediately making her like him more than Serena. “Good to meet you. I was impressed with that piece you did in London a couple of weeks ago...”
“Thank you, I thought your coverage of the trial of that terrorist in Mumbai was a great example of proper journalism,” offered Chita in turn, actually knowing the terrorist's name but not wanting to look like she was overly-eager to please her co-worker. “So Serena just came to see me...”
“Did she get pushy?” asked Arun, frowning. “She can be really hard on the newer correspondents. Of course she wants any field piece she runs to be award-bait, no matter how good the actual story and journalism done surrounding it is.”
“It's okay, we came to a compromise,” lied Chita, deciding Arun seemed nice enough to not punish him for his producer's mistake. “We'll do some more one on one time as well as have you open and close the segment.”
“That works, I don't think you need the metaphorical training wheels but if it'll let us just get on with this, whatever,” shrugged Arun. “Okay, I'm going to start prepping for the introduction bit, you want to go warm up your first subject?”
“Good idea,” nodded Chita, trying not to smile as she walked away since she found Arun a lot less difficult to deal with than Martina Aguilar, whom she'd been paired with during the coverage of the London kidnappings. Sakura was going to be Chita's first subject, introducing the willing hostess before diving into the dark side with Morgan and then the police rep. Sakura was dressed surprisingly conservatively, her hair up in a bun and a gray overcoat hiding her attractive body.
“Hello Miss Francisco,” greeted Sakura, Chita and her having briefly met earlier. “Are we about ready to begin?”
“Yes, I am surprised to see you changed into something so conservative though,” observed Chita as she reached the Japanese woman.
“I don't think it would be a good idea to try and show off my potential appeal as a hostess given the club I worked at just got shut down,” explained Sakura with a weak smile. “It figures... I finally get a good job and it gets shut down for criminal activity. Now this entire career field is probably dead for me.”
“I'm sorry to hear that,” offered Chita, wanting to be sympathetic so she'd be a better interviewee, though she did also feel some genuine sorrow for the older woman. “What do you think you'll do now?”
“I don't know, I spent a lot of years as a temporary office assistant, but I've always wanted to travel,” confessed Sakura, and as the words left the woman's mouth Chita could feel the gears in her brain turning.
* * *
The Bran House, Merton Park, London, UK
Two Days Later...
Dieter Bran was proud of the home he'd managed to set up with his wife Marika in spite of his initial reservations about moving to London. Dieter liked that the house was a simple red brick building in a row of them, only one bathroom and two bedrooms but more than enough space for his family as it currently was. The downstairs living room did have a nice bar, which is what Dieter, his wife and their two houseguests were currently gathered around, enjoying some wine as they talked and laughed.
“So how did Tasia take it?” asked Marika as Dieter carefully refilled the wine glasses for Lucienne and Takahishi. Lucienne was dressed casually, wearing a sleeveless white V-neck top and a pair of stonewashed jeans Dieter couldn't remember ever seeing her wear before. Lucienne's hair was down and pulled around the left side of her head. Tak meanwhile was in a black T-shirt with the Bape Clothing logo on it and tan cargo pants, his hair not really combed.
“That was a surprisingly easy conversation,” revealed Lucienne, smiling and a bit red in the face, most likely due to the alcohol. “I do think she had a more personal farewell later that I didn't know about...”
“Sounds like her,” nodded Tak with a chuckle, also clearly drunk. “Still I think she'll be fine.”
“Yeah, it isn't like she'll have to try very hard to find a new girlfriend!” giggled Lucienne, shaking a bit as she leaned against the bar. “Oh... this is great, but I don't think we're going to be able to drive home...”
“It's okay, we've got the spare bedroom,” offered Dieter immediately, trying not to smirk.
“Yes, you're welcome to stay,” added Marika, Dieter noticing his wife did what he didn't, but neither of their guests seemed to notice.
“Thanks, it'll be great to spend a night with my new boyfriend,” slurred Lucienne, looking at Takahishi and smiling warmly.
“I love it when you call me that,” replied Tak, leaning in and giving Lucienne a big kiss.
“So Tasia's probably just going to stay at her place in London again, but you two planning to move in together?” asked Marika, Dieter now noting his wife was making a subtle gesture to him which made him check the clock.
“Yes, I think my place,” confirmed Lucienne with a smile, and that's when the time Dieter had been waiting for came. There was silence now, Lucienne leaning forward on her elbows with her hands on her chin, smiling brightly with a dream-like look on her face, Tak meanwhile leaning on his right hip with his right elbow on the bar counter and his left at his side. Neither of the guests were moving.
“Party time,” whispered Marika, grinning ear to ear as she moved around the bar and put her arms around Takahishi's waist.
“You timed that perfectly, love,” Dieter told his wife, referring to the time-release Type-7 they'd served their guests earlier.
“I told you it pays to have a wife who knows her chemistry,” giggled Marika as she spun Tak around and managed to get him up on her shoulder. Dieter knew his wife was strong but luckily Tak was also pretty light, probably not as heavy as the other guy Dieter had carried upstairs for her earlier that night before Lucienne and Takahishi had shown up.
“It is a nice bonus,” agreed Dieter as he got his right arm under Lucienne, eventually getting her up on his shoulder and letting her brown heel sandals fall off her feet as he carried her towards the stairs, right behind his wife.
“I'll see you in the morning, love you,” offered Marika as she turned to the left after reaching the top of the stairs. Dieter caught up with his wife and gave her a soft kiss, which was a bit awkward since each one of them had a person on their shoulder.
“Love you too,” answered Dieter, then watching his wife walk into their bedroom. Inside Dieter saw William Volt, whom Dieter had put there earlier, standing like a superhero with his hands on his hips. After the bedroom door closed Dieter turned and headed into the guest room. Standing at the foot of a queen-sized bed was Suzanna Ortiz, the Mexican-American beauty standing with her knees together, her hips swayed to the right, her hands behind her loose hair and a sultry look on her face. Suzanna was naked, Dieter having had enough time to strip her earlier before Lucienne and Tak had shown up. Originally Dieter had questioned Marika's wisdom, inviting over two couples in the same night for their own version of swinging, but it had worked flawlessly.
“And now lets get you naked,” announced Dieter, standing Lucienne upright and taking a moment to stroke her beaming face before getting to work. Raising her arms upwards Dieter was able to pull off the IT assistant director's top with ease, revealing she wasn't wearing a bra. Dieter took a moment to feel Lucienne's lovely breasts before dropping her jeans next, a red thong following and rendering the Frenchwoman completely nude.
“Nice,” smiled Dieter, casually dropping his own pants while leaving his plain red T-shirt on. “You're not my wife, but you're still gorgeous.” Dieter carefully laid Lucienne down on the bed, then putting Suzanna next to her and mounting the latter. After taking a moment to put on some protection, which he'd stashed in the drawer next to the bed, Dieter got to work, significantly aroused just by the act of stripping Lucienne.
“Oh yeah...” breathed Dieter, proceeding to then lean in and kiss Suzanna while fondling her breasts. This continued for a few minutes before the German pulled out and practically jumped over to Lucienne. Any loss of stimulation from the changeover time was quickly made up for as Dieter loved the feel of the Frenchwoman's skin. It wasn't another three minutes before Dieter no longer needed to thrust, his business done.
“Ha...” gasped Dieter as she sat atop Lucienne, sweating a bit and breathing fast. “I really do love my wife...”
Takahishi Nakamura – Takuya Kimura
Caesar Francisco – Jared Leto
Marcus Corrado – Alessio Sakara
Rurik Chekhol – Ryan Phillippe
Dianna Traynor – Jessica Chobot
Lucienne Christophe – Josie Maran
Zachary Song – Leonardo Nam
Ariel Landry – Maryse Ouellet
Larissa Penbrook – Sophia Myles
Kimberly Ewart – Rachel McAdams
Chita Francisco – Eve Torres
Jake Driscoll – Ryan Reynolds
Grace Tremblay – Missy Peregrym
Yosuke Imagawa – Koji Seto
Kaoru Yoshimoto – Mao Inoue
Sakura Ashikage – Eriko Tamura
Morgan Russell – Elisabeth Harnois
Hikaru Nakamura – Sachie Hara
Shingen Imagawa – Ken Watanabe
Kaguya Saito – Christy Hemme
Serena Hamm – Erin Burnett
Arun Chopra – Russell Peters
Dieter Bran – Til Schweiger
Marika Bran – Charlize Theron
William Volt – Simon Pegg
Suzanna Ortiz – Eva LaRue