I never wanted to be an agent.
A stormy Sunday night. Rain hits my apartment window gently in an almost soothing tempo. There isn't any thunder or lightning, just rain. In drama, they call it "pathetic fallacy" when the weather mirrors the mood of the story. Yeah, pretty pathetic. That's how I feel right now.
I look around the small living room of my apartment. It's well furnished, with a large sofa and a love seat surrounding a glass coffee table. A picture of a Japanese samurai hangs on the wall above a red-brown mahogany stand. It's the only real Japanese thing in the room. I grew up in the United States and I've adopted a lot of their ways, including home furnshings.
The samurai is a typical painting of the time. Actually, it's just a reproduction. It caught my eye one day at an art gallery's gift shop. Pretty cheesy, I still think. The samurai are noble warriors, equivalent to the paladins of western lore. Why do I have one hung on my wall? Is it to say that I'm like the samurai? No, I feel more like the ninja. Stealthy and cunning, but deceitful and untrustworthy.
I never wanted to be an agent. Not at first anyway. It was their idea. "They" being the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency of the US. Growing up in the States, I had a fascination with history and culture. I didn't know what kind of life that would lead me to but it was all I studied in university. Maybe I wanted to become a historian. Meanwhile, I trained hard in martial arts but that wasn't really my calling, not at first. I was what you could say, a very gifted student. Sensei, even though he wasn't Japanese, trained me hard, but well, and I rose to amateur fame.
That's when the CIA came poking into my life. A person who understands the idiosyncracies of society and the world, coupled with a deadly fighting abilities. They couldn't pass up that chance. And, I couldn't pass up their offer.
I check my watch. 10:59pm. Almost time. Sighing, I bring out the trusty laptop from its travel case and set it up on the coffee table. Oddly, I sit on the carpetted floor and not on the sofa itself. I didn't want to feel comfortable. Comfort equals laziness.
So I became a CIA agent; a field operative. They shipped me to Langley and I studied there. They honed my physical skills and sharpened my mind. I learnt to see patterns in chaos, understand actions from different perspectives, all that while learning to neutralize a target with my bare hands.
A beeping distracts my attention. I check my watch again. 11:02pm. Time.
I flip on the laptop and key in my password. I call up the remote login terminal window and turn on the wireless modem. Activating the high frequency decoder, I set the terminal ready to receive. All I need is the call.
CIA life was pretty interesting to say the least. See the world, meet people, spy on them, and if necessary, eliminate them. It wasn't until I returned to Japan on an assignment that I felt a longing for home. I don't know why, but I felt I didn't belonged in the States or with the CIA.
And so, just like that, I packed my bags and disappeared.
Actually I didn't just disappear. I died. At least, that's how Chobetsu arranged it. You see, I had lots of skills and Chobetsu was the perfect place to pick me up. Like the CIA, they were not willing to pass me up either. But, no one really leaves the CIA without being under constant watch. Not unless you're dead.
Suffice to say, Chobetsu did a very good job faking my death. A vengeful nemesis and a pack of C4 wired to my car. That's what the official CIA report said. There was little remains left to identify a body. Nobody could have survived. And nobody would have. I guess I forgot to mention I wasn't exactly in the car either.
Being in the intelligence community makes you paranoid. That is the first thing they instill in you at the academy. To this very day, there are rumors around that I still live. Well, not rumors, because I'm living testament of that, ne? But thankfully, I hadn't achieved very high status for a field agent. I was kind of like their drone. They sent me wherever they needed an extra pair of hands, capable of handling herself. But, I never got any high-profile assignments. I wasn't really worth all that much investigation. Kind of ironic. They worked so hard to get me but the first sign that I slipped up, they forget about me entirely.
It's called agency policy.
Things were different at Chobetsu than the CIA. We're more like the American Secret Service with a bit of James Bond style. Chobetsu is responsible investigating all areas pertaining to national security. From terrorists, to bank fraud, to kids who hack into the government computers.
Our director, Ryu, saw a potential in me, a lot like what sensei saw in my fighting prowess. He offered me high profile assignments and that's how it started. It's like any sort of job. Do your task, do it well and you move up in the ranks. There's nothing complicated going on. Life is simple, people are complicated. But, at least it's simple in that respect.
The wireless modem sounds a shrill, digitized ring. The tracer program on my laptop loads up immediately and begins a spike-trace on the call to make sure the originator is authentic. After a few minutes, it assures me the call is legit and the line is clear of taps. Then, the decoder program begins receiving the RSA encryption key to decoding all incoming and encoding all outgoing messages. Finally, a terminal window loads up. The Japanese text begins flowing on the screen.
~Konban wa, Sasami-chan~
«Konban wa, Tenkuu-san» I typed back. My official designation is Sasami, a character from some anime, for the time being. The names change every two weeks. It is a sort of code that reports my status. Only myself and the other end could know the names. Personally, it sounds pretty silly to have these names but that's how Ryu, or Tenkuu, likes it.
~I trust things are going well with you~
«Hai» Things were always as they were. More or less.
~It's been a while since I sent you a big assignment and I fear you might be getting lazy over there~
I grin. «I'll do an extra five set of stairs tomorrow morning» is my reply.
~I'm sending over the file now~
Another little terminal window loads up and another decoder program begins a new RSA private key decryption sequence. The file comes over fairly quickly and I open it up in another window. It depicts a small missile boat, sitting in Yokosuka bay. It is an American naval boat.
«It's an American naval boat» I typed back, repeating my thoughts.
~Yes. The Victory is returning to Yokosuka bay to drop off some crew for shoreleave. A skeleton crew is opening the boat up for tours by the general public. It's the Navy's way of extending good relations between them and the Japanese people.~
«What do you want me to get?»
~Check the third file~
I open up the third file in the packet and review the contents. I read it twice just to be sure. Quickly returning to the chat window, I hastily type, «Am I getting this right?»
~Yes. Everything is correct. There are no mistakes.~
«I understand» I let out a tense breath. I was never one to turn down any assignment.
~Good. Drop by tomorrow and the tech-boys will give you what you need. I know you'll execute in flawless manner.~
~Oyasumi nasai, Sasami~
The modem connection promptly goes dead. I study over the mission briefing once more before closing the file down. A subroutine sitting in the background would automatically run a low-level purge of the sector that the file sat on. The algorithm was cleverly designed so that once deleted, the file could not be retrieved, not even the smallest fragment.
The layout of the boat remains on my laptop as I would need to study that in detail. According to the briefing, I have one day to prepare before executing. Afterwards, the clock would be ticking.
I close the laptop and put it away. I tilt my head back onto the sofa cushion and let my eyes close, releasing some tension. It was best not to think about the assignment for the time being. I let my mind wander, focusing on anything that would clear my head. My eyes roam the room and they settle back on the painting of the samurai.
Sitting below the painting, on the table is a long sword, still sheathed in its plain scabbard. I get up and pick it up, fingering the cloth-bound hilt. I pull the sword out slightly and let the light reflect off the sheen, slightly curved blade. I slide the blade back in. There is no resistance, it was like putting a stick deep into a pond. It's a fitting name, I think. Mizuno Heiwa, harmony of water.
I walk to the window and watch the rain continue beating down on the glass. I look out into the dark, cloudy night sky. Ahlen, where are you? Are you happy there? Hugging myself, I let my forehead touch the pane, feeling the coolness of the outside air. I stay like that for several minutes.
I think about Yushido. I miss him too. I fight back a tear as his image floats into the forefront of my mind. I se his reflection in the window and reaching out a hand, I try to touch his face. But it isn't real, it's just my mind playing tricks on me. Yushido was why I never had a partner. Not on anything dangerous, anyways. His death shook me deeply and I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for his loss.
And then, there's Elyssa Au Yeung, the young girl from the Lurker's Retreat. She was supposed to be dead too and it was also because of me. Yet, the chinese girl was still alive. Maybe it was like how they faked my own death for the CIA's benefit. Elyssa and Yushido. Their two faces skittered across my eyes. One was dead, the other was supposed to be dead. Both were my fault.
The watch said it is 11:44pm. It was time I turned in for bed.
In the beginning, I never wanted to become an agent.
The headquarters of Chobetsu, dubbed "The Basement" was literally located in the subbasement level of the Tokyo International Exchange Bank. The building provided a perfect cover. Security was tight, surveillance cameras monitored the bank's activities constantly andthere was a steady flow of traffic in and out of the building.
Around 5pm was when the bank began its closing procedures. It was the perfect time for Kimiko to travel to "The Basement" and pick up her equipment. The mad rush of customers trying to get their transactions done at the last minute made this time of day one of the busiest. No one noticed Agent Souichi enter.
The first order of business was the elevators. The seventh elevator on the main building floor had a special keyhole on the access panel. Kimiko made sure she got into the empty car, inserted her entry key into the panel, turned it once to the left, and then to the right. Then, she removed the key and placed it back in her pocket.
The elevator went down past the basement level and stopped a few seconds after. As she exited the car, the doors behind her closed. Before her were another set of steel elevator doors, this time with a digital card entry system. There was only one way to exit the small room and that was by entering the second elevator. The former elevator would not open, trapping any uninvited guests until security came to deal with them.
Kimiko pulled out her access card and inserted it into a slot just underneath the electronic swipe. The slot was well concealed and only employees of Chobetsu knew it was there. In case of a security breach, the card could be swiped in the obvious slot and security would be notified immediately and discretely.
The doors slid open slowly and Kimiko entered the second elevator shaft. There were no buttons to press as it had only one destination, subbasement level 1.
Once the short ride was complete, the doors opened to a brightly lit hallway. At the far end was a solid door with a hand print scanner and voice recognition microphone. Kimiko placed her hand on the scanner, and said into the mic, "Souichi, Kimiko, code B345CZ." She waited for the machine to verify her. On the opposite wall was a clear glass. Inside was a small room where three security guards sat bored. They were dressed in the toughest kevlar and armed with automatic weapons. Surprisingly, the glass was shatterproof on Kimiko's side, but not on their side. Kimiko gave the men a curt nod. They didn't respond. They never respond, Kimiko thought blankly.
The door unlatched and she passed into the Chobetsu headquarters. The office was a buzz with activity as secretaries, or assistants as they liked to be called, hurried from task to task. The main assistant at the front desk, a mature woman, Jun Yammamoto, greeted Kimiko.
"Konban wa, Kimiko-san," Jun said. Kimiko looked at the wall clock. So, it was getting late, she noted. It takes damn long enough to get into the place.
"Good evening," she responded in Japanese. "Is my stuff ready?"
"Hai, Azakusa-san is waiting in his office."
Azakusa Miyamoto was the head of the tech department, in charge of outfitting the agents with whatever they needed; weaponry, high tech gadgetry and other devices. Miyamoto had worked for Chobetsu for over thirty years now, and he was one of the more senior members of the organization. He was very protective of his equipment, as many times they came back damaged or not at all. Kimiko remembered the first time she met Miyamoto and the stern lecture he gave on treating the equipment with care.
"Azakusa-san!" greeted Kimiko warmly. Her enthusiasm was a bit exaggerated.
"Oi, Kimiko-san," Miyamoto responded with a frown. "Come back to wreck some more of my precious toys, hmm?"
"Now, now, you know I take good care of them," Kimiko countered with a smile. She didn't think there was any sarcasm at herself in that response.
"If that were true, how come they come back in such poor conditions?"
"Well, I guess I must have overdone it with a few. But hey! They are so well conceived that I get carried away." Kimiko understood Miyamoto had to save face and she did so by reluctantly admitting her carelessness with the tools. She didn't really care how he thought about her except at the professional level. Besides, his equipment was the best, and sometimes accidents happen in the field.
Azakusa's frown seemed etched on his face. He smoothed the thinning hair over his balding head. He selected a briefcase from the floor and opened it for her.
The first thing he removed was a small cellular phone. "This is a compact digital modem." He pulled out a core from one end of the phone, connected to a port. "Plug this jack into the computer you are using and you can download everything through the phone. Don't try talking into it, it only sends high speed data."
"Guess I can forget about ordering some sashimi," jested Kimiko. That got a raised eyebrow.
Next, he took out a small emitter-type device. "This is the communications destablizer. Run this through the main communications system on board and it will scramble all the circuitry, rendering the electronics inoperable. It uses a small electromagnetic pulse so please be careful."
"How shocking," she said in an amused tone.
"Why Kimiko, since when did you have a sense of humour?"
Now it was her turn to frown.
"That's basically all you need," he said resignedly. He looked like the father of the bride, about to give up his daughter. "May I remind you it takes a lot of money in R&D to develop and make these things."
"Hai, hai," she said in a rushed tone, checking her watch. It was approaching 6pm. "Well, as always Azakusa-san, it's been a pleasure." She gave a deep bow for respect, quick as it was.
The briefcase holding all the equipment was fairly light. She dashed down to the personnel acquisitions department. A middle aged man by the name of Ryusenshima Taka. She didn't know him too well though.
"Good evening, Ryusenshima-san."
"Ah.. Agent Souichi. Okay, I have what you needed." He pulled out a small black bag. "Inside is your uniform. Here's your identification card." He handed her a US Navy id card with her picture on it. "Your name is Rebecca Tran-Lopez. You're an ensign with the Data Informations department. Your father was an A4 Intruder pilot out of Haiphong during the Vietnam war and your mother was a local prostitute there. After the pullout, your father took you to America where you raised on various army bases." He liked giving colourful backgrounds. He handed her some envelopes. "Inside you'll find your official instructions and boarding papers onto the Victory, as well as any other background information."
"Thanks," Kimiko said, flipping through the documents quickly. Basically, they provided her with a legitimate reason to be on board the Victory and access to the computer systems. She could have chosen a tourist as a cover, it would have been easier to get on board, but harder to get to where she needed to go.
The trip out of "The Basement" was uneventful. She chatted with a few of the assistants, bag in one hand and briefcase in the other. The bank on the main floor had closed but employees were often seen leaving well after hours, as working overtime was an unspoken part of Japanese work-life.
The crisp night air gave Kimiko a chill as she walked down the street to the subway station. She passed through a group of people walking theopposite direction when a blur caught the side of her eye. With littletime to react, a hand grabbed her briefcase and the figure ran off. "STOP!!" Kimiko shouted and chased after the man.
The thief fled down the sidewalk, weaving in and out of pedestrians' way, knocking the occassional one over. Angry passerby's shouted at him, telling him to watch out. They were equally displeased as Kimiko streaked past in pursuit.
The suitcase contained a lot of sensitive and high tech equipment and there was no way she was going to let some street punk steal it off her on her way home. Besides, how would she explain this one to Azakusa-san?
She turned around the corner down a narrow street. It was more of an alleyway with fire escapes hanging below steel grated balconies and trashcans lined the side. The thief made splashes in the puddles on the ground, making it easy for Kimiko to track him. She continued after him.
He rounded another corner and Kimiko followed. It was a dead end. What was more, the punk was nowhere to be found. Kimiko stopped abruptly and searched, a slight despair sinking in. Where the hell did he go? She looked up the walls to see if he climbed skywards, but he hadn't.
The patter of footsteps behind her caused her to twirl around. Four men, wearing nothing but white tank tops, pants and white headbands. They carried a variety of baseball bats, rods, and one had a wicked cleaver.
The man she had been chasing emerged from his hiding spot behind a large garbage pile and joined his buddies. The confident smirks told Kimiko that they were waiting for her.
"Ah, there you are," she said calmly to the man she had been chasing. "If you'll return my briefcase, there won't be any trouble, ne?"
The young man laughed haughtily. "Nee-chan, last time I counted, there's five of us and one of you!" He had quite the condescending tone. And second of all, Kimiko hated being called 'nee-chan', which was slang for 'babe' or 'chick'.
"We want your purse and the rest of your stuff and we won't hurt you." He added a lewd grin. "Much."
"I want her first this time," said another punk. They all looked the same to Kimiko, and it didn't take much imagination to figure out what they had in mind.
Kimiko took in the situation carefully. Five men, armed with bats and knives, against herself alone, with no weapons. Those were not good odds, she mused mentally. Not good for them. She dropped her duffle bag (the one holding her uniform) and leaned back against the sidewall. She wrapped her long bangs around her finger playfully and said in a seductive tone, "Okay, but be gentle."
The kid, as Kimiko decided they were all really kids, who spoke up smiled even more lustfully and approached her. He grabbed the back of neck forcefully and pulled her close to his body.
Kimiko brought her fist hard into his stomch, causing him to double over. She kneed him between the legs and a final uppercut sent him flying to the ground. He writhed in pain.
The other four rushed her quickly, bats and rods and knives raised. Kimiko grabbed two garbage can lids and used them as shields as the weapons bore down on her. She pushed off hard, sending two men flying while the other two kept attacking. Blocking a chop from a cleaver, she angled the lid sideways, jabbing it into the kid's chest. At the same time, she ducked a swing from the other's bat. Spinning on one foot, she tripped him and as she came back up, delivered an underswing with the lid against the knifewielder. The aluminum lid smashed solidly into his chin, knocking him out instantly.
The two she had sent flying came back to strike once more. She flung the slightly bent lid at one, hitting him in the face. The man on the ground hauled her legs down and she fell. Kimiko back-rolled out of the overhand swing of a rod. She got up and ran towards the corner of the alley, the two men chasing.
Kimiko clambered up the corner, using the walls to push herself off and up. When she got enough height, she jumped off and rotated her body. She extended her left leg backwards, knocking one into the wall. The other leg kicked out, hitting the fifth man in the throat. She landed on the ground with a perfect split.
She got back up and dodged the slash of the cleaver-wielding punk. He swung wildly from side to side. Kimiko caught his arm on one downward swing, bending his arm backwards. There was a snap of the bones, and he dropped the cleaver. She gave him an elbow to the face, turned him around and flung him facefirst into the wall. He crumpled to the ground.
Two guys got back up, but the mean look on Kimiko's face had convinced them. They ran out the alley. The first kid was still squirming in pain. She bent over and grabbed him by the hair painfully. "And I don't like being called 'nee-chan!'" she growled, releasing his head.
Dusting herself off, she grabbed her duffle bag and retrieved the stolen briefcase. She opened it to see if anything was broken. Thankfully, the soft padding around each device protected it from the wild chase.
Kimiko left the alleyway. Sighing, she looked over her clothes to find them dirty from the fight. More than anything, she wanted a hot bath. For the day after tomorrow, she had a United States Navy boat to infiltrate.
The big banner outside the USS Victory read, in both English and Japanese, "Free Tour today. Sponsored by the United States Embassy and the United States Navy." The air was crisp with a salty breeze at Yokosuka bay, the base for US naval air station. On the bridge, Captain James Graves watched the group of people gathering outside for the tour.
"Looks like a fair sized crowd," Executive Officer Cmdr. Dawson Briggs commented.
"That indeed, XO," Graves responded. "Tell the crew, those that are ready to depart for shore leave may now do so."
"Aye aye, sir" Briggs said smartly. "Aren'tcha gonna come ashore too, sir? There's a great little bar in town, opened by some 'mericans. Damn best whiskey you'll ever have this side of the Pacific."
"That's okay Daws, thanks. But, I rather stay on watch with the skeleton crew. Victory is my home. People wonder why I'm not a married man, being into my years. Truth be told, Daws, I'm married to the Victory. She's my gal."
Briggs chuckled. He enjoyed that sort of talk by the 'old schoolers'. They personified their ships, had feelings for them and such. He felt the same way too, he supposed. Victory was a fine ship and she got them through the worst of times, but he remembered that it was just a collection of steel rivets and plating. "A'ight sir," letting loose his Texan accent. "I'll see you when we get back."
"Hold it ma'am," corporal Rodgers halted the woman coming up the starboard entry. "I need to see your papers."
Kimiko put her briefcase down and took out some documents in a folder under her arm. She handed it to the marine corporal. He was attired in khaki brown fatigues and had a combat helmet on. Kimiko was in normal dress whites along with a small identification card clipped to her breast pocket.
"Lt. JG Tran-Lopez?" he asked. She nodded. "I don't recall there being a schedule overhaul of the communications system."
"No?" Kimiko said in mock astonishment. "The admiral at InfoDiv said that the Victory was long overdue for a software upgrade on their radar and comsat system."
"I don't know ma'am, I better clear this with the bridge."
Kimiko thought quickly. "Corporal, I'm late as it is. Besides, the crew is readying to depart for shore-leave. Are you sure you want to delay the command staff just because of me? Furthermore, when I meet with the Captain tonight for dinner, I don't want to mention this incident in case he asks if I had any problems getting on board."
"You're dining with the Captain tonight?" the corporal asked suddenly. He also added, "Ma'am?"
Kimiko smiled. "My father served under Captain Graves' squadron when he was CAG on the Eisenhower during 'Nam. He's like an uncle to me. We have a lot to catch up on."
The CAG, or Commander-Air-Group, was the seniormost flight combat officer aboard a ship, usually a carrier. He (or she nowadays) was in charge of the pilots under that squadron and usually selected the missions and provided briefings. He was also constantly in direct contact with the bridge in order to understand the scope of mission situations. It was not unusual for a CAG to be promoted to captain a vessel, though usually a small one like the USS Victory, a missile boat for all intents and purposes.
The corporal shifted visibly. He already had an incident with the Captain and didn't particularly want to incur his anger again. It was lucky for Kimiko that Corporal Rodgers was on watch. "Alright, come aboard ma'am. And give the Captain my regards."
She nodded curtly. "Very well, corporal. Good day."
Drab gray bulkheads and portholes lined the corridor that Kimiko walked through. She kept her head up and her briefcase close to her side. The impression of fitting in was important for reconnaissance. If you looked out of place, even in the slightest, chances were you didn't belong there, anyways.
After passing Corporal Rodgers, Kimiko pulled out a pair of small, wireframed glasses. They looked perfectly normal to anyone staring at her. But, the one-way screen carefully placed on the inside of the lenses gave Kimiko a portable map of the ship. The glasses were remotely linked to the laptop in her briefcase, and there was a small microphone behind the earpiece for voice recognition. She quietly mentioned "comm room" and the lenses automatically began showing her the quickest route to the communications room.
Along the way she met several crewmembers, some going about their duties, others getting ready for their shoreleave. Some saluted her, she returned it sharply. A few gave her some smiles, probably thinking she might be free tonight. Kimiko ignored them; she had a job to do. Besides, she read somewhere that POSSOH was forbidden. Persons of opposite sex sharing off-duty hours.
The communications room was a somewhat small area lined with radar equipment and computers. A young ensign was on watch. She had short brown hair held back neatly with gel. She snapped to attention as Kimiko stepped into the room.
"Ma'am," the ensign said sharply with a salute.
Kimiko returned the salute. "Ensign.." she looked at the nametag, "Jenson?" The ensign nodded. Kimiko handed her the phony briefs. "I'm here to retrofit your computers with the latest software. Orders come from InfoDiv."
Ens. Jenson nodded again and smiled. "I don't really recall any order for upgrades," she started. Kimiko was about to assure her that everything was being taken care of through proper channels, but Jenson continued, "but since you're here, let's get started."
"Ahh," Kimiko said instead, "actually I was hoping you could get me a coffee. I'll get things set up. Get one for yourself, too."
Jenson shrugged. "No problem ma'am." She left the room without any hesitations. Kimiko blinked. According to what she knew of Navy protocol, at least one officer was to remain on watch at stations at all times. She decided that what with some of the crew on shoreleave and the rest overseeing the tourists coming aboard, there weren't that many people around.
She closed the hatch to the comm room softly, and quickly opened her briefcase. The laptop took up most of the space along with the highspeed phone-modem and a small black box with several leads sticking out from the side, the communications destabilizer. She removed the device and connected it to the underpanel of the main communications terminal. Pressing the button, an electromagnetic surge pulsed through the boards, permanently disabling the circuits. The circuits were easily replaced, once ordered, but it would take a while. And, in the meantime, no one could communicate with the Victory.
Kimiko was just putting the destabilizer back into her briefcase when the hatch opened and Jenson came back with two cups of coffee. She put them down on the middle table. Kimiko took out her laptop and opened it up. She pointed to the bookshelf of binders. "Can you hand me the operator's manual. I need to see what equipment you have, specifically."
Jenson, walked over to the shelf as she explained. "Well, basically we're outfitted with the RX-323A system. It's kinda old, and we put in a requistion for upgrades a while ago." Kimiko took the chance to slip a colourless liquid into Jenson's coffee. She grabbed her own cup and took a sip, pretending to listen. "They said it wouldn't happen for several months. Guess we got lucky and bumped us up on the waiting list, ma'am?"
"Indeed," Kimiko agreed as the ensign handed her the red binder. "You guys were long overdue." She stuck with the same story from before. She watched the ensign take a sip of the drugged coffee. Kimiko put her cup down, and began flipping through the binder as she waited for the drug to take its effect. "Hmmm.." she mused in pretend thought. "Okay, I think we'll have to overwrite the subroutines here--"
"Oh..." the ensign moaned as Kimiko expected. "I don't feel so good."
"Ensign? Are you okay?"
She got up, queasily. "I don't know. Uh.. I think I need to go to the head."
Kimiko got up slowly, offering to help. "Why don't I take you there, you don't look good."
Jenson held a hand to her mouth and quickly ran out the hatch to the nearest washroom. Kimiko quickly closed the hatch behind and secured it. Now, she was ready to work.
"This is the hangar," Lieutenant Brody explained to the group of Japanese tourists. A liason-officer, Ensign Takamura, translated as he spoke. "As you can see, we can store a Seahawk," indicating the medium-sized helicopter with folded rotor blades, "in here. They're mostly for search and rescue, and for transporting crewmen from ship to ship."
He looked at the group as the ensign translated. There were about thirty Japanese on board, a fairly diverse group in terms of age. A few of the tourists were families with children. The parents kept their kids close to them, not wanting them to stray aboard the military vessel.
Brody couldn't believe his luck, getting stuck to babysit these people. He had been looking forward to shoreleave. There was a special girl at the Misty Spring bar he wanted to see. He didn't think his luck could get any worse.
A pregnant woman near the back of the group cried out and clutched her stomach. The group turned to see what was going on. Her husband quickly knelt over her as she spoke quickly. Brody closed his eyes in disbelief. He turned to the ensign. "What's she saying? What's going on?"
They pushed through the group of tourists to get a better idea of the woman's situation. Her husband was still hovering over her while another man supported her back. Ensign Takamura listened quickly. "I think she needs a doctor."
"Oh great, just great," Brody complained. He put a hand on the husband's shoulder. "Hey!" he said loudly and slowly. "We're going to get a doctor." He turned to Takamura. "Tell them the doctor--"
Two bullets entered his chest at pointblank range, muffled by the muzzle of a silencer. His eyes widened as he saw the husband holding the gun turn to Takamura. Then, everything went blurry and he collapsed.
Kimiko had the laptop hooked up quickly to the main terminal. Although the communication circuits were destroyed, she could still access any local data. The folders she was looking into were encrypted, and so she loaded up the appropriate program on her laptop to break the code. It would take time. However, the drug she put in Jenson's coffee would keep her occupied for the next half hour. Plenty of time, Kimiko decided.
She drummed her fingers on the console watching the numbers on the laptop screen rapidly change, attempting to decipher the encrypted files. Suddenly, the handle on the latch turned. Kimiko looked up. The drug couldn't have worn off that quickly.
Kimiko rose to see who it was. The two men who entered trained their weapons on her. "Kill her," the first ordered.
The man aimed his pistol.
"IYA!!" Kimiko shouted in Japanese. "Please don't kill me!"
The man hesitated, looking to the other for instructions. The other man was slightly surprised. "You're Japanese?"
Kimiko nodded frantically. "I was born in Tokyo but I moved to the United States when I was older. I enlisted with the N-Navy there." She kept her face tense and frightened, adding a stutter to her voice.
"What is your job?" he asked.
She glanced to the terminal where her laptop was still decrypting the password. "I'm a systems engineer," she replied, calming her voice a little. "I'm upgrading the weapons systems for the ship."
"You know the weapons systems?"
Kimiko nodded again. The man lowered the other man's arm, much to Kimiko's relief. She studied the two quickly. The man whom she assumed was the leader looked to be about mid thirties with short cropped hair. The other man, younger, had a buzz cut. They wore baggy, nondescript civilian clothing with no identifiable marks. They were not much taller than her, and she could probably handle them in a fight.
"We'll take her with us," the leader whispered to the other man. He turned his attention back to Kimiko. "You will cooperate with us or we will kill you. Understood?"
She nodded again, shaking visibly. As long as they perceived no threat from her, she would have the advantage of surprise. But, for the time being, she decided to play along and see what these men were up to.
They burst into the bridge with two more men. The bridge crew was undermanned today, as most officers were away on shoreleave. Consequently, there was no resistance as the four armed gunmen announced their arrivals pointedly.
The younger man, who had earlier been pointing his gun at Kimiko, held her arm securely. "Translate," he ordered her. Kimiko nodded.
"I am taking control of this vessel," the leader said in Japanese. Kimiko translated for the crew. "I have exactly twenty-seven civilian people under guard in the hangar area. The hangar entrances are triggered with explosives. Any attempt to enter without the proper precautions will result in their deaths."
"Who are you and what do you want?" demanded Captain Graves.
"What I want," he replied after Kimiko translated back, "is not your concern. What I want is for no one to be hurt. As long as you follow my orders, no one will be." He paused. "I have also sealed access to your weapons locker." He calmly strode past the infuriated captain, and took a seat in the command chair. He swiveled around once to make his point. "My first order is to have this ship out in the harbour."
The ensign at the navigation station looked hesitantly towards his captain. Graves nodded firmly to follow the instructions. "Hoisting up anchors. Engines powering up, sir."
"Have him steer to a heading of 250 degrees, full speed."
Again, the ensign looked to his commanding officer for confirmation. He complied.
"Matsuro!" the leader said. The man holding Kimiko pushed her aside and stepped forward. "Take the communications station and monitor any transmissions."
"Hai!" Matsuro pointed his gun at the comm officer, indicating for him to move. The young officer got up quickly and retreated near his captain's side. Matsuro put on the headphones and pressed several buttons. He turned back. "I think something's wrong," with a confused furrow, "it seems dead."
Kimiko gulped. She had inadvertently destroyed their only means to communicate the situation back to shore. She laughed inwardly at the irony.
"Forget it then," the leader said. He turned back to the captain. "I want the missile codes for the harpoons."
Captain Graves steeled himself after Kimiko translated the request. "I cannot give you those codes."
"Let me make it clear, Captain. You are not in a position to bargain. If you do not comply with my demands, I will begin executing your crew, two at a time." His men grabbed the comm officer and another young man. Forcing them on their knees, the men aimed their weapons at their heads.
Graves swallowed hard. "This crew knew the risks when they signed on. They, and I, are willing to die, if need be."
The leader smiled. "I see. Well, then I will not kill two crewmen at this time." He pulled out his pocket microphone and spoke into it. He turned to Kimiko with an arched eyebrow.
She turned to Captain Graves. "Sir, he has just ordered one of his men in the hangar to select a hostage."
Graves nearly rushed the smirking leader in his chair. The men aimed their weapons quickly and Matsuro restrained the Captain. "You son of a bitch!" Graves shouted. "Those are innocent people!"
It was unclear if the leader understood or not. He held out the speaker towards the captain. A frightened voice came through. "My name is Sadaharu Aika." There was a pause and a sniffle. "I'm twelve years old."
The leader turned off the speaker. "If you do not give me the missile codes, I will execute one of your crewmen and that little girl. You have five seconds to decide. Then, they will die and I will select another two. You may be willing to sacrifice your crew, but how many innocent people must die before you give me those codes!?"
"You bastard," the captain swore. Graves paused momentarily, but slumped his shoulders back in resignation. He reached into his shirt, and pulled out a metal chain hanging around his neck. Attached were two metal keys. He pulled the chain over his head and tossed it to the leader. "The command codes are 3-4-7-alpha-6-6-tango-charlie-0."
The leader smiled, and tossed the keys to Matsuro. "Arm the missiles," he ordered, and motioned to Kimiko. "Take our weapons expert with you." He nodded, and grabbing Kimiko by the arm, they left the bridge.
The small communications room below housed the missile guidance system. Kimiko noticed her laptop had finished deciphering the lockout key to the system database when they returned. Matsuro shoved her roughly into the chair, and ordered her to prime the missiles for launch.
Fortunately, Kimiko's briefing went over systems on board the Victory, and she had a pretty good idea how to arm the missiles. She selected the 'Harpoons' from the weapons loadout screen. A prompt appeared on screen requesting command codes. She typed in the codes as Captain Graves recounted. The prompt cleared; apparently he decided to give the correct codes. A second prompt appeared, requesting the master arm key be inserted and enabled. Matsuro put the key in himself, turned it and snapped off the metal part, leaving the key permanently stuck.
"MASTER ARM ENABLED, PLEASE ENTER TARGET COORDINATES:" the screen read.
Kimiko gave him a wary glance. Matsuro pulled out a paper and showed her the coordinate numbers. The lattitude and longitude readings, right down to the minutes and seconds looked familiar to her.
"That's the parliament building!" she said with shock. "You want to destroy the government?"
"The prime minister and his cabinet are holding a meeting today. With these gaijin weapons, we will strike down the government and build it anew! Asakari assured us that a new age for Japan would come."
"But, what if that new government isn't what you hoped for?" Kimiko asked, still reeling.
"Nevermind! We take down the current government. We can take down the next, if necessary!" There was no mistaking the fanatical expression in his eyes. This man, and the others who were part of the plot, were determined terrorists. They were the very people Kimiko was assigned to eliminate.
Matsuro pressed the lock-out switch. Picking up his radio, he spoke to Asakari. "The missiles are ready. Control has been transferred to the bridge. They are ready to launch, at your will."
The voice crackled at the speaker. "Good job. Report back here. Out."
It was time to act. Kimiko elbowed Matsuro quickly in the face. Matsuro stumbled back, dropping the radio. Dazed, he tried to duck Kimiko's rapid jabs, but failed. The last thing he saw was the monitor screen as she smashed his head into it.
She scambled to the guidance system, trying to cancel the missile arm command. It didn't work. The key that was firmly lodged in the hole could not be removed, no matter how hard she tried picking at it with her nails. Frustrated, she kicked the computer. There was only one course of action. She had to prevent Asakari from launching them from the bridge.
She turned over her laptop and removed the battery cover and battery. The laptop had its own internal power source, and the battery was there for show. She felt underneath the cavity until her finger found a familiar latch. Pressing it, the bottom of the laptop popped open. Exposed was the motherboard and other computer components. However, a medium sized hole, amoung all the circuit boards, housed her handgun. It was the reason why she used such a bulky computer when slimmer models were available.
She popped the gun out, and checked the magazine to make sure it was full. Slamming it hard back into the base of the handle, she released the safety.
Kimiko had to move fast. She had at most five minutes before Asakari wondered why Matsuro didn't return. Ten if she was very lucky. There was one thing she needed to take care of first. She adjusted her glasses. "Hangar" she said, and the lenses showed her the route to the bay where the hostages were being held. She followed the route quickly and found the main entrance unguarded. However, she couldn't be sure if Asakari had been bluffing about the explosives. She couldn't take that chance.
"Vents," she said, and her glasses showed her all the crawlways in the area. Indeed, there was one that lead to the hangar bay. Finding the appropriate ventilation panel, she kicked it in and began crawling through. Navigating the vents was not too difficult. Her slim frame made it possible to pull herself through the narrow ducts. Following the route her glasses provided, she came to a corresponding vent panel in the hangar bay. She peered through the grates.
One armed terrorist, a woman, patrolled the hangar below the vent panel. A group of tourists sat huddled together in front of the Seahawk, frightened but silent. Kimiko waited until the woman stopped underneath the panel. Turning herself around she took a deep breath, and kicked the panel outwards. At the same time, she pushed herself out with it.
The startled woman turned and saw Kimiko flying at her. She raised her weapon to fire, but Kimiko knocked it down on her descent. The tourists screamed, and got as far from the fight as possible.
The woman raised her hands in defense and gave Kimiko a kick. Kimiko dodged it by crouching quickly and tried to sweep the woman. The woman saw that coming and jumped. When she landed, Kimiko tried to punch her. The woman blocked it and their arms locked. Kimiko reared her head and promptly butted her opponent in the face. She felt her glasses crack on the impact and tore them away from her face. She was slightly stunned from the attack, which was partially why she rarely used it. Fortunately, it left her opponent in a more incapacitated state. Kimiko delivered her own kick to the woman's head and she was knocked out.
Breathing hard, she quickly inspected the doorway to the hangar. Indeed, it had been wired with explosives. However, the configuration looked fairly simple. They didn't anticipate anyone to try and disarm it.
"Does anyone have some nail clippers?" she asked the group of tourists. A young woman searched through her purse and produced one. Even better, it had a pair of folding scissors. Kimiko opened them up and began tracing the wires. She felt someone over her shoulder.
"Isn't it the red wire?" a young man asked.
Kimiko glared. "Get away from here!" she hissed.
"What if you cut the wrong wire?"
"Then, we all die! Now go away!" The man skittered back. Kimiko sighed and started again, having lost her concentration. Normally, she would double-check as she went through, bomb defusal not being her particular expertise. But, she felt pretty sure she had the right wire. Unless, of course, they wired it up to make it look easy. She had seen a few of those in training, and they always caught her off guard. This one happened to look rather similar to those.
She berated herself. There wasn't much time. She couldn't start second guessing herself. Asakari would suspect something was wrong, and she definitely wanted the advantage of surprise. Closing her eyes, she cut the wire. No explosion. The bomb shut off as well. Breathing a hard sigh of relief, she pushed back her red brown hair.
"Alright," she told the group of tourists. "Don't leave this place!"
The young man that had been bothering her stepped forward. "What if she wakes up?" he pointed to the woman on the floor.
Kimiko threw him the woman's gun. "I dunno, shoot her." The man fumbled the gun into his hands, scared it might go off. Kimiko left the hangar, head shaking.
She raced back to the bridge. Up the small stairs and just outside the doors, she heared Asakari speaking into his radio.
"Matsuro? Matsuro, report in!"
Kimiko pulled out her gun. She was just in time. In her mind, she counted to three. One.
"Matsuro? Reki, go find out what's going on."
Kimiko leapt into the bridge and rolled. Standing up, she located the closest target and fired. She turned rapidly and aimed at the second target, who was just bringing his weapon up. She fired again, taking him out. Finally, she located Asakari. Unfortunately, he had enough time to raise his own gun and grab the young comm officer.
"Drop your weapon," he ordered her, gun aimed at the officer's head.
"Drop yours." She kept her gun steady and aimed at Asakari's head.
The situation was tense. Kimiko felt a bead of sweat trickle down her face. Asakari pushed the officer at her, blocking her shot. Kimiko pulled up quickly to avoid shooting him. At the same instant, Asakari reached the control on the bridge station and pressed it. Kimiko re-aimed once the officer was out of the way and fired. The bullets entered Asakari's chest a split second after he fired the missiles. Blood sprayed all over the console before his body slid to the floor.
Captain Graves was in her face immediately. "Who are you? You're not part of my crew." "I don't have time to explain, Captain," Kimiko answered, putting her gun away. "That man just fired two harpoon missles directed towards the Japanese parliament building. The cabinet is in session today, as is the prime minister. He's planning to topple the government."
"Abort the missles," he ordered to the shaken comm officer. The young man took his station. "I can't sir. The uplink to the missles has been disabled when the comm system went down."
Kimiko felt like kicking herself. "What's the ETA on the missles?"
"Seven minutes," the comm officer replied.
"I don't suppose anyone has a cell phone?" the Captain muttered.
Kimiko's eyes widened.
Breaking through the clouds, a US Navy F14 Tomcat descended rapidly over Tokyo Bay. The pilot checked his radar. Two blips appeared ahead of him.
"Farragate, this is Recoil-1, I have missiles in sight. Weapons are hot. Attempting to lock on." He switched to his air-to-air missiles. The buzz on his console indicated a lock was not possible. "Farragate, this is Rocoil-1. I have no lock tone. Switching to guns." He flipped the selector to guns and manouvered into firing range. Once he was withing fifty meters, he began firing.
The first volley missed, and he adjusted. The second volley of shots destroyed the first missile. "Missile one has been destroyed." He quickly scanned the horizon. The city was coming into view. He began firing at the second missile. This time, his aim was true on the first try, and the second missile exploded in mid-air.
He brought his tomcat up. "Farragate, Recoil-1. Missiles destroyed. Returning home."
"Sir, the missles have been destroyed!" the comm officer reported as the lights monitoring them went off. The clock indicated they were only three minutes from reaching their target.
Captain Graves slumped in his chair, relieved. "Thank god," he breathed. "Ensign, return us to dock."
"Aye sir. Bringing us about."
Graves scanned the bridge. They had removed the three bodies and cleaned up the mess. They also found the other man unconscious in the communications room and a detained woman in the hangar. Both were put in the brig so they could be brought back to standtrial. However, he couldn't find the woman that had stopped the terrorist plot. He didn't recall having any Japanese officers onboard, other than Takamura.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of a helicopter fly overhead.
Kimiko landed the seahawk at the Naval base at Yokosuka. The watchman that met her on the pad was quite surprised at her unannounced arrival.
"No time to explain," Kimiko said to him. "The USS Victory is coming back, and they'll need an electronics team to repair their communications system. And, tell them to their chopper is here too. Thanks!" She rushed off, briefcase in hand, before he could say anything.
"NANI!!??" Azakusa Miyamoto exclaimed. Kimiko dumped the crumpled glasses in his outstretched hands. She had picked them up on her way off the ship. Azakusa held them up by the hinge. One of the lenses, the only one that remained to return home, was cracked. The other lense was missing. "What did you do them?!"
"Gomen, ne," Kimiko apologized. "They came in very handy, though."
"Kimiko, this is the third time you've returned with damaged equipment! You think this stuff comes for free? Who's going to pay to make more?"
She shrugged. "File it with accounting." She checked her watch quickly. "Oi, I have to check in with the chief for debriefing. Ja, ne!" She bowed curtly and left the tech department head fuming.
"Chief," Kimiko bowed deeply as she entered his large office, located in the second subfloor of the Chobetsu headquarters. She placed the briefcase holding her laptop on the floor and produced a disc. "Here's the data I downloaded from the Victory's database."
"Good job, Kimiko," the chief said. "You can throw that away."
Kimiko blinked. "I'm sorry, chief?"
"Yes, you can throw it away. We don't need it."
Kimiko adjusted her stance. "But, I don't understand."
The chief explained. "A few weeks ago, a US U-2 military spy-plane was sent to take pictures of a rumoured weapons facility in Akichiga. We let the information leak out naturally, and the United States wanted to confirm any unsupervised military build-up. But, in truth, there is no weapons facility in Akichiga. All they had were pictures of a really large warehouse that stores children's toys. We have people there whose task is to maintain the inventory, making it look like a fully operational facility."
The agent eyed her chief. "So, there is no facility. You sent me on a mission to steal spy pictures of something that doesn't exist? Why?"
The chief shook his head, disappointed. "Didn't they teach you kids in the CIA? Appearances are everything. If it looks like we've got a secret weapons base at Akichiga, then we probably do. And, if we were to send in an agent to retrieve pictures of supposed weapons base, then surely we have something to hide. But, the US can't risk accusing us. They would be admitting that they have spy planes monitoring Japan, a fact that would enrage the Japanese people. No, so we keep the illusion that we have a weapons facility there."
"But we don't," Kimiko repeated, mostly to herself. She made a few assumptions in her mind. "Chief, we don't have a weapons facility at Akichiga. But, we do have one somewhere else?"
He grinned. "Ah, you have redeemed yourself today," he chuckled. "Correct. We want the Americans to think it's at Akichiga. Now that you've stolen their own recon photos of it, they have invested interest to keep looking towards there. Perhaps more determined. It doesn't matter if they discover the truth about the warehouse. We'll just leak out a different location. Think of it as a cat and mouse game. But, who is the cat and who is the mouse?" He smiled at his witty analogy.
"You're my best agent," the chief commented, "and it's always important to send your best people out on the important assignments. Please don't think we used you in some shameless way. The task you had was a very delicate matter. We couldn't allow any foul-ups." He smiled warmly and took her hand. "As always, you've done a good job. In fact, I hear you took out some terrorists along the way. I don't suppose you could fix the national debt while you're at it?" Kimiko blushed at his compliment. "You've earned some good rest. I'll call you when your next assignment comes up. Good day."
Kimiko bowed again. "Hai. Good day."
Kimiko walked out of her chief's office. She reflected back to the previous night in her apartment. She never wanted to become an agent, at first. But, she was, and a damned good one, at that, she allowed herself the exultation.
[T H E E N D]