It was sweltering inside the Ford Americar.
Spooky had insisted on keeping the windows up. "What's the point of tinted windows if we roll them down?" but the air conditioning system, which Dion had assured them was working, was definitely not.
"Which one of these guys do we want again?" Spooky asked, using one hand to wipe sweat out of his eyes while the other was resting on the steering wheel. He was peering intently at the people on the opposite side of the street from where they had parked
"Guy in the charcoal suit, black tie, bad hair cut." Brownie's eyes were half lidded and he didn't bother to move his head from where it was resting.
"You literally just described twelve people." Spooky eyed the foot that was on the dashboard. "And this isn't my car, man, could you have some fucking manners?"
Brownie thrust a finger, irritated and impatient from the heat, but kept the foot where it was. "That guy, right there. Talking to the older woman in the red shirt. And this car is a piece of shit. I could scuff this dash and do fifty nuyen in repairs to it."
"Got him. Sin, I'm marking him on the AR feed. Can you tag his 'link?"
Ag obair 今. Was the reply
"Uh, thanks. What makes you think he's the one that's gonna have answers, Mr. Brownstone?"
The Doc ignored Spooky's newest nickname for him. "Look at how the rest of the people interact with him, especially the other Yak soldiers. The bows are just a little deeper, a little longer. He stops and talks to just about every shop owner along the block and everyone has smiles and nods for him. There's a level of respect he's being shown that the other sararimen simply aren't getting"
"There's something weird about his aura." commented Mickey from the backseat. She was in the middle of doing some sort of complicated braid with SINderella's hair. The heat didn't seem to be bothering her. Probably some Cat shaman thing.
"Toxic? Insect? Shedim? Something worse?" asked Spooky.
"No. Nothing like that. Just…odd. Can't put my finger on it."
Commlink owned agus níl a fhíos aige. I’m copying かれの全てのデータ agus 分析し始めている.
"Excellent." Spooky put the car in gear and started driving down the street. "Time to meet up with Mack and Shugga and make a plan."
Mack's garage smells like burned metal and motor oil, signature scents of any real motor shop. Other than the lingering odor of welding and work, the room was easily as clean as the exam rooms of most Street Docs. Sin had a projector displaying against a bare wall that Mack had kindly left blank for just this exactly that kind of thing. The big mechanic was leaning against his Roadmaster, cleaning grease off of his hands while Shugga passed out food from a couple of paper bags and Mickey spoke.
"Meet Ota Shinji, Kyodai of the Shotozumi-gumi and our next target."
"What's a…" began Shugga.
"兄弟は 'big brother'だ, in Yak lingo. He's a senior figure—cosúil le mentor—to other members sa ヤクザ gan being i bpost… ‘official leadership.’" interjected Sin around a mouthful of soy burger.
"He was a new soldier back in the early 2050s and absolutely worshipped Keiji Hiroshige. Then the wall went up and Hiroshige ran like a bitch back to Tokyo. Well, Ota stayed and his arm must have gotten exhausted carrying that torch for old Keiji because when he got back, Ota was the first to kiss the ring." Brownie added.
Mickey continued "Speaking of which,” and the picture of Ota on display is replaced by one of three Japanese men deboarding an airplane, “this is our man Keiji. Just returned from Tokyo. Hates metas but has a Japanese Elf bodyguard, Akehito 'Tuesday' Takamora. I'm not gonna go over the hypocrisy of that decision. The guy is an absolute bad ass, though. Bad. Ass. Mother. Fucker. The other Yaks call him a 'nihirisuto'. Means 'laughing samurai'. Someone that is ready to kill and die in an instant."
"The third man in this photo is some sort of Shinto priest. Haven't been able to get anything substantial on him yet. Not even a name. He's been meeting privately with all the Yakuza in town, starting with the top and working his way down."
"Has Ota…?" Shugga started to ask.
"Met with our Shinto brother last week. Calendar says he spent eight hours with him but nothing about why or where. Even thought to erase his GPS data around the appointment. Which makes me think there's another decker cause no way is our man Ota good enough to do that on his own." answered Mickey
"So he's the first step to getting to the Hiroshige and the Shotozumi?" asked Shugga
"Yep." said Mickey
"Okay then. Let's go steal us a Yakuza."
Communicating with a 'trode link was technically easier than using a subvocal mic, but Spooky still found the experience strange. He scanned the street and alleys below him, slowly tracking the movement of people below with the barrel of his assault rifle
How are things with the car?
Mack's reply came back quickly. All set. Shugga took care of the driver, Sin is hiding in the backseat ready to take care of the DocWagon bracelet and I'm past the anti-theft systems. Is Mickey set with the spell?
Mickey's answer was equally fast. "Yep. He should be leaving the casino soon. Looks like he's about to lose this hand of hanafuda and be out of chips. That's usually his sign to leave for the night. At least, when it's this late and he's this drunk. She couldn't be seen using a set of 'trodes while shadowing the subject.
How come you can get in there without being shot at immediately? That was Shugga.
"I may be one of the Six Demons, but I'm also a degenerate gambler. People let things slide when they think they can take your money. And he's getting up. Looks like he's calling for his car."
Sin spoke up for the first time since the stakeout had started. Interceptってrerouteった… tá uaidh you to bring the car around 今, a Mhack.
“In motion. Should be at the curb in thirty. You ready, Mickey?” Came Mack over the comms.
"Yep. I'm heading out the door right now. I'll hit him once he makes it to the sidewalk."
Mickey's motions were subtle. Between the rain and the glare from the casino's lights, it was easy to miss that a spell had just been cast. Most people wouldn't have known what to look for anyway.
As a black town car pulled up, Shinji suddenly stumbled towards the street, saved from being hit at the last moment by the helping hands of a young lady standing nearby. She kindly opened the door of the car and helped him in while his inner ear did backflips and his eyes failed to focus. The door closed and the thunk of an electronic lock could just barely be heard.
"Package is secured."
The room appears to be an old medical office. Likely a dental practice based on the chair the naked, heavily tattooed, Japanese man is strapped to. On one side of him is a medical cart laid out with an array of scalpels, needles filled with various drugs, bamboo slivers, and the sort of medical tools that were probably being put aside more than two centuries ago. On his other there was simply a portable generator, the leads from it held by Spooky,standing behind the exam chair.
Brownie lounged in a nearby office chair wearing a set of hospital scrubs and spoke to Ota Shinji using a casual tone more suited to discussing incredulity over the latest stock report or sports score.
"My friend here insists on getting to go first. Now, I would prefer to begin with a more subtle approach. A few drugs, perhaps some magical persuasion, that sort of thing and then start in with pain. Of course, it would hurt just as much but leave no lasting marks. At first." Brownie lets out a disappointed sigh. "But he won the coin toss."
Spooky moves around the chair and leans in front of Ota, meeting him face to ballistic mask.
Ota Shinji laughs. "The fucking Shinigami! Where is Onikuma? Will he be joining us, too?"
Spooky shrugs slightly before smashing his fists into the tops of Shinji's knee, forcing a scream out of Shinji as two large nails puncture his legs and slide behind his knee caps.
"You motherfuckers!" gasps Shinji once he could speak again. "My gumi will kill you for this."
"Maybe. But before that, you're going to answer a few of our questions." Brownie kicks his chair over to the generator, the wheels of the desk chair making the move casually arrogant. With the flip of a few switches, the generator fills the small space with a hum. "Have to use a generator for this kind of thing because the local grid can't take the draw. Someone might notice. I mean, your screams aren't exactly keeping this secret but we try."
"Now, let's start with just a little taste." With that, Brownie turns one dial slightly. Shinji's body goes rigid and shakes as the electricity flowing through causes his muscles to spasm. A high pitched, wordless scream makes an attempt to escape from behind Shinji's clamped jaws.
After only a few seconds, Brownie flips the switch back to off. Ota collapses and gasps and sobs heavily.
"Now. What do you want to tell us?"
"Anything. Anything you want. I work directly with Hiroshige. I can tell you where he goes and AAAUGGH!" The scream is unexpected and prolonged as Brownie looks at the generator to make sure the switch hasn't been bumped.
"What the fuck?" he asks as he gets up from his chair. Spooky quickly yanks the leads from Shinji's knees but seems as confused as Brownie.
"ごめん！ごめん！豚らを助けない！" Ota screams in Japanese as wisps of smoke begin to come off his body. "僕を許して！閣下、お願い！お願い" The smoke gets thicker and the screams louder as the tattoos on Shinji begin to blacken and rot. His words become incoherent and only a moment later he collapses, leaving a ruined corpse with deep, rotten marks where the tattoos had been. Shinji's face, hands, and feet, tattoo free, are untouched.
Spooky removes his helmet. "Well, I guess we learned one thing."
Brownie doesn't respond. Instead he stands there, already beginning an astral examination of the corpse.
As Spooky takes off his mask, the rest of the team comes in from another door where they must have been monitoring the investigation.
"What the fuck happened?"