A/N: so in the end I couldn't resist and ended up deciding to give this a try. I should have known from the start I would give in. :P
This fic is a sequel set a couple of years after the end of Turnabout to the Past. If you haven't read that one, chances are that plenty of things in this fic won't make any sense to you. You're still on time to run away.
This is a rather short prologue; the next chapters will be longer, I promise.
Also, watch out: there is a not-so-implied threat of rape in this part.
"... Found her while she tried to sneak in..."
"... There was someone with her, but I couldn't..."
The woman – who's had many names, but who sometimes still likes to refer to herself as the Yatagarasu for old times' sake – can feel an amused smirk spreading on her face. Still, she doesn't let her mirth show in any other way: she keeps quiet and listens the two men talking out of the door of the small, damp room she's into. It's kind of cold in there, but there isn't much she can do about that; not with her hands tied above her head and her ankles tied together. With rope. She doesn't exactly love being bound in general, but she'd take handcuffs over rope any day of the week: metal never bites into your skin quite the way rope does. Ah well. It's not going to be for long anyway.
The door opens, and she looks up to see two men walking in. One is the man who captured her – a tall man with black hair and a rather awful burn scar on the right side of his face – and another with almost no hair and a prominent belly. It's still clear, however, that he used to be a muscular guy back in the day. She supposes he's this place's own version of a Chief of Security.
"Well, well," the bald man says, walking up to her and smiling. Both his front teeth seem to be made of gold. "So this is the bird you caught, isn't it, Doug?"
The scarred man nods. "Yes, sir," he says in a somewhat raspy voice. "As I said, she and an accomplice were trying to sneak in the main room. Her partner managed to get away, but he can't have gone far. The security is looking for him," he adds, and the bald guy nods at him before turning back to their captive – to her.
She grins at them. "You may find him harder to get your hands on than you expect," she says. "You're looking for a ghost."
The bald one snorts. "If he's as much of a challenge as you were, he'll be in our hands soon enough. Doug here caught you with no need of backup," he says, and the scarred guy grunts in agreement.
The men exchange a perplexed glance when she suddenly starts laughing so hard that she'd lean forward wasn't it for the fact her arms are tied well above her head. Not that confusion lasts for long: Baldie scowls in anger, and gives the scarred man a sharp nod. The man nods back and raises his arm, and the next moment a violent backhand slap causes her head to whip on one side, cutting off her laughter. It doesn't keep her from grinning, however, even as her cheek stings and some blood wells up from her lower lip.
"My partner has been wanting to do that for a while, I bet. I think he'll kill you last. Lighten up a bit," she says, turning to smirk at the scarred one. He grunts and says nothing.
"I think you fail to grasp the situation you're in," Baldie snorts. "It's over for you. And to think we were expecting some high profile spy, if any. I'm almost insulted to see they sent in such an amateur."
The woman grins. "Or maybe you're just too smart even for a high profile spy."
This time, the man laughs. "Why, are you trying to dig your way out of this with feminine wiles now?"
She shrugs as much as her bounds allow her. "You can't blame a girl for trying."
"Pah. You're not much better at it than you are as a spy," is the reply. The bald guy gestures for the scarred one to step back, and comes to stand right before her. He definitely smells like someone likely to drink himself in an early grave... if given the time. "Who sent you?"
"Hey, give me some credit. I got in far enough to know Ms. Thrax was behind the tests in Reijam. Using humans. I mean, seriously? What happened to guinea pigs?" the woman asks, trying to distract him from his own question. It seems to work, and Baldie laughs again. It's not an especially pleasant laughter, but at least he's not entirely devoid of sense of humor. That's something she can appreciate. Sort of.
"You know nothing, woman," the man spits when his laughter dies down. "Ms. Thrax is nothing but a pawn. She has no true control over anything. But thanks for letting us know she's compromised: YggdraCorp will replace her swiftly."
The woman looks back at him, eyes widening in surprise. "YggdraCorp? The Nanobiology company?"
The man grins and reaches to cup her chin. "That's nothing you should concern your pretty head with. All that you should concern yourself with is whether or not I'll feel generous enough to give you a quick death. Who knows," he adds, brushing his thumb across her cheek with a grin wide enough to show several golden teeth, "perhaps I'll be merciful if you're nice enough now. Tell me who sent you, and I'll even be gentle."
It takes her some effort not to laugh in his face, but somehow she manages to hold back. Well, almost: there is no hiding the smirk spreading across her face as his hand reaches for her shirt. "Looks like my feminine wiles aren't that bad after all. But I'm afraid you won't be getting any tonight. Or ever again, for the matter."
The man snorts, a hand reaching to undo the first button of her shirt. "Oh? And who's to stop-" he begins, only to trail off with a sudden, gargling noise. He stays still for an instant, eyes widening, then he slowly lifts his hand to his neck. The woman lowers her gaze to see the tip of a blade poking out of his throat, covered with blood. She looks back up, and their eyes meet. The man's are still wide with shock, and no words are leaving his open mouth – only a low gurgling noise and dark, red blood.
She smiles. "The Phantom," is all she says. And then the blade is pulled out of the man's neck and he crumples on the floor without another noise, lying still in a widening pool of blood. The woman stares down at him for another moment before smiling again – a colder smile than before. She looks up to see the scarred man standing before her, a blood-covered knife still in his hand.
"One less pig in the world. You heard that happened to the last female spy he got his hands on, didn't you?"
The man nods and approaches, using the same knife to cut her free of her bounds. "I heard of it, yes. I've killed better people," he says, his voice flat. "If anything, he gave us information to work on before he died."
"Just as planned. Next time we have to pull this off I want to be the one to catch you. Try playing the damsel in distress for once. But hey, nice mask," the woman says as he finishes freeing her from the rope. She steps past the corpse and allows herself a moment to rub her wrists. "I'm impressed by the performance. Seriously. You could only see what the guy was like for a short time before you took his place."
The Phantom, who's still wearing the scarred man's mask and pulling out a gun to put a muffler on it, lets out a hum. "He was easy. All I had to do was slouch, point and grunt. Universal goon language, it appears."
"And hit me when told to," she says, reaching up to touch her split lip. She smirks. "How long have you wanted to do it?"
He replies without even looking at her, reaching into the bulletproof jacket he's wearing. He pulls out a gun and hands it to her. "How long have we been working together?"
"Roughly two years."
"There's your answer."
"Not the smartest thing to tell me after giving me a gun."
He ignores her quip. "He spoke of one YggdraCorp. I assume it isn't known for any kind of illicit activity, because I never heard of it before. Nanobiology, you said?"
A nod. "Yes. I heard of it, but as you said it was never involved in anything odd. Well, until now. We must report as soon as possible. If he wasn't lying, this is huge. YggdraCorp is a leading company in its field."
"We'll report as soon as we're out. There is only a guard outside this door. Did you neutralize the cameras before I caught you?"
"Obviously. They're showing old pieces of recorded footage to whoever is in the monitor room. You could dance naked right in front of each camera and no one would know. Why don't you try?" she adds with a grin.
He snorts. "I'll pass," is all he says before heading to the door. He opens it and calls out, this time with the same voice as the man whose face he's still wearing. "Hey, Harv. Come here a moment. Prisoner's being a stubborn bitch."
The woman doesn't see what happens next – she cannot see outside at all from her position – but then again the Phantom is quick and efficient and she doesn't think she's missing much: after a few seconds to let this Harv come closer, the he lifts the gun almost casually and shoots. The mufflers he picked are pretty damn good, she must give him that: the sound of the body dropping is louder than the shot itself.
"All clear," the Phantom calls out, putting the gun away. "I'm relatively safe as long as I'm wearing this mask; no one has any reason to come here to check for a while. I have a level 2 security card. I'll disable the alarm on the northern side; there are almost no guards on that side, since I sent most of them out looking for me. Use that route to get out. If anything goes wrong-"
"Nothing will," the woman cuts him off. "And if it does, the gun will be enough to fix it. Meeting point?"
"Same as previously established. I don't show up within a hour-"
"I'll assume you've been caught and leave, yes. But you won't."
"Not if I have a say in the matter, no."
She grins. "Good. I doubt any other partner I may get would be as much fun to make fun of," she says. "So come back. Possibly in one piece."
"Hmpf. Try not to get caught for real," the Phantom snorts, and with that he's off, stepping past the dead body of the guard he shot only minutes ago.
The woman – who's had many names and will have even more, but who sometimes still refers to herself as the Yatagarasu because, after all, stealing the truth is what she does – watches him go until he turns the corner, then she turns to head the other way, gun ready to fire should she have a need to. She's not worried for herself nor for the Phantom, as both of them are capable enough to make it out, but she still loves the excitement that comes from the challenge: the resulting rush of adrenaline is the single greatest thing about being a spy, as far as she's concerned.
Pity that the Phantom doesn't seem to agree, but then again he hardly gets excited over anything at all.