Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost in the Shell. I am ecstatic that 2nd Gig starts in a few weeks. Shirow Masamune is the excellent teller of this tale. Please enjoy the final chapter of this fanfic.

Chapter 12: Answers

(Figure it out)

Before we had a chance to talk about anything further, the others came in. Boma and Ishikawa sat down while Aramaki walked to the space at the front of the room. "Thank you for being patient while we figured out what was going on. The ramifications of the data Boma downloaded are very significant." He looked at each of us before continuing. "As you are well aware, the types of equipment that have been used in the attacks are higher level military. That means that someone on the inside is pulling the strings."

"Or someone with a very big purse is buying black-market equipment." Ishikawa interjected.

"Correct. In this case, it is both. The Undersecretary to the Minister of Defense is actually known as Muso Rinault." We all looked at each other at that name. "Yes, the second in command to the terrorist group, Red Men Awake. He assassinated and then changed bodies with the original undersecretary and has been working in the upper echelons of our military undetected. Over the last six months, he's been selling weapons to the leader of RMA, Luis Otorno. Otorno attacked the PM palace in order to retrieve high level documentation about a new weapon being developed to replace the fuchikomas."
"The PM had moved the documentation several days previous to the attack. That prompted the attack on Section 1. However, the RMA used mercenaries for that attack since there was a greater chance of failure. They did not want to be caught in the building. The mercenaries used explosives with a liberal hand, but they borrowed the equipment of the RMA. The Section 7 attack was a cooperative mission between the RMA and the mercenaries. The mercs entered first while RMA was the group you ran into while scouting. That's how Boma was able to obtain this information. The three enforcer squad members that were sent to wipe you out happened to be members of RMA and the information Boma downloaded contained the key to unlocking this puzzle."

I'm sure everyone was as relieved as I to find the answers we were seeking.

"But what about the Major?" Pazu has always been the one to get to the heart of a subject. He looks for simplicity in his world. "We've all noticed slight changes in her, changes that are not to the betterment of this team."

Aramaki sat down in his chair. That was a sign that he was either hurting, or the conversation was going to take longer than he was willing to stand. Once he was comfortably established, he speared us all with a straight look.

"The decisions I make for Section 9 are not always going to be accepted. Nor are they going to be 'in the box.' Time and again yourselves have been able to circumnavigate the system because I have given you the freedom to do so." Not a single one of us argued with his logic. "When the Major disappeared, Section 9 had to be disbanded for a short period of time. During the internal investigations, we were able to find the guilty party and see that they received justice. However, Motoko Kusanagi did not go undercover at Section 6."

"What?" Saito interjected.

"When I was putting Section 9 back together, I asked each of you if you would be able to work without Kusanagi. Each of you in his own way said that there would be no Section 9 without the Major." He leaned forward intently. "I verbally disagreed at the time, but I also knew what needed to be done in order to re-establish this team." We waited while he considered his next words. "Each of you doubted everything you did. The glue that originally held you together was Motoko Kusanagi. However, over the years, you have become an autonomous unit. Each of you working on your own, and only going back to the Major when you were not certain how to proceed."
"About a year ago, the Major and I had a very frank discussion about who would lead if something were to happen to her. She was beginning to have some issues with the cyberization process." I looked at Aramaki in surprise, but he continued with only a sharp glance in my direction. "She had noticed a perceptible slowing in her brain activity. She was still the very best, and would remain so for years; but she was concerned about what her eventual slow reflexes would mean to our organization. During this conversation, I asked her whom she would pick to take over as leader. The person she appointed did not believe he could handle it."
"Given that the Major's choice felt unfit to lead, and each of the other team members felt that they could not continue at Section 9 without the Major, I made a very tough decision. I worked with Dr. Akai to create an android duplicate and fill her head with the memories of Motoko Kusanagi. We then used the information we gleaned from your memories shortly after the event and the undercover op that took down Section 6's corrupt members to recreate memories to fill in the blanks."

"You Bastard!" Ishikawa stood up and slammed his hands on the table in the middle of our circle. "You let some fucking android lead us into a battle situation?" Everyone looked at him. "It's been proven statistically that androids do NOT have the free-thinking abilities required to keep human and cyborg counterparts safe from harm."

"That is true. However, I was monitoring and controlling that android during the most critical times. If you'll look back through your memories, you'll see her actions deviated quite severely from norm. Her fighting style was mine." The next few moments were silent as everyone looked back through our memories to verify the information.

Suddenly Boma spoke up. "So the bug you installed was to rewrite our minds? I'm not very comfortable with the knowledge that our superior officer believes he has the right to change our minds and memories."

Aramaki and I both knew that how he answered this would decide whether they would continue to trust him. Arguably, he'd seen his options and chosen the best one; but no one likes to be fooled. "I have under no circumstances lied to you about the chip, nor have I changed your minds. The chip IS to track you in the event you go missing. I used the opportunity of installing the chip to have Dr. Akai run a short subroutine to lay a secondary set of memories on top of your real ones."
"This was done only because each of you refused to move forward. The Major was a very integral part of our team, but she wasn't the only person on this team. Each of you is extremely powerful in his own manner. Now that you know the truth, I will have Dr. Akai remove the memories."

"So, will we have to worry about you doing this again?" Togusa spoke quietly from his chair.

"Section 9 is a critical part of this country's defense against the cyber-crimes that are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I will ALWAYS do what is best for my team and this country. You will have to trust me to be looking out for your best interests in the long run." He looked at each of us. "We never hid your true memories from you." He looked at me specifically. "Batou figured out what was going on and confronted me about it yesterday. Why don't you ask him about his position?"

Suddenly everyone was staring at me. Uncomfortable does not begin to explain my feeling. "I was VERY angry at the chief. I stormed in here and we had a very loud discussion about the matter. I brought up the exact same issues that you have both brought up, and I am satisfied with the answers. We can't let Kusanagi's disappearance destroy everything we've worked these last few years to build."
I leaned forward and put my hands on my knees. "Eventually we're going to lose members. The Major just happened to be the first. Even if we never lose a teammate in the field, there are good chances that one of us will develop a chemical imbalance and our brains will harden before the medical staff becomes aware of the problem."
"I realize we undergo regular checkups to help prevent that, but accidents happen. If Section 9 disbanded every time we lost a member, our enemies would quickly have a powerfully dangerous weapon to use against us. I do not like being deceived, but I was also one of the people who said we could not continue without her."
"I watched each of us interact during the last mission, and I believe that we need to take some time to talk about our path forward. The Chief will remove your false memories immediately; but even if he didn't, now that you know they are false, I bet you could remove them yourselves." Everyone looked around for a few seconds, than they did some internal investigations. I gave them time, I knew they were looking for reasons to trust that Aramaki didn't betray them. Finally they came back out, Ishikawa was smiling widely, Togusa was frowning, and the others were in various states of acceptance.
"The Major was a great leader. I do not see how anyone could possibly replace her. How would each of you feel about us working without a leader? Aramaki continues to hold the job of chief lord overseer, and we all just discuss plans with each other? That's basically what we've been doing for the last two years, the Major only did critical damage control."

Togusa spoke up. "Who would be in charge of critical damage control now?" He looked at Aramaki. "Who did Motoko pick to take over?"

The Chief looked at me and everyone followed his gaze. "Batou."

"Would you be willing to assume the responsibility of leading us?" Togusa continued.

"No. But I will accept the responsibility of being the critical damage control advisor. With one stipulation, when I lose my temper, someone had better step in and overrule me." I smiled to let them know that although I was serious, I was also being myself.

"I don't think that will be a problem." Ishikawa always knew the right thing to say.

Everyone chuckled and we spent the next few hours discussing the new format of Section 9. When Togusa yawned, I glanced at my watch. It was almost 3am and all of us were tired. We agreed to take the next day off unless an emergency happened. When I left, I felt at peace for the first time since I started on this long journey.


The next morning found me sitting on my pier, fishing pole in hand. I was supposed to have gotten two weeks off, I figured I might as well enjoy one last day. I suspect it's going to be a while before we get our new roles down pat and running smoothly. Crime never stops, and as a member of the team most equipped to handle the new crimes, I'm preparing for a long year.

I was reeling in my third stingray, which meant the bait was too low on the bobber, as an old man sat down beside me. Rod in one hand, cooler of beer in the other, he stumbled and barely managed to stay on the dock. I unhooked the ray and threw it back in while he baited his hook.

"Sinker's too low." I nodded and pulled the line the rest of the way in to adjust it.

We sat and talked about inane things for a while until he slowly nodded off. I continued to catch Barracuda and Halfbreak over the next two hours. When the old man's pole bent and he didn't react, I unhooked and threw back a mackerel that just happened to swim too close to the shore. Now his float bobs in the water without any bait to attract customers. He is probably here more as nostalgia than any deep desire to fish. Like me, he probably wanted the quiet time to sit and reflect.

It was completely silent when he slowly opened his eyes and looked at me. "Have you ever heard of a fish called Exocoetidae?"

Boy is this one off his rocker. "No."

"It looks like a mating between a fish and a bird. Some people call them flying fish." He stood and gathered his gear. "A fish and a bird can never become the other, but their evolutionary offspring can."

Suddenly the words all made sense. Although we have limitations when we think without our own boundaries, once we break away from set ideas, we are given new options. Like a fish that learns to grow wings.

He walked off, and I knew I was looking at the back of an old friend. I realized that friend was also telling me that things were different there too. "So you didn't leave me after all. You were there the whole time to make sure I made the correct choices." I watched as the old man faded into the distance. Thank you Motoko.

(You're welcome.)

A/N: You have survived another one. Thank you for all of the reviews and for reading. Who knows what the next story will be, or when it will be posted. Right now I'm mid-write on about 5, so whichever one wraps first will be my next one. Take Care. -TK