The Major once told me that I was part of Section 9 because, as I was more "human", I could see things that they could not. Most of the time this made sense. While missions were more difficult for me, I could point out how Suspect So-and-So could not have done this or that because he didn't have a cybernetic body, could not accomplish a task that the Major or Batou could do without thinking.

So why was I the only one that could see the effect that Kuze had on the Major?

Oh, Batou saw it. But he wasn't saying anything. Those two were always secretive, with themselves and each other. And to a point I could understand; when your mind is continually hooked up to the Net, constantly subject to exposure and violation, you close it as much as you can.

But why didn't the Chief see it? I suppose he trusted her too much, felt willing to believe she was "fine" when it was clear she wasn't.

At first I thought I was going crazy. Wouldn't be the first time. But a feeling of cold dread kept creeping over me, knowing that the foundation held Section 9 together had somehow been damaged, that it could crumble apart if dealt another sharp shock.

I had no idea what I was looking for. I certainly couldn't do any looking that the others could see, either. But I knew that there was one thing that my companions and I would agree on…if you see something, you have to do something, even if it means going it alone.

My first break came from out of the blue. Most of them do, now that I think about it. It never ceases to surprise me.

The whole refugee controversy had quieted down considerably, but there were still isolated incidents here and there. I was questioning a refugee witness when his face suddenly lit up and he stuck his finger in my face. "I remember you! The guy looking for the wife or girlfriend of some dead guy."

This didn't narrow down the possibilities much, so I asked him to explain.

"You came by looking for a guy who was killed, he worked in construction. Another guy came looking for him, with a scary scarred face. The guy who was later implicated in the whole campaign against the refugees. You remember!"

"Oh yes," I thought for a moment. "The one who had been given a full cybernetic body, for a specific construction job."

The man, who looked like had aged twenty years in just a few months, laughed and scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, I thought it was you. Man, those were hard times. Nearly lost my brother, he was in the Kuze cult."

"The what?"

"A follower of that Kuze guy. He had a huge following. Bunch of idiots." He pointed to himself proudly. "But I have an ancestor that died in Waco, and another one on Flight 93, so I was immune, you might say."

This was all gibberish to me, and had nothing to do with my case, but I was curious in spite of myself. "I don't know what you mean."

"My ancestors lived for a time in the United States, back before the empire years. But when Mai and Zheng got killed, they came back to Asia."

"I still don't understand…how did they die?"

He stared at me, incredulous. "What, don't they teach that stuff in cop class? I'd think you'd at least study the Aum attacks."

I didn't want to make it look like I'd never gone to the police academy, so I ignored this and said, "I have to admit I'm not familiar with Waco and Flight 93."

"Well, my great-something grandmother was part of a cult in a city called Waco. Run by some crazy freak, said all the women belonged to him, even the kids. Told them the government was out to kill them and they'd pass on to Paradise in a ball of fire and destruction. And they did! Not Paradise, I mean. The ball of fire."

"The US government set the fire?"

"Nah, nah, though his supporters claimed they did for years. That guy, he orchestrated the whole thing. Brought his whole flock to destruction. Government thought he could be reasoned with, negotiated with, didn't realize he thought he was God. They got impatient and rushed 'em. But he was set on going out with a bang, and taking as many as he could with him. They played right into his hands."

I frowned, contemplating this. "What does this have to do with Kuze?"

He stared at me as if I were a child. "What, are you kidding? That's what Kuze did! Friggin' cult leader. Knew the scarfaced weirdo was doing something with nukes. Brought out all his people to sit in line and wait for the End. Told them they'd live on forever in the Net. My brother killed himself when the End never came."

A chill ran up my spine. Could the Major….no, she was too smart for that. Most of his followers were frustrated, uneducated, out-of-work refugees. "What was Flight 93, then?"

"Oh, that." His face lit up. "My great-something grandfather, Zheng, was on that flight. Unlike Mai, he died a hero. You ever learn about the World Trade Center attacks in New York?"

"Yes, of course."

"Flight 93 is the one that the passengers brought down in a field somewhere, when they realized what was happening. Attacked the hijackers. Zheng was one of 'em." He grinned broadly. "They figured they were gonna die either way, so they were gonna screw up these terrorists' plans. No Paradise for them! The freaks thought that if they killed a bunch of people in a specific place, they'd get some heavenly reward. Idiots. But the rest of the plane knew they were nuts, and stuck it to'em."

The man stretched his arms over his head. "Yep, I tried to do that, but I didn't have any success. Screamed at anyone who would listen. Tried to pull people out of the blast zone. Considered bumping off Kuze himself, once, but I'm not smart enough to do something like that without him noticing."

Here he frowned at me. "Don't know why anyone else didn't see the signs. I'm no genius, but I know a bum deal when I see one."

I nodded, my mind spinning. "Yes, I know…" I said slowly. "How could she be drawn in like that?"

"Eh? You mean Mai? I dunno…heard that crazy guy had a powerful personality. Maybe he just drew her in and she couldn't escape…"

-&-

"Batou." We were riding in his car, on to the next assignment. "Do you think the Major could ever get fooled by a scam?"

"Kusanagi?" He chuckled. "What, are you serious?"

I stared out the window, knowing I was treading on volatile ground. "You know how that zillionaire guy tricked us all into thinking he was still alive? Something like that."

"Yeah, but we investigated it and found out he was dead. The Major wouldn't just go along with something without checking it out first."

"What if it was something that affected her personally? I mean, the Chief's always looking for his brother, and he's been fooled a couple times…"

He turned, slowly, to look at me. "What's with this sudden interest in everybody's private lives? You gonna investigate me, next?"

"No, of course not."

Batou turned back to the road, tense, watchful. "Look, I know that this last case unnerved her a bit for some reason, but she's fine."

"Of course." Fine, fine, everyone's fine…

-&-

I arrived home earlier than usual and found my wife in a flurry of cleaning. "What's all this?" I asked, looking around at the stacks of boxes.

"Oh!" She climbed down from the attic, her hair knotted up in a handkerchief. "I didn't think you'd be back for another hour or two yet. I'm just getting rid of my old college junk."

"Really? Didn't I ever tell you that your speeches were one of the things that attracted me to you?"

"Oh, I'm keeping those. I'm just getting rid of stuff from the early years."

An untidy pile of papers lay on one of the chairs. As I moved it so that I could sit down, the title of one caught my eye. "Androids and Aum Shinrikyo; Why Robots Don't Join Cults."

Aum? "Could I look at this?" I asked her.

"Oh, don't! That's one of my first psychology papers."

"I promise I won't criticize your grammar." I sat down and began to read.