So it's been ages again but at least this time I have a reason- my Mirror's edge fic, 'Run for Freedom,' is finally complete and posted.
Disclaimer: Own nothing.
The last thing that Miguel Caballero Rojo saw was an image that would become immovably printed onto his mind.
It was the sight of Devil's white wings spreading as the Demon slowed in its fall, then soared away into the sky.
There was nothing in the world now but shadowy corners, receding into blackness, and the smell of lacquered wood.
Miguel stirred, opened his eyes. There was faint light from a metal grill in the wall.
He started; he was in a confessional box.
"When was your last confession?" a voice asked.
Miguel considered his answer carefully, drowsily. "I don't believe I have been to confession… for many years."
"I forgive you," said the voice.
His sister's voice.
"You could never forgive me," Miguel whispered. Unseen, his head tilted into his hands. "I failed."
"You are dying," her voice said. "I'm sorry for killing you."
"What? You didn't kill me. Don't say that! It's torture for me to hear that."
She was silent a moment.
"Come outside," she said.
Struggling and stiff-limbed he climbed out of the confessional. The cathedral he stepped into was taller and lonelier than the grandest cathedrals of Spain. Its many ornaments were wreathed in gold, and every towering window was an artwork of glowing stained glass. The altar, however, was more familiar.
"It's like the place you got married," said Miguel. "Not the building itself, but everything inside. I could have mistaken it for the exact place."
"I never got married," she replied.
"You are married in heaven."
"But you don't believe in heaven."
The Spaniard was tired. Perhaps it was the ever-breathing incense, and the candles, and the emptiness. There was a warm feeling of sleep in his breast. He made his way to the altar and stood beside her, thinking about calm sleep and dreams.
"You're dying," his sister repeated. Her voice was listless, ethereal. He knew she wasn't real. When he looked at her the hair falling across her cheeks would always block his view. He could see only a memory, hiding the blood and repugnance of her death.
"Is this a dream?" Miguel asked.
"Something like a dream."
"I could stay here happily forever."
She shrugged. "Who knows? Perhaps you could stay here in your mind while your body rapidly dies. You only have minutes to live. But minutes are just divisions on a clock-face, they don't mean anything here. I'm sorry I killed you," she added again.
"Why do you keep saying that?" Miguel shook his head despairingly. "It's torturing me. This wasn't your fault. I killed you."
"That was just luck that our church was hit. Just luck."
"But thought about killing your fiancée. I wanted to do it!""
Staring at the golden cross above the altar, Miguel's eyes were suddenly blinded by tears.
"It wasn't you, though, it was me," she insisted. "You fought Jin for my sake. My memory has killed you."
"Why are you saying this to me?"
"It is the honest truth."
Miguel collapsed on his knees, his whole body fiercely shaking.
"You're not real," he sobbed. "You can't be. You're not."
He felt her looking at him, watching him with those blue eyes he could never see. He wondered if this ghost cared about him.
There were tears on his cheeks now, leaving marks on his face.
"Maybe I'm being punished," he went on, convulsively, "punished for thinking that your fiancée should die. I wanted to kill him, but Jin killed him first. And you too. So I tried to kill Jin. He deserved to kill me instead. He had the right."
"You don't want to die though. You're scared of it now."
He shook his head, crying, face in his hands.
"You've got something to lose."
Again he shook his head, but there was an outpouring racking his body now that couldn't stop. He went on crying, and talking through his tears.
"Why is the church so high?" he asked, to change the subject.
She told him it was a mental projection of the Mishima Tower.
"A hallucination can only divorce itself from reality to a certain extent," she said.
"Is this really nothing but a hallucination?"
Miguel began to feel a little better. Somehow the aching he felt was soothed by a cool white light streaming in through the windows, filling the church. By degrees it grew brighter, and the brighter it got, the less Miguel wanted to talk, the more he wanted to listen.
But he never heard his sister's voice again, for as the feeling strengthened the white light flooded the room and surrounded everything.
Yoshimitsu awoke from awkward sleep, on a desk in the bunker, to the worst day of his life. It was funny, but he felt that it was the worst instinctively. In just two days, miracles had occurred; more than one. But it was the worst day of his life because he knew now, for certain, that these miracles were nothing but mockeries. The outcome of the war, and the tournament, were still inevitable.
For a moment at least he was alone. The whiskey bottle he had started with Miguel stood by him, and he picked it up thankfully.
It had started Wednesday night. That was two days ago, when Lars brought Asuka back from her match on a stretcher.
Heihachi had almost killed her.
For a full day she hovered on the brink of death. Twice she had to be resuscitated. As her condition worsened hour by hour, no one had held out for her survival.
Not that Yoshimitsu had witnessed any of this as it happened. Not trusting to fate, he had chosen to trail Miguel when he left for Mishima Tower. He had seen him plunge from Gargoyle's peak, locked in combat with Jin Kazama. He had seen Devil's white wings, like beacons.
Yet a miracle had occurred. Ironically enough, it seemed that Devil, by stopping his fall and then dropping him again, had actually saved Miguel from a drop that would have crushed his body out of all recognition.
Miguel Caballero Rojo had survived.
But it couldn't be for long. Yoshimitsu, with a medic team from his Manji party, had rushed Miguel back to HQ for treatment; but the ninja knew what fatal wounds looked like. Finally, after an hour of argument and despair, Miguel's vitals plunged, and he almost died.
It was at that moment, with any chance of recovery lost, that Dr Bosconovitch took the fateful decision to inject Miguel with stem cells.
That was two days ago.
Last night, he, Bosconovitch and Lars had stood over Miguel's bedside, watching the regular rise and fall of his chest. Then- and Yoshimitsu remembered it distinctly- Bosconovitch had let out a long, almost impassioned sigh. It was as though the Doctor were not in a medical ward in a bunker but in his own private operating theatre, staring down on some kind of custom Frankenstein's monster, the sweet personal fruit of all his efforts. Then the Doctor rubbed his hands together very slowly, replaced them in his lab coat, abruptly removed them again and leaned more closely over the bedside.
"His recovery is… truly remarkable."
"Will he live?" Yoshimitsu had asked.
"Most probably. Though it's hard to conceive, my hypothesis is that, rather than acting on a purely chemical basis, the stem cells actually concentrate over wounds. It is unprecedented. Their recuperative potential is even greater than I could have imagined."
Yoshimitsu was astounded. "When will he recover?"
"It could be any day."
"Any day? He'll be healthy? But that's impossible! How could he survive that fall and actually be able to fight again?"
Bosconovitch grinned amusedly. "He won't be fighting anyone. In fact, I lied when I said I know he'll live. The stem cells may have healed his wounds, but on account of my understandable lack of experience in this subject it seems that I have widely overestimated the dosage required. The stem cells that even now are healing him will be cancerous within the week, aggressively cancerous- and I don't know what his chances are like of surviving that."
The ninja shouldn't have been so surprised- he had seen enough of the world to know it wasn't fair- but this news came as such a shock that he couldn't talk, but only stare uselessly ahead.
It had all failed!
"I'll leave you to… whatever," said Bosconovitch without interest. Swinging on his heel, the old scientist left the room.
Lars was leaning in the doorframe. "This is bad," he said suddenly.
Yoshimitsu remained silent. He'd already known that, but hearing it from Lars was a double blow.
"I always knew Miguel was tough," Lars went on. "Ever since he outfought me in China. Even then I could see he would easily surpass us. And then he goes and survives this impossible fall. But it doesn't matter now because if he can't go on in the tournament then Kazuya will surely win." He sighed bitterly. "He might as well be dead. He's as good as dead once Kazuya takes command."
Yoshimitsu took a deep breath. "We'll just have to move to plan B. Attack him directly in Mishima Tower as soon as the tournament ends."
Lars nodded. "I'll try and smuggle some of my troops over from China in preparation for the strike. But given the fighting I'm not sure how easy it'll be." He hesitated. "You're a soldier, Yoshimitsu. Tell me- what do you think our chances are like? Because as far as I can see, our chances of storming Mishima Tower, the hub of the world's most powerful business, before they can get reinforcements in, are about…"
The ninja sighed, still staring at Miguel. "I'd say we got a chance. Slimmer than sliced ham it's true, but…" He paused. "I have an idea or two left. And besides, you forgot Jin. Jin could still beat Kazuya in the King of Iron Fists."
Lars shook his head sadly. "I'm not sure if Jin winning is better or worse. Does it even change anything?"
Yoshimitsu thought about the gruesome spectacle of the night before, as Devil rained fire down on Tokyo, and changed his mind. "It does change the plan," he agreed. "If Kazuya wins, we storm Mishima Tower. If Jin wins, all we can do is run for the hills."
It was Lars. The ninja groaned, then forced himself to sit up. Yesterday had been the worst day of his life. But something in Lars' tone gave him a premonition that today would be even worse.
Jin arrived back at Mishima Tower at 1.a.m. on Saturday morning. Watching him dock was almost a spectacle in itself. He stepped out of the jet without missing a stride, like it was just any other business trip. He hadn't been on the ground two seconds before he called for Nina to listen up.
"I need you to adjust the tournament line-up as follows: the quarter finals will take place today, at six pm. Then the semis tomorrow at twelve noon, and the finals the same day in the evening. Don't even listen to any complaints."
He hadn't broken stride; Nina arched an inquisitive brow.
"You want to end the tournament tomorrow, sir?"
"That's what I said."
They stepped into the elevator.
"Mr Kazama, is this necessary? The city will soon be back under our control…"
"This isn't about the city," Jin cut in. "This is about ending it all. I'm not going to wait another week for this damn thing to finish."
A thought flashed through his mind like a red-hot needle. The truth was, after his last transformation into Devil, he wasn't even sure if he had a week to spare.
"And get more troops into the city," he added. "I need Tokyo to be a safe zone in time for the final match."
"Mr Kazama, your forces are already stretched to breaking point; there's no conflict zone where we can afford the loss of troops-"
"I don't care about the conflict zones! Let the G Corporation have the zones if we can get more troops here."
They had reached Gargoyle's peak. Jin went straight to his desk and sat down, his hands going to the top drawer on his right. Nina waited, but Jin was in a hurry now, and didn't seem to pay her any attention. Finally he produced a small, dimly glittering metallic ornament on a chain.
He held it up to the light. Nina looked on, her normally indifferent expression showing just a hint of curiosity.
Jin smirked. It was almost the Mishima smirk, coldly arrogant.
"To just anyone this ornament is pretty worthless, but it's actually hiding a computer chip. State of the art. I had it built expressly for this purpose. This chip carries copies of all the primary files that go together to make up the Mishima Zaibatsu. In short, a copy of the whole company is on this chip."
Nina felt suddenly anxious, an emotion intensified by how rare it was to her. Quite without reason, her senses were screaming at her to look around the room, to check the nooks and crannies, and dark corners. She felt, inexplicably, that there was a second listener.
Jin must have seen her inattention. He leaned forward sharply and fixed her with a cold, unnatural stare that demanded attention.
"Listen carefully," he said, "because this order is the most important of all. As soon as the tournament ends, I want you to access the computer from the mainframe and delete everything. Every file, down to the last advertising brochure. I want you to destroy this company from the inside out. I'll give you the passwords."
Nina was aghast. "Why would you do such a thing?"
Jin was silent for a moment. He said, "Because this company has too dark a legacy. It can only go down from here, and I can't save it."
Nina's coldness returned, as it always did, with a vengeance.
"You sound unsure of your abilities, Mr Kazama."
"Actually I understand my abilities perfectly, not that it matters. I've made up my mind. When the tournament ends, you pull the plug."
"If Kazuya wins, Mr Kazama he will conquer all- with or without this company. He's too powerful to be stopped by something like debt."
Jin threw her a black look. "You shouldn't talk about Kazuya like you know anything of his character. Besides, this isn't about him." He held up the ornament to show it to her, then hung it over his neck. "I know you'll follow my orders Nina, if only because your payment will be the last the Zaibatsu ever makes… probably."
"Probably? I had assumed your plan to destroy the Zaibatsu was assured."
Jin was contemplative now. The whisper of his smirk was gone. One hand lightly touched the necklace. More to himself, he said: "however much I hate this company, I could never truly destroy it. It may be a legacy drenched in blood, but it's mine."
He looked up.
"Once you destroy the files, Nina, the computer chip in this ornament will be the beating heart of the Zaibatsu. Even if the company itself collapses, its soul will live on."
"So you have a reserve?"
"Yes. The reality is that as long as someone of the Mishima family exists, the Mishima Zaibatsu will exist as well. That's not something I can get around, so I thought I shouldn't kill the Zaibatsu completely. Don't get your hopes up though, because I'm still not going to win the King of Iron Fists. And then none of this will make any difference."
Hope you enjoyed. It should be obvious that we're at least three quarters through now, and approaching the proverbial beginning of the end.