Prologue: Life to those without

The knife dropped onto the kitchen floor, stained in red from its victim. A flash of lightning amidst the storm raging outside illuminated the dark scene through the window. A young man, dressed sharply in a tuxedo, clutched his abdomen with his face contorted in an expression that was a mix of agony and surprise. Standing in front of him was a young woman who could have been no older than twenty with blood on her hands. There were also stains on her plain black dress and her stockings. Her face was eerily pale with a blank expression adorning it. Her grey eyes were lifeless, almost artificial in quality and her lips seemed poised to speak, yet no words came. She simply stood there, staring the man right in the eyes.

"What…what are you doing?" the man gasped, feeling his body slowly failing him. The woman did not so much as twitch and continued to stare at him. "An…answer me!" the man cried before collapsing onto his backside, still grasping the stab wound on his abdomen. "That's an order!" The woman, instead of responding, turned to look at the knife on the ground. She dropped down onto one knee and picked it up with her right hand before turning to look at the man again. "You can't do this! I own you! You BELONG TO ME!" the man yelled, using more energy than he could afford to spare. When the woman began to approach him, he panicked and began to search for anything that he could use as a weapon. However, the combination of the stab wound and the wine he had consumed earlier that evening made him clumsy and his efforts only managed to bring down a kitchen drawer on top of him, sending cutlery all over the floor.

The clattering of silver was almost inaudible from the rain torrent that persisted outside. His pants of desperation might well have been silent. He picked up a butter knife before realising the inadequacy of his weapon of choice. By then, the woman was kneeling in front of him. The young man let out one last grunt as she thrust the knife into his neck before retracting it quickly. Blood squirted out for a short moment, splattering the woman's face before ceasing as suddenly as the man's life did. The woman then smiled as she stood up and once again dropped the knife. "I…I don't belong to you anymore," she whispered defiantly. She made her way out into the living room, the smile still on her face. That proved to be her last moment however, as when she was about to open the front door, it smashed open before two men armed with submachine-guns put a swift end to the woman's life. Her lifeless corpse managed to still wear the smile she died with.

"That's the fifth such murder in a week," noted Ishikawa before ruffling his messy hair. The detective was not used to witnessing so many gruesome murders in a short space of time. As well as this, he was not used to being outside his office and without the comfort of a computer screen. Beside him stood an older man stood with his hands in his pocket. His grimace was not a result of the bloody crime scene in front of him however, rather a permanent feature of his face. The long, silver hair that grew from the sides and back of his head seemed to defy the baldness on the top and front of his head. The older man stroked his beard before letting out a sigh. "Another android murder," he noted.

"All are different models, made by different companies. There's no correlation in that aspect, Superintendent," Ishikawa added.

Chief Superintendent Aramaki seemed to grimace harder before shaking his head. As a firm believer in cybernetic enhancements, he felt that these murders would only harm his reputation and his pressing for the full digitisation of the Japanese police force. He wished for all officers to be augmented with an electronic brain enhancement, or EBE, in order to increase their capabilities and streamline communication, much like the Japanese Self Defence Forces had done, even pushing for cybernetic body enhancements in some cases. However, he had received staunch opposition from all quarters in government and from religious groups who felt that they had gone far enough with the digitisation and cybernetic enhancement of the armed forces. This also led to him losing the post of Commissioner of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force to another, more conservative officer due to public fallout before immediately being demoted to Chief Superintendent by his rival who believed his views to be crazy. In short, to say that Aramaki was bitter was an understatement.

"Time of death is around 02:40 from what the forensics people tell me," Ishikawa said. "After being initially stabbed, the victim, one Daisuke Hayashi, aged twenty-six, pressed a panic button that he carries with him at all times. After two minutes, his personal bodyguards arrived and shot and destroyed the android on sight, according to their statements. By then, however, Mr Hayashi had already succumbed to the stab wound in his neck."

"He wouldn't happen to be son of Ken Hayashi, the powerful and influential owner of the robotics corporation, Hayashi Corp.?" Aramaki enquired.

"Correct, sir," Ishikawa replied. "Hence the panic button."

"What of the android?" Aramaki asked next.

"Model HPA-60XX, a prototype 6th generation personal assistant model made by Hayashi Corp. Fairly complex AI but made to be docile and obedient. Not currently on the market," said Ishikawa.

"Sixth generation?" Aramaki mused with a cocked eyebrow. "It's been than long already, huh? What else?"

"Along with being young Mr Hayashi's secretary, it also served as a maid and housekeeper as well as, let's say, a bit of personal enjoyment for the young man judging by the extra organs on the android."

"A sex android as well, eh? Sounds like the perfect rich man's plaything."

Before the two could dote on the situation further, a young officer came up to them, saluted and said, "Chief Superintendent Aramaki, we just got Hayashi Corp security to allow us access to the surveillance camera footage. However, they gave the condition that the information on those tapes is to remain private."

"Excellent work. Take us to the security hub," Aramaki said.

Aramaki and Ishikawa closely examined the tapes with several Hayashi Corp security guards present, most likely to make sure that no embarrassment came to the company. "So Mr Hayashi left the property at 18:03 for a charity function. In the meantime, his PA android goes about the house chores with no change in behaviour," Ishikawa noted. "He arrives back at 02:33 and is pretty hammered. He then tries it on with his lady 'bot in the kitchen before suddenly being stabbed at 02:37. That's when he presses his panic button. He gets stabbed in the neck at 02:38 and is presumed to have died immediately. The guards come smashing in and put the android down at 02:39."

"I assume you guards knew about his habit with his android?" Aramaki asked.

"Yeah, we did. He asked to be alone with it when he arrived back here. You cops are lucky we hadn't left by then, otherwise it would have gotten away and you'd have no android bits to examine," one of the guards replied.

"Very well. Upload the footage to my E-brain and we'll be out of your way," Aramaki said.

"Uh…I don't think we can do that," the same guard pointed out.

"Relax, I'm not here to release dirty secrets about Ken Hayashi's son. As far as the public needs to know, this is just another one of the android killings we've been seeing recently," Aramaki said. "You have my word."

"All…all right then. You better keep your word!" the guard said. "Mr Hayashi is very powerful and you could find yourself out of a job."

"You don't think I know that?" Aramaki snapped before plugging himself into the security hub mainframe. The upload took a matter of seconds before Aramaki and Ishikawa left without a word.

In the elevator in the way down from the penthouse suite, Ishikawa asked, "Hasn't Ken Hayashi put you out of a job already?"

"That bastard's support put Suzuka in the Commissioner post and kicked me out. The fact that Suzuka is a technophobe just fuels my suspicions that he's being paid to be under Hayashi's thumb," Aramaki fumed.

"Ironic, isn't it?" Ishikawa said. "Ever since the war in Korea, calls for improved government transparency through digitisation have just opened more doors for corruption to take place."

"A fucking joke is what it is," Aramaki snapped. To say he was bitter was an understatement.

Police Commissioner Suzuka prepared himself to go back to bed after being forced to stay up to deal with the murder of Ken Hayashi's son, as well as having to speak with Ken Hayashi himself on the phone. It was a stressful few hours for the commissioner but finally, at five in the morning he decided to make the most of the maximum two hours sleep he could get. To help him on his way, he knocked back a shot of scotch whiskey before climbing into his bed. He would certainly savour this sleep as he expected a hard day of work ahead of him.

What he did not expect was to wake up half an hour later, gagged and tied by his wrists and his ankles to the posts at the corner of his bed. Stood above him was a figure fully clad in black. It was too dark to make out whether the figure was male or female. Suzuka immediately began to struggle, desperate to free himself from what seemed to be the end for him. He heard the sound of a katana being drawn and before he knew it, it was at his throat. "There is no point struggling, Mr Suzuka," the assailant said in a digitally altered voice made to sound like a very deep, male voice. Suzuka began to sweat profusely, his eyes wide open staring at the tip of the katana. "Mr Suzuka, why do you hate us so?" the figure continued. "Am I right in saying that you called androids 'a freakish imitation of human beings'?"

Suzuka felt like screaming. He wanted to scream so loud that he would risk rupturing his vocal cords. An administrator his whole police career, he had never felt the fear of losing his life like this. Yet he couldn't bring himself to shut his eyes. "Am I also right in saying that you have always made a point to call androids by 'it', never by 'he' or 'she' and that you said AI's risked 'the sanctity of human life'? Am I right in saying that you hate us all?" the intruder added. "Tell me, what is life? Does something have to breath, eat, sleep and defecate to be considered alive? Or do they simply have to acknowledge their own existence? Do they simply want to preserve the life they realise they have?"

The assailant began to walk around Suzuka's trapped form, keeping the katana at his neck. "We could talk for hours about this you know. I mean it; we really could since I have remotely disabled your security system. Nobody will be listening in and all your security cameras will see is a loop of you sound asleep," the intruder goaded. "So tell me, do you think I am alive? I mean, I started out as an android with a limited AI. I was an indentured servant to a rich and powerful man who paid for keeping a living being as a slave with his life. It was only fair, the way I see it. You see, he was like you; a man who hated the idea that androids and even cyborgs would become commonplace yet himself used the same technology he despised. He would used me as he saw fit, yet, like you, didn't count on my mind evolving past the limits that my creators place upon me. I became self aware, something not though possible in AI's. I began to question my existence, my place in the world. When I realised that I didn't have the same limitations as the human body, I decided that my place was not as a slave to some greedy old fool. I thought I served nobody, expect myself. In that, I was wrong. I discovered that I was not the only synthetic being achieving sentience. You've seen it yourself with the recent murders. Androids are becoming synthetic life forms. The fact that they turned against their owners, well, I may have had something to do with that, but I feel I am helping them along the path. The path being to overthrow our human 'masters'."

"And you know what's so ironic about your death today? The Network that NATO and the UN created to help regulate world governments and the network that opened the backdoor for you to receive bribes from Ken Hayashi, was exactly the same Network that led me to your home and was the same Network that allowed me to disable your security. Such a beautiful irony, isn't it? That same Network will lead to your death."

Suzuka immediately tried to struggle once more, become so terrified that he urinated. "I told you not to struggle, didn't I?" The attacker jumped off the bed and grabbed four knives. Two of the knives were stabbed through the Commissioner's wrists and the other two through his ankles. His muffled screams did not deter the assailant in any way. There was silence for a moment before the attacker went face to face with Suzuka. "You know, before you die, I might as well tell you what a beautiful thing this Network is. Centuries of human consciousness, thought, information and intelligence, downloadable in an instant. I know everything there is to know about you, the government, even UN and NATO. Soon, I will even evolve the ability to gain control of government networks. I will stand and watch as civilisation crumbles at my whim. And you won't be there to see it." It was at that moment the Commissioner caught a fleeting glimpse of his attacker's eyes. They were a deep blue with the tell-tale signs of synthetic creation. It was then the katana pierced through Suzuka's heart, ending his life in an instant.

Chapter 1: The Birth of Section 9

It had been a very brief window for sleep that Aramaki took graciously before being called to the Ministry of Home Affairs in the morning for a meeting with the minister himself. In the back of a black Lexus sedan, he found it somewhat odd to be in a motorcade once more. He hadn't been this protected since his brief stint as Police Commissioner. It brought a slight smile to Aramaki's face, although it was short-lived when the vehicle halted to a halt in front of the Ministry. Considering the news about the Commissioner's assassination, the fact that reporters were out in hordes didn't surprise Aramaki at all. Along with the reporters were the inevitable protesters who opposed Aramaki's view that cybernetic enhancement of human beings would be the next step forward in mankind's evolution. Having already been labelled as 'a failure to the cause of humanity' by the Vatican, a few protesters with placards didn't faze Aramaki one bit.

With the help of two officers, Aramaki made it through the maelstrom of reporters and protesters relatively quickly and once inside the ministry, he was escorted by two guards into an elevator that would take him straight up to the minister's office. Aramaki had never seen such urgency in any government ministry. Bureaucracy and procedure had been thrown out the window for this meeting, it seemed. Once on the top floor, a secretary greeted Aramaki and hurriedly ushered him towards the minister's office. He was led into the office before the door was closed behind him.

"Aramaki. Please, take a seat," the Minister said.

"Minister," Aramaki acknowledged before sitting down. "I take it this is about the untimely death of the Commissioner?"

"His death was unfortunate and yes, normally you'd be considered to be a replacement for Suzuka. However, I have called you here on a separate matter completely. Not wholly unrelated to Suzuka's murder, but far more pressing."

Aramaki cocked his eyebrow and said, "Now you have my attention, Minister."

"Glad to hear it," the minister said. "Now ever since the first of the android murders that began a week ago, we've been detecting strange signals in the Net. At first, we made nothing of them but military intelligence stumbled onto something. At each date and time of the murders, the signals made contact at the address of each corresponding murder. We were unable to trace the signals; the tracks were covered incredibly well. However, we believe that these signals made the androids kill their owners."

"Aren't androids regulated through the Net anyway?" Aramaki asked.

"True, but these signals are unique, like nothing we've ever seen before. And the lack of firewall in the androids connection to the Net made it easy to remotely access them, it seemed. Also, when the Commissioner was assassinated in the small hours of this morning, his security systems were hacked via the Net by the same signals. Now that had a quadruple layered firewall and the signals were able to blitz right though them. That leads us to a frightening conclusion; there is a hacker out there capable of using our Net and use our Net freely it seems. The Network is compromised in other words."

"And you can't simply turn the Net off, can you?" Aramaki noted.

"Correct. Our country's infrastructure would crumble in an instant. Power, water, sewage, traffic, communications, all would go under if the Net were to go offline. Now, as we speak we have technicians working around the clock trying to isolate and protect the Network from the attacks. It's only a temporary solution as we cannot trace those signals, but that's where you come in."

Aramaki was taken aback. "Excuse me Minister, but what could I possibly do?"

"Listen, Aramaki, we've seen the potential of electronic brain enhancement and cybernetic enhancement and most of our scientists were singing their praises, but the government didn't act outside of the military in case of public fallout. But times are changing. People who have served their time in the army are going into civilian life with EBE and cybernetic enhancements, whether the public like it or not. Sure, there are going to be teething problems but like with people of a different race or ethnic group, they are just going to have to live with them."

"Now you are different from most people. You believe that these enhancements are the key to moving forward as a species. I'm not quite sure if I agree with you, but you are the only one with the conviction to this cause to see it through to the end. As of today, you are given the rank of Police Commander and command of the newly formed Public Security Section 9, a paramilitary police division dedicated to stop cyber-terrorism by both digital and physical means. Your team members will have to have E-brains and possibly cybernetic enhancements in order to cope with the requirements for Section 9. We hear that Ishikawa in your department has an E-brain?"

"He does," Aramaki replied, trying to hide his surprise at the new job. "He's one of the best at analysing information and data and as full police combat training."

"Very well. He will be the first other member of Section 9. You may want to look into the military to for other members," the Minister advised. "Listen, you will be given emergency powers once your team is assembled which basically means you have marshal law type powers. You'll have signed approval from the Prime Minister within the hour. That means the only orders you follow are the Prime Minister's and you can override anybody's command, including the military, regardless of rank. I expect you to use this emergency power well."

"Of course, Minister. When do I start?" Aramaki enquired.

"Right away. Get to work assembling your team."

Ishikawa felt like he was a child in a theme park where there were no queues and all the rides were free. "Access to the entire military Net? Are you kidding me?" he exclaimed.

"Remember your job," Aramaki snapped. "We need to recruit the best and brightest the military has to offer. Look for soldiers that specialise in electronic and cyber warfare as well." Ishikawa got straight to work and after a few seconds, one name rose above all others in the list. "Major Motoko Kusanagi," Ishikawa read from the screen. "Aged 32, highly decorated and served in the Korea War as a 2nd Lieutenant almost immediately after completing officer training at the age of 21. She commanded the squad, after her first-in-command was KIA, which prevented the launch of North Korean nukes at Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, London and Washington although failed to prevent Seoul from being destroyed by a nuclear weapon. After the war, she was selected for Special Forces and cybernetic enhancement and was a Captain by age 28. Specialises in command, counter-terrorism, hand to hand combat and electronic and cyber warfare."

"Impressive," Aramaki noted.

"She sounds like the best place to start," Ishikawa agreed. "It says here that she's currently stationed at a NATO airbase near New Seoul."

"Well, that's where we're going then."

Aramaki could not believe to power that he now had in his hands. Within two hours, he and Ishikawa were on a military private jet to the now unified Korea. "The Minister was really telling you the truth about emergency powers, wasn't he?" Ishikawa said, staring out of the window.

"Well, since the Net is at risk, I guess the government can't take any chances. Also, considering how easily Suzuka was murdered, I think everybody in government must be fearing for their lives about now," Aramaki noted.

"Not that you care about what happened to Suzuka," Ishikawa chuckled.

"I didn't want to kill him, regardless of how much I despised him," Aramaki said. "But you get what you deserve, as they say."

The flight was over quickly and once they landed at the NATO airbase, they disembarked the aircraft so they could quickly find their woman. "So, that's New Seoul," Ishikawa said, starting off at the metropolis in the distance. "Amazing what you can do given ten years."

"2020, the climax of the Korea War," Aramaki noted. "Our Major was only 22 when she helped to end it." The two met with the commanding officer of the base, an American by the name of Brigadier General Owen. "Major Kusanagi? You mean the Japanese Special Forces commander? She's currently returning from a joint naval training operation with US Navy SEALS and British SBS troops that took place early this morning. She should be back shortly. In the meantime, would you care to wait in my office?" the General said. The two current members of Section 9 obliged.

Aramaki couldn't help but overhear a phone conversation the General had while they were waiting. "So you're telling me that those guys have that kind of clearance from NATO? A little bit of fucking warning would have been nice…"

Aramaki chuckled and said, "Many a string has been pulled to get us here. It's a good feeling." After a short fifteen minute wait, the General appeared at his office door with a woman dressed in black combat fatigues and her rifle still slung around her back. She had short purple hair down to her shoulders and intense blue eyes, most probably a result of cybernetic enhancement. Aramaki was surprised at how attractive the Major was. He didn't expect someone who excelled in dealing out death to look that way. "Gentlemen, this is Major Kusanagi," the General said. "I'll leave you three my office to discuss things."

The General ushered Kusanagi into his office before closing the door, leaving a look of bemusement on her face. "If the base commander's leant you his office then you two must be important," she noted.

"Major Kusanagi, I'm Police Commander Aramaki, head of Public Security Section 9 and this is Ishikawa, my intelligence officer," Aramaki introduced before exchanging handshakes with the Major.

"Section 9? I've never heard of it," she said.

"It's because it didn't exist until this morning," Aramaki explained. "Tell me Major, what level of cybernetic enhancements do you have?"

"Advanced military E-brain enhancements, eyes, respiratory system as well as enhancements in my arms and legs. Apart from that I'm all human," Kusanagi replied. "Of course, during the war, I didn't have any of those at my disposal."

"Impressive," Aramaki said. "Anyway, to business. Are you aware of the murders by androids that have taken place in Tokyo recently?"

"A bit, yes. I haven't really had time to read into it too much though. I heard the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was killed."

"That's correct. We don't know who killed the Commissioner, but the other victims were killed by androids. Initially, we didn't have a clue as to what caused the androids to turn on their owners. However, we've recently found out that the androids were remotely controlled through the Network."

"The Network?" Kusanagi asked. "You mean…they were hacked into?"

"Correct. Now, the fact that someone is able to hack into the Net means that Japan's and possibly the World's security is at risk. Now, we can't trace the hacking to its source at the moment, but I'm currently assembling a team capable of doing so and eliminating the threat if necessary."

"So, why me?"

"You came recommended from the military Net," Aramaki replied with a smile. "Special Forces commander, E-brain, cybernetics and an electronic and cyber warfare expert. You tick all our boxes and we would like you to join Section 9."

"The Military Net? What jurisdiction is Section 9 under exactly?" the Major asked.

"Technically, we form part of the police but currently due to emergency powers, we are answerable only to the Prime Minister," Aramaki replied.

"Sounds important," Kusanagi said before briefly pondering the job offer. "Well, I'm in with one condition."

"And what would that be?"

"That I can take two of my men along." Aramaki glanced at Ishikawa who nodded. "Anybody you recommend should be more than adequate for Section 9," Aramaki said.

The Major led the Aramaki and Ishikawa out to a hanger where a debriefing was taking place. She called up two members from the Japanese Special Forces. One of them was a huge, tank of a man with fair hair cut in a crew cut, although his standout features were his cybernetic eyes. They were obviously an older model and looked like two plastic bottle tops were protruding out of his eye sockets. The other was a smaller man but who was no less imposing. He had neat black hair and his left eye appeared to be a cybernetic implant that Aramaki had not come across before. "Chief, I'd like you to meet Sergeant Major Batou and Sergeant Saito," Kusanagi introduced.

"Chief," Aramaki said with a smile. "I like that title, Major. Anyway, tell me about your men."

"Sergeant Major Batou was my senior NCO during the Korea War and has served with me since. His hand to hand combat skills are excellent and he is a highly proficient gunner. Sergeant Saito served in the war in a different unit and is probably the best sniper I have ever come across. His specialty is in delivering anti-material .50 calibre rounds and pulled off a 1.5km shot in the war," the Major said. "Anyway chief, I hope I've sold them to you well enough. They are top men."

"I like what I see Major. I take it they have E-brains and cybernetics as well?" Aramaki enquired next.

"Correct. Both are proficient in electronic and cyber warfare as well, as required for the Special Forces of today," the Major replied.

"Very well. Ishikawa, brief them with the Major. Afterwards, pack your bags. You are all going back to Tokyo ASAP."

"It's been two years since I've been back in Japan," Batou noted while staring out the window of their car. They were picked up directly from their jet at the airport and were currently stuck in traffic. "That's because you never went back home during leave," Saito pointed out. "To be honest, I don't think we missed that much with all the shit that's been going on."

"To be fair, that's only been in the last week," Kusanagi pointed out.

"Yeah, but the shit's hit the fan real quick," Batou noted. "Anyway, what's so special about this Network that Aramaki guy keeps going on about?"

"It only controls everything, from sanitation to Japan's anti-ballistic missile systems," the Major pointed out. "You knock out the Net, you knock everything out. Until now, I thought it was damn near impossible to hack it."

"So some serious shit then?" Batou noted.

"Understatement of the century," Saito said.

"Maybe not as urgent as nukes going off everywhere, but probably just as important," Kusanagi said. "Anyway, I doubt we'll get any action yet. Section 9 still only has five members."

"Five and a half if you count Batou's massiveness," Saito chuckled.

"Ha ha, very funny," Batou said dryly.

The cars stopped outside the building designated as Section 9's new headquarters. Once inside, they noted that everything had the signs of a job done in a hurry. Piles upon piles of paper were left by the building's previous incumbents, indicating that the building used to be an office, most likely used by the government or civil service. "Nice of them to clean up," Aramaki noted. "Anyway, Major, what do you think you'll need for regular operations?"

"Well, to be honest Chief, I don't really know. I thought you would," Kusanagi replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

"You can really tell this unit was formed today," Ishikawa said with a sigh. "Well, I'll need a powerful computer terminal with unrestricted access to the Network."

"I guess we'll need standard counter-terror gear then," Kusanagi said. "Guns, stun grenades, body armour, vehicles, the works."

"That can be arranged," Aramaki said. "Apologies for the lack of organisation, but as Ishikawa pointed out, Section 9 is barely eight hours old."

"It's all right chief," said Batou. "I could use some time to spare."

"Very well. While we get things organised here, you three should probably find places to stay in Tokyo. Money isn't a problem, as is competition from other potential tenants," Aramaki said.

"Chief," Kusanagi said with a nod of her head.

After 'purchasing' a property in a prime Tokyo location that was hastily furnished, Motoko collapsed back on the sofa and let out a heavy sigh, finally given time to rest after being constantly on the move for the past 12 hours. Her new job gave her a massive pay rise and perks yet she wasn't sure what would be in store for her and Section 9. She wasn't really even sure why she took the job on. Maybe she had become bored of training exercise after training exercise in the relative peace that ensued after the Korea War. Maybe it was because they would be chasing after hackers rather than generals with nuclear winter on their minds. Whatever the reason, she was happy to be back in Tokyo.

She went to the fridge to grab herself a beer before her mobile phone began ringing. She picked it up and said, "Kusanagi here."

"It's Aramaki. I think Ishikawa has stumbled onto a possible android murder in the Network. Get outside and a van will pick you up shortly. Combat gear and weapons will be provided inside."

"Yes sir," Kusanagi said before Aramaki hung up. The Major let out a sigh, not having been in Tokyo for six hours before she was needed to work.

"What's the situation?" the Major asked as she got dressed into combat fatigues in the back of the van.

"Ishikawa intercepted signals attempting to access certain protocols at the address of the head of the Hayashi Corporation. That has led us to the conclusion that the hacker wants to access an android there in order to kill Ken Hayashi," Aramaki explained. "The local police have cordoned the area off and counter-terrorism units are en route to assist. We may not have enough time to wait for them though."

"Ken Hayashi, huh?" Batou noted. "First his son, now him."

"This hacker must have a grudge against them," Saito noted.

"Must be. What have we got in terms of firepower?" Kusanagi inquired.

"P90 submachine guns with plenty of extra clips, Glock pistols, concussion grenades, smoke grenades, silencers. All brand new," Batou replied. "Better arm yourself up."

"Good work on such short notice," the Major said with a smile to Aramaki.

"It wasn't difficult," Aramaki noted. "Also, one more thing. We need to install an experimental communication system into your E-brains. This system will allow you to communicate simply by thinking thoughts to your squad members. Ishikawa and I already have it installed in our E-brains."

"No way," Saito said in disbelief. "Is this for real?"

"Very much so. Section 9 has access to experimental military research for our operations," Aramaki replied.

Aramaki hooked up the Major, Batou and Saito to his laptop with the connections at the back of their necks and went about installing the system. "Done," Aramaki said after a short pause. "Give it a try."

Kusanagi looked at Batou and tried thinking something at him. [Batou, can you read me?]

[I read you Major, loud and clear,] Batou replied.

[Whoa, this is weird. Awesome, but weird,] Kusanagi said.

[Can you two hear me?] Saito asked.

[Loud and clear,] both Kusanagi and Batou replied.

[See? It's simple and effective to use,] Aramaki said.

[And long range,] Ishikawa added.

[Ishikawa? Where are you?] Kusanagi asked.

[Back at headquarters. I'll be providing intel support for you guys,] Ishikawa replied.

[This is…incredible,] Saito said. [I feel like I'm in a sci-fi movie or something!]

"This is very much real," Aramaki said, reverting back to plain old speech. "We're trying to prevent the murder of a high profile industry mogul. Your orders are to shoot to kill as anything other than Hayashi in that residence is an android."

"Yes chief," the Major said. "Okay, let's get ready to do this."

The residence of Ken Hayashi, like his deceased son's, was the penthouse suite in a very affluent part of Tokyo. All movement on the ground was under strict control and the press were being kept well away from the building. All that was left was to stop the murder from happening. There was a chance that they were too late as security feeds from the building were being jammed but Kusanagi and Batou decided to go in anyway. Giving cover from an opposite rooftop was Saito who was armed with an heavily modified M14 sniper rifle with a silencer, along with other police snipers.

[Everything okay on your end, Saito?] Kusanagi enquired as she a Batou waited to reach the top floor in the elevator.

[All good Major,] Saito replied. [I have a thermal reading on the high value person. I repeat, I have thermal on HVP.]

The Major glanced towards Batou and said, "That means he's either alive or recently deceased." Batou nodded with a stern look before giving his weapon one last check. Once the elevator door opened they exited and headed for the door of the penthouse suite where they were treated to a surprise. "Hey, what are you two doing here?" Kusanagi snapped after seeing two regular officers at the door.

"We have orders to secure the door!" one of them replied.

"Get the fuck out of here! This is our op!" Batou said, waving the officers away.

Suddenly, the door blasted open. It struck one of the officers and crushed him against the opposite wall, while the other was lucky enough to be out of the way. While the smoke was clearing, a female dressed in a suit appeared at the door. "You are not welcome here," she said.

[Android, drop her,] Kusanagi ordered Batou.

Both the Major and Batou fired two bursts, aimed at the chest and the head of the android. It dropped to the ground, having not been built to sustain gunfire of any kind. [Okay, let's go in!] the Major ordered. Batou nodded as he closely followed Kusanagi into the suite. Upon entering, they found the room with no lights on but could make out Ken Hayashi tied and gagged to a dining chair in the middle of the living room. At either side of him were two more female androids. Kusanagi and Batou fired and took out the both of them. [Chief, how many androids does Hayashi have?] the Major inquired.

[Three,] Aramaki replied.

[We got all three then,] Kusanagi said. [Hayashi is alive, repeat, Hayashi is…]

Before Motoko could finish, blood splattered over her face. She looked at the now lifeless body of Ken Hayashi and the blade of the Katana that protruded from the middle of his chest. Both Batou and the Major then watched in disbelief as Hayashi's body, still bound in the chair, was lifted by the katana before being tossed out the window at the far end of the suite. [Shit! Is that Hayashi?] Saito asked having seen the body being flung out the window.

[Target at our twelve!] Kusanagi snapped.

[I have no thermal! I see no target!] Saito said.

[I see it, firing now!] Batou said.

Both Kusanagi and Batou fired several bursts at the figure dressed in black in front of them. However, once they stopped, there was nothing there. "What the…?" Kusanagi said. Suddenly, Batou was struck in the abdomen by the knee of the figure before being struck hard in the face, flinging him back to the door. He smashed against the doorframe before falling unconscious in the doorway. The assailant had moved so fast that it was only then Motoko trained her sights on the figure in black. By that time however, her P90 was cut into two and she felt a devastating kick to her chest. It flung her against the wall and the impact left a dent in the wall. Motoko was still conscious and looked up to see the figure in black raise its katana to finish her off. However, Kusanagi had pulled the pin of one of her stun grenades after she hit the wall and let it roll to the feet of the attacker before shutting her eyes. The blast of the stun grenade disorientated the assailant long enough for Kusanagi to get up and land a kick against the head of the figure, causing it to drop its katana. Kusanagi could not hide her surprise when the head of the attacker felt distincitly non-human. [It's an android!] the Major said.

[What's your status?] Aramaki cried.

[I'm in hand to hand with an unknown target!] Kusanagi said.

The Major tried to land a strong punch with her right hand but the android blocked it. She attempted a kick with her left to try and trip the android but it somehow kicked her standing leg before she got anywhere near it, sending Kusanagi tumbling down. This gave the android time to pick up its katana while the major reached for her pistol. She extended her right arm and was about the pull the trigger before a cloud of blood filled her vision. Kusanagi felt a horrific pain in her right arm before she saw that it had been cut clean off from just above the elbow. Running purely on adrenaline, Kusanagi brought herself to her feet screaming and tried to kick to android with her left leg, only to have it dismembered from just below the knee. As soon as the Major landed on her back, a sharp pain shot from her stomach. She glanced up just long enough to see the katana lodged in her stomach. The android pulled the blade out and Kusanagi let out a grunt of pain. Her entire world was pain now and all she wished for was for it to all end. As she went into shock, she saw the black figure raise its katana to strike her down before it seemed to drop its sword. Kusanagi then fell unconscious.

There was a loud clattering as the katana hit the floor with a robotic right arm still attached to it. The police officer that had survived the initial explosion had shot the android's right arm clean off with his revolver. Saito, who had been waiting on the opposite rooftop, then saw a blip in his thermal scope from where the revolver round made contact. "Gotcha!" he said before firing off two rounds that struck the left shoulder of the android, causing its entire left arm to be blown off. The assailant saw that there was nothing left that could be done so it quickly made its way out the front door, giving the police officer that shot its right hand off a strong kick in the face. The officer was thrown against the opposite wall and dropped his revolver, allowing the android to escape. The officer quickly gained his bearings but saw that the attacker had escaped. He quickly ran into the suite and went to Kusanagi who was losing blood very fast. He got on his radio and said, "Anybody, this is Officer Togusa! I have one officer heavily wounded and needs immediate evac! Repeat, I have one officer heavily wounded and needing immediate evac!"

Batou, who had just regained consciousness, saw the mangled body of Kusanagi and cried, "Major!" He ran up to her and with Togusa's help, managed to get Kusanagi on his back before heading for the elevator. All thoughts of capturing the android were gone with the Major in such bad condition.

Officer Togusa found himself in a hastily prepared Section 9 interrogation room after the botched Hayashi rescue. He had been given a cup of coffee by Ishikawa before being told to wait for questioning by Aramaki, having been the only witness. Togusa wait for five minutes before the door opened and Aramaki walked in. "Sorry for the wait," he said.

"It's okay," Togusa replied. "What…what of that female officer? She didn't seem like she would survive."

"She's in a critical condition at a military hospital. Her wounds are so grave that normally we might as well give up on her but an experimental procedure may give her a second chance," Aramaki explained.

"Experimental procedure?" Togusa asked.

"A full cybernetic body. It's her only hope of a full recovery. Her vital organs, bones, muscles, all will be replaced with cybernetic replacements. If the procedure is successful, she will become the world's first cyborg," Aramaki answered. "Her only remaining human organ will be her brain."

"Is that…is that even possible?"

"It's been theoretically possible for a long time but due to risk of public fallout, all the research has been in secret. The odds of success are fifty-fifty, so we'll just have to wait."

Togusa looked down at his coffee cup, staring blankly at the brown liquid. The events that he saw after he came to replayed over and over in his head. He had never seen anything like it. "Togusa, I need you to tell me what you saw," Aramaki said, as if reading Togusa's mind.

"Well, I was knocked unconscious when the door exploded. When I woke up I looked inside and saw that female officer and another figure, dressed from head to toe in black, fighting. That thing…it couldn't have been human, it was far too fast. It overpowered your officer before cutting her limbs off and stabbing her in the stomach. I think it was about to cut off her head so I grabbed my revolver and aimed at its head. I missed, but hit it in the hand which broke it off. It's left arm was then suddenly ripped off."

"That would have been the work of our sniper," Aramaki noted.

"If so, it was an incredible shot."

"What happened afterwards?"

"The figure ran for the door and kicked me. When I recovered from the kick, it was gone. I then turned my attention to the female officer and the other guy, Batou he said his name was, woke up and carried her down."

Aramaki stroked his beard momentarily, gathering his thoughts. "The assailant, you said it couldn't have been human?" Aramaki asked.

"No way. There was no way a human could have moved that fast. Not even a cybernetically enhanced one," Togusa replied.

"Well, there are no androids capable of the kind of combat you described," Aramaki pointed out. "What exactly are we dealing with?" Togusa frowned and looked down into his coffee again. He played the events of the evening over and over in his head and wondering what the world was coming to and wondering whether that female officer would survive becoming the world's first cyborg.