GHOST IN THE SHELL – NEW DAY.
Mark twisted the throttle.
The competition was good this meeting…plenty of men and women with plenty of interesting old machinery. Marks old early 1980's Kawasaki Z1100 Eddie Lawson Replica was singing along nicely, but he was being quickly outpaced by a guy on an original Suzuki 1100 Katana that had a lot of work done to it. The last turn was where it all happened…the guy on the Katana undercut Mark and carved through the apex, and Mark knew there was no way he could catch up now. They crossed the line meters apart, and the crowd cheered loudly.
Mark congratulated the rider of the old Suzuki as well as the other place getters behind them, and they went off to their respective pit areas.
As Mark pulled the bike up to his van, a familiar voice spoke nearby.
"So…the better man won…and that wasn't you.", and a booming laugh sounded over the sound of engines around them. Mark turned and looked up into the small round eyes of Batou.
"Hey big guy…how's it going? I didn't know you were here today. Enjoying the racing?"
Batou smiled and nodded.
"Yep, classics always get me interested. I also wanted to check out the swap meet to see if I could get some parts for my Lancia…not much hope I know, but always worth a look. I don't have a lot of time though…the Major is riding me again, and I really have to get back to headquarters." Mark smiled, knowing how Motoko could inspire the biggest and baddest men to come running to follow her orders.
They said their goodbyes, and Mark packed his gear up in the back of the van, and headed off for his house and workshop.
Later that day, he decided to take one of his old bikes, a fuel injected GSXR-1100 sports bike from the turn of the century, for a run…the injection had been playing up, but he thought he had the problem fixed…no guarantee until he took it for a good long ride though. As he rode through the gradually-thinning traffic approaching the edge of town, his thoughts turned to Motoko…their relationship had been going on for six months now. Motoko would come and stay at his place whenever she could get away from work, but it wasn't very often unfortunately. Her visits varied between extremes…virtually tearing his clothes off as soon as she entered the door, to quiet meals in harbourside restaurants, to nights simply sitting snuggled up on the huge old sofa in his living room watching old movies. He couldn't even say for sure what level the relationship was at…he felt very close to her, despite not seeing her all that often. She always seemed extremely happy to see him, and certainly showed it, to say the least. The magic word hadn't popped up yet from either of them…he didn't know if he was really ready to love someone again, even thought it had been years now since he lost his wife. He didn't even know if that was what Motoko was after, to tell the truth. To be brutally honest he still didn't really know what she saw in him.
He also found his mind occasionally wandering to the idea of marriage…one day of course, not quickly. He had heard that married men who lost their wife usually remarried within a few years…but was Motoko "the one"? He found himself starting to hope that she might be.
As Mark sat at a set of traffic lights, lost in thought about Motoko, he heard a bike pull up beside him…the whining hum of a new turbine model. Mark looked it over in appreciation…a sleek low form, a work of art sculpted and shaped to cheat the wind, with a powerful gas turbine engine. He gave the rider and pillion a nod of greeting, a motorcyclists habit as old as time. However, they didn't nod back…they both just stared at him through tinted visors on full face helmets, and Mark started to get an uneasy feeling about the situation. One of the men, the pillion, was wearing a leather jacket, but the rider himself had a short sleeved skin-tight t-shirt on, and it was plain that he was a cyborg…a very well built one, with bulging muscles and hard looking hands, the joins plainly obvious. This guy was powerful, one look told that. Mark then noticed that the pillion behind the rider had pulled out a small handgun, much like Motokos. He pointed it at Mark and gestured to the roadside, and Mark nodded his head in compliance.
As soon as the light went green however, Mark gunned the bike and took off, leaving the other two behind in surprise. Mark gave the bike everything he had, but he could see the headlight of the other bike approaching fast…very fast. Mark reached 220kph and sweated as he threaded through the thankfully light traffic on the freeway, but knew it wasn't enough…he didn't have equipment modern enough to keep this up for too long…and that counted for himself personally as well as his old bike. That cyborg would have much faster reflexes than he did, to say nothing of the vastly more powerful modern motorcycle they were riding, which was capable of well over 350kph. Mark tried to think fast, and for once wished he had a cyberbrain or a com link like Motoko and Batou had…there was no way he could send anyone a message.
In the end, it was all over in a way Mark didn't expect…he felt the rear end start to squirm, and backed off, fearing a blow out of the rear tyre at this speed. As he got it back under 100kph, the bike chasing him caught up easily, and then the tyre blew. Mark slthered to a stop, just managing to keep the bike upright. As he stopped, he got off the bike, which promptly fell over with a crunch, and threw his helmet to the ground, and got ready to fight…he wouldn't last long against that cyborg, but he'd make the bastard remember him. That too was over quicker than Mark thought, as the huge cyborg grabbed him by the front of his leather jacket and the last thing Mark saw was an enormous fist in front of his eyes…
Batou and Togusa sat quietly in the front of the truck. In the seat behind them, the Major was sitting, unmoving, as they all watched the entrance of a building in a run-down industrial area of the city. The talk was that it held a lab formulating a type of micromachine that could infect cyberbrains…not in any really harmful way, but in a way that would mean they hid from most medical scans and also were able to send signals to a third party. They were similar to the Interceptors that the police force had illegally fitted to some officers years before, but they were much more sophisticated, and virtually undetectable. The signals could be anything, but surprisingly they seemed to be mainly the oldest criminal reason in the book…information on bank details and monetary transfer numbers. That wasn't such a huge thing…more something that would interest the police department…but the potential was there for it to be corrupted into something much, much worse…once you have something that is designed to hack into peoples brains, who knows what you could then program it to do?
The word came through…move in, and the team leapt into action.
Later, they drove along a quiet avenue through the warehouses, having left the mopping up to the police. Togusa seemed unsettled about something.
"That seemed like a bit of a waste of our time…only three men arrested, and the leaders weren't even there…the police could have handled that without Section 9 getting involved." Batou grinned.
"Ours is not to reason why…ours is to do as we're damn well told." The Major suppressed a smile.
"Quite often they tell us to do things that don't make sense, or seem trivial…but I can assure you, this little action had wider ramifications than we know. One of the names on the papers I scanned in the office was a high ranking party official in the government…he appears to have funded the whole operation. I doubt he would be there as purely an ethical investor. There's more to this than we're being told. We've played our part and someone else will now take over."
Batou and Togusa agreed. They sat in silence, and suddenly the Major sat upright, looking down an alleyway between two buildings in an area where run-down shops sold old machinery and equipment.
"Togusa! Stop the truck!", she shouted. Togusa stopped the truck with a squeal of brakes, and Botou looked around, puzzled, as the Major leapt from the still moving truck and sprinted down the alley. Batou and Togusa glanced at one another briefly, then grabbed their guns and ran after her.
The Major stood looking in a workshop window. There was a selection of old fuel pumps, a couple of old cars, a home robot of an ancient design, and a motorbike just inside the window. Batou and Togusa caught up with her, and looked through the window. She looked worried, and Togusa asked what the problem was.
"That's one of Marks bikes…".
Togusa looked at it…it was old, had a shredded back tyre, and appeared to have been dropped by the scratching and marks on one side. Batou looked skeptical.
"You sure? That doesn't look like the standard of thing Mark has in his collection." The Major just looked at him angrily.
"I'm sure…OK? We rode that very bike when he took me out to dinner a week ago…I'd know it anywhere." Batou and Togusa looked at one another awkwardly…they didn't like to bring up the Majors outside…attachments. Batou didn't like to pry…Mark was a friend of his. However, he was also a little worried…the more he looked at it, the more he was reasonably sure that Mark did indeed have a bike just like that one. The Major glanced at the pair.
"It is, and that's that. There's no way that Mark would let one of his vehicles get in that condition…further more, he wouldn't put it in a shop like this for sale even if he did. I'm going in to ask a few questions…", and she pushed open the door with a bang. Togusa looked at Batou.
"I hope she doesn't ask that hard that the poor guy ends up in hospital…"
Mark came to in a darkened room.
His head hurt, he couldn't see out of one eye properly, and he was tied to a chair. Nice.
Movement in the darkness resolved into a large figure standing near a closed door.
"Finally…we wondered when you were going to come to. Your day is about to get a hell of a lot worse my friend. That is, unless your girlfriend turns up pretty promptly."
Mark got worried…obviously they meant Motoko…but how the hell would she know where he was? More to the point, why did they want her? That's just fine Mark…lead Motoko into a trap. Hopefully though he was right…she had no idea where he was.
"Now, I assume that you'll have already called her that you're being held against your will…she'll track you down fairly quickly." The figure turned on a light, and revealed himself to be the large cyborg that had ridden the motorbike that chased him.
Mark got even more worried…they obviously didn't know that he was completely natural with no cyberisation, and had no way of contacting Motoko short of actually picking up a phone. That meant one of two things…either they would discover this and something more drastic would have to be done, and that would probably mean doing something interesting to him in a more public place, or at least in a place where public safety cameras would see him, or more worryingly, he was useless to them for their current plans, and would be disposed of forthwith.
Togusa and Batou sat quietly…mainly because they hadn't seen the Major drive like this for some time. She threw the truck about in the traffic like it was a sports car, obviously angry…and even more disturbed after making several unanswered phone calls. Togusa and Batou set up a private com link and Togusa was the first to say what they were both thinking.
"So big guy…what's the deal with the Major and this Mark guy? Something serious or is he just a friend of hers?". Batou looked uncomfortable.
"Well…I'm not really sure. He's a mechanic and a classic car and bike enthusiast I've known for several years now. The two of them met a few months back and have been going out now and then…not sure if there's anything more than friendship there though…but she seems pretty pissed off doesn't she?"
Togusa agreed, and decided not to push it too much. They all tried to keep their private lives away from work pretty, well, private.
"What's the big deal though? I mean, I've sold cars before, I've even taken one to a scrap yard when I was younger…what's the issue if this guy decides to sell one of his old motorbikes?". Batou grinned.
"You don't understand…can you imagine driving down a street and seeing one of my old cars sitting in not just a second hand car yard, but a shifty looking back alley parts shop? What would you think?"
Togusa looked grim.
"I'd think something pretty odd was going on, and I'd probably want to know why you did that. Yes, I see what you mean…it's apparently out of character for Mark to do this then." Batou nodded.
"Now you've got it."
They sat back quietly to see where the Major was taking them.
The Major brought the truck to a sliding stop in the driveway of Marks house. She threw open the door and rushed towards the house, followed closely by Togusa and Batou. She reached the front door and opened it.
"Mark! Mark…where are you?" , and she stopped abruptly after entering. Batou and Togusa came through the door behind her, and looked around.
The room was a shambles…books were strewn everywhere, couches pulled apart, cupboards opened and rummaged through…it was obvious the place had been turned over thoroughly and not very professionally. The Major ran upstairs, calling Marks name as she ran. Batou looked around.
"Togusa, follow the Major…I'm going to check the workshop beside the house.", and he rushed out the door. Togusa sprinted up the stairs…big house on a big block in a nice residential area of the outskirts of the city amongst parklands…whatever this guy did, he made a decent living at it.
Togusa found the Major sitting on the side of a large brass bed, looking at a picture in a broken photo frame. Togusa glanced around the room…it was a similar mess. Togusa walked around the room and checked things over…nothing much he could see in the way of evidence. He sent a message to headquarters for any forensics team in the areas that was free to come and check the place over.
Togusa walked over to the Major and awkwardly sat beside her. He noticed the photo was taken on what appeared to be a boat…a sailing boat. The Major was dressed in a bikini, and a fair haired man in a t-shirt and stereotypical captains sailor hat stood beside her with an arm around her both looked very happy.
"So Major…is that Mark?" She nodded and put a hand on his knee, holding the picture over to let him see it better.
"This was taken two months ago. Mark had bought an old yacht and fixed it up. We were sailing on the harbour, testing out the repairs he'd made. It was a great day." Togusa felt uncomfortable.
"So…Major. Any idea what went on here?" He could hear a vehicle stop outside, and got a message over his comlink that it was the forensic boys he'd sent for. Maybe they could turn up something.
"No…no idea. The house is always clean and neat…Mark likes things in their place. The living room was virtually a museum of 20th century items…he never let it get disordered. You don't have to be a detective to see something bad has happened here." Togusa paused and then stood, facing the Major.
"I'm sorry Major, but I have to ask…did Mark have any underworld connections or other criminal contacts? I mean…this house, the garage, a collection of very valuable cars and motorbikes, in this area of town. It all seems a bit much for a simple mechanic."
The Major stood and looked into Togusa eyes firmly.
"No…definitely not. I'd know for a start…but the collection and the rest, well, he doesn't only work on Batous cars you know…mechanics who know their way around old boats, cars, planes, and motorbikes aren't common. Marks work commands a high price amongst other collectors all over Japan. That's where his money comes from. Ican assure you it's all completely legitimate" Togusa nodded.
"I had to ask you understand". She put a hand on his shoulder and smiled.
"I know…you wouldn't be who you are if you hadn't asked. Thanks.", and she walked off to inspect other areas of the house as a small team of men entered and Togusa told them what to do. He then headed off to find Batou.
In the garage, Batou sat on a tool chest idly twirling a spanner. He looked around…things had been checked over here, that was plain, but not thrown around all over the place like whoever had done the house. Whoever had done this had at least some respect for machinery and the vehicles along the back of the large shed wall…the cars had been opened and gone through, but nothing had been torn out, nothing had been broken that he could see…the contents of the trunks had been removed but placed neatly on the ground. Glove compartments had been opened but things just put on the passenger seat. Tool boxes had been opened but nothing taken that he could see. The perp was someone who was, most likely, some sort of enthusiast themselves. Might be a good idea to pay a visit to the next classic race meeting and see if anyone knew anything. However, that was a week away…hopefully Mark had been found by then.
"Jesus, look at all this stuff!". Batou turned to see Togusa standing in the doorway near the wide roller doors. He was staring wide eyed around the lineup of old cars and bikes along the wall. He recognized some names…Ferrari, Maserati, surprisingly a Lancia just like Batous except in a brilliant green, Ford, Honda, Toyota…but there were some he didn't recognize, obscure older makes from a long time ago. Then along the other wall was the tools…cabinet after cabinet, car hoists, a pit in the floor, welders, lathes, and full milling and machining equipment of all sorts, separated off from the pristine dust-free car and bike side of the huge garage by a clear armoured glass wall.
"Yep…that's the way I reacted when I first came here to get my car serviced on the recommendation of a couple of old car nuts I know. Amazing sight isn't it?" Togusa was also taken by the large glass fronted display cabinet full of toy cars and bikes, spreading for five meters along a wall. Batou gestured around him.
"Do you notice anything different about the garage compared to the house?"
Togusa walked around slowly, being careful not to step on anything or disturb anything that could be evidence. He finally stopped and shrugged.
"Well…apart from looking a lot neater than the house, it's been turned over pretty thoroughly like the house. But yes, it does look like one person did the house, one did the garage here…and the one here took a lot more care with what they were doing." Batou grinned.
"Exactly. If we haven't found Mark by next weekend, I'm going to go to the classic bike race and see what I can turn up…most people see these things as just old obsolete cars. They'd toss this place just like they did the house, quickly and quietly, but the person who did this took their time. That tends to imply that by this time they already had Mark, because they weren't worried about being disturbed."
Togusa agreed. The Major walked in, and glanced around.
"They were here too?" The two men nodded, and told her their suspicions. She agreed with them.
"Batou, if nothing has happened by next weekend, then go to that race meeting. Togusa, any spare time you can give me, I'd greatly appreciate it. Let's go."
Aramaki sat in his office reviewing paperwork.
He had called the Major to his office, and was still wondering exactly how to go about what he was going to say to her. The Major appeared at the door and Aramaki gestured for her to enter. She sat opposite him, and Aramaki steepled his hands in front of his lips.
"So Major…you've been spending quite a bit of time on, shall we say, extra curricular activities. Now, you haven't slipped to such an extent that it's affecting your work standards, but it's noticeable that you're preoccupied with something. Anything you'd care to share?"
The Major stood and looked out the window, folding her arms and looking down.
"It's my…friend…Mark. I believe he's been abducted…all evidence points to it, one of his motorcycles was sitting in a run down shop, damaged, and his house has been ransacked thoroughly and there seems to be no way of contacting him. Something has happened to him…it's been nearly a week and I haven't been able to turn up anything!", and she thumped a fist down onto the window sill so hard that the metal sill bent and the window cracked. She looked embarrassed.
"Sorry chief…". Aramaki waved a hand.
"Don't worry about it. So…if I may ask you a personal question…this Mark. Someone important to you, is he?" The Major looked at the heavy dent in the window sill and cracked window, and then looked out towards the harbour.
"You were married chief, weren't you?" He sat quietly, and nodded. He decided not to comment further but to just left the Major speak her mind.
"I often wonder…what's in the future for me? Not with work…I mean personally. Do I just keep burying myself in working to the exclusion of all else in my life, with casual flings on the side when time allows? I know I won't ever have children, but the question sometimes pops into my head of what about a…more permanent arrangement with someone…someone to come home to at night, someone who'll always be there…", and her voice trailed off.
"Marriage?", asked Aramaki with raised eyebrows. The Major laughed.
"Marriage? No…well…I hadn't actually thought of such a thing. Ok…yes…I have thought of it. Who knows though?"
She turned and sat in the chair again. Aramaki tapped his pen on the blotter in front of him.
"Major, there are no big issues for our department that I can see on the horizon…so unless something pops up unexpectedly, take your time, use the resources of Section 9 to look for your…friend. However, if it starts to impinge on our work here, I'll have no hesitation pulling you back into line…after all, friend or not, this is, until we know better, a missing persons case better handled by the regular police force. You understand my position."
The Major stood to leave, and smiled.
"Thank you chief…you have no idea how much this means to me.", and she left.
Aramaki opened a drawer of his desk and removed a photograph of a woman…kindly face, aged around mid-fifties, a careworn smile on her face, tending roses in a garden. He sighed.
"I think I do, Motoko…", he said quietly to himself…
Mark was getting sick of his situation, naturally enough.
Days had gone by. They had at least untied him, and were feeding him. He did seem to get the impression that they weren't happy that his "girlfriend" hadn't showed up. Then again, he didn't know what they wanted with her…he hadn't seen any weapons yet apart from that pistol when they abducted him. However, with that massive cyborg, they didn't really need any other weapons against an unarmed opponent.
His future was decided for him though, as the cyborg and the smaller man walked in the room with a hand held scanner of some sort, and ran it over his body. They looked at it, and talked in hushed tones in he corner for a while. They turned to face him.
"Looks like your obsolete machinery at home isn't the only unusual thing about you buddy…you're natural as far as we can see. That gives us a difficulty…how are we supposed to get your ladies attention?"
They stood and stared at him…perhaps conversing with cyber brain coms or something, as occasionally they would give one another a knowing glance. They seemed to make up their mind about something, and left the room.
Batou stood beside one of Marks motorcycles, kitted out in a race suit. Togusa and Borma were nearby, dressed in overalls and pretending they knew what they were doing with the tools. Batou decided to go for a walk. He'd done enough to the motorbike that it wouldn't run, leaving him free to observe and walk around…plenty of guys here seem to have brought old machinery that refused to start or run well enough to compete, and were wandering around giving some helpful (and sometimes not-so-helpful) advice to fellow competitors, so he didn't really look out of place.
After two hours of chatting and trying to find out anything about Mark, he had hit a brick wall…yes, everyone seemed to know Mark, but no one had heard from him. They all seemed surprised he wasn't there, and it was indeed the talk of the meeting…everyone had been looking forward to him attending, as he had promised to bring one of his most valuable bikes, a very rare Britten race bike, made in New Zealand back in the early 1990's, and people had come from far and wide to see it. Every single person he asked said that now that you mentioned it, they hadn't seen him.
All except one.
A big guy, as big as Batou, surely cyberised heavily by his hands and facial features, riding an old Yamaha race bike from the early 2000's. Batou wandered by casually and checked the bike over…they sure didn't make them like that anymore. He said as much to the owner, who thanked him.
"So, you hear anything about Mark Burnett? He was supposed to be here with that Britten this weekend."
"Never heard of the guy…now piss off, I'm getting ready to race.", and went back to working on his bike before hopping on and riding off to the staging area to prepare for the next race. Batou smiled and walked back to Marks bike.
"I think I might have found something interesting", Batou said to Borma and Togusa. He told them about his conversation with the man, and Togusa shrugged.
"So? He might never have heard of Mark Burnett…what's the big deal?" Batou shook his head.
"You have to remember the smallish circle of people we're dealing with here…imagine walking into an art gallery full of art experts and enthusiasts and asking if they'd heard of Leonardo DaVinci, and one of them said "Never heard of the guy"? Wouldn't it strike you as odd, to say the very least? These men and women all know Mark…either personally or at the very least by reputation. He's pretty famous in these types of gatherings."
Togusa saw his point, and they decided to keep a close eye on the huge cyborg.
The mistake was a simple one…anyone who has ever tried to leave a packed circus or even a movie show will know that if you are one of the first to be ready to leave and position yourself near an exit early, you get a long head start on everyone else who leave it too long and pile towards the gates later. At the end of the race meeting, Batou realized this way too late. They could see the van belonging to the cyborg well up near the gates, and by the time Batou, Borma, and Togusa had got the gear packed away (not realizing the earlier signs around them of people starting to put gear in trailers and vans as they finished with it, instead of laying it out within easy reach as they did during the rest of the day), they were at least fifty cars away from where the cyborg was. Batou yelled creative obscenities at the cars ahead of him, but it did no good. He could see the van pull out onto the entrance to the motorway, waiting for a break in the traffic…it would be gone in seconds.
"Togusa…drive the damn van…catch up if you can!", and he hopped out and ran towards the gates, sprinting between vehicles, and finally hopping across the roof of cars in the lineup, until he reached the front of the line. He managed to grab the rails on the back of the van as it pulled away, jerking him off his feet as he stumbled and finally caught a footing on the rear bumper. He hung there for a few seconds as the van quickly gathered speed and rushed down the motorway, and then peeked around the side of the van…to see the driver looking right back at him in the rear view side mirror.
The cyborg smiled at Batou, and then pointed to the rear as Batout felt him start to slow down rapidly, obviously he had hit the brakes. Batou swung back around to hang onto the rear of the van and brace himself, looking back towards the traffic behind them. Hi froze and stared.
"Shit…", was all he managed to get out, as a following furniture removals truck couldn't stop quickly, and rammed into the back of the van with a resounding crash...
Batou came to back in Section 9 headquarters…he felt all in one piece, vision was a bit blurry…but not too bad and rapidly improving. Togusa and Borma stood nearby, and a doctor/technician walked over and checked some readings.
"Humph…he'll be fine. Just a bit knocked around. You blacked out…that was a pretty hard hit."
Togusa looked down at Batou.
"The van was found a few kilometers down the road…it couldn't have driven much further with the damage to the rear end anyway. The bike was gone…we're assuming he rode it off after it stopped. You'll be pleased to know there's a new trophy for your collection…", and he gestured to the far wall of the workshop area. Leaning against it was the rear doors of the van…with an almost perfect comical imprint of Batous' body pressed into them. Batou smiled.
"They'll take pride of place in my garage at home.", and he laughed.
The Major walked in, stood with her hands on her hips, and stared at Batou.
"You let a potential lead get away." Batou glared back at the Major.
"Let him get away, hell…I was almost killed. It was a real swiss cheese effect problem…all the holes lined up at once and let the mouse slip through. We missed a chance to get closer to the gate at closing time, I didn't run fast enough to grab the guy out of the van before he drove off, he was quick enough to hit the brakes and slam me between his van and a truck…yeah, we can sit here and be Mondays experts about it, but what happened happened…I wish it had turned out differently but it didn't, Mark is my friend too, and I'd appreciate it if you'd get off my damn back about it."
The Major slumped and relaxed, putting a hand on Batous shoulder and apologizing.
"I'm sorry Batou…this case is stressing me out. I shouldn't have blown my top at you like that. You all did a great job finding out as much as you did, and at least we have his van."
"Forget about it…so what did the guys find out about the van? Anything yet?"
Togusa took a small vial out of his pocket, and, smiling, threw it to Batou. Batou looked at the small glass vial and turned it back and forwards in the light…it appeared to be empty. He looked questioningly at Togusa, who shrugged and looked at the Major.
"Micromachines…do I have to tell you what sort?" The Major hardened her stare.
"Let me guess…the type that is a more advanced sort of Interceptor?" Togusa nodded.
"Yep…the exact same type as the ones from that job we were assigned to the day Mark vanished. It's just way too big a coincidence. Maybe we stepped on some big toes." Batou and the Major agreed.
"So where do we start now?", asked Batou. The Major crossed her arms, lowering her head and thinking for a moment. Then she looked up and walked from the room.
"Togusa! Come with me. Batou…stay here and recover from being squashed", and she gave a cheeky smile.
Togusa sat in the passenger seat of the Majors car. She hadn't said where they were going, but it was somewhere in the middle of the city. Finally, the Major broke the silence.
"We're going to see the person belonging to that name I saw hidden in their records at that warehouse…the high ranking party official." Togusa looked uncomfortable.
"But Major…shouldn't we get clearance of some sort first? I mean, we can't just walk in and accuse someone of involvement in a criminal activity…especially a high up party member of the government."
The Major smiled and glanced over at Togusa.
"Togusa, how long have you known me? Do you think I'm going to do more than have a friendly chat with a member of parliament to give him the chance to quietly clear his name from scandalous accusations of involvement with a group we just arrested. Shame on you…". Togusa laughed and shook his head.
Togusa and the Major walked through the huge government administrative building…the Major knew the offices of the Prime Minister were somewhere towards the top of the building, but the office of the man they were going to see was one she had never entered before, so she had to scan the building schematics to find it.
They found the office, the one of the Minister for Industry & Trade, six floors up. A secretary sat outside an ornate office door, and looked up, surprised.
"Oh, welcome…I wasn't expecting anyone today. Mr Miyazaki has put a hold on all visitors for the last few days, so I'm afraid you will have to make an appointment for another time. May I have your name?"
"Major Kusanagi, Public Security Section 9…announce me please…I have a feeling he will want to see us.", and gave the girl a glare that would melt steel. She gulped and pressed a button on an intercom.
"Mr…Mr Miyazaki…there are two officers from Public Security Section 9 here to see you…I know you said to hold all calls, but…", and she was cut off by a gruff voice.
"No! Tell them to leave. I have nothing to say to them…oh…what's the point…this is useless. Why go on with this farce any longer?", and with a click the voice cut off. There were a few muffled thuds behind the door, and the Major and Togusa looked at one another.
"Come on!", said the Major as she kicked the door in. Togusa was shocked to see the Minister heaving a large chair against the wide picture window behind his desk, the window cracked and half broken away from the frame. He looked at them as they stood in the door way, then took a running leap at the broken window. Togusa leapt into action and as the Minister smashed through the window, grabbing his feet. Unfortunately, the Minister outweighed Togusa by a good amount, being a large and overweight. Togusa was dragged out the window as well, and saw a brief glimpse of the street far below as the Minister slipped from his grasp and fell screaming towards the street. Togusa felt himself falling, then abruptly stopped, as an iron grip squeezed both his ankles. He was drawn back through the window painfully, and deposited roughly onto the desk of the Minister. He found himself looking into the mauve eyes of the Major as she looked him over. Togusa massaged his very sore ankles where the Major had grabbed him as he fell.
"Thanks…thought I was a dead man then". The Major smiled, and to his surprise gave him a quick hug before stepping back to look out the window to the street below.
"Don't mention it…I don't want to lose more of the men in my life who are important to me. I'll see you on the street.", and she grabbed the window frame, braced herself, and leapt out.
She landed on the roof of a car, crushing it almost to the floopan with a rending bang, and leapt off to where the Ministers broken body lay on the footpath amongst a crowd of shocked onlookers. She pulled a neural link cord from behind her neck and plugged it into the cyberbrain jack of the Minister, hoping to download something that would explain his actions before his memory went forever.
As she sat quietly, the crowd standing back whispering, the sound of rapidly approaching sirens in the background, her eyes widened in surprise and a smile crossed her lips.
"It couldn't be that simple…or that stupid…could it?"
Togusa stood beside the Major as they rode up the elevator to Arimakis office. Togusa fidgeted on his feet and flexed his aching calf muscles.
"That's some grip you have there Major. By the way…what was that hug about…and the comment about men who are important in your life?" The Major gave a laugh.
"Oh don't worry Togusa…your wife doesn't have a rival on her hands trying to steal you away. I think of you as a good friend, and I wouldn't want to see anything happen to you." Togusa nodded, and fell silent. Could this Mark guy be softening up the Major? He thought for a moment, and looked at the Major.
"So…you still won't tell me what you found in the Ministers cyber brain?" She shook her head.
"No…I want to tell the chief first, but I want you to sit in. Batou is on his way up as well. You deserve to hear it…amazing and strange as it is."
In Arimakis office, Batou, Togasu, and the Major took a seat opposite the old man.
"So Major, what did you find out?" She hesitated, and then told everything she knew.
"Chief, what I'm about to tell you is going to sound like a mixture of things…odd, trivial, extreme, weird, foolish, naïve, criminal…the lot.
As you know, we found that micromachine factory, making nanites that would sit in a persons brain, which our information seemed to point to being ostensibly for monitoring what the person was doing with their finances and passing that information on to other parties. We thought this was a bit odd, that such a complicated and expensive undertaking would be done purely to steal peoples money. We thought there had to be more to it, and it now looks like we were right…or wrong, as you will see. However it was indeed something more, something which to some people might seem far more trivial, but which would have had far reaching consequences if it had been permitted to occur…or at least if it had been carried out as anything more than a fantasy it would have."
Arimiki and the other two looked at one another, puzzled.
"Major…what the devil are you talking about? Can you please make it a bit clearer than that?", said the chief.
The Major looked at the others.
"Ready for a brain dive? You can more easily see what I found from the Ministers brain if you experience it as I did.", and they all bowed their heads and dove into the Majors mind.
It was a chaotic, jumbled filmstrip of experiences, taken from the dying mind of the disturbed man. They had images of media advertisements and campaigns he was part of signing off on, saying "Buy Japanese", and "keep your money in the community", and similar images. Images of the Minister in clandestine back-room meetings with worried business and financial leaders, parliamentary committees on the way people were enamoured with foreign goods, how jobs were suffering in some Japanese industries because of it. Then a pair of men…a large cyborg and a smaller man…came to the Minister, offering a possible solution.
"What if we could supply you with something…something that would be able to influence
peoples minds, give them a gentle…nudge…in any way you see fit? In their buying habits at first, but maybe you'd like to influence them in…other ways in the future? Perhaps, dare I say, their voting preferences in elections?" They could see the Minister was deep in thought. He looked at the two.
"Honestly? You could do that?", and they gave wolfs grins and nodded at him.
"We have the working prototype. Within a year, you'll have people buying nothing that isn't made right here at home…and the government can honestly hold it's hands up and say they let trade with other countries go on freely, they don't restrict the import of foreign goods…it isn't the governments fault if people don't choose to buy foreign items. In five years after a bit of reprogramming you can be Prime Minister with a sweeping majority. You've seen the results of our testing. All we need is the financial backing to make it able to be spread like a virus, possibly in the water supply."
They saw the minister signing his name to financial documents and transferring large sums of money to the two men.
Later, they saw the Minister looking over some documents, including papers and reports from Section 9 confidential documents which, really, he shouldn't have had access to. They saw him virtually in tears, unbelieving that he had been conned, seeing what would happen to his political career. Then they saw him smashing the window and jumping to his death. It ended with a hazy image of the Major leaning over and plugging in the cable…
Togusa and Batou and the chief all looked at the Major, amazed. The chief was the first to speak.
"You mean this was all just to try and get people to buy Japanese made goods? Surely not."
The Major shook her head.
"No…it was indeed as we first thought…just a way to find out peoples banking habits and steal money, nothing more. The reports the Minister had found showed that the two men at the head of the group had no intention of making it spread like a virus…they didn't have that level of expertise. Our investigations and analysis of the micromachines shows they had no plans…in fact no capability…to make it influence peoples buying habits. That was just a story they told the Minister to hook him. They were conning the Minister into thinking they could do something they couldn't, thus getting financial backing…in effect getting their micromachines built for free, while they sat back and reaped the benefits, knowing the Minister couldn't possibly complain about it, as that would bring his name out, destroying his political career forever. It was a pretty clever plan."
The Majors face turned hard.
"However…that doesn't explain why they took Mark. Batou…that cyborg…is he the same man you saw?" Batou got a serious look on his face.
"I'd swear it was. I don't know why they'd take Mark either…he has no connection to this. Well…apart from his 'connection' to you in Section 9, which busted the whole thing wide open.", and he looked pointedly at the Major, who suddenly looked concerned. The chief pointed a finger at her.
"No Major…don't blame yourself. Whoever took Mark has made no demands, they've made no comment on the web or in the media. This doesn't even look like a normal kidnapping or abduction so far. I would suspect that it is some sort of ploy to get back at Section 9 and the Major in particular over the breaking of their factory…however, if it was revenge, why not make any demands?" Batou thought for a moment, then looked up.
"Could they be trying to trap the Major? I mean…sorry Major…Mark is involved very closely with her, so what better way to get back at her for being in charge of the operation that ruined their plans?"
The Major looked at Batou and shook her head.
"That doesn't explain why they haven't made demands, or how they think they'll draw me into a trap. Mark can't communicate with me, he doesn't have a cyberbrain or com link implant…he's completely natural, he'd have to pick up a phone and call me." Togusa looked at the Major and then at Arimaki.
"But…do they know he's natural? I mean, to all outward appearances I'm completely natural too, but I have a cyberbrain and can communicate with everyone in brain dives. Maybe they assume Mark just hasn't done so yet." The Major looked worried.
"Let's hope they don't figure that out…or they'll have to do something else to get my attention."
Arimaki stood, gesturing that the meeting was over for now.
"So…it looks like we'll have to let things go for now. Unless we hear something, there isn't much we can do. I'm sorry Major, but we've spent about as much time as we can afford on this case, if it was even a case in the first place. It's regrettable, but unless we hear something from Mark, or his abductors, then we have to move onto other duties. You understand my position."
Togusa and Batou said they understood, and left. The Major merely stood and stared at Arimaki.
"I'll go back to our normal duties like a good little robot then.", and she walked out of the room quickly, before she said anything else she regretted.
Arimaki sighed and went back to his paperwork.
Another week had passed…these guys were taking their sweet time. Not that Mark was exactly in a hurry to find out what that cyborg was capable of. The only contact he had with them was when they opened the door to slip food through to him. They didn't speak, they didn't even look at him.
Then, two weeks after he had been abducted, it all changed.
The cyborg walked in with then small man, who pointed what looked like a gun at Mark. Well, he thought…this is how it ends, shot in the head and dumped in a canal. There was a small "phht!" sound, and the lights went out…
Mark awoke in the back of a car, lying across the back seat. He was tied up very tight and very expertly, with no hope of moving. They drove for some time, entering a warehouse. Mark was dragged out of the back seat roughly, and placed in a chair, still tied up, with bright lights around him. He could see shapes beyond the lights, but he couldn't make them out. The small man walked over and blew smoke from a short cigar, and looked at him appraisingly.
"We've set up a camera here, and linked it to the web. When we turn it on, we'll send a message to the police, and they'll soon see you. Section 9 should find out soon after. Now, we've set up a little trap here, as you can probably imagine." The man dragged over a stool and sat in front of Mark.
"You know…your girlfriend and her bunch of idiots caused us a hell of a lot of trouble. We had a sweet deal worked out, but something happened…someone talked. That someone is at the bottom of the harbour with a crushed skull courtesy of my large friend there. It means we had to sacrifice our operation to allow the two of us to get away, and now have to leave town…maybe leave the country.". He sat back and puffed the cigar again.
"Oh no doubt we can start again with the same scam somewhere else…people are gullible like that, always have been, always will be…but these things have a way of getting out, getting noticed. We couldn't work the same sting here again in Japan. Maybe in Europe somewhere. But first, we have you…and your lady friend more to the point."
He stood and gestured to the cyborg, who turned on the lights. Mark wasn't really one for swearing without good cause, but as he looked around him at exactly what the lights illuminated, he felt this was quite an appropriate moment for a bit of profanity. He swallowed hard.
Mark had been in the military…he had done some training in munitions and demolition. He knew exactly what it was he saw surrounding him and taking up a good amount of floor space in the warehouse…maybe fifty drums of fuel oil, bags of ammonium nitrate based fertilizer packed around them, other drums that by their markings were undoubtedly stolen containers of ammonium nitrate emulsion as used in demolitions and mining, about a hundred blocks of C4 and what looked like Semtex, electric detonators and endless reams of Primacord. "Overkill" was obviously not a word that these guys were familiar with. There were also a lot of men entering the building…around twenty or thirty, and they were motioned over to a long row of tables along one wall, which Mark could see were laden with guns. There were military style automatics, sniper rifles, combat shotguns, pistols, a flame thrower…once again, overkill was the word that best described the scene. However, thought Mark…Motoko wouldn't come alone, if she came at all, and especially if she was accompianied by the rest of Section 9 and some Tachikomas thrown in for good measure, but that was hoping for a bit much.
And that was the problem…if she got the hint as to where he was, if she came to get him, she would be expecting it to be a kidnapping…a couple of guys, a few guns, Mark tied up somewhere…nothing she probably couldn't handle on her own, or possibly just her and Batou. He didn't hold any illusions that he was in any way important to Section 9, so he could hardly realistically expect them to throw all the resources of the division to his rescue.
As the cyborg was talking to the men who were arming themselves, the small man walked over to him.
"I'm going to set up another camera here in front of you, and you're going to send a message directly to Major Kusanagi. You're to say exactly three words to that bitch…no more, no descriptions of where you are, no tricks. Just say three words…"goodbye" would probably be a good choice for one of them.", and he laughed like a Jackal. He finished setting up the camera, angling it so it didn't show windows or any other possible identifiers. He called to the men that he was turning off the lights, and shut them down, blanketing the warehouse in darkness. He set up a bright light facing mark, and set up a sheet on a frame behind Mark so no view to the rear gave anything away.
He checked that it was all to his satisfaction, and turned on the camera, and pointed at Mark.
"Three words only", he said quietly.
Mark had been thinking, wondering what to say. Then a glimmer of an idea came into his mind, and he smiled. He looked straight at the camera, and spoke very loudly,almost shouted, the three words he had chosen.
"The. Dark. Knight". , and the little man, a puzzled look on his face, shut off the camera. He turned back on the lights, then took the camera to a computer terminal at a small office they had set up in a corner, and uploaded the video. Mark hoped Motoko had learned something from all that time on the couch watching old movies…
The Major stormed into Arimakis office, closely followed by Batou and Togusa.
"Chief, I've had a direct message from Marks kidnappers…they sent me a video file right to my work contact address via an ordinary email. Arimaki looked up from his desk, and sighed.
"Major, I'm sorry, but as I told you…this is still a missing persons case. The police could better…" The Major leapt to her feet and interrupted the chief angily.
"Fuck the police…they'll ruin the operation and you damn well know it! Our resources go far beyond a few police bumbling around in the dark…sorry Togusa…but you know what I mean!" The Major finished her angry outburst and started to walk from the room, pushing past a stunned Togusa and Batou.
Arimaki tapped his fingers on his desk for a moment and called her back.
"Major! By the way…I don't think any of you have told me what this Mark Burnett does for a living."
The interrupt stopped the Major in her tracks…the off topic question took her aback. Batou answered first.
"He's a mechanic…specializes in old machines, he fixes up my old cars, does a lot of work for other classic car and bike collectors all over the country. He was ex-military…used to be a sergent in the Australian army before the last war, then he moved to Japan to get away from it all after losing his wife in an act of nuclear terrorism." The Major, who had calmed slightly, looked down.
"I've become…close…to him. I stay at his house when time and work allows, tell him my problems, confide in him, we go out to dinner, visit interesting places…he's my grounding when I'm away from the hectic work life we lead I suppose." Arimaki thought for a moment, then stood.
"Well in that case, Section 9 can't very well sit back and let one of its unofficial outside associates be harmed…well…what are you all waiting for? Go out there and get him back!"
The Major was overwhelmed by the turn of events. Togusa and Batou smiled at the old mans cunning, and they all left for the briefing room.
As they left, behind them Arimaki gave a sly smile…he knew how to motivate his men…
In the briefing room, the team had just been over the videos in a brain dive, looking for details the analyst programs might have missed.
At the end, they came up with a few other pointers…in the web hosted video, there were a lot of objects in the darkness…but again, the camera wasn't high enough resolution to be able to make out what they were. In the video sent directly to the Major, Mark had cleverly virtually shouted the three words he was allowed, so that sound analyzing software was able to pick up some echos and tell them it was a large space, most likely a warehouse, but all that could be seen was Mark and the seat he was tied to. Other much fainter noises were determined to most likely be a group of people somewhere in the background, with clinking metallic noises that the computers said had an 85% chance of being that of firearms of various types being handled and loaded. Batou was the first to ask the obvious.
"So…what was his point of saying "the dark night"? I mean, we can hear a mans voice saying "three words only", but why would he choose those three words? Telling us what time of day it was doesn't help." The Major brightened suddenly.
"I know what he means. He's not saying "night", n.i.g.h.t…he's saying Knight, k.n.i.g.h.t."
Ishikawa sat back and lit a smoke.
"Again…so what? That doesn't help us does it?", then he suddenly sat forward. "No…wait…I remember something from when I was much younger…wasn't that a movie?" The Major smiled.
"Yes it was…Mark and I watched it only a couple of weeks back…it's one of the latest made movies he owns in his classic movie collection. It was made early this century, and in this case I think I know the scene he's alluding to. A madman criminal has abducted two people, both friends of the hero…the "Dark Knight" of the title…and hidden them in warehouses." Togusa interrupted.
"Well that most likely confirms that he's being held in a warehouse…but apart from that, he hasn't really been able to pass anything else on with just three words, has he?" The Major looked concerned.
"Yes he has…a hell of a lot extra, and a warning. The people in the movie were held in warehouses filled with high explosives…Mark is obviously telling us that he's in a warehouse, and he's surrounded by explosives. From background noises, we also know that there are others there, with guns. I don't think this is going to be easy. However, until we hear further, we haven't got much to go on as to his location."
Pazu entered the room, holding a paper envelope. He had a grim look on his face and handed it to the Major.
"Major, I was handed this not ten minutes ago while I was on my way here. I was sitting in traffic just outside the building, and a motorcycle rode past my door, stopped for a moment, dropped this envelope in my lap, and sped off. No hope of catching him…all I can tell you is that it was an old motorbike, ridden by a large man who appeared to be a cyborg. I'm guessing this is the guy we're looking for."
The Major tore open the envelope, and read quickly. She looked up at the team.
"Sometimes the old ways are the simplest…using an envelope instead of more modern means of communication means there's no way to back hack them through a computer. Even the com link sending the video is a stand alone older type computer with no nueral links to anyone, so there's no back door in for us.
This letter simply has an address. Ishikawa! Look up 2457 Wharf Drive, Unit 24…I'm betting it's a warehouse. Download all the information you can about it." He jumped up, said a quick "right", and sat down at a desk nearby, lowering the computer link apparatus around his head. He sat for a few moments, and then after tapping a series of commands, held up a hand.
"Got it…yep, it's a warehouse…one of the older ones along the wharves. Hasn't been used for some time. The lease ran out three years ago, and the whole area is on the city list of areas for redevelopment. Hook in and I'll show you the layout of the place. Actually, there's a flag on this place…we were there some time back on a drug bust.", and they all joined him in a dive to see a schematic of the building and plan their next moves.
Mark was getting sore. The bonds had been loosened a bit, but he was still tied to the chair. He looked around and didn't like what he saw.
There were twenty four men, as well as the original two. The arms Mark could get a good look at included modern military machine guns, an older Barrett .50 sniper rifle (which Mark had used several times in his brief military career), but more importantly there was a motorized trolley mounting a 20mm multi-barrel chain gun, and a 40mm repeating recoilless rifle on a large tripod. Those two alone could make mincemeat of most opposition, and Mark was not entirely sure that even a Tachikoma would atand up for long against that. He was leading Motoko into a killing field, and there was nothing he could do about it. Mark decided to see what he could find out.
"Hey!", he called to the small man, who walked over to him.
"Who are all these men? This must be costing you a fortune. Is it all worth it?" The small man smiled.
"Not a cent…one of those men owns this warehouse, which was part of a big drug bust some years back headed by Section 9, a few of the others donated the weapons…they're family members of people who have been killed or captured by Section 9. The rest are people who have had "dealings" with Section 9 or, more importantly, your lady friend in the past. They all have a grudge against Kusanagi or Section 9 in general. You provided the means, I provided the motivation for them to band together like this. Without you, it wouldn't have been possible. In a sense…it's all your fault then.",and he laughed and walked away. Mark felt lower than ever.
The team had gathered in a nearby area of the wharves. There was the Major, Batou, Togusa, Borma in case the suspicion about large amounts of explosives was true, Saito set up in a snipers nest at the top of a nearby dock crane, and two tachikomas. The Major called the others around and linked to Saito.
"OK…we're going ahead in ten minutes. It's not going to be a smash and grab though…we have to approach very carefully. Togusa…you and I will take up a position near the doors, working from the warehouse across the street. Borma, you wait here with the truck until we send for you. If anyone tries to escape, take them out. Tachikomas, you back up Togusa and I…that's where the heaviest fire will probably come from. Batou, I want you to use thermoptic camouflage and try and get inside and rescue Mark before we even make a move. If we can get him out first or at least find out the exact layout of the place and where he's being held, that would be great. Saito, anything we don't see, you take care of. Everyone got it?" Batou sat back and looked at the Major.
"Why am I going to get Mark? I would have thought you'd want to do it yourself?" The Major shook her head.
"To close…too personal. I…don't trust my judgement and I might concentrate too much on him and miss something." Batou said he understood, and they set off towards the building, all of them camouflaged and invisible.
The short man stood staring at Mark, and all of a sudden he cocked his head as if listening to something. The huge cyborg waved to him, and the small man smiled.
"It's time…one of our lookouts spotted your friends on their way here, just before they took him out. No matter…we are prepared."
Saito looked up from his scope, and sent a message to the Major.
"One target down, he was set up on a crane about three hundred meters from my position and drawing a bead on your group. Be careful, they might have a way of seeing through thermoptics."
The Major sent a message back saying she understood. They approached the broken, open doors of the old warehouse across from the one they were after.
Togusa looked carefully at the front of the building through a rusted hole in the corrugated iron wall.
"There are two more lookouts either side of the main doors. I also see some movement behind one of the windows at an upper level where I assume the offices are located."
The Major nodded, and glanced at Batou.
"Batou, move around the side of the building and see what you can find in the way of an entrance."
"Gotcha", and there was a flurry of dust as his invisible form rushed off carefully.
Togusa kept watch, and could feel the frustration of the Major. He got the feeling she would like nothing more than to rush in, guns blazing, but they had to take their time.
Batou had found his entrance, and luckily it was only guarded by one man, who didn't seem very switched held a pistol, lazily drooped in his hand. Batou rushed over and stood behind him, and said a quiet "Hey", and as the guy turned, Batou punched him as hard as he could. The guy dropped like a stone. Batou took the pistol, checked it was loaded, and tucked it into a spare pouch, then entered the building.
Mark sat watching the men setting up inside the main doors. This was going to be a bloodbath. Then, surprisingly, a soft voice sounded in his ear.
"Hi there…you could use a shave you scruffy bastard. Now keep still…I'm going to cut your bonds. Will you be able to stand up OK when the time comes?" Mark recognized Batous voice, and whispered quietly in response.
"I can bloody well try…let my circulation come back first. You got a spare gun?", and Batou was silent for a moment, then his voice appeared again beside Mark.
"Here…I took one from a table over there…the clowns seem occupied near the door." Mark felt the grip of a gun being pressed into his hand, and as Batou let it go, the thermoptic field released and he could see what he held. It was a short barreled bull-pup style military automatic rifle. He checked it over quickly…5mm caseless ammo, a counter on the side saying it held 120 rounds. Batou also passed him a pistol, which he tucked into his belt. Batous disembodied voice again sounded close by.
"The Major says we go in ten seconds…are you ready?" Mark nodded, and made sure the safety was off. He also briefly wondered about the triggering device for the explosive. Batou said he couldn't find anything…the apparatus appeared to be a simple transmitter-operated one, and he didn't want to fiddle with it. No one he could see appeared to be holding a deadman switch…they were all busy holding guns.
"Get ready…here it comes",and with a blast, the main doors flew open, and the firing started.
The Major and Togusa started firing at the men who were shooting at them…sharp, accurate shots. The Tachikomas moved in, shooting stun shots and nets, trying to get as many men as possible captured alive. They also fired live rounds, and then one of the Tachikomas screamed as it flew apart in a cloud of shredded steel and twisting wiring and broken parts, the blasting deafening shots of the 20mm chain gun chattering loudly, combined with the 40mm recoilless rifle. It yelled "Major", and then shut down. The second Tachikoma came under fire as it dove quickly in front of Togusa, firing back with its main gun, blasting the two big guns and the men operating them into oblivion.
Inside the warehouse, Mark and Batou had started firing from the rear as soon as the doors blew. Mark got several of the men, feeling very satisfied with himself. He hadn't had to fire at a living person since the war, and he wasn't sure whether he should be pleased or not that it all came back to him so quickly. It was also helpful that the men seemed pretty reluctant to shoot back too much, as the explosives were all around them. The small man was screaming at his henchmen not to shoot in that direction, and actually shot one guy in the knee when he wouldn't listen. Batou fired at the small man, hitting him in the lower legs and abdomen, felling him like a tree. The battle was quickly turning in Section 9's favour, and would obviously be over very quickly. A couple of the remaining men were fighting a valiant battle outside the doors, but they wouldn't last long. Mark actually caught a glimpse of Motoko outside as she clubbed a man to the ground, then started shooting at others. She looked around and he caught her eye. She paused and smiled at him, giving a quick wave, then rushed off.
The Major leapt from side to side, shooting at men, and just as she was planning to go inside and join Mark and Batou, she was confronted by the huge cyborg, who smiled grimly at her.
"Pleased to meet you bitch…let's dance", and he dropped his gun and grappled with her.
The Major smiled at him.
"This is the biggest mistake you'll ever make, after abducting my friend that is…"
Batou and Mark stood side by side, and then the small man rose painfully, and directed the few men left inside to fire at them. Batou dragged mark behind a steel skip bin, which twanged and thudded as the rounds hit it. The small man held up a box in his hand, and shouted "You're about to die…see you in the next life", and he pressed a button. Mark looked towards the nearest drums, and saw a green light go red, and a thirty second countdown start on a timer.
The firing towards them increased, and Batout stood and fired a few rounds before ducking. Mark did likewise and looked at his gun as it emptied. He dropped it and took out the pistol, firing a couple of shots and ducking again. Batou looked steadily at him, and Mark grimly smiled.
"You know only one of us has any chance of getting out of here alive?" Batou looked back over the top of the bin, and fired a few rounds.
"Yeah…I know it." Mark looked down and thought for a second.
"Batou…tell Motoko…well…you know". Batou glanced over the top of the bin.
"Yeah…I know". Mark held out a hand to Batou.
"Been nice knowing ya, big guy". Batou shook his hand.
"Likewise.". Mark checked his pistol and crouched, looking at Batou.
"Butch and Sundance?". Batou laughed.
"Butch and Sundance. Let's go", and they rushed from behind the bin, firing everything they had, right into a hailof incoming small arms fire. Mark heard bullets whap off Batous body, and also felt bullets punching into him…arms, stomach, chest…one leg went wobbly as a bone obviously broke under what felt like a sledgehammer blow, and a punch through his stomach caused a flare of pain right through his core and his legs went dead, his spine obviously pierced. More bullets hit him in the chest, something smacked into the side of his head, and it all started to go dark. None of it hurt as much as he thought it would. He felt Batou grab him and stop him falling to the ground, and then there was a blinding flash and roar from behind them as the explosives blew, and it all went mercifully blank…
Six Months Later…
The Major sat on the deck on Marks old sailing boat, well out on the harbour…lost in thought. She had been taking it out once every two or three weeks, "making time for herself", as Mark would have said. She was dressed in the yellow bikini that Mark always liked…one which didn't leave a lot to the imagination. She lay on a deckchair, dark sunglasses on, feeling the warmth of the sun. Surprising herself, she found she was dozing off, and beginning to dream about Mark…but she dreamt about him often nowadays.
An ice-cold drink pressed against her upper arm shocked her back to wakefulness. She looked up, raising her sunglasses, and smiled.
"Wakey wakey…you'll get sunburnt if you fall asleep there", a friendly voice said.
Mark handed her the cold drink, and sat beside her. She hugged him and gave him a kiss, then sat back to drink the cold beverage.
"With this body I don't have to worry about sunburn". Mark grinned cheekily.
"We can discuss that body later on." Motoko laughed, then her look turned serious.
"So how are you feeling? This is your first day after getting a total all clear from the rehab unit." Mark smiled, and put a hand on her knee.
"Well,", he said, flexing his arms and wiggling his toes, "Four months in hospital, getting rebuilt with organics, then over a month in rehab, more time getting used to walking and moving about again. I suppose you're happy now…I finally have that com link you wanted, but I drew the line at getting a cyberbrain. However, apart from what I had to have fitted to let me live…a cyber heart, one kidney, part of my spinal cord…that's as far as my cyberisation goes I'm afraid. I'm not going full cyber." Motoko smiled.
"It would have saved you time in hospital if you had…you were a mess to say the least." Mark agreed.
"I suppose…if Batou hadn't got himself royally cooked getting me out of there and the Tachikoma hadn't sped in at the last millisecond and shielded me from the worst of the blast, I'd be dead. But no…call me old fashioned…but that's it for me when it comes to cyberisation. Well…until." ,and he paused.
Motoko looked puzzled.
"Until what?" Mark took her hand.
"You know, I'd been tossing around something in my mind. I'm realistic enough to know that you're probably going to outlive me by a very long time…and I'm not sure I like that idea. Maybe in a couple of decades time, I might decide to go cyber so we can be young together for a lot longer…", and he trailed off. Motoko sat up.
"Mark…I've been wondering about the future too."
Mark stood and walked over to the railing. He then seemed to straighten, and turned, he had decided to take the leap and just say it.
"Motoko…I love you." Motoko smiled happily and leapt into his arms.
"I love you too Mark…oh god, do you know how much I've thought about saying that to you?" Mark kissed her and smiled.
"Me too…I'd been wracking my brains wondering if I should or not…it's a big step for me."
"I know it was, and I completely understand. Happy?" Mark held her close.
"Definitely happy. There's another thing I'd been wondering if I should ask you in the future…but that can wait for another time." , and he smiled cryptically and walked off to the galley to prepare lunch. Motoko stood and stared, and walked after him.
"Mark…you get back here. What were you thinking about asking me? Mark!"