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CHAPTER ONE:Edit


Japan 1900hours 23/10/01-Edit

The Sake tasted good on a cool evening night as this, and with temperatures averaging 10 degrees on the thermostat, Hayley knew it wasn’t going to get any warmer unless she went inside. Where the hell was he anyhow? The road smelt fresh with the rain.

She glanced again at the PDC, the fluorescent green screen highlighting her face as she gulped down another swig of the amber glass bottle. The TOSHIBA sign above her was illuminating the sidewalk as she leaned against the building, the wind clipping her jacket against her side. Another curled strand of her brown hair falling in the way of her lush green eyes that blinked as the electrics whirred along in the lanes, their tail-lights bleary in the sleet, their wheels dripping rainwater onto the bitumen, the neon caught in a glaze of the puddles and off the catseyes. Hayley glanced at her watch again, her heart pounding.

“ Dammit, Ryan, you have better not stopped at another brothel,” she mutters as another line of Hondas move by, their engines whirring.

“ Now why would I do that?” asks Ryan, stepping up with a grin.

“ GEEZUS!” yells Hayley, nearly leaping out her skin. She turned around, her eyes glaring at the closely-cut blonde with the shifty blue eyes and the smirk of a smile. “ WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”

“ Easy! Easy!” says Ryan, putting up his hands in protest. “ No need to start up a tantrum like that. Language! I got stopped at the lights! The hell was I supposed to do? Jaywalk? Chiba isn’t exactly the loosest place to piss off cops.” He gestured at a green-suited police officer standing at the corner, directing traffic with the portable lights, the flag of Japan on his breast pocket.

Hayley grabs his wrists, her fingers squeezing. “ I don’t give a fuck! I have been waiting here in the stinking rain for five minutes. When you say you’ll be here at quarter to seven, you be there at quarter to seven. Alright?”

“ Yeah. I get ya. You mind giving my hand some circulation?” asks Ryan. Hayley still doesn’t let go. She looks at him, hard.

“ You know Baz wouldn’t approve of this,” snaps Hayley.

“ And when have you ever listened to that dipshit properly? Come on, Hayley. I don’t mean to piss you off intentionally, alright? I’m sorry. What do you want me to say? That I stopped at a whorehouse on the way over?”

Seconds tick over, the heat bristling between them. “ No,” says Hayley, looking him up and down, her lips pursing. She lets him go, pulls in her coat and heads towards the bar, draining the last of the Sake away before throwing a clear shot into a wastebin, the glass shattering on it’s way in. “ Come on. Let’s go.”

Ryan looks at her as she enters into the Happy Sumo. He shakes his head. “ Women,” he mutters to himself as he puts his hands in his pockets. He glances at his reflection in the window. It’s not a six foot tall Australian with closely-cut blonde hair that looks back at him. It’s a sharply dressed Japanese man with sunglasses on. Ryan tucks at his own jacket, as the image of the man in the window does the same. Ryan walks into the bar, the image following on the frosted glass and wood panellings. One step at a time.

1920hours-Edit

“ So what do you think about the situation?” asks Nick. He dipped the tempura into the soy and chewed it noisily as Mandy glanced back at him, propping her head up with her arm, her hair drifting.

“ What do you make of it? I mean, the job’s in about three hours anyway,” says Mandy as Nick brushes a hand against her face.

“ I think it’s suicide if you want my opinion, but then again, I always look on the bright side of life,” says Nick with a grin, his brown eyes studying Mandy’s blushing cheeks, her wide puppy-dog eyes as the eternal heartpumping beat of a 90s dancetrack echoes in the background. A bunch of drunken sailors hang out at the boxing ring.

“ I bet you do,” she sighs, glancing over the makeshift rubber-steel boxing cage in which the young, muscular Taiwan fighter was up against a homegrown sumo from Hokaido. She shakes her head and smiles. “ I’m telling you, Japan has the strangest blending of things I’ve ever seen.” Taiwan kept in his Judo stance.

“ I know. Who knew Jackie Chan and acting could be put into the same sentence?” asks Nick as he glances over to what Mandy was looking at. “ Oh, you mean the fighting. Who are you betting on?”

“ Dunno, what are you willing you bet?” teases Mandy, a smile spreading over her face. The Sumo bowed at him from his standpoint.

“ Don’t be coy. Look, are you sure you still want to go on with this mission? I mean, I can talk to Trent, get some arrangement there,” says Nick. “ I mean, he and Baz have all this planned out.”

“ What do you know of it? Come on spill,” urges Mandy, eyes wide.

“ Okay, okay. You got me. As you and I have known for what…” says Nick, glancing at his PDC strapped to his wrist. “ About a day, topside.” The Taiwan fell back as the Sumo lunged at him.

“ Always feels longer in the base,” says Mandy. “ Why is that?”

“ Basic output of relativity. Time moves faster in there because it’s separated by space and runs on a faster timeline,” says Nick.

“ I know all that shit. What does that mean?” asks Mandy.

“ How do I explain it… it’s their technology,” says Nick. “ Nobody knows why. That’s just how it works. You can’t change events in the world but it does give you more time to react to the situation, meaning that we can correct any mistakes we have by teleporting through the psi-gates. That’s how we got here basically without having to catch a plane.” The Taiwan connected a right hook.

“ Uh-huh,” says Mandy, still looking at his wavy, greying hair and broad face. His eyes pierced the haze from the pots of hot water placed besides the ring, the managers holding wet flannels to constantly dab at their pride and joy’s during the recess of the fight. The sumo was lunging more deliberately, heaving his muscle into the fight so that he could clothesline the younger bloke, who was constantly ducking and weaving the bulk of the sumo. “ Do you know why we’ve been planning this attack for so long?”

“ Yeah,” sighs Nick. I know why. The Sumo grabbed the Taiwanese.

“ What? Don’t you want to talk about it?” The Taiwan headbutts.

“ Not right now. I don’t want to think that in less than 5 hours our necks are going to be risked on the line because of a business,” says Nick, stuffing another tempura stick into his mouth.

“ Don’t eat so quickly. You’ll get a stomach ache,” says Mandy.

Nick smiles. “ I appreciate your help. I’ll be alright,” says Nick.

“ I hope so,” says Mandy, taking a slurp of her strawberry milkshake, the bright overhead fluorescents highlighting her face.

“ I know so,” says Nick, grinning. His face goes serious. “ Look, I want you to be safe alright? You have done all the VR training I hope? Done all the simulations? Tested all the gear?”

“ Yes,” says Mandy, rolling her eyes. “ I did that like thirty minutes go, when we got here.” The Taiwanese ducks and weaves.

“ Thirty minutes? That all? Seems like I’ve been here longer than that,” says Nick. “ Maybe it’s affects from the base.”

“ Maybe, but God knows I’d like moments like these to last for a while,” says Mandy, looking at Nick. He blushes, smiles and glances down. He looks over the rest of the tempura and pushes it aside.

“ Okay. Let’s make it more memorable. Waiter!” he calls, snapping his fingers, besides the reflected wall image of an Asian couple.

1940hours-Edit

April pressed her gloved hand against the metal plate, the grooves embedding into the metal, leaving a print. A light from inside the plate shone over the grooves of the print. A blue haze of light emitted from the top of the plate, showing an identification of a 25 year old female from Hokaido. April wasn’t from Hokaido. She knew that as a fact as she swept back a strand of her long black hair, tied back in a ponytail. The identification screen swapped to an image of a bank statement, where $20 New Yen credits were transferred from her spending account into the account of the bar. Martin looked over at April from across the table.

“ Why don’t you let me pay for it?” asks Martin.

“ Why is it that boys are the only one’s that have to pay the bill?” quips back April. “ I can take care of it. I’m a big girl.”

Martin nodded, his light brown hair caught in the neon craze of the bar. The 50 year-old-waitress smiled politely and bowed once she checked the screen. April and Martin bowed courteously in return, before grabbing their cases and leaving the bar. As they walked out, the image of a north Japanese girl and a Javanese bloke appeared on the window in front of them. They headed out onto the street, the enormous wall screens, advertising the latest PANASONIC 360-degree digital camera and an MP3 DIGCAM in a splitscreen mode.

“ Need to get my 360 upgraded,” muttered April as they flooded into the crowd around them. The streets were swept clean by the rain, with puddles splashing into the drains, echoing in the sewers.

“ What was wrong with the first one?” returns Martin, his hands deep in his coat pockets, a green light from a section of his belt flashing brilliantly. The walls of the high-rise were a neon craze, with flashing lights and explosions of noise thundering out from the nearby arcades, the throbbing beats of the strip parlours and adult clubs, the smells of frying oil and the screams of Japanese was audible throughout the city. The rotting cesspools of complexes, dating back to twentieth century modern architecture was fairly visible, with the room-size holographs of martial-arts and aerial dogfighting playing on an erected stage from the roof of a building, which the brainless members of the crowd stood mesmerised.

Martin gazed at the display of three-dimensional light as it displayed two Tomahawk fighters lasering a defence target deployed from an Orbital Defense Pod. The arcade thundered the shockwave.

“ Boys and their toys,” mutters April as she glances over at an electronics pawn store. The doorbell siren sounds, with the cerebral montage of music drifting into her thoughts, stirring emotions.

“ Basic cerebral empathy music, used to help make shoppers buy things because of their euphoria stimulated in the brains,” says Martin. He rubs his temples as he sips the green tea.

“ You like this brain shit don’t you?” asks April as the 40 year old man looks at them from the counter. He turns away to his wife.

“ You going to buy?” he asks in Japanese. Martin glances at the PDC, the translation in basic English after going through the Microsoft Groupspeak Translation Unit, appearing on the screen.

“ Just looking around,” replies Martin, his throat itching as the words came out in Japanese. The display cases were a mix of Microsoft, Sony, Panasonic, Casio and Sekio model electrical computers, PDCs and 360 degree digital video cameras.

“ You know anything we got at base is at least 1000 times better than any of the so-called first-rate shit they have here,” mutters Martin. He glances over the illegal telepathic matrix motherboard.

“ I know, I know,” mutters April. She looks over the display case and the prices. She shakes her head. “ Sorry.”

They walk out, the neural-music drifting through her mind again. “ Maybe I…” she began. Martin averts his eyes from the motherboard.

“ Don’t let the bloody neural-net music fool you,” says Martin, holding up the bag of donuts and cups of coffee. “ Come on. We’re late.” They walk out to an alley and then over to a fire-railing. They climb up onto the roof-deck, where several other characters sit, pointing a massive laser cannon at the Tokyo skyline.

“ Don’t freak, the coffee and donuts have arrived,” says April.

2000hours-Edit

Yolanda held her hands in front of her chest, her long, tapered fingers drumming against her bare arms as Sabrina glanced over the television, the high-definition screen buzzing with radiation.

“ Anything good on the tube?” asks Yolanda, moving a hand through her long blonde hair, her bright blue eyes moist with the night air.

“ Only a bunch of shit about the Japs signing with the US and RUSSIA to make a joint space-exploration pact for the outer territories of the ice planets,” says Sabrina, her dark tan glowing with the radiation whafting from the tube, she chews a few pretzels as her dark eyes study the shifting images. She turns it over to a music channel, where video-clips of gut-screaming death-heads paraded to guitar riffs and heavy drumming around the stage in front of screaming fans. The hotel room was quiet. Too quiet, even.

Yolanda pulls out the Walker shotgun, pumping the automatic as she glances over at the streets of Chiba below. “ Gonna be a tough night,” she says, glancing at the laser cannon on the table. “ So we just gonna ditch this here?” The cannon glints in the halogen light.

“ Need to get it to the roof, get it at Cyprus,” says Sabrina, tying back her hair as she pulls out a pack of cigarettes. Yeheyuans.

“ Uh… the hell are you doing?” asks Yolanda, looking at the Winfields. Sabrina looks at her and then at the white rod. She puts it back into her ziplock jeans, nicotine stains her teeth.

“ Sorry, forgot. You don’t spend a while smoking in Australia and then get turned over to Japan where smoking is banned,” says Sabrina. “ That’s because of the death-rates huh?”

“ Japan’s ideas of cutting down cancer, which after AIDS was cured, was one of the biggest killers in Japan this century. Tobacco was something easily controllable. Heart-failure was the next big risk, the Japs got rid of that by banning everything that had trans-fatty acids, so no margarine on your toast later this morning.”

Sabrina laughs. “ Japan always wanted control on their world. Now they’re lucky that they still have a world to live in,” she says.

“ Amen,” says Yolanda, pulling out a black sports bag and stuffing the laser in. “ Come on. Let’s get this loaded and then shop. I need some sleep.” She pulls the blue thermoplastic coat around her pink top and black jeans. She grabs the flip-top coffee and takes a swig.

“ Okay, let’s boogie,” says Sabrina, grabbing the bag. She inserts the room card into the slot and the door opens, they step out onto the corridor, the floor squeaking as the lights from the Chibatsu disco strobe onto the landing. They head to the roof, passing the hall mirror, the image of two hair-spiked Asian chicks reflecting as they step out onto the roof, the air billowing their coat around them. There’s a loud buzzing as a swarm of police Gyrocopters wasp across the Chiba highland spires of metal and glass, heading across the bay to the neverending towers of Tokyo Metropolitan Megaplex.

Yolanda pulls out a black cube and points it over at the city. “ Got a focus point. Four-five-oh-oh-three,” says Yolz.

“ Gotcha,” says Sabrina, opening the bag and pulling out the large black cylinder and strapping it to the building. The red light blinks from the top of the laser as the receiver starts recording.

“ Radio seven, Jason, you receiving?” asks Yolz onto her PDC.

“ You’re online. We’ve got three more stories covered. Keep watch on those Gyros coming your way,” replies an American voice.

“ Roger that,” says Yolz, turning to Sabrina, who sets on the holograph, the laser melding into nothing, becoming part of the rooftop. The advertisements of the Energy Stockpile Department of the Mitsubishi Bank catch her eyes for a moment before they turn to the door again. Haneda Airport roars from another Aerospace takeoff.

“ You sure radar won’t see this? I mean I know we sent a cursor virus before but these babies are the self-maintenance bastards,” began Yolz. Cursor virus were 20-minute acting deliverance programs.

“ Yolz, chill. We didn’t come this far to get our asses walloped. Now how about some sleep, alright? I need a few more z’s in euphoria for a while,” says Sabrina. “ I’ve been working at Pizza Hut, back in Perth for a while now. I’m tired, I’m hungry, so let’s go.”

“ Fine,” says Yolz, following her out.

2020hours-Edit

Hayley and Ryan walk out of the alley, Ryan clutching his stomach.

“ Man. Who knew a large order of fried sushi could take so much out of ya,” he mutters. As they stop at the Taxi depot. Hayley whistles shrilly, a black cab pulling over. A beefy Honshuan looks back at them, a pack of McDonalds chips in his hand, a fry in his mouth.

“ Going anywhere?” he translates on the PDC as he chews noisily.

“ Chiba mall,” says Hayley. “ I need to go to the library.”

“ Library? At a mall?” asks Ryan, raising an eyebrow.

“ I have a psych test back at uni tomorrow,” says Hayley, shrugging. She scans 100 New Yen on the driver’s PDC. He nods, gestures to the back. They get in, the doors automatically closing behind them. They pull the seatbelts on as the car pulls off from the curb.

“ Man, these guys can drive well can’t they?” mumbles Ryan. “ What is it about psychology? I mean you do this to help us become better telepaths or something?” The traffic lights glare from the windows.

“ No, basic EEG, MRI, PET, NAPA shit,” says Hayley.

“ Come again?” asks Ryan, his eyebrows arching high on his face.

“ EEG. Electoencephalograms. They’re the technical terms for brainwaves, you know the separate signals human beings and other intelligent beings transmit from their heads,” says Hayley. “ MRI is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging device, used to produce images of body tissue by reflecting radiation in and out of the body onto relay devices that make up a two-dimensional slice of the body. PET is a Positron Emission Tomograph, which maps cerebral bloodflow, which was used to map basic sections of the brain, the info that helped lead to the genetically-altered drugs to cure tumours and shit. NAPA is your basic Neuron Activity Pattern Analyser, used to pinpoint individual neuron synapses as they receive dectric charges, used to help record memories. Used by the government as forms of espionage, to record death and also as basic memories and sexual aids that are sold often in Chiba on the black market.” She says.

“ And you study that shit?” asks Ryan. “ Man. I thought you want to be a vet or something?” He rubs his forehead and glances outside.

“ Nurse. After the war is over. Of course they might not need them because of these new Lifecare monitors being produced,” says Hayley.

“ Where did you learn about this?” asks Ryan. “ You hack into all these top-notch computer systems and find them out?”

“ Nah. Internet. Basic search engine data. Takes a while, but because of the base, we can connect into any subnet without having to pay. Pretty sweet huh?” She glances at him and then turns away.

“ Yeah, good porno too,” says Ryan with a grin. Hayley slaps him on the stomach again. He laughs as he looks at the passing vehicles. “ Not the kind of shit I’m into. I want to be… I dunno, mechanic.”

“ Thought you were saying you were gonna join the army,” she says.

“ Well I’m already in one in case you hadn’t noticed,” says Ryan.

“ Can you two keep it down? I can’t hear the radio!” calls out the driver. Hayley and Ryan glance at each other.

“ You think he heard?” whispers Ryan, his eyebrows narrowing.

“ No. We weren’t engaged in direct conversation,” says Hayley. Ryan looks at her blankly. “ Hello. The larynx chips? Inbuilt GTUs? They break up our language and direct them into signals that only our earpieces translate for us into our skulls? Remember the ear implants we were given a few years back?” She fingers a lobe.

“ Oh yeah,” nods Ryan. “ That itched back then. Hell they still do.” Hayley smiles and nods as another cab goes beeping by on the lane.

“ HEY! UP YOURS!” yells the driver in Japanese again, pointing his middle finger out the window as he drives on. Ryan laughs.

“ Nice fellow,” mutters Hayley as she sits back and takes a slurp of her second bottle of strawberry Fanta. “ Hey, can we hurry it up here? I want to get to the mall before the year ends!”

“ Hey! I’ll drive the cab! You just worry about if I don’t drop you two in a bodybag!” yells the driver, he pulls out a magnum 44

Ryan pulls out two double guns, pointing them at the driver’s face. “ None, whatsoever. Now you apologise, turn around and drive the fucking car.”

The driver gulps and mumbles. “ Sorry, had a bad day.”

He turns around and drives the car in silence.

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