A Story of the Star Blade Battalion


Episode 1 (2180.04.29)
by Shawn Hagen (all around rapscoundrel and ner-do-well.) (1997)


Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.

Buildings rained down on her, smashing into the floor of the cavern, exploding into fragments of glass and steel that did not touch her.

It was all so strangely silent except for the wind that crooned in her ear as if it was trying to tell her something.

Then it was gone as her eyes fluttered open.

High above her was a city, anchored to the ceiling of the cavern, not falling and likely never to do so.

She held up her hand, almost as if she thought to touch them, but they were far beyond her reach.

The sound that had woken her became clear, the chimes announcing something had begun or ended. She looked up at the watch on her wrist. Lunch had just ended, she had slept through it, and half her morning classes. It explained why she was feeling a little hungry.

Sitting up she looked around her, at the enormous Geofront that Tokyo had been rebuilt in. The lights that went off into forever made her feel a little lonely, even thought the city's population was huge. She was anything but alone.

Behind her she heard the creak of the door opening and talking.

"Ahh, mistuketta. Minna, kochi, kochi (Ah, I found her, everyone, come here.)," someone said.

In a moment several girls wearing gray skirts with a white blouse and red tie surrounded her.

"Emi-chan," one said, standing directly over her. "Dame. Itsumo jugyo o sabotteiru (Your always cutting class.)."

"Gomen ne, Arisu-chan," Emiko said, smiling up at the other young woman.

Alice shook her head and then sat down on the roof, brushing her skirt smooth.

"How do you expect to pass your entrance exams if you keep this up?" she asked.

"Wakaranai," Emi smiled.

"They should extend the slacker law to students you know," Yuki said as she knelt down. She had never approved of Emiko's behavior. As far as she was concerned Emiko was a girl destined for trouble. Probably would be turned out of the city soon enough.

"Yuki-chan istumo sono to itteimasu (You always say that)," Emiko said, smiling. She had grown use to Yuki's disapproval since junior high school. It had gotten worse since Emiko had ended up at the same high academic senior high school.

"Kono wa hontoo dai wa yo,(It's true!)" she said, almost sounding angry.

"Yuki-chan," Alice warned. "sonna bakana iwanaide, (don't say such foolish things)." Alice was the groups leader, as much as it had one, and Yuki did not say anything else.

"Ahhh, Minna, kiite, (everyone, listen)" Keiko said.

Emi watched faded out a little, listening to some sort of concert through the dataweb. She could have pulled out her computer and listened as well but she did not bother. There was more to the Mindsongs than just the music.

The nanotech datalinks that all her friends had were something else that had generated distance between Emi and her friends. She had refused to get the implant, had been nearly hysterical about it. Her parents had, against their better judgment, acquiesced.

It put her at a slight disadvantage, everyone else over 17 had instant access to the dataweb and all the information there. Emi got by using her computer and had gained some benefits from her reliance on the tool.

Still, most everyone she knew thought her both strange, and in some odd way, crippled. Emi did not mind though. She was happier without.

The music must have ended because suddenly Alice was looking at her, a slight flush across her face. Alice continually felt bad whenever they excluded Emi from something like that. Emi only smiled at her to reassure her that there were no hurt feelings.

"Saa, nani o atashi wa nukashimashitaka?( Well, what did I miss)" Emi asked.

"Atashitachi wa omae wa naze shirasemasuka?(Why should we tell you)" Yuki said.

"Wakaranai," Emiko said after a moment.

"Takku," Yuki shook her head.

"Yuki-chan," Alice warned. "Nandemonai," she said to Emi. "Atashi no nooto o keshiteageru (I'll lend you my note book)".

"Arisu-chan dai suki," Emi said.

"Konna ona," Yuki said softly, obviously upset.

"Why does Yuki-chan seem to hate you?" Alice asked Emi as they waited for their train.

"I don't know," she said.

"Emi," Alice warned.

"Really, I don't know. Ever since I've know her she has been telling me I'll fail, and I either don't care or I succeed."

"Emiko wa kawaisoo," Alice laughed.

"Honto dai yo,"

The two of them stood there in silence for a time, waiting for the train

Emiko was attractive, but it was unlikely she would ever be called beautiful. Her nose was just a little too large and her chin a little too strong. She had her black hair cut short, the ends barely touching her shoulders. Her brown eyes were perhaps her best feature, large and expressive.

She was also a little overweight. It looked more like babyfat really, and no one would ever say she was obese.

Alice on the other hand was quite attractive and very thin. She had long red hair and blue eyes and was probably the most popular girl in the school. It was funny that she and Emiko were friends as Emiko had never really gone out of her ways to become friends with her. It had just sort of happened.

"Yokatta, atashitachi no densha, (Here's our train)" Alice said.

The two young women got on, found some seats and then talked about inconsequential things for the entire trip. The talk around them was anything but.

The battle of the Northern Rings was on most people's minds. The Colonists had attacked an SAC Battlefleet, destroying it if the stories were true.

People were angry, and scared.

To Emiko and her friends it was far off, worth a little concern, but not too much. They had other things, like practice exams. They new school year was not even a month old and already Emiko's friends felt they were being buried by the work. Emiko might, had she really cared.

"Ja, ashita mata ne," Alice said as the train pulled to a stop at her station.

"Hai," Emiko said.

Then she was gone.

Emiko did not have to ride long alone, her stop was next.

She got off the train and headed home.

Home in her case was a small, but mostly comfortable apartment building.

"Tadaima," Emiko called as she opened the apartment door.

"Okaeri," she heard her mother call.

Emiko slipped out of her shoes and stepped up, out of the genkan into the apartment proper. Kneeling down she arranged her shoes neatly then took a pair of slippers from the cabinet by the door.

"Gakkou wa, doo des ka(how was school)?" her mother asked as she came out of the kitchen.

Emiko reached into her briefcase and pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to her mother. It was the practice test they had done a few days ago.

Her mother took it and looked it over. "Emiko-chan," she said sharply. "Kore wa zenzen dame(this is terrible)," she said.

"Haiiiii," Emiko said. It wasn't too bad, she had placed in the top third of the class, but that wasn't good enough for her mother, wasn't good enough for her to get into Sydney University, like both her parents and her older brother had.

"Hai ja nai," her mother snapped. "Taihen benkyou shinakarebanaranai.(you have to study hard)"

"Ganbarimasu," Emiko said, wondering is she should salute her mother. It probably would not be a good idea-she did not have much of a sense of humor at times.

"Mattaku," her mother shook her head. "What will your father say when he gets home?"

"Tousan kaerimasuka?"

"Hai. The day after tomorrow."

"Dirty Tricks is letting him come home at a time like this?"

"Don't call fleet intelligence Dirty Tricks," her mother told her.

"Haiiiii," Emiko said, knowing that she had better be careful. Her mother had slapped her once for not being respectful enough in her attitude towards the SAC (Stellar Armaments Command) and everything else.

Her mother shook her head then turned and went back into the kitchen. Emiko sighed and walked towards her bedroom. Kyouiku mama and a Gaian fanatic. A bad combination.

Part of her problem was whenever her mother looked at her she saw a failure, not Emiko's, but her own. Two children. What sort of Gaian had two children? When the world was in such a state even one child was too many.

Emiko had been an accident, something her parents had never bothered to hide from her. They both loved her, but, to her mother especially, she was a bit of an embarrassment to them.

She tossed her briefcase onto her bed then went to sit at her desk.

Slacker, she thought back on Yuki's word. Maybe she would be. Not that it was something to look forward to. She would be thrown out of the city, to survive or die as she would, probably die. With the pollution and the predators-mostly on two legs-and the diseases and the lack of food and the, well, everything, what chance did she stand. For all that hanging over her, she still could not find it in herself to care all that much.

Her father was coming home. Well, it probably had nothing to do with a visit. He would have business in the city, things to take care of. He would sleep and maybe eat at that apartment but would have little time for much else.

Giving up on those thoughts she grabbed her briefcase, opened it, and pulled out her computer. She placed it on her desk, opened her top desk drawer and began removing a collection of very illegal computer ware.

She slotted a booster into her computer, not so illegal in itself, but the hardwired programming in it was another story. Into the booster she slotted her anonymous box, a trace direct, two pulsers, a burner and decrypter.

Completely illegal set up, meant for little else but hacking and cyber terrorism. She often wondered what her mother might do if she were to find out what her daughter did while she should be studying.

She pressed the power switch and went to work.

The dataweb was an amazing piece of tech, almost anything one could want was on it. Unfortunately the secure systems were completely disconnected from the web. To get into them either required going right to their physical locations and hooking in, or being clever.

Emiko preferred the later approach.

The Science Council computer in Tokyo was of course not hooked up the web. Most of the time. Once or twice a day a constantly changing gate would open, connecting the computer node in Tokyo to the rest of the web for communication before it would close again. Not much time to do anything, even if one could find where the gate was.

Emiko, through one of her mother's friends-having a Gaian fanatic for a mother was useful in some cases-had gotten hold of the logarithm used for the opening of the gates.

That was the biggest hurdle. After that it was just a matter of dropping a bunch of time delay viruses into the computer, then showing up at the gate to collect any that hopped out.

It took time, a lot of time, and the returns were often minor at best, but it was something.

She had been doing her hacking for the past year. The information he gave to Takashi, a friend of her brothers, though she knew that friendship would end if Makoto ever found out what Takashi was up to.

Of course he would also know what she was up to as well, and that was not a pleasant thought.

She checked her computer, the next gate was not going to open for almost two hours. She reached over to her briefcase and pulled out Alice's notebook. She might as well do something productive with her time.

Two hours later Emiko scooped up the datapack her one of her viruses had brought out of the computer. She gave it a quick look and let out a gasp. If she was reading the tags right she had just got her hands on something very important. The security markers were the highest she had ever seen.

Her computer beeped and new information flashed on the holoscreen. Someone had put a trace on her.

"Shimatta," Emiko said, hitting keys. They were on her. She hit them with one of the pulsers. Counter trace software did not work to well on the web, it was her system's hardware that did the job.

A pulse of nonsense data and a bit of energy was usually enough to break a trace for a moment. She followed it up with the trace direct, sending the trace off on wild goose chase. Combined with her anonymous box she felt pretty safe. She cut the connection, completely gone from the dataweb.

Had they just picked her up by chance or had someone been waiting for her? Not a pleasant thought. She had been traced before, but never that close. She wondered if she should have used the burner? It would have guaranteed a clean break, but it also would have made a huge mess of the Tokyo dataweb for several days.

No, she had gotten clear clean, Emiko told herself. No need to worry.

Convinced that everything was all right she turned her attention the datapack.

It took her a while to tease it apart, and even then she was not quite sure what she had. There were nine or ten files, compressed and encrypted.

Decompressing them was easy enough but after that nothing she had would cut the encryption. Very tight, she thought.

She pushed a disk into her computer and copied the datapack onto it. That done she took the disk and sneaked into her father's small office and turned on his computer.

It was a little sloppy of her father to leave all the information he did on his computer, but then again there shouldn't have been a problem. Security on the system was good, but she knew her father and his passwords were easy to guess. The thumbprint scanner had taken a little more work to fool, but she had been up to that.

Sitting down she pushed the disk with the datapack on it into the computer and began to go to work.

It took almost an hour to get the first file decrypted which she thought was too much time to spend in the office. She only gave it a scan, not really reading it, just getting an idea what its security level was. She'd get the rest finished over the next few days. She shut the computer off and removed the disk then returned to her room.

She had something to give Takashi tomorrow. Hopefully he could use it.

Ota Takashi was a journalist. He felt that it fit with his desire to uncover the truth.

He did not see what he was doing in any way treasonous. He did not want to oppose the USSA (United Solar States Alliance) but he often felt that the Gaians had a little too much power and were not being completely open in their dealings with the people.

He respected the Gaians, considered himself to be a one, sort of, and his best friend was a Gaian Warden. He also thought that protecting all ecosystems from dispoilment was a good idea. He just thought that the Gaians were way to intense about it.

He was doing something about it, following his conscience and trying to change things.

"Takashi-san, ohayo," he heard someone call.

He turned to see Emiko running towards him. Makoto's little sister had become an odd ally, but she was good at what she did.

"Emi-chan, osu," he waved at her.

"Gomen, isogashi, demo, kore wa chotto omoshiroi(sorry, I'm busy, but this is a little interesting)," she pushed a disk into his hands. "Ja, ki otsukute(bye, take care)," she said as she ran by him, heading towards the station.

"Genki da," he called then looked over the disk. If she said it was interesting it was probably worth a look.

"Just what did they get," Sam Colt asked his partner. Sam was new to the Tokyo scene, transferred from New York.

"That is need to know," Abe Ryu told him.

Sam had tagged Ryu as a hard case the day he met him. Still, he was good cop and, for the most part, good to work with.

"So you don't know either."

Ryu nodded.

The two entered the police computer lab, which was busier then usual and had a lot of new faces in it. Sam looked around. High up USSA types, lot of security. He suspected that Ryu was a police department mole for the USSA, but was polite enough never to say anything. As Ryu was polite enough to never say anything about him.

"Glad you two got here," Oda Reiko said.

"Got any good stuff?" Sam asked her.

"How about a name?"

"Dare," Ryu said.

"The computer is registered to a Miya Emiko, got an address and everything."

"Matte," Ryu said. "Yasashisugiru(too easy)."


"What are you hiding Oda-san," Sam asked.

"We got some new software, very good stuff, though once the hacker community finds out about this we loose the advantage, so we got a great window of opportunity. Your girl, and I don't doubt it is her, blew us off pretty quickly, but we caught an echo. The echo provided us with a lot more information then she could have thought."

"So you have a way to cut through the anonymous box noise?"

"Pin pon," she smiled.

"Kanojo wa ima doko iru ka (where is she now?)," Ryu asked.

"Yamadori Kutougakkou, san C gumi (Yamadori High School, class 3C."

"Ikou," Ryu said.

"Hai, hai," Sam said as he followed. Ryu was on the case and nothing was going to stop him now.

Sam looked up from the computer. "Maybe we should handle this cooler," he said to Ryu. "This girl is no criminal. She's probably doing it for kicks."

"We would not have been put on this case if this girl was just breaking into things for fun."

"But look at her history," he tapped the computer. "She's squeaky clean, good parents, good marks, she doesn't fit any profile. Just what is it she supposed to have stolen?"

"Need to know," Ryu said.

"Well, what do you think it is?"

"With the noise the brass up top are making, I'd say big time Midnight Sun or some other terrorist group."

"Oh come on," Sam shook his head. "This girl is not a terrorist."

"We still have to get her."

"But why like this. Why not meet her at her home tonight, with her mother and talk this out calmly. We go into her classroom and drag her out, we are going to scare the poor girl to death."

"If we wait she might bolt."

"If she was going to bolt she wouldn't have gone to school."

"We'll do it this way," Ryu said.

Sam shrugged her shoulders. There were times he could get Ryu to change his minds and there were times nothing could.

Emiko scribbled in her notebook, drawing pictures, every now and then making notes. The class was so boring. How was she to stay awake in such a place. If only something exciting would happen.

The door to the class room slid back, banging loudly, several students let out startled gasps.

Two men came in with the Kyoto-sensei (vice principal).

One of the men was Japanese, a big man, with thinning hair and angry brown eyes.

The other was Caucasian, with short brown hair and blue eyes.

They talked to the Kyoto-sensei for a moment then both were walking towards her.

"Miya Emiko desu ka?" The Japanese man asked her.

"Hai," she said, feeling apprehensive.

"You are under arrest," he told her, producing handcuffs from him jacket. In a moment he had Emiko on her feet and her hands locked behind her. The other had retrieved her briefcase and was looking through her desk.

"What, what is this all about," Emiko demanded, getting over her surprise.

The big man did not answer, just grabbed her elbow and began directing her out of the room. She looked around at all the shocked faces of her friends and classmates and her teacher. No one seemed to be about to do anything. What could they do?

In a moment she was out of the classroom and being led down the hall. News had spread somehow because she saw a lot of faces looking out of classrooms. It was so embarrassing.

She was hardly aware of much after that, she was feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

By the time she started taking her surroundings in again she was in the back seat of a car, spiraling up one of the highways towards the cavern's roof.

"Why am I being arrested?" she asked.

"You are suspected of breaking into a secure computer and stealing protected data," the foreign one told her, looking over his shoulder.

Well, at least she knew why. How did they catch her though? No, that was something to worry about later. Now she had to figure out how she was going to get out of it.

"Kuso," Ryu said.

"Nani," Sam turned around and saw the problem. Three cars had collided up ahead, closing off the road. Cars behind them made going back the way they had come a difficult proposition.

"Go up there and see what is happening," Ryu told Sam.

"Hai hai," Sam said as he got out of the car.

Ryu sat in the drivers seat, quietly cursing. Then something hit them from behind.

Swearing loudly Ryu pulled off his seat belt and got out of the car. Emiko looked over his shoulder and saw the police officer approaching the car that had hit them. A young man had gotten out, looking very apologetic.

Then Ryu fell down. Emiko stared, wondering what was going on. She heard the door open and looked over, expecting the other officer but a woman was there.

"Come on," she grabbed Emiko's shoulder and dragged her from the car. Another woman was retrieving her briefcase from the front of the car.

Emiko was dragged up the line of cars, past the wrecks. She saw the other police officer sprawled face down on the hood of a car.

Just beyond the wreck was a van that she was pushed into. A moment later they were heading off.

"Shinpaishimasen," the woman told her as she took the cuffs off her. "We're rescuing you."

"Who are you?

"Friends of a friend you might say."

"Did you kill..."

"No, just stunned. You start killing police officers people start taking a dislike to you."

"Do you know what is happening?"

"Unfortunately no. We're just a rescue team."

"Who sent you?"

"Later Miya-san, later."

Emiko was not all that surprised to find Takashi waiting for her. It made sense that he would have something to do with it.

"Takashi-san, nani o okotteimasu ka (what's happening)?" she asked.

"Lots. Arigato gozaiamashita," he bowed deeply to the woman.

"Dooitashimashite," she smiled and waved as the van drove off.

"Anohito wa, dare desu ka?"

"Yakuza," he told her, grabbing her arm and directing her towards his car.


"Who else do you think would be willing to break you free of the police," he pulled out his keys and opened the trunk of his car. "Harimasu."


"They'll be looking for you soon, now get in."

Emiko felt as if she was near tears. So much was happening and no one was telling her anything. She angrily hurled her briefcase into the trunk then got in with it.

"Everything will be all right," he told her. "Just relax," he closed the trunk on her.

Lying, curled up in the darkness, Emiko began to cry.

By the time the car had stopped and the trunk was open she was cried out and all that was left was anger.

Takashi found himself faced with and angry young woman who had grabbed his coat lapels and pulled his face close to hers before he could do anything.

"What is happening?" she demanded.

"That data you grabbed was hot, very very hot. Just that first file was probably enough to get us arrested, or killed," he pulled himself free from her grasp. "What is on the rest, well, who knows, but it has some people scared. I got a tip about your arrest and arranged for you to be busted free. You didn't tell them anything did you?"

"I never got the chance," she said as she got out of the trunk.

"Good. Odds are they are going to slap some serious charges on you soon, enough to make sure you are captured or killed very fast."

"What do you mean."

"I heard some chatter on my tap line. People are talking ecoterrorist, Midnight Sun, that sort of stuff."

She stared at him wide eyed for several seconds. "Uso dai yo!"

"Hai, hai. Mochiron uso, demo, daredemo shinjiru. Karera wa keisatsu da,(Of course it is a lie, but everyone will believe it. They are the police)" he said.

Emiko slumped against the car. "Atashi, atashi wa nani o surukotoninattiruka?(What am I supposed to do)"

"Hashiru. Toui to hayai. Watashitachi wa Emiko o Toukyou kara deru, soshite, Nihon.(Run. Far and fast. We'll get you out of Tokyo, then Japan)"

"Toukyou e sarimasu? (leave Tokyo)"

"You don't have another choice. They are going to close the city down soon, you have to go. This will calm down eventually, you will be able to come back, one day."

"But my family..."

"Who are you family going to believe. Your mother would probably kill you," he laughed.

"She probably would," Emiko said sadly.

"Hey, cheer up. I was just joking."

"I wasn't."

"Listen, I got someone who will get you outside, then someone else who will get you out of Japan. Everything is going to be fine."

"What am I supposed to do now?"

"I really don't know. I wish you had never got involved in this."

"I got myself involved in it."

"Yea, still," he shrugged his shoulders. "Here, take this," he pulled the disk that she had given him earlier from his pocket. "I made copies but you might be able to do something with this."

"It is not supposed to be like this," she took the disk from him.

"I know. But it is."


"Don't worry. You'll be all right."



"Oh, thank you for making me feel better."

"I try."

"Oi, Takashi-san, iru desu ka?" someone called.

"Koko," Takashi shouted.

A moment later a man in a baggy, gray jump suit came out of the darkness.

"Ken-san, hisashiburi ne," Takashi called.

"Soo. It this the package?" he asked, looking at Emiko.

"Miya Emi-chan," he said.

"Hajimemashite," Emiko said, bowing.

"Noda Ken desu," he said to her.

"Get her out of here Ken-san."


"I got to go, they'll probably be checking up with anyone she knows soon enough. I have to set up a cover or two."

Ken nodded.

"Emi-chan," he put a hand on her shoulder. "Ki o tsukete," he told her, then turned and walked away.

"Sayonara Takashi-san," she said.

"Come on," Ken said to her, walking away.

Emi turned and walked after him, behind her she heard Ken slam his car door and a moment later the car was driving away. She was alone with a strange man now, leaving her home, probably forever. She felt a little like crying, but she had used up most of her tears in the trunk of the car.

"Where are we going?"

"Outside, into the Old Cities."

"What?" Emiko stopped.

"We have to," he turned around to face her. "It is the only place they won't look for you right away. You be all right."

"But the Old Cities..."

"It is either face them or the police. You face the police you probably die and take a lot of others with you."

"That's not fair."

"It wasn't supped to be," he turned around and continued walking.

Emiko had no choice. She followed after him.

A short time later they came to a large garage like area. There were about ten mechs parked there, all of them Masons.

"Come on," he led her up to a mech painted black and gray.

"What do you do?"

"I'm a biologist. I'm monitoring the levels of pollution and contamination in the Old Cities."

"Well, at least you have the vehicle suited for it."

"Yea, that's true," he laughed. "Come on, let's get you settled. Ever been in one of these before?"


"Well, your in for a treat then," he smiled as he started up the boarding stairs.

The cockpit was more than large enough to hold both of them but he put her into the storage compartment.

"I'm really beginning to hate trunks," she said to Ken as he made sure she was settled.

"I'd get used to them," he said.


Ken winked at her then closed the hatch, sealing her into the compartment.

A short time late she felt a vibration run through the suit as it started up. She could feel the jarring walk as it moved out of the garage but soon that was replaced by a smooth ride as Ken shifted to the wheels in the legs.

Alone, in the dark, she pulled her computer out of her briefcase and put the disk Takashi had given back to her into it. It was about time she read what had got her into so much trouble.

The first file was an occupation plan for the Pleiades' colonies. Reproductive licensing, ban on homesteading, death penalty for ecocrime, and other things. And that was just the first file. What might be on the rest?

She turned her computer off and returned it to her briefcase.

Hugging her knees to herself she wondered just what she was going to do.

The smooth ride became a jolting walk as the roads gave out. Emiko guessed they were in the Old Cities.

A line of urban blight, stretching from the outskirts of Tokyo to the Osaka Zenith.

The jolting of the mech's run and walk began to lull her to sleep. She was tired, exhausted really, and sleep came easily; until the gun fire started.

She was shaken awake by the mech's lurching and that was when she heard the sound of weapons.

She did not know what was happening, she was trapped in the mech, a helpless passenger with no way to control her destiny. She was terrified.

Then a suddenly as it began it was over and the jolting of the mech's run replaced the lurching.

Some time later it stopped. She waited in breathless silence until the hatch was open, letting in light and the smell of the Old City. The light she was grateful for, the smell almost made her sick.

"Here, take this," Ken said, handing her a breather. "The air's pretty clean here, it won't kill you, but it is unpleasant." The breather was fairly simple, a soft filter mask and nose plugs.

"What happened," Emiko asked after she had the breather on.

"Jumped by some crazies, it happens."

"It happens?"

"Occupational hazard. After I gave them a few blasts from the machine guns they fell back."

"You're armed?"

"You have to be. Here," he put a bag in front of her and opened it. "You got some basic survival stuff here and some not so basic. This," he removed a small computer, "has a map loaded into it. Follow it. You are being met by a man named Match, he'll get you out. There is also a bio-scanner hooked into this as well as a chem sniffer. This area is clear, as far as I know, but it never hurts to play it safe."

Emiko took the computer and called up the map.

"This is a gyrojet pistol, ever fired one before?"


"It's easy. This is the safety, the magazine ejects like this and a new one is simply fitted in like this," he told her as he showed her everything. "Minimum range is 3 meters, anyone in closer than that is safe. Going to remember all that?"


"Hopefully you won't have to use it," he said, putting the weapon back in the bag. "It's on safe right now, remember that. Now, if things go really bad these tablets will kill you in a few seconds."


"If you get caught now and they make you talk there are a lot of people that could be caught."

Emiko stared at him, not knowing what to say. He wanted her to kill herself if she were to get caught. And he had lain a lot of responsibility on her as well.

"Ki o tsukete(take care)," he said, climbing back towards the cockpit.

"Chotto matte. You can't just go."

"I don't have any choice. You'll be fine," he sealed himself in the mech and she had to step back as it straightened.

Emiko closed her eyes against the cloud of dust that the running mech had risen. When it settled she was alone.

She stood there for a time, not sure what to do, then opened the bag he had giver her, took the pistol out and put it into the waistband of her skirt. She put her briefcase in the bag then slung it over her shoulder.

Looking down at the map she set off, following the path that was marked with a red line.

As time passed she found it harder and harder to concentrate on the map. She had never been in an Old City before, never been away from the safety Tokyo or some Zenith offered. She began to jump at shadows, even once pulling the pistol out and blowing up some old trash cans.

She had been alone for almost an hour when she heard a high pitched whistle.

Spinning about she tried to discover where it was coming from. Then there were more and she realized whatever was making it was all around her. She began to run, hoping she would get to the place she was supposed to be soon.

Twenty meters ahead of her several figures moved out from between the buildings. One of them let out a loud, high pitched whistle. A whistle that was answered from very close behind her. She had slowed when she saw the figures but was running again, right at them. She had to get by them, get to safety. She had to. Her heart was thumping so loud she was sure everyone could hear it and she was more terrified than she had ever been in her life.

She let the computer drop. She didn't need it or the map as much as she needed her hands free. She pulled her weapon from her waistband and fired. Two rockets sped out, neither hitting very close to the people ahead of her, then the weapon was empty. She covered several more meters before realizing there were no more rounds. She was almost on them and did not know what to do.

Emiko had been taking kendo since she was ten. For all that time she was not very good at it. Everything moved too fast for her in class. She was amazed at how slow the dirty man in front of her acted.

She sidestepped his grab then slammed the pistol into the side of his head. It was a move similar to one she had practiced thousands of times, but had never gotten to work before.

A woman kicked at her but she twisted to the side, moving up along her leg on the outside, and punched her in the face.

She was clear of them. They were all behind her, coming after her, but the way in front was clear. She ran, remembering the path that had been on the computer.

For a time she thought she might make it. Then she heard the sound of gunfire and ricochets as well as the effect of the bullets as the hit close to her.

She was about the throw herself on the ground, hoping they might not kill her if she gave up when a large figure stepped out in front of her.

Emiko tried to dodge around him but the person reacted faster than she. Her wrist was grabbed and she was pulled in close, his, she could tell he was male now, cape wrapped around her.

There was a hissing sound, then a number of minute roars followed soon after by explosions. She felt several things hit her back, like punches. Then it was over and everything was quiet.

"Miss Miya," the man holding her said in English. "I am Match."

Emiko backed out of his grip, and he let her go. As the cape fell back into place she noticed several areas of damage on it. From the bullets?

He was a tall man, with long, fine blonde hair. What little skin she could see was almost as dark as hers and covered in tattoos. Slim build, but hard, she knew that from being pressed into his chest. He was almost handsome, in a rough sort of way.

His clothing was dark, loose pants a shirt and a jacket, covered by the cape which seemed to shift colors as she looked at it. He held a large gyrojet pistol in his hand.

"Are you all right kid?" he asked.

"The gun," she looked down at her pistol, "it wouldn't, it wouldn't..." then she moved forward, burying her face in the man's chest, crying. She had been so scared.

She felt him take the weapon from her hands. "You fired all the rounds," he told her a moment later. "Know how many you have and count carefully," he told her.

Emiko stepped back to look up at him. She pulled the breather off, ignoring the smell, and wiped at her eyes and nose. She could not believe he was lecturing her.

"Load this and then let's go," he handed her back the pistol then watched as she tried to put the fresh magazine in backwards. Once it was properly loaded her set off, never looking back to see if Emiko followed.

She did though. Not about to stay in the urban wastes on her own.

"Who were those people?" she asked after a time.

"Just a bunch of no ones trying to survive," he told her. "They would have robbed you, maybe raped you, possibly killed you and just maybe have eaten you."

"You can't be serious."

"I am."

Emiko looked around her, wondering of there were more of those people out there, waiting to attack. If there were, they stayed hidden.

A hour later, when Emiko was certain she was going to collapse, Match led her into a building. He moved some junk aside from the far wall, revealing a vault like door. It was protected by a standard key pad lock and a palm print scanner.

He opened it then let Emiko enter first.

It was a simple room, no furniture but a gray cylinder and there was a shower stall recessed in the wall. To her right was another door.

"Put anything you want to keep in the decon box," he pointed at a gray cylinder in the far corner. "Then get into the shower," he walked over to the cylinder and began stripping his clothes and other things off. Most everything her carried was going in the Cylinder.

"Where can I..."

"Right here. Not much in the way of privacy," he smiled. "Sorry."

"I'll shower after you."

"Your choice," he dropped his shirt. "I wouldn't want to wait though. Who knows what was out there," he said as he began to take off his pants.

She looked at him, then turned away blushing. His words sank into her head and she slowly began to undo the buttons on her blouse.

He was already in the shower, standing under the spray of water and decontamination chemicals by the time Emiko slid into the stall with him.

There was enough room that they were not pressed together, in fact there was almost a meter of space between them. Emiko kept looking over her shoulder to see if he was looking at her. He never was and she realized that she was in fact staring at him. While grateful he was not leering at her she did feel a little insulted that he was not even trying to take a peak.

She looked at him again and suddenly realized all his tattoos were gone. His skin was also several shades lighter than it had been.

"Nani?" she could not help asking.

He turned around to look at her, giving Emiko a better look at him than she had before, which caused her to blush and turn around to face the wall.

"A nano weave under the skin," he said. "I can fake the tattoos and things that way."

"I see," she said, still staring at the wall.

Match left the shower before her, quickly drying off then dressing. By the time Emiko had turned off the shower he had already left the room through the other door.

She dried herself off then dressed quickly, gathering together her things from the decon box.

Once she was ready she went to the other door and opened it.

It was a small garage, almost fully occupied by a fan car. Match was seated in the driver's seat, obviously waiting for her.

"Come on," he said.

She circled around the car, threw her things into the back seat then climbed into the passenger seat.

"This is a sealed vehicle, so no worries about contamination," he told her as he pulled his door shut.

"What about being shot at?"

"We're very fast and we've got a bit of armor. Don't worry, I've done this before."

Emiko nodded and watched as he powered up the car. In front of them a garage door opened. He shot out under it while it was still going up then turned sharply and headed down the street.

"What about the place back there," she asked, a little curious.

"It's already locked up tight. In a few days some Ravagers will probably be in there to re-supply the place.

"You're a ravager?"

"When I have to be. Seat belt on?"

Emiko put it on.

"This will get a little bumpy, but don't worry," he pushed the accelerator down. "We'll be in Osaka in an hour or two."

"And after that?"

"Probably get you on a plane to San Francisco as soon as we can. Once you're in San Fran, I don't know."

"Won't they be watching the Cosmodrome?"

"Yes and no. It will be a day or two before they decide that you have got out of the city. Until then they won't be slowing things down too much at the Cosmodrome."

Sam rubbed at his temples. Between the stunner that he had been hit with and the yelling he and Ryu were getting from the Captain, he was on his way to quite the headache.

"What did you expect us to do?" Sam asked, getting a little tired of it all. "We didn't expect anyone would launch a rescue."

"You should have," the Captain yelled.

"Well why didn't you," Ryu snapped, getting to his feet. "You should have sent more police."

"I'm not the one that lost her."

Ryu turned around and walked out on the Captain. Sam got to his feet. "I think he means to say that we will get her back," Sam said.

"You better Colt. I don't care who you two are, I'll have your badges if you screw up."

"We'll do what we can," Sam said as he left the room, running after Ryu.

"They haven't closed the Cosmodrome or the Seaport," Ryu said, sounding disgusted.

"They think she is still in the city."

"Do you?"

"No, but who can say for sure."

"We'll give it six hours, then we assume that she got out of the city."

"You going to close the ports?"

"I'll decide when the time comes."

"That will upset a lot of people."

"I know."

Emiko came out of the shower, a towel around her body and another around her head.

Match had checked them into a hotel almost as soon as they had reached Osaka. He had told her to stay there then had gone out.

He had come back in while she was in the shower and was sitting on one of the rooms two beds.

"I bought you some new clothes," he pointed to the other bed.

Emiko turned to look at the pile of clothing on the bed. "Not really my style," she said.

"Life's tough. Look at this."

Emiko turned around just in time to take a very hard punch from Match that knocked her back onto the pile of clothes. She was certain her nose was broken.

"What are you doing?" he pulled her from the bed. "You'll bleed all over those clothes."

"Why did you do thad?" she asked, putting her hand up to her nose.

"A little impromptu plastic surgery," he told her. "Don't worry, you'll be fine."

"Id hurds," she said.

"Here, let me take a look at it," he knelt down and gently brushed his fingers along her face. When he suddenly pressed down on her broken nose she hit him then fainted.

As unhappy as Emiko was she had to grudgingly admit that her appearance had changed. With her nose looking like it did, the wig of long, light brown hair she wore and a few other minor changes, the woman in the mirror was a bit of a stranger.

Match had given her something for the pain, and something to hide the bruising and had promised her a plastic surgeon in San Francisco to put everything right.

She looked at the passport he had given her. Yuki Smith.

She hated her new look, her new name, and everything that had happened since the police had come to her classroom.

But there was nothing that she could do about it now but go on.

"Ready?" Match called.

"Haiiiii," she said, grabbing her bag.

"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <hagen@brant.net>

On to Chapter 2