Chapter IV: Identity
"What's in a name?  A Nose by any other name could still smell."

Cricket was sitting and grinning like a fool, cross-legged, on the furthest sofa facing the door, surrounded by wires.  Osmosis, the first into the room, hung his head and sighed after taking in the sight.  It was like she had built herself a nest of technology.  Electrical umbilical cords suspending her in a faux suede womb where she sat with a lap top terminal connected to every other piece of equipment in the room.

“Did you break anything?” the kid orange asked, exasperated.  Cricket shook her head and pointed at the replicators.  “Okay, you replicated the cables.  Next time could you replicate a cable-tidy or two as well?”

“I made it better!” she chirped, pointing at the terminal in the corner.  “Faster, safer, quieter!”  She was anything but quieter, but if it was the machines she was talking about, it was true that the room was no longer ‘humming’ like it was before.  I dropped my bag at my feet, and pulled our captive’s weapon from it.  The thing was spectacular.  The sheath was polished to a gloss, and it looked just like the ones from the movies with Samurai.

“I’ll take a look in a minute, Cricket.  Skit, put the Tiger on one of the near sofas.”  Oz gestured, sighing as he made for the stairs to the office room.


He almost didn’t survive to see the bottom of them; as Skit dropped the apparently unconscious Tiger girl she landed in a crouch, bounding off the back of the sofa and into me with a blow to my gut that dropped me like a stone.  She had her blade out of my hand in an instant and was already half way to Oz before the boy had his stun gun out.  I closed my eyes on the descent long enough that when I reopened them, she was jumping backwards away from Oz, who was aiming at her, face locked in concentration.  She bobbed and weaved, trying to wait him out and come at him after he fired – I guess she hoped he would miss.  He didn’t, and the darts stuck in her with a thud.  I was just about to smile at the victory when the girl swung her blade down, severing two tiny wires that I only just noticed.


She was dashing back at him then; and I was still only just hitting the ground, adrenal response kicking in, I felt – rather than commanded – my legs rolling me to a crouch where my hand dropped into my half-open bag to grasp the hilt of my blade.  I knew I wouldn’t be fast enough.  Bushi was fast, though; the kind of fast you see in martial arts movies; the kind of fast you tell your friends about as if the person being so was some kind of alien.  She kicked at the Tiger girl’s legs as she skidded into the path of the attack, a sudden whirlwind of matter on the floor, and with her blade so high all the girl could do was jump the attack.  That slowed her down just enough for me and Skit to become part of the action.


It can’t have taken more than a few seconds in all, from the blow to my gut to the end, but when I try and remember it the entire thing felt like a minute at least.  Adrenaline is funny like that.  I remember that my blow and Skit’s were both parried off by the swordswoman’s superior skills, and then I remember seeing a foot drop out of the air above her head like lightning.  By the time the Tiger hit the ground, Bushi was in a pose that made it look like she was doing stretches on the ground, as she recovered from what must have been a flip drop kick.  It was the most presence she had given off yet and her presence as a fighter was quite frightening.


“Fuck,” a wise word from our wise leader.  The Tiger was still now, a serene look on her face.  She was genuinely unconscious.


“Get her up to the office and tie her hands, Skit,” Oz growled.  His eyes were acid.  Ever seen bright green eyes staring daggers at an unconscious person in uniform?  I thought I saw murder somewhere in there.  “Then gather.”

Minutes later, and after the replication of just enough steel cable ties to make sure that we weren’t going to see any more sword action from the Tiger girl, we all – the rebels – were gathered on the sofas.  I was sat between Skit and Bushi – if ever I felt the need to quote a phrase about hard places and rocks, this was the time.  Skit was frightful strong, but Bushi’s speed was something I figured was far more deadly.  I’m sure she caught me looking at her.  Osmosis, when we were all settled, had a stern look on his face.


“I must be sleep deprived, because today was a mess, and it was lack of foresight that beat me.  I usually think about things more than this.”  Nobody responded, it seemed like our great leader was berating himself.  After a few moments silence, his hands clapped down onto his knees with a slap, looking at us each one at a time as he spoke, catching our eyes with his magical green ones and locking our thoughts in that impressive tone of authority his small frame contained.  “Call anyone who might get worried with you gone; the trains aren’t going to be running for a while; that kind of disturbance will shut the entire network.  Tell them you’re staying with a friend, and then find a place to sleep and get some rest.  Replicate futons if you have to.  We’ll discuss more in the morning.”


Morning came quick.  I barely remember the call to my mother, who was of course worried sick.  I told her that a friend in the area was putting me up for a whole week and showing me around his hometown, just incase the disruption was longer than a day or two.  I definitely don’t remember replicating a blanket for myself – in fact I was sure at the time I had gone straight to sleep on the sofa, scary teammates be damned.  When I woke up, the room was light, and cool, and I couldn’t quite piece my brain together, until a demoness sat up beside me (from the floor) and looked my way.

“Morning,” musical words – or just one note of music – slapped me back to alertness as Bushi looked at me, and then around the office.  Futons and blanket-covered forms were all about, but two figures were already awake.  There was Osmosis, fiddling with his pattern terminal again, and Cricket, crouched about ten feet from him, staring.  I remembered why I had been scared of Bushi, and why we were sleeping here, and for some reason which I mostly attribute to my gradually degrading sanity, I didn’t feel at all worried about any of it anymore.


Okay, that’s a lie.  I worried, but it didn’t come out.  I didn’t lose breath, I didn’t get shifty-eyes – all things that would normally happen to me in this kind of situation.  At least we were past the committing political crimes bit.

“Glad to see you up,” Osmosis called over, now standing at his replicator and picking up the fruits of his work.  Cricket dived well out of his way as he approached the group of us, kicking Skit on the way past to wake him.  I noticed at this point that on one of the other sofas Bullseye was already awake, just unmoving.  He had as little presence while laying down as he did anywhere else.  “Let’s talk.”


When we were all seated, and the futons and blankets were disposed of, the kid orange addressed us all while standing.

“There’s a roll-on effect to screw-ups, it seems, and the screw-up yesterday has affected today’s plans.  I was going to call in some muscle from a friendly source in the British Coalition, but the Vac network is down worldwide.  Looks like we overestimated their crisis control ability.”  I already knew what this meant, but, being the only one – or so it seemed – who had any qualms about being terrorists, I had to ask.

“This doesn’t mean you’re using us again, does it?” naturally, my sighing tone made it fairly obvious that I had already resigned myself.

“Perceptive of you, Grave.  Yes.  The prison break needs to happen today.  If we give them more than twenty four hours to regain their composure, they’ll find some other way to move him.  We go today.”  I figured at that point I would recite the names of all the deities I could recall from Religious Ed in my head, just to make sure my prayer for salvation from this craziness could be answered.  “Cricket apparently had some ideas when I talked to her about it this morning.  She was very… verbose about it.”


I laughed out loud.  Caught as I had been in my musings, the comment about Cricket being verbose made me guffaw, but I quickly checked myself.

“Heh… so, what plans did our wordy little hacker come up with?” I asked.


The explanation left me feeling predictably pessimistic.  I argued against various points, but Osmosis kept referring back to provisions Cricket had supposedly made on the plan that could cover us.  Needless to say, when the argument was over, everyone was nodding in agreement.


“Now then,” Osmosis said with a smirk.  That small smile really pissed me off.  In any case, he then placed all the small devices from his hand onto the coffee table.  Whatever these were, he had been working on them when we woke up.  They looked like little earphones, coloured varyingly; I noticed they matched our skin-tones, so I picked up the one that matched my colour.

“Coms devices?” Was I the only one with questions?  These guys were way too accepting.

“Actually, translators.  Grave, go check on the guest, see if you can hear what she’s saying.”


Babysitting is my least favourite work, and call me overcautious, but even if she was bound, the blow I took yesterday from that woman made me take my weapon with me as I ascended the metal stairs and entered the small office in the corner of the warehouse, above where Oz’ terminal was.  A voice was already in my ears as I pulled the door open.


I saw it instantly;  on the floor next to the Tiger was the telltale glow of a portable terminal, and from it issued a faint male voice, followed by her own response to the person on the other end.  Her voice immediately echoed into my ear again, but in English – the translator, of course.

“Am fine, but…” I didn’t think about the broken English of the translator, instead I instantly surged across the room.  I will forever regret the cowardliness of the action that followed, but I was scared, honestly.  I kicked her.  She was laying on the floor, her head already bruised from Bushi’s drop kick, but I kicked her in the gut with the force of my run, pushing her away from the cell terminal.  I barely registered a voice yelling “oi!” before I slammed the blade of my sword through the device, cutting it off.

“Osmosis!” I could hear movement on the stairs already, probably from the sound I had made in my running, but I called out to him anyway, breathless.


“What happened?” Osmosis was the first inside, followed by Bushi and Skit.  All of them had drawn weapons.  “You stab her?”

“No!” I snapped back,

“Relax, explain the situation…”


I did, and the kid orange frowned as the Tiger girl rolled over, glaring at me.  Hey, Sorry, I thought, but you were basically summoning our deaths, I can’t just let that happen.  Our wise leader cocked his gun noticably, and then pointed it at her, looking to me.

“Take everyone else downstairs.  Me and the wannabe samurai have some things to discuss.”

“She won’t understand you,” I offered, but of course our leader had an answer.

“This reverse coded translator says otherwise.”  He threw it to me.  “Put it in her ear.”  I did, showing it to her, letting her know it was an earpiece, beforehand.  She didn’t resist.  “Now go, and wait downstairs.”


I don’t think I recall a more tense wait.  Five whole damn minutes waiting with Bushi, Skit and Cricket.  And Bullseye.  Easy to forget him.  We were all staring in the same direction, eyes locked on the yellow office structure supported over the corner of the warehouse.  It was almost a relief when the door opened and the orange appeared.  Almost.  It stopped being so comforting when his haste became apparent, and then the look on his face when he reached the bottom of the stairs.


“Well?” I said expectantly.


“We are in so much shit,” he murmured, looking up to the office.

“Now tell me some news,” I mocked.  Any of us – with the possible exception of Skit, our dumb muscle – could have announced that we were in at the deep end.

“Do you have any idea who exactly we have in that office?” his eyes were wild when he looked at me.  By this point I was standing, staring at him, and I shrugged.  My numbness to fear this morning must have been immense.  I can think of no other reason why my legs didn’t give out when he answered.


“One Yuki Masane: daughter of the Tigers commander Reiji Masane, the most dangerous man in our doomed fucking existance.”