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It was barely a minute into their introduction to one another and Kaz was already fantasizing about silencing Yukako with a hand around her throat. The way her words seemed to run on and on without a break for punctuation or air, long sentences trailing off into incomplete thoughts before doubling back to pick them up again a few words later, little idiosyncrasies that combined into one big fucking problem. While the spacey ditz fumbled this way and that through the conversation Kaz did her best to grit her teeth and bear it.

"Kaz is fine."

All those suffixes denoting societal standing were extras that irked her, chaff to be discarded whenever possible. Respect was something communicated through action anyway, not bending over backwards to find the right combination of words.

It felt like a minor miracle when the assault officer managed to get onto a single topic without jumping to the next and Kaz repaid the favor by actually listening. An actual directed energy weapon that doesn't just blow up in the user's hands? She was excited to see it in action. Well not actually excited but there was a brief spark of approval somewhere deep in the drug drenched recesses of her mind.

There was a bit of herself in the way Yukako gushed over her pet project, a resemblance to the person Kaz had been back before she had thrown her future away. It had been easy to get her rambling about whatever robotics project or hypothetical augment she was working on, all those doodles and notes she had scrawled down in notebook after notebook. She still remembered a time when she had taken pride in her technical aptitude.

Looking back on the achievements and accolades she had earned just made Kaz bitter now but she could at least recognize when an innovation had merit. Or at least more merit than whatever the heiress-turned-agent was still blubbering on about.

The American opened her mouth to ask a question but was cut off by the voice of the Director. An operation then, what Kaz had been simultaneously waiting for and dreading. She headed off towards the briefing room at the pace of a lumbering bear: slow in the moment perhaps but capable of both surprising speed and shocking violence.
-----

Dai was at the door to the briefing room a few seconds before Kaz managed to make it, deft fingers punching in her name, rank and identification number so that she could be let in The NSF's HQ had all sorts of redudant security measures, proccesses that must have cost millions upon millions of yen in total. The fact that even with all the cloak and dagger sci-fi secrecy Japan's secret police still managed to hire a Yakuza assassin upset Dàiyù more than it should have. This was what her taxes paid for?

The whole organization was porous, hiring Americans mercenaries while Jinrai spies made a mockery of it security protocols. Its agents lacked loyalty one way or another (herself included) and would soon find itself in crisis if something wasn't done. But that wasn't her problem. Dai was there to indulge her addiction to adrenaline while making sure that her organization stayed out of the crosshairs. While the Yakuza had a history of allying with or hiding behind far-right groups it had yet to connect itself with the Jinrai in any meaningful way which meant that there wasn't even really a conflict of interest for NeoTokyo's deadliest entrapenuer.

Dai kept her critical musings to herself as she entered the briefing room, still playing the part of a patriot. "Good morning Director." She gave the required greeting in perfect Japanese, the New England taint present in her English not crossing the language barrier. Other ops personnel were streaming in and none of them were worth engaging with at the moment. If someone addressed her then she'd reply but until then she was content to wait for information.

@BCTheEntity @Conscripts


There were too many people both in the lounge and centered around Kaz. It was like dealing with pigeons: the first one had shown up then a second and a third and before too long there'd be a whole flock of them cooing, cawing, ruffling their feathers and making nuisances of themselves. Cait had stumbled onto the conversation as Takai was making his exit, trading pointless questions and observations about the bureaucracy of paramilitary life. Annoying yes but bearable if only because she was another English speaker.

Then it was Yukako, the new girl Kaz was only barely aware of. In all honesty she had registered not as a face or name but as a presence. There had been an empty room that Kaz sometimes walked past and maybe two days ago it had suddenly not been empty. Yukako had addressed her using one of those stupid honorifics that had little reason to exist and it took all of Kaz's will not to snap at her. "Hey. I'm doing okay."

Look at her playing nice with annoying strangers, following the rules instead of just snapping at the shorter woman.

There wasn't time to follow up before Naomi shoved her way into the conversation. This new interruption was handled with noticeably less grace than the previous two. "Who the fuck is Shunshun?" She asked in English, unwilling to make the shift into her non native language."Do you mean Takai? Cuz you just missed him."

Who even was this woman? Naomi something or other, one of the mega billionaires that were hanging around the NSF like fucking tourists. Why two obscenely wealthy women were pretending to be soldiers Kaz would never understand. Dai at least had a military history but as far she knew this socially inept little heiress (and little was the perfect word for her) had worked as a glorified security guard."Next time can you wait before just barging in?"

You dumb cunt.

The last part went unsaid thanks to sheer effort. Kaz turned her focus back on the new girl and went on with the introductions. "So Yu, what's your job around here?"
-----


Going to the range was a formality at this point in Daiyu's life. With all her years of practice and the highly expensive augments crammed into her body it was simply impossible to miss a paper target unless she wanted to. The sterile noncombat conditions lacked any distractions to contend with or civilians to watch out for, no tricky cover that might deflect a stray bullet into some poor noncombatant. Everything that could have made the situation interesting had stripped away so that there was no point in bothering.

So why even show up? Because at the moment there was simply nothing better she could be doing. The National Security Force had one major similarity with her careers in the Yakuza and JSDF: there was a lot of hurry up and wait. She had to be on base on the off-chance there was some need for a sniper and until there was some need for a sniper she'd be stuck on base. Target practice was something to pass the time and if Japan was paying for the bullets there was no reason not to use them.

She could have sought out some of her fellow agents but what was the point in that? Most of them were boring, straight laced career military types who had bigger boots than they did brains. There were a few interesting ones here and there but most of them fell into the same category of blind patriotism or pressing need to feel like they were making a difference.

So Dàiyù kept shooting. The rest of the magazine was emptied while she was watched by one of the Americans that were infesting the NSF like rats. Which one was he, Chris? Yes that was him, the Army man with poor Japanese. Well if a Yankee likes my shooting then it must be incredible."

She had responded in perfect English, her accent vaguely New Englander thanks to the influence of a tutor from Massachusetts."How's it going, Rambo?" Typical American special forces guys got American action hero names, she didn't make the rules.

The Director's voice came as unexpected but not unwelcome surprise, Dai slipping her pistol back into its holster before motioning to Chris. "Walk and talk with me? Im curious about why someone would join the NSF only to spend three months riding the bench." She chuckled as if to show the jab had been in good faith. Chris was an interesting one, an outlier due to his nationality. If Dai could figure out some of what made him tick the day would be a success.

@MK2 @Landaus Five-One @BCTheEntity


2 PM, Wednesday. The middle of the day, the middle of the week, everything outside still grey and damp from the earlier rain. Kaz felt no need to go outside and look at the storm's aftermath. She could already imagine the reflections of neon drenched skyscrapers shining in the puddles, shimmering water collecting in gutters like so much oil. It had been the same in Washington, Moscow, Bogota, every major city she had lived or worked in. This brave new world was one of steel and glass, one where there was less space for cultural differences than ever before. There was no real difference between skylines, not anymore.

She could remember when there had been. Places like Los Angeles and New York had always been sprawling metropolises but there had been enough subtle differences in layout and culture to differentiate the two. Now they shared the same structure and pollution, the same overly wealthy assholes and desperate poor separated by only a few blocks. Monuments to human misery, goblets of greed that were forever running over and staining wider society. Where they went so did everywhere else, and they were going straight to hell.

Goddamnit.

She was doing it again, that thing where she'd become absorbed in self-righteous philosophizing. One of the side effects of her getting deep fried in its own chemicals was the tendency to engage in sanctimonious bullshit. Or more accurately, the emotionally damaged state she had been left in lent itself to misanthropic musing of the worst kind. It was important to nip those thoughts in the bud. Kaz might not have been able to be happy but she refused to sink to the level of the wannabe Nietzsches and nitwit nihilists of the world.

2:03 PM now, time to get out. Breakfast was a bite of the stale granola bar she found in her pocket as she slipped into the NSF and a cigarette that slid neatly into the corner of her mouth as she left her quarters. There was a scrape of rubber against linoleum as she moved towards the main hall, the great bear of a woman traveling at speed as she always did. There was a corner coming up and Kaz took it recklessly, rounding right into a poor staff member.

With more than a foot of height and maybe a hundred pounds of weight differing between them it was little surprise that the secretary or analyst or whatever she was got knocked off of her feet with a yelp, scattering papers across the floor. The only admission of wrongdoing she got from Kaz was an apologetic grunt and a puff of smoke, the American moving on without even a word.

She moved into the crush of people despite herself, forced to interact with other people in an attempt to feign normalcy. She would grit her teeth and bear the weight of socialization, let the sedatives in her system keep her from lashing out. She could do this. It was routine, normal, unimportant for anyone normal. The trick was to scan for anyone she knew was bearable, one of the few "friends" whose presence she could stand.

And who did Kaz spy but Takai, back from his medical absence with shiny new limbs. He'd do.

"Hello Takai, glad to see you moving around again."

Her Japanese might have improved during his absence by her dead eyed stare was the same, punching right through her comrade even as she extended a hand for him to shake. Somethings could just never change.

-----


Every part of Dàiyù's body hurt. Her muscles were sore from getting through a glass table, her head was pounding thanks to a combination of too many stimulants and not enough sleep. Hell even her metal arm was acting up, a phantom pain tricking her brain into thinking it had the old flesh and bone limb again. Side effects of her busy schedule the past few evenings no doubt.

The ride from the slum apartment she had crashed in to the NSF's headquarters gave Dai time to recollect and refocus herself. The rumbling roar of the secondhand motorcycle beneath her was a pleasant backdrop for her thoughts, letting her lay out jumbled memories without having to focus too much on them. Let's see here...

What had she been up to last night? There was the banquet to raise money for some kind of good cause, the funds going to a charitable donation run by a Mr. Maeda. Mr. Maeda was of course not real and his organization was no more than a front but the guests that knew that wouldn't have cared. Lots of boring conversations with boring socialites made bearable by the subtle abuse of downers.

After wiggling away from that charade she had gotten herself a bite to eat and switched outfits, swapping out the elegant dress and heels of Li Dàiyù for the battered mask and armor of the Fox. Everything from that point on was a little fuzzy, the particulars made hazy and high pitched by the amphetamines she had taken before getting started. There had been more paranoia than usual, a tense climb up to a fifth story window and then a simple matter of breaking into a safe. But she was pretty sure something had gone wrong sooner or later.

The bike hit a bump in the road and Dai was forced to fight for control, kicking her heel against the curb to save herself from wiping out. Balance was restored and she was back on the road with hardly a dip in speed, no harm no foul. The jolt had even shaken the dregs of drug induced sleep from her head, reminding her of why her back still felt like shit.

The loser she was stealing from had come home while she was busy reading through the documents she snatched out of his "hidden" safe and he had been none too pleased to see her. Did he know that she had been sent by the men he had been ripping off for months or did he just think she was an eccentric thief stumbling upon sensitive info. Probably the latter, he was just an associate that got ideas above his station not an actual gangster. Either way he had managed to put her through a glass table before she could get a hand around his throat. He died defiantly sure, but died nonetheless.

Case closed, time to rush home for a few hours sleep before heading for the old day job. Which of course was where she was now, puling into her usual spot in the garage and grabbing her bag to change. A couple nods to the mechanics taking care of the force's vehicles and she was inside heading for the lockers. With her helmet and jacket stuffed away Dai was ready for work.

Work was perhaps a strong word since there wasn't exactly an assignment for her to be doing but she had at least clocked in. For the time being she'd take up position at the range. It was a simple manner to sign in and get her gun, a no frills pistol that shot straight and didn't jam. There were no gimmicks or gadgets attached, it relied on her skill and her skill alone to function.

How convenient then that she had skill in spades.

The first two shots landed right on target, punching neat hole through the head of the paper bad guy she was shooting at. A third and fourth found their way into the chest. Shooting was second nature at this point, made easier by the advanced optics in her eyes. If she ever had to face someone who stood perfectly still and didn't shoot back she'd be more than ready. An actual combat situation would still be a crapshoot, no matter how much training or expensive had been crammed into her.

@LetMeDoStuff






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