Quick introduction to my little mini-work here. There are two chapters to begin, mostly because Chapter Zero is little more than a glorified (and expanded) rescript of the comic's early days.

I'll be writing more, but I wanted to throw what I have right now out there. Thanks for reading. :)

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Chapter Zero:

"Next time you plan a trip like this, at least make sure we can get in the damn door, Piro!"

Trying and failing to ignore his ranting friend, Piro looked up from his chat room for a moment. Largo had been going on like this for the better part of an hour.

It's hard to type when you're being yelled at. He had already typed a particularly embarrassing insult Largo had hurled at him, much to the delight of the room.

"Largo, I'm sorry…"
"Forget it. I do need b33r, though. I'll drop it if j00 buy a round…or two."
"Fine, fine, as long as you'll get off my back."

Piro picked out the cheapest-looking bar he could. Walking in, he left Largo to his devices and sat down at a table by himself. Glancing at some of the couples inside, he realized that he felt alone. He had his dating sims, manga, anime, and numerous other diversions, but not much else.

Being around others always accentuated his feelings of that, despite having moments of glory in games, or feeling for characters in the manga he read, he was alone. Even Largo, his closest friend, was someone he would use to get his own way.

He knew that one beer for Largo would quickly change to two, four, eight, and more. But getting him drunk would also shut him up for a while.

Perfect. Time for him to muse on his aborted dreams.

"I'm gonna be a famous artist one day, I know it!"

Piro thought of his sketchbook. He had started filling it when he was a freshman in high school. Now, just graduated from college with a degree in art design, he still had no clue what he was going to do with his life. He just kept drawing, wishing that he could draw something happy.

"Why is everything you draw sad, Piro?"

He never could answer that question. Every girl he had ever gotten up the courage to talk to always was interested in the "tortured artist" set, and wanted to know the purpose for his drawings. They tried to make him happy, and they did. But it was always a fleeting feeling, one that never made it to paper.

CRASH! BANG!

"Wanna know what I think of yer stink'n con? This is what I think of your stink'n con!!!"

"Largo. Naked. What a perfect ending to a perfect day," Piro thought.

"Ah, Largo. Please come down…and put your pants on."

Dragging Largo's drunken body outside, Piro again thought about his waste of a life. He needed to do something, get away from it all.

"Ah, why don't you focus on your friend for a change, hon?" a familiar voice taunted.

"Who's there?"

Piro swung around.

"Above you," Seraphim corrected. "Has it really been that long? Good thing I showed up when I did, or you'd be on a one-way trip to hell."

"What? Nevermind, it was a stupid idea anyway."

Piro sat down with Largo for a minute. For a second he could swear he saw himself and Largo getting in a cab, but the image quickly faded in front of his own eyes.

"I'm seeing things again," Piro muttered.

Speaking up, he turned to Largo.

"Let's go home, Largo."

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Chapter One:

Six months later…

Piro sat in front of his computer, typing away somewhat happily. Surprisingly, he sees a message pop up from his old friend Tsubasa.

<Tsubasa> Hello.
<Piro> Hey, I haven't seen you in a while.
<Tsubasa> Good to see you, my friend.
<Piro> what's up?
<Tsubasa> I got accepted for a huge beta test!
<Piro> Cool.
<Piro> what's it for?
<Tsubasa> it's the new Sony SEVS project.
<Piro> SEVS?
<Tsubasa> Yes, the prototype is an android, running on the Emotional Doll System.
<Piro> so…a dating sim accessory?
<Tsubasa> Yes! She is amazing!
<Piro> …
<Tsubasa> Not in that way…she's a non-H model.
<Piro> Oh, okay.
<Piro> so, why are you telling me this?
<Tsubasa> I want you to come down and see her for yourself.
<Piro> aren't you in Tokyo?
<Tsubasa> Yes.
<Tsubasa> haven't you always wanted to visit Japan?
<Piro> Yes.
<Tsubasa> Great!
<Tsubasa> I'll see you on the next flight out of Michigan.
<Tsubasa> Bring your friend Largo too!
Tsubasa signed off at 9:28 am

Piro stared dumbfounded at his monitor.

"I suppose I do have the money," he muttered to no one.

Picking up the phone, he called Largo.

"S'up?"
"Hey, Largo, you up for a road trip of sorts?"
"To where?"
"Japan."
"Will there be b33r?"
"Sure."
"S\/\/337! I'm in."
"Great. Look, I'll see you in an hour."

Conscience Enforcement Agency Headquarters – 9:50 am

Seraphim walked across the hall to the Director's office. She barely cracked open the door before her voice bellowed.

"Agent Seraphim! Get in here!"

Squeaking slightly, Seraphim quickly took a seat.

"Y-y-y-yes, ma'am?"

The Director's red hair peeked out from the file she had pulled out.

"Case #2074590, the experiment…you've allowed a paradox to present itself."
"Sorry, ma'am, but the paradox appeared on its own. There was no moral dilemma in the second instance. I'm not supposed to interfere if he's not doing anything wrong."
"You idiot, do you realize the problem you created by NOT interfering?"
"Uh…"
"I didn't think so."

The Director put down her stack of papers to reveal a soft face unfitting for her stern demeanor. It sometimes was said that the Director was like a devil placed in an angel's body. But she was the boss.

"Look, Sera. Piro's case was a special one. We let the experiment be performed on his time stream to keep him out of Japan. To keep him out of trouble. To keep him A-L-I-V-E."

"I don't think I understand."

"You're aware of the instances that brought about the Timeline Shift Project?"

"Partially."

"Fine, I'll refresh your memory."

The Director stood up and walked over to her bookcase. Pulling out an oversized book, she walked over to Seraphim's seat. Opening the book, she placed it in Seraphim's lap.

"Read that. It's pretty recent."

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The Timeline Shift Project
Case #2074590-A and #2074590-B


Overview:
The Timeline Shift Project was enabled by Dr. Kris Emmerson in order to remedy major issues with CEA subjects. Its use was approved by the sitting CEA Director, Ami T. Prest for use in the "MegaTokyo" situation.

The project was used to rewind the time stream of specific clients to allow them to lead a normal life. The side-effects of the experiment remain unknown, but are under study.

Description:

In the aftermath of the "MegaTokyo" incident, several lives were left astray and unable to be assisted by CEA operatives in any realistic fashion. Though the exact events were unknown, the casualties were left morally and emotionally scared.

The (4) MOST SEVERE moral casualties:

1) NANASAWA KIMIKO
2) HAYASAKA ERIKA
3) SONODA YUKI
4) SONODA MEIMI

There were also several dozen other moral casualties, and several unnecessary fatalities, including the two primary subjects. The events were found to be linked to a moral failing on case #2074590-A's part.

In response, Director Prest elected to use the "nuclear option" of enacting the TSP, returning #2074590-A to several hours before the original failing, when he elected to go to Japan with his co-subject.

We assigned his conscience operative, Agent #33432, to guard duty for this operation.

----------------------------------------

Seraphim stopped reading.

"So, we shipped his butt to the past to keep the others okay?"

"In a nutshell, yes. The problem is not that he's in Japan, but the problem it presents to the delicate time stream. There isn't much we can do but hope, but you need to be there to keep him out of trouble and to monitor potential problems.

The Director handed Seraphim the CD with "Case File #2074590" printed on it.

"We don't know what's going to happen if the two timelines are allowed to merge. You have about three weeks before that happens. Good luck."
Chapter Two:

Stepping off the plane in Tokyo, Piro felt odd. Not sick or anything, just strange. He had thought being in Japan at last, the Mecca of all he enjoyed in life, would be euphoria.

Instead, he felt dead inside.

"Dud3! What are ya doing? Let's hit up a bar or something until we see that guy…what's his name?"
"Tsubasa."
"Yeah, that dud3. Let's go…I wanna try some sake before the day's out."

Piro tried to laugh at Largo's one-track mind, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. That he had been through all this before…

They walked into the airport bar and sat down. Largo got his beer and Piro got one too. Piro just couldn't shake the constant feeling of déjà vu.

"I'm going to go out for some air." He placed some money on the table. "That should cover my bill. I'll see you whenever."

"Okay…later, man." Largo looked slightly confused. Then his second mug of beer arrived.

"Sw33t!"

Piro sighed, and walked outside of the terminal. The chilly November air didn't affect him as much as he thought it would.

"What's wrong with me? I don't feel sick, just…strange."

Seraphim looked on from the streetlamp at her subject. She turned to her partner, Boo.

"Odd. Piro seems in tune to the shift, but Largo's as dense as ever."
"Squeak!"
"Yeah. You'd half expect Largo to be going on about the undead or whatever."

Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

"People running from the bar…yeah, didn't expect that," Seraphim sighed. "Stick with Piro, Boo. We don't need to attract Inspector Sonoda and the TCPD. I'll take care of Largo."

Fluttering her wings, she sped off in Largo's direction.

Largo was swinging his empty mug at a group of twenty or so people surrounding his table. The rest of the place was in disarray, with tables knocked down.

"Largo did this?" Seraphim wondered.

"G3t a\/\/4y from m3, ya und3ad fr34ks!"

"Don't tell me those people are actually zombies…" Seraphim sighed. "Great…a job for the TCPD."

Landing on the overturned table by her, Seraphim grabbed a tiny rifle and aimed it at the back of a couple of zombies. Shooting once, a much bigger-than-would expected boom followed an even bigger blast, wiping out just enough of the hoard to clear a path for Largo.

"Run, you idiot!" Seraphim chided.

Largo looked for the voice coming seemingly from nowhere for a second, but the remaining crowd was more than happy to oblige.

Piro was content for the moment to let the chaos pass by him; Largo was always a bit insane.

"Tsubasa will be here soon anyway," Piro thought. "Anyway, I should make sure he doesn't get himself killed."

Piro started off in the direction of the terrified terminal, but a tap on the shoulder made him stop and turn around.

"Tsubas…uh, hello?"

<Have you seen the 1337 Master?> the guy in the ninja suit queried. <Junpei in need of his services.>

"What?" <Look you must have me mistaken for someone else,> Piro turned back towards the terminal. <Uh, I'm in a hurry, can I help…>

The hulk of a man was gone.

"Well, that was weird," Piro muttered.

"Piro!"

This time is was Tsubasa, walking towards him, with, of all things, a girl in tow.

"Tsubasa! Good to see you! And who's that?"

"This is Ping, the doll I told you about."

"Oh, that's right," Piro said. <How are you?>

Ping bowed, <It's good to see you, Piro-kun.>

Piro looked at Tsubasa. <Did she just call me Piro-kun? Without me saying four words to her?>

<Yes. That is most strange. I'll have to call Sony Customer Support, but that'll be a good week on the phone.>

Piro laughed nervously. Something about the android...the ninja... This day just didn't feel right.

Largo stumbled out of the bar, smelling of booze and smoke.

"Hey, Piro. Uh…we should get out of here quickly. These people don't like it when you try to save them from a zombie hoard."

"Sure," Piro nodded. Looking at Tsubasa, he added <He's probably got the cops on his butt.>

<Already? Is that not a record?>
Chapter Three:

As Piro, Tsubasa, Ping, and Largo left the busy airport; they failed to realize they were being followed. Not by the police, as Piro and Tsubasa feared, but by someone much more deadly.

Ed picked up his cell phone and speed-dialed #1. The receiving end picked up nearly immediately.

<Thank you for calling Sony. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line, an operator will be with you shortly.>

Looking bemused for a second, Ed quickly dialed his employee number.

"Hello, Ed. Have you located the subject?"

"Yes, sir," Ed grinned as he looked at the EDS prototype. "The beta tester brought her right to me as I arrived in Tokyo. This should be a snap."

"We need you to lay low for a few days and head to SCEI. We have a more pressing situation."

"More pressing than the EDS?"

"Yes. But, do set a tracker on it. We don't need to lose it…it has yet to be registered."

"Very well. I'll see you in an hour or so."

He hung up and angrily shoved the Erickson phone into his pocket. He starred into the darkened evening sky for a few seconds while wondering what could be more pressing than the EDS issue. Sony scientists had discovered some major flaws within the program running the machine, and had prescribed either captivity or neutralization as the only two options.

Ed had no real interest in bringing the doll back in anything close to operational capacity, but cutting her down now was out of the question.

Ed sighed and pulled out his rifle. Taking out the cartridge, he placed a tracking device in the barrel of the Killstick and aimed at the doll's head, just as he was planning to do a minute ago. Adjusting his aim slightly, he fired the device at the right ear blade.

<Owww…what was that?!> Ping exclaimed.

<What's wrong, Ping?> Tsubasa cooed. He stepped behind the android and asked, <Where does it hurt?> much as a doctor asking a particularly young patient.

Ping pointed to her right ear blade, saying <It feels like someone hit me with something.>

Tsubasa examined the ear blade in question, but seeing nothing obvious, as the tracking device was equipped with a cloaking device of its own, said <I don't see anything. It must have been nothing. Are you okay, Ping?>

<Yes, Tsubasa-san, I'm fine. Thank you.> Ping replied, turning and bowing slightly.

Seeing his work for the moment finished, Ed put the Killstick back in its case and headed the other way towards SCEI headquarters. "This had better be good," he muttered. "I really wanted to kill something today."
I think I'm getting too into this. I suppose it's good the story's coming easy rather than hard, though. ^_^

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Chapter Four:

"Damn it." Seraphim looked over at Boo. "That Sony guy's going to make our job about fifty times harder, you know."
"Squeak!" was Boo's insightful reply.
"Somehow I knew you were going to say that," Seraphim sighed. "Well, headquarters actually did offer us pretty unlimited funds for this operation. Think it's time to cash in already?"
"Squeak!"
"Now you're speaking my language," the conscience laughed as she pulled out her PDA and quickly sent an already-prepared request for tactical gear. "Okay, Boo, when the gear gets here, you're going to go after Ed…I don't want to know what that guy wants with the robot and it's probably a good idea to keep tabs on him anyway."

Seraphim looked down from their post on top of a nearby apartment building. Standing still was starting to get to her. She knew that Piro, in tune to what was happening, though only subconsciously, would somehow meet up with Kimiko.

Piro had been wishing for the voice actress to grace his life again since the shift, though he didn't know it except through his increased loneliness. Kimiko would likely have similar feelings, according to the TSP report. The heart was simply unable to be fooled, even by the best scientific achievements. It was surprising that Largo's feelings for Erika had not surfaced in any measurable fashion yet.

Sera's musings were cut short by a flash above her. Soon enough, the quiet night enjoyed by the rooftop was cut short by a miniature jet with the CEA logo on the sides landing halfway across the roof. Seraphim's hair and Boo's fur were blown back by the force of the wind. The engines died and the sleek, if small, aircraft's cockpit opened and two helmeted pilots jumped out, landing gracefully on the rooftop.

One of the pilots walked over to the rear of the jet and hit a small button. Half a dozen panels along the sides of the aircraft whooshed open to reveal the tactical gear. Seraphim's eyes opened wide. There was about everything a CEA operative could wish for in the field. Jetpacks, grappling guns, real guns, ammo, personal cloaking devices, trackers, communication devices…

There was only one issue…

The other pilot walked over to Seraphim and removed his helmet, revealing a somewhat handsome face.

"Agent Seraphim, your request has been granted."
"Thank you, but why are there…"
"Three of every item? Oh, the agency, being its bureaucratic self, elected to make this a joint operation."
"Joint operation…with whom?"

A familiar voice answered the question for Seraphim. "Hey, babe. Long time no see."
"Asmodeus. Who let you out of your cage?"
"Don't act so huffy. The CEA knows you're soft with Piro, so they let a capable guy along for the ride to make sure you don't let him get in touch with that hot little waitress in the 'name of Love' or any of that crap you stand for."
"But…why would you work with the CEA?"
"Money talks, sexy. Plus, I don't want to see the world end or whatever before I take your breath away."
Seraphim scowled, "You'd better set your sights a bit lower…like not dying a virgin."
Asmodeus, shocked, forgot to defend himself and instead answered with a revealing, "How'd you know!?"
"It's obvious," Seraphim smirked, "always was, always is."

The pilot put his helmet back on saying, "I see you two need no introductions." He walked back over to the jet and removed the rest of the materials Asmodeus had left in place.

"Good luck, you two."
A glare was all the pilot got from Sera as he took off.
Asmodeus stood shocked for another second before Sera snapped in his face, saying, "Since you're here, you might as well help out. We have a situation."
"So, babe," Asmodeus said, already back to normal, "what's the plan?"
"Boo's was going to follow a threat back to his headquarters to make sure he doesn't do anything funny, but I think you're perfect for that job. He's heading to SCEI headquarters, so you'll need to head him off there."
"Hold on, babe," Asmo held up his hand. "I don't know anything about anyone from Sony since they bought out Hell from my agency. You or the fuzzy guy needs to go after him…plus, I'm under orders to not let you alone with Piro."
"WHAT?!"
"I'm just telling you my orders. Take it up with your boss."
"Fine! I'll follow the Sony guy. I just want to get away from you!"

She made a violent jesture. "But if you let Piro do anything against code, or put this mission at risk; it's your head that's gonna roll."
"When have I ever let you down, babe?"
"Too easy," Sera laughed as she grabbed a set of materials and suited up over her jeans and blouse.

She started up the jetpack, but before she took off, she looked at Asmodeus and sighed. "I really hope I'm wrong about this," she thought, "but this isn't the best way to start an operation."

She started the engine and zoomed off in the direction of SCEI.
Chapter Five:
Escapism

The crowd was roaring, as though hungry for blood.
They pressed up against the stage, all as one, trying to get closer to the one on stage.
The singer barely even recognized the crowd as she continued to sing as though in a trance. The crowd seemed to vanish before her eyes…there was only one person that mattered right now. All she saw was one man – she couldn't even think of his name in the moment – all she cared about was seeing him now.
She seemed to float across the floor towards him…getting close enough to grab his hand. The stage seemed to disappear; she was happy again.
Her task complete, she embraced the man, holding him close enough to barely register the gun firing…


Nanasawa Kimiko woke up in a cold sweat. This had been the tenth time this month she had seen this dream. None of it made sense to her.
Hayasaka Erika peeked into the room. Despite being in a hurry to get to work this morning, she still felt concerned for her roommate. Kimiko had been suffering a small bout of depression for nearly a month now, and the cold she managed to snap up while auditioning for yet another voice actress role wasn't helping.
Nor was her not hearing back for a couple weeks now. Kimiko had told Erika that there was no way she was getting the role after showing up late to the audition.
Erika had tried to give Kimiko some words of comfort, but after Kimiko was finally turned down for the role, the "streak of failure," as Kimiko called it, finally got to her.
<Kimiko? You okay?> Erika asked through the cracked door.
Kimiko only managed a cough and a nod in reply.
<Look, I'll grab some soup on the way out. I suppose I should call Anna Miller's and tell them you can't come in again.>
Another cough and a nod was all Erika got.
Picking up her cell phone off the counter, Erika dialed the number.
<Hello?>
<Yes, this is Hayasaka, Nanasawa-san's roommate.>
<Is she ill?>
<Yes, I'm sorry.>
<Tell her we hope she gets better soon.>
<Thank you, I'll be sure to tell her.>
<Oh, before you go…>
<Yes?>
<I'm a huge fan, Hayasaka-sama! I can't wait for your concert!>
<Thank you,> Erika sighed. She couldn't go anywhere these days and now she couldn't even pick up the phone. <Goodbye.>
She hung up the phone. Word had gotten around fast about her return to the stage. It was slightly shocking to be back in the spotlight, but he had helped with that.
<Okay, Kimiko, you're good for today,> Erika called into the bedroom. <I'll see you tonight after work.>
<Thank you, Erika,> Kimiko said weakly from the futon.
Kimiko heard the door close. She waited a few minutes before forcing herself from the bed.
<Erika had been so nice, how could I do this to her?> Kimiko thought, <This is her big moment and here I am bringing her down yet again.>
She walked over to the mirror. Seeing her wispy self in its reflection made her angry: at acting this way, at her luck, but mostly at her giving up hope.
Just to keep herself away from others who would jump at the chance to help her, she even reduced herself to faking sick for a week.
She sighed, and picked up the phone.
Chapter Six
Hidden agendas

The train screeched to a halt yet again.
Tsubasa looked out the compartment window to realize that this was his stop and stood up.
"It's just a short walk from here, guys."
They walked outside the subway station into the chilly winter air yet again. Ping shivered a little and Tsubasa quickly took off his jacket for the robot.
"Wow," Piro exclaimed. "That's awfully real for a robot. She can get cold?"
"Yes," Tsubasa answered. "It's odd, but it's hard to remember that she isn't human sometimes. It's almost as if Sony got one right this time."
Piro and Tsubasa laughed. Tsubasa stopped suddenly, looking over at a disturbed-looking Largo.
"Is something the matter, my friend?"
Largo looked up towards the rooftops and then snapped back to Tsubasa. "I am fine; is your dwelling much farther?"
He then continued to look around himself in a more erratic than usual fashion, as though expecting something to jump out at him.
"T3h 3v1l i5 cl05e," he muttered.
"What was that, Largo?" Piro asked his friend.
Largo opened his mouth, but Tsubasa cut him off.
"Hey, guys. We're here," Tsubasa pointed towards the second floor of an apartment complex. Turning to Ping, he asked her, <Ping-chan, could you go open up the apartment for us?>
<Certainly, Tsubasa-san,> was the Sony's earnest reply. She raced off at a surprising clip, reaching the apartment building in just a couple seconds.
"Ping-chan is certainly a help, don't you think?" Tsubasa asked.
"Absolutely, but that's not what she was designed for, was it?"
"Of course not, but it's just a matter of picking the right games to play with her," Tsubasa explained. "She was a bit of a hassle at first, but once you configure her right, it's easy."
"Tsubasa…isn't that a bit cold? She does have real feelings, doesn't she?"
"Come on," Tsubasa laughed, "She's a plastic robot – a PlayStation accessory. She doesn't have," he paused, "real feelings. It's all programmed."
"I don't know…she seemed plenty real to me," Piro sighed.
"Dud3," Largo spoke up. "Can we go inside…quickly?"
"Uh," Tsubasa looked surprised, "I guess so."
They walked up the apartment's stairway and down the walkway. Tsubasa opened the door to reveal a modest apartment, lightly furnished and with a few unopened boxes scattered across the floor.
"I hope you two will find it comfortable here," Tsubasa continued, grinning. "Forgive my mess."
"Tsubasa," Piro asked, "did you just move in?" pointing to the boxes.
"Well…yes and no," Tsubasa blushed as he continued. "I just moved back in after taking an extended vacation with Ping."
Ping stepped forward and whispered something in Tsubasa's ear. Tsubasa reeled back for a second and motioned to the futon. "Forgive me; you two have had a long day. Why don't you take a seat?"
Largo tapped Piro on the shoulder. "Hey," Largo whispered, "something feels wrong here…"
"What the hell are you going on about?"
Before Largo could respond, something crashed in the other room where Ping and Tsubasa were.
<Who's out there? Show yourself!> someone shouted from inside the darkened room.
"I tried to warn you," Largo said. "But it's too late."
Piro turned white as a ghost, looking at Largo incredulously.
"It's too late…t3h 3\/iL is here."
------------------------------------------
Author's Notes:
I hope I gave enough to speculate on. ^_^

Anyway, one thing about my schedule is that, while I could probably have another chapter ready by Friday...if it's not done by Thursday I won't have it posted until Saturday. The reasons:

1) I don't like taking attention away from the comics. I wouldn't have posted this chapter until Thursday had I bothered to see that Fred had moved the strip up a day.

2) Well, I'm also going to be busy Friday as it is. Personal stuff. :P

I don't want to cut out anyone's thoughts on anything, but I will say that something happened to Tsubasa on his extended vacation. Nothing more, nothing less. I'll try to have the next chapter done early, but no guarantees.

Enjoy. :D
Chapter Seven
Of Flights and Fights in the Snow

The snow started to fall outside the apartment. Despite the peaceful scene, however, the sounds of a struggle weren't far removed.
"You maniac! What are you doing?" Piro yelled at his captor.

Largo's red hair streaked through the white powder falling right outside Tsubasa's apartment, half-dragging his friend behind him. Piro couldn't believe how fast Largo had got out of the apartment. It seemed the man could give Ping a run for her money if need be.

"Saving our @$$e5, you moron," Largo replied, slightly exasperated. "I told you; t3h 3v1l is in that room."
"But Tsubasa and the robot girl…"
"It is too late for them. They were d00m3d when they went into the dark."
"We have to try. It might not be too late; that burglar probably just wanted to take some valuables and leave. By running we may have put them in more danger."
"Perhaps. But we have no l33t g34r. I can do nothing without l33t g34r."
"Damn it," Piro said, finally breaking free. He looked at the apartment building. If he hurried he could get there in a minute or so. He might be able to do something still…Tsubasa was his friend.
"If you are going to just give up, fine. But my friend is up there and I'm going to help him. With you or without."
"Fine then, but we'll need some backup. We know no one."
"I can call the police."
"The police are defenseless against t3h d4r|< f0rc35."
"Then what do you suggest we do?"
<Perhaps Junpei be of assistance?> someone behind the two interrupted the argument.

Piro looked as if he was about to jump out of his skin yet again, but Largo turned around and with the biggest grin plastered on his face, yelled out, "5\/\/337! A |_337 |\|1|\|J4!"

"Do boys who run like scared chickens not speak Japanese?" the ninja queried, bending down slightly, bringing himself to eye level with Largo. He was enormous, easily seven feet tall, muscular, and, or course, dressed right out of a ninja movie.

"N…n-n-n-no," Piro quaked. <I…speak…J-j-j-a-a-ap-p-p-pan-n-n-nese. My…f-f-f-friend-d-d-d-d-doesn't, t-t-t-though.>
The ninja laughed at Piro's attempt at an explanation. "I speak English for foreign boys then. Why you run from Master Tsubasa's apartment?"
"Master…Master Tsubasa!?" Piro shouted; his fear replaced with more shock.
The ninja's eyes looked surprised by the outburst, but he continued on anyway. "Master Assassin Tsubasa recently returned from mission with funny girl. But, Junpei will explain later. Now, boys tell me, what happen in apartment?"
"Uh…" Piro started.
"It was T3H 3\/1|_! 1! 1!11!" Largo yelled out.

The ninja recoiled slightly. "We must hurry. Even for master, t3h 3\/1|_ is a formidable opponent. Master has been distracted since EDS unit arrive; he is in grave danger."

"Wait," Piro held up his hand, "if Tsubasa is a master assassin, why couldn't he sense this evil?"
"Junpei not know, but t3h 3\/1|_ has many guises. We ask master when he and training partner safe."

The ninja grabbed Piro and Largo each with one arm and raced to the apartment building and up the stairs to Tsubasa's place. Placing the boys down, he grabbed the door handle, finding it to be locked. Holding up his hand to where the deadbolt was, he shouted, "Keyless Enter!"

The door was blown off its hinges onto the floor. Without missing a beat, the ninja jumped inside, yelling "Master!"

Piro stared at Largo, who was trying to peer inside enough to get a glimpse of the action when Junpei, Tsubasa and the robot were all thrown outside into the hallway. Tsubasa jumped up, noticing Piro and Largo, yelled "Run!" and did the same himself, the ninja and robot in tow.

The five had barely made it down the five flights of stairs out the building's door when the window in Tsubasa's apartment crashed open and something covered in black clothing landed not fifty feet from the group.

Piro couldn't believe his eyes as the EDS, "Master" Tsubasa, and Junpei all made stances and launched at the creature in perfect synchronization. It was like something outside of a kung-fu movie, graceful, yet deadly.

The scene was hard to follow, but Largo was trying to; his eyes shifting all across the parking lot-made-battlefield. Tsubasa kept shifting to the left and right sides, avoiding blows while delivering his own, while Junpei attacked the chest in a somewhat stationary position and Ping held the back of the creature, preventing its full force from being unleashed.

Finally, the ninja delivered a nasty blow to the beings head, knocking it down. The three jumped back, waiting for the next move. The shawl that had covered the head unraveled just enough to show that the being looked human, with jet black hair, pale white skin and purple eyes.

It looked up and, spotting Piro and Largo, threw itself at them. The EDS, spotting this, jumped in front of the two, yelling <Piro-kun!>

Ping grabbed the enemy and flung it to the ground again with surprising strength. This time it stayed down.

She turned to face Piro and Largo, asking <Are you okay?> as Tsubasa and Junpei walked over to inspect their fallen foe as the snow picked up.

Tsubasa looked at his friends, with a morbid look on his face. "I suppose I have to explain this, do I not?"
Piro also wore a solemn look, answering, "That would be nice."

Tsubasa looked over at the ninja.
"Junpei!"
"Yes sensei?"
"Take Ping-chan inside the apartment. Have her start to clean up. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Yes sensei," and he turned and took Ping with him outside.

Looking back at Piro and Largo, Tsubasa asked them, "Shall we go into the lobby? The snow continues to fall and you are without protection from the cold."
"Sure Tsubasa."
They walked inside and took a threesome of seats in the lobby, with Tsubasa sitting across from Piro and Largo. Largo looked impressed; Piro a strange mixture of indignation and respect.

"It started many moons ago," Tsubasa began. "I was just a young boy when my father, an assassin himself, started to train me in the ways of our trade. It is my solemn duty to keep my identity a secret, even from my friends, but this was an emergency. Let me explain: I had just come back from a mission with Ping to America."
"Wait," Piro interrupted. "If you were in America with Ping, why wait until now to show her to us? Why have we come to Japan at all?"
"Visiting you while I was in America would have been dangerous; I was tracking down a rogue assassin, she who is called 'True Love.' Ping-chan has been my companion during my travels, but was functioning as a partner in my quest. Unfortunately, it seems that the quest is not as complete as it seemed."
"If Ping is a dating sim accessory, how is she functioning as a kung-fu master?"
"Ah, being an obsessive otaku can sometimes be more useful than being an assassin. I simply picked the right games for her to anagram into her personality and I have the perfect partner. But, again, my task is not complete," Tsubasa said, not realizing the lights going off in the snow. "It is dangerous for you to be here; you should return to America."

<Actually,> a man said as he stepped through the doorway. <They're coming with us.>

Piro looked at the man, who was in a police uniform. He read the badge silently,
"Officer Tetamousa Kurin: Tokyo Police Cataclysm Division"

Asmodeus sat with Boo underneath the chairs.
"Well, fuzzy, this is part of the movie I never saw coming. At least this will keep them out of trouble, but we had better follow them."
"Squeek!"
"Yeah, Sera's gonna kill me."
Merry Christmas. ^_^

Finished this late last night, so I figured I may as well deliver a Christmas gift of sorts to SD:
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Chapter Eight
Welcome back, my Idol

Erika got off the train, sighing heavily. It had been a couple months, she thought to herself, but it was finally time for a visit.

She walked down the street a few blocks to a small two-story shop. The shop's sign read "MegaGamers," but Erika already knew what she wanted to see was inside. She opened the doors, only a few people were inside. Nonetheless, Erika tried to keep a low profile, crouching down slightly as she walked down an aisle towards the counter.

A bored young man in a wheelchair at the counter rattled off, <Hi, welcome to MegaGamers. Can I help you?>
He looked up with a forced smile. His eyes widened with recognition and shouted <Hayasaka-sama! It's been a while!>

This was the cue the once-quiet store had been waiting for, as the three young men standing around rushed the counter in awe. An older man walked in from the back, asking <What's all this racket?>

His mustached face looked at Erika. He looked surprised for a second, but noticing the crowd building outside the store, he motioned for her to come to the back of the store before the scene got out of control.

Safely behind the door, the man's stern features quickly softened. <Erika. I didn't really know if a big star like you would ever come back.>
<Oh, come now, Yanagisawa. Did you really think I would up and leave you so easily?>
<I honestly didn't know,> the stern look came back; <It's been four months Erika…since the…incident.>
<I know. I've just been busy is all.> Erika had a rare look of regret in her eyes. <I'm sorry.>
<It's all fine,> Yanagisawa laughed. <You're Hayasaka Erika, the great Idol. You owe nothing to me or to this store.>
<That's not true.>

She was interrupted with the door creaking open and the counter attendant's head sticking through the door. <Sorry, Boss-san,> the boy said sheepishly, <but the crowd's getting restless.>
<The crowd? Oh, of course. Sonoda-san, there will be no event today; Hayasaka-sama is just here to speak to me privately.>
<Oh…> the boy looked disappointed himself.
<You shouldn't be surprised. Yuuji, you're the reason Hayasaka-sama had to leave in the first place.>
<No,> Erika spoke up, <it's alright.>
She looked at the wheelchair. <Yuuji has paid his price. I'll sign some autographs for a half-hour or so. I don't have to be to the studio for another two hours yet.>
Yuuji's eyes brightened. <Thank you, Hayasaka-sama!> He let the door close to tell those gathering the good news.

Erika looked over at Yanagisawa. <So,> she said, already putting on her fake-happy face, <do you still have any of my old cosplay outfits here in the store, or should I just go out in this?>
Yanagisawa finally grinned. <You've done more than enough for me. I'm hardly going to try and play 'dress up the Idol.' Especially not with you.>

The two shared a laugh as Erika walked out to the front area of the store.
She was immediately mobbed by the fans in the store, but Erika was used to this by now.
After about a half-hour, Yanagisawa, in all his preparation, came out from the back with an air horn. The ensuing noise broke up the crowd just enough for him to yell out that Erika needed to be on her way.
The disappointed crowd tried to argue, but knew they were defeated and after a couple minutes started to file out. Soon enough, the store was empty.

Erika grinned, <Thanks, Yanagisawa.>
The manager returned a smile of his own, <Don't worry about it. I'm sure you have more important things to do than entertain a tired old man and his store.>

The doors to the store slid open and a young girl in a school uniform walked in.
<Yuuji,> she called out. <Mom wants me to check up on you before I go home from school.>

Spotting Erika, the girl's pleasant look turned into one of disgust. <Uh…why is she here?> she said, with an angry tone in her voice.

<Yuki,> Yuuji sighed, <It's fine.>
<After what she did to you, that's all you can say?!> She practically yelled, <It's FINE?>
<Sonoda-san,> Yanagisawa said softly.
<No,> Erika stopped him. <She has a right to be mad. Look, I have to go. I'll try to come back down later.>
<Thanks Erika.>

The Idol walked out the door into the snow. <What right did I have to be there,> she thought to herself, <after causing them so much pain?>

Her thoughts drifted to the events of four months ago, when Sonoda Yuuji was hired as a hand at MegaGamers after much prodding on Erika's part for someone to help lift her work burden.

Erika's friend, Sonoda Masamichi, offered his son for the job primarily to keep his daughter, a regular of the store, under some level of surveillance – he feared Erika's influence somewhat. However, for all Masamichi's cunning, he failed to realize just how much his son was into the otaku scene – he recognized Erika almost immediately.

Erika's cover was shattered through Erika's selfish wish for less work. Also shattered was the body of Sonoda Yuuji, who found himself trampled by hundreds of screaming fans the day after he revealed that he worked with the famous missing seiyuu.

Erika was quickly whisked away by the TCPD, but she could no longer live in relative secrecy. She couldn't be mad at Yuuji – he had been hurt enough and meant no harm to begin with.

However, she was mad at her fate, assigned to her by a vengeful Masamichi. Her happy autonomous life was destroyed, but her life wasn't at all horrible…

<Downtown Tokyo> the trains automated voice chimed off melodically.

Erika let out yet another deep sigh and walked off the train onto the platform. A few minutes later, she arrived at her destination.

She walked in through the sliding doors. The lobby was awfully American in design, but perhaps that was to be expected.

<Erika! How are you?> a handsome man said as he walked up to Erika looking like he had won the lottery.
<Hello, Amora,> Erika said as they embraced.
<Heh,> Amora blushed. <It's good to see you too.>

They walked hand in hand through the double doors into the conference room.
Erika thought to herself, <Perhaps my fate isn't too bad, after all.>

She sat next to Amora as the TV in the front of the room cycled between three logos, all strangely hypnotic.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kimiko sighed. This was the fifth time she had tried calling him. Perhaps she wasn't even worthy of being heard anymore.
This time, however, he picked up.

<Kawaiza Amora. Microsoft Japan.>
<It's Nanasawa.>
<Hey there, Nanasawa-san. Look, can this wait? I was in the middle of a very important meeting.>
<With…her?>
<If you must know, yes. It's our biggest event of the year; it's very important. Look, I'll call you back later.>

He hung up without another word. The dial tone hit Kimiko with a twinge of jealousy. She had been suppressing it for so long, but it finally hit her: she wanted Erika's success. Badly. The feelings of inferiority and hatred snuck up so easily it was surprising for the aspiring seiyuu, but they hit her nonetheless.

The fact that her fledgling career was in the shadow of the great Hayasaka-sama was bad enough.

The breaking point was when Erika's career, distraught with rumors and truths detrimental to her image as an Idol, was able to be resurrected so easily, while Kimiko struggled to get even the smallest part.

Now Erika was becoming the backbone of Microsoft's plan to promote its new Xbox 360 console, while Kimiko faked sick trying to get away from life.

It made her angry; at herself…and at Erika.
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Author's Notes:
You didn't think I would build to a climax in the other storyline without pulling a Fred and shifting viewpoints, did you? :P

There isn't much more to this chapter to be spelled out without me giving away more than I feel is necessary at this point.

For those keeping track, the main characters I have yet to account for in this timeline are Dom, Masamichi (in person), Meimi, Miho, and most minor characters. Junko doesn't count in my mind, but if you want to, go ahead. I'm not saying when or if we'll see any of them, though.

:iiam:

Also, for timeline purposes, this little episode is occuring at the same time as the last chapter.

Also, since a time was never set officially, this is early afternoon (2-ish) on Monday. Yuki and Yuuji are out of school, Erika's in a meeting, and I'm placing Kimiko as a late night worker, but we've never been made clear of her schedule of anything other than closing Sunday nights.

Next chapter should be up early next week. Again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Chapter Nine:
Storms gathering

Yuki continued to stare at her brother, not noticing as a mech stopped in front of the store.

<I just don't understand how you could be so happy to see the woman that got you in that chair,> she said, a look of confusion on her face. <I mean, its not like that old hag actually cares about anyone but herself.>
<You don't know her,> was Yuuji's earnest response. <She does care about her fans. If she didn't care, why would she stay so close to them, even in hiding?>

Yuki sighed. Her brother was the one person who could forgive her for doing nothing as he faced down all those crazed fans. <I give up. If you two,> she gave a dirty look to Yanagisawa, <want to forget all about what she did…fine.>

She turned around and walked right into her father.

<Yuki,> Masamichi said, <what just happened here? I just got a report of an unscheduled otaku event here.>

Yanagisawa stepped forward. <Director Sonoda, it's alright. We handled it; no need for TPCD to get involved.>

Masamichi's eyes narrowed <Handled WHAT, exactly, Yanagisawa?>

Yuki was the first to reply. <She was here,> a venomous look on her face.

<She? Erika? Here?>

Yuki shook her head in agreement. <I only saw her here after the event, but she was talking to him,> pointing to Yanagisawa.

Masamichi's voice grew angry, <You know she's not allowed within a mile of this sector, and YOU let her hold an unscheduled event here? I have half a mind to drag you in after all that's happened in this store.>
<Father,> Yuuji said softly, <It's okay. I asked her to do it; she didn't want to.>
<That doesn't matter. She shouldn't have been here at all.>
<Father, please,> Yuuji pleaded, <For me? Don't take Yanagisawa in and, for God's sake, leave Hayasaka-sama alone. Having her work for the Americans was bad enough.>

Masamichi sighed. He didn't have time for this. <Okay, fine. We already have a couple of Americans rousing up trouble that need to be questioned. If Hayasaka-san stays out of trouble, I'll leave her alone, but I'm keeping an eye on her.>

He looked at his watch. <The strike team should be closing in on the two Americans now. They were at the scene of two unscheduled events today already; they seem to be attracting a lot of chaos. I had better go down there myself.>

He turned around and walked out the door, holding up his hand to wave goodbye to his children. A few seconds later his mech was started up and he was as good as gone.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Across town, Officer Tetamousa was standing next to Largo, Piro, and Tsubasa. Tsubasa was trying to plead on the behalf of his friends.

<They did nothing wrong; it was my battle. They were not involved.> Tsubasa started to go through his pockets, pulling out his wallet. <Here, these are my assassin papers. I'm authorized to finish my mission.>

<Sir,> Tetamousa said, looking at the Assassin License, <your mission ended a couple days ago outside the country. You don't have a record, though, so I'll let you off with a warning.>

He pointed at Largo and Piro. <However, these two were involved in two unscheduled events this morning, including your little party here,> pointing at the crumpled form of the attacker. <We're taking them and your friend here into custody. Take it up with my boss when he gets here.>

He looked over at another officer, examining the body in the snow, and called over to him. <We're done here. Book 'em.>

Largo looked at Piro, asking him, "Hey, what's going on?"
"They're arresting us for being around two 'unscheduled events,' whatever the hell those are."

<Shut up,> the new officer said as he walked over. <If you must speak, do it in Japanese.>
<My friend doesn't speak Japanese, officer,> Piro said.
<Then I guess he shouldn't speak, should he?> he asked, fastening handcuffs on the two while leading them to the nearby police car.

He proceeded to roughly toss the two boys inside, closing the door behind them and locking the door, not noticing Asmodeus and Boo already inside.

"Hey, bud," Asmodeus addressed Piro. "Been a while, huh?"
"You could say that. Hey, who's the hamster?"
"Oh, the fuzzy guy's Largo's conscience," Asmodeus pointed to Largo, who was busy checking out the mech that just pulled up.
"Hey, we're gonna get through this, but I'm gonna call Seraphim first; let her know the mess we've gotten into."
"You know Seraphim?"
"It's a long story," Asmodeus pulled out his communicator.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Seraphim was sitting atop the Sony building when her communicator started beeping. She pulled it out, answering, "Make it quick, Ed's just about here."
Asmodeus explained the situation, prompting a few quick death threats from the CEA operative.

"I'm not finished with you, but Ed's walking in. I'll take care of you after I find out what he's up to."

She put down the comm. device and activated her cloaking device. She fluttered down silently, following the crazed Sony operative as he led her thru security, unbeknownst to him.

Ed walked quite a ways before arriving at a door marked "Sony Enforcement: Conference Hall."

He walked into a huge auditorium, looking more in place as a college classroom than a mega-business' conference room. He took a seat near the floor, next to a few other operatives. The room was slowly, but surely filling.

A few minutes later, the doors shut automatically and the lights dimmed as a man walked out from the back. He flicked a switch on the wall and a large hologram started up on the floor, which played out a Sony logo, followed by that of the Enforcement division.

The man spoke into a microphone.

<How are we all doing this afternoon?> he asked.
<Great, Usaka-san!> the room chanted in unison.

Sera wondered what kind of a business Sony was running as the man moved to the "urgent" agenda that had pulled Ed away from the EDS.

<As you on operations right now are already aware,> Usaka started, <we at Sony Enforcement have recently become aware of a few issues that require immediate attention on all operative's parts. But first,> he looked at Ed; <can Ed fill us in on the rogue EDS situation?>

<Yes, sir,> Ed said as he rose. <The EDS has been located and tagged. She is ready for capture as soon as this new operation ceases.>

<Great,> Usaka said. <Now, to the first of two issues we face this afternoon. As you all know, Microsoft is readying its Xbox 360 for a worldwide launch as we speak.>

The room booed the mention of their hated enemy.

Usaka laughed, <Of course, Microsoft is no threat to Sony, or to PlayStation, but they recently moved up from minor annoyance to a major one with their newest addition to their marketing team.>

The hologram shifted to show a picture of Hayasaka Erika. <She has been recruited, no thanks to the fools over at TPCD, to work with the Americans. They hope to lower her influence by moving her into the corner of Japan's consciousness, which associating her with the Xbox brand will surely do, but it also makes the Xbox 360 have the potential of gaining a foothold in our market. We can not allow this.>

The picture shifted again, this time to the image of Nanasawa Kimiko. <She is our solution. We have discovered vast untapped potential for this young woman, Nanasawa Kimiko, to be a legitimate Idol in her own right. Our first mission is to recruit her before she is picked up by a rival company, either third party or first party.>

<We have discovered that our second mission ties in with the first in a surprising way. Sony scientists have found a strange rift in the time/space continuum. We have traced this back to approximately six months ago.>

Seraphim whispered, "No way…"
Ed shifted in his seat, looking around for the source of the voice.

<We have found that the rift is shrinking, but there are several anomalies that we have located. TPCD has been alerted to the first: two Americans who entered the country this morning.>

<The second is Nanasawa-san, whose Idol powers have not been activated yet, but had in the other timeline. We believe the proper timeline's restoration will help us to activate Nanasawa-san's powers, leading her to be a powerful force for Sony. To do this, we need not only Nanasawa-san, but the Americans, who themselves seem to be the catalyst for her power.>

"God, how did they find out?" Seraphim wondered out loud.

<TPCD Director Sonoda has been asked to not deport the two Americans, but to keep them in custody. We will assign a few operatives to monitor their situation. Those operatives who are assigned to each situation will be notified in briefing after this meeting. You are dismissed.>

Usaka started to walk out, when Ed called out to him.

<Sir, I believe we have an intruder.>

Preview:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dreams are granted while others are destroyed. It's part of the circle of life.

However, that cycle is far from easy. Frendships will be betrayed while others are forged in the next chapter of TimeLines.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MegaTokyo TimeLines -
Chapter Ten: Unsuspecting targets
Chapter Ten:
Unsuspecting targets

Seraphim stood paralyzed with fear; trying to figure out what to do now…they couldn't see her yet, but that wouldn't stop Usaka. How could she have been so foolish as to speak out loud not five feet from a human? How?

Usaka turned to Ed, saying, <Are you sure?>

Ed nodded, <Someone or something was shocked at some of the data you released. She isn't much of a professional; she gasped loud enough for me to hear it. She spoke English, so she may be with Microsoft.>

Usaka looked surprised, but he nodded knowledgeably. He, Ed, and Seraphim were the only things in the room now.

He chuckled, <I doubt it's anyone from Microsoft.>

He pulled out a small device and spoke into it, <Lock down the SED Conference Room; shut down all electronic devices and prepare an EMP charge.>

It was Ed's turn to look surprised. <Who else then? Nintendo?>

<Don't be foolish. The timeline altering I was talking about earlier held a funny signal with it; a very telling one. It wasn't anything human that messed with it, but the government had plenty to do with it.>
<What?>

Usaka switched to English, speaking to what looked like thin air. "Do you want to come out now, or do I have to fire off that EMP blast?"

Seraphim knew she was trapped, but hoped he was bluffing as she stayed silent…there wasn't anywhere she could hide fast enough. She spotted a vent and ran over to it, but there was no way she could get through the screws quickly enough.
Usaka waited a minute or so, and then pulled out the communication device again.

<Ed, you might want to shut off your phone and PDA.>

Ed did so as Usaka ordered the short-range EMP pulse fired inside the room.
Seraphim could feel the cloaking device fail around her as the pulse shut off the electronic device. She was caught and she knew it. Ironically, she thought of Asmodeus. "And I just got done yelling at him for getting Piro caught," she laughed to herself.

Usaka walked right over to Seraphim, as though he expected her to be there. "Ah, a CEA operative. How…quaint."

He grabbed Seraphim and brought her up to eye level.

"Actually," he looked closely at the agent, "I think you may be perfect…Agent Seraphim."
"Do you know her, sir?"

"Yes, actually," Usaka smiled as he reminisced. "I used to be her project. Just another hopeless loser in need of some help by the CEA. What a bunch of condescending idiots these "consciences" are."

He smiled at Seraphim, "But now her agency is meddling in human affairs to a level even I wouldn't have dreamt of. Has the CEA no shame?"

Seraphim chose to address him…perhaps she could lead him off base. Perhaps she could still save the mission. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You really are a fool, you know that, Seraphim," Usaka laughed.
He handed Seraphim to Ed. "Take her to a detainment cell. I'm sure Intelligence will have fun with a CEA operative."

He grinned sadistically. "Those wings must be a lot of fun to tear off…one…painful…feather at a time."

He laughed as Sera grimaced.

Ed looked confused, but he started to grab Seraphim, but his boss stopped him, handing him a glove first. "These things look human, but they aren't above rats. Don't listen to her, whatever she says."

The Sony operative nodded, put on the glove, and walked out the door with Sera in hand.

"Oh, Ed," Usaka said. "When you're done, you're assigned to the Americans."

He continued, "I believe you have a relationship with them both, according to some intelligence we picked up. Oh, and they have a tie to the EDS you're after. Two birds, one stone. Understand?"

"Yes sir."

Ed walked out the door, which shut itself behind him. Inside, Usaka walked in the door he had entered the room from. A cool sterile hallway greeted him. He walked down it to the end, where another door connected to his office, labeled, "Director of Operations: Sony Enforcement Division."

Usaka entered his pass code into the hallway panel and the door slid open. The office was, in stark contrast to the cold corporate steel outside, warm and inviting. There was a fireplace in the corner across from Usaka's desk and blue carpet flushed out the wooden walls and bookcases.

He walked over to his desk and sat down, pushing a flashing button on his phone. The far wall dissolved into a television screen. Sonoda Masamichi's face looked stern in the snow – he was outside.

<Hello Director-san; congratulations on your promotion.>
<Cut the formalities, Usaka-san.>
<Now, now, Masamichi, do remember your place in this relationship. You wouldn't have a job without me, let alone be director of the Cataclysm Division. Not after how you bungled that Idol job a few months back.>
<Sorry sir.>
<That's better. Did you detain the Americans?>
<Yes, they're in the car behind me, ready for transport.>
<Good. We just found a bug in our operation though. CEA seems to be involved with the rift. You might as well scan the suspects to see if they've been contacted.>
<CEA? They care about this?>
<Apparently. I'd be surprised if those two don't have operatives assigned to them.> He sighed angrily. <Fucking meddlers.>
<Very well sir.> Sonoda waved to an officer from his mech to check the car.
<Oh Masamichi: You still have to be punished for moving that Idol to Microsoft. You don't mess with Sony. And you do NOT mess with me.>

He hung up the video phone. Usaka laughed at his cleverness. He had the TPCD under his thumb because of that fool Masamichi. He had a link inside the CEA because of that fool Seraphim.

And soon, he'd have a way to get a link inside Microsoft when Nanasawa undoubtedly signed with him, thanks to Masamichi's unforeseen bungling.

He laughed again, remembering how hard it was to keep Nanasawa down and away from getting a job.

He wanted her for Sony, but she was not yet at full power. The anger towards her roommate was just starting to work. She needed her catalyst. Hayasaka Erika had Sonoda Hitoshi; Nanasawa Kimiko needed those Americans. He just had to figure out why.

The CEA was going to tell him.

The phone was flashing again. He pressed it, already knowing who it was.

<Usaka-san! Team is ready for operation. Our negotiator is already at her post.>
<Good; she will do well. And the roommate?>
<Hayasaka Erika's train has been delayed thanks to a well-timed EMP pulse.>
<Perfect. Commence with operation.>

Preview
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Manipulation is a powerful tool...
...Many show prowess in such deeds. Only some show expertise.

Kimiko's dreams stand tall before her, and Sony offers a boost up the ladder. But to achieve her wishes she must push away the comfort of her friends.

A life without love isn't worth living...or is it?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MegaTokyo TimeLines -
Chapter Eleven: Shrewd negotiations
Chapter Eleven:
Shrewd negotiations

Sergeant Kiada Ian looked at his team as he shut off the videophone. The two men sat impatiently, waiting for something to happen. The negotiator was already outside waiting for the target to arrive.

Kiada was only given two men, but they should be enough. He wondered why the STRIKE Team was even needed. It wasn't as though the team was going after anything dangerous – it was just a potential Idol that was going to come along only willingly.

It was a plainclothes operation, but the men were still armed with two
high powered Sony QDP (Quick Deploy Plasma) pistols a piece, with a pair of spare cartridges.

He had wanted to ask Usaka-san why Sony Enforcement was even a factor in this operation. But you didn't question his judgment and expect to still have a job in the morning.

<Okay men, Usaka-san has officially commenced this operation. We will exit the vehicle about 100 meters from the target's apartment.
From there, we will be taking a guard position on the negotiator as we wait for her orders. Is this understood?>

<Sir, yes sir!>
<Alright then, we depart in thirty seconds.>

Exactly thirty seconds later, three men casually got out of the red Honda S2000 and split up. Sgt. Kiada, the driver, donned some sunglasses despite the light snow and walked south towards the apartment building, while the other two were content with just their coats.

One of the remaining two, a muscular brown-haired American named Ray, walked to the end of the block and stayed put about fifty feet from the nearby train station. The final operative, a slightly less built Japanese man, Agassi, followed the Sergeant but went past him to the other end of the block.

Agassi waved to the approaching negotiator. She waved back. Agassi blushed slightly; the girl was quite pretty. But this was the signal, not a date. She was about to make her move on the target.

Inside the apartment, Kimiko sat musing on her career. She never expected life to be fair, but she wanted her fate to be more than "Hayasaka-sama's roommate."
It made her mad that, no matter what she did, she couldn't escape that humongous shadow.

She looked around, at the pictures and decorations. It all screamed "Erika controls your life" to Kimiko now.

She needed to get out of there.

Back outside, the negotiator waited patiently in the snow while the three supporting operatives patrolled as inconspicuously as possible.

She had been working this case for years now, slowly eroding Kimiko's confidence in herself and in Erika.

It was a testament to Kimiko's spirit that it had taken this long, but, now that Kimiko had finally given up hope and Erika had been forced to reenter the limelight, it was time to move in for the capture.

All the STRIKE team had to do was monitor the situation and move in on any potential distractions. The first and most dangerous of these was Hayasaka Erika, who was not only working for Microsoft, but had a prior interest in the target's goodwill to begin with. Thankfully, she was already taken care of for the time being.

Finally, Kimiko walked outside in her coat. It was time.

<Kimiko-chan! Feeling better?>
Kimiko looked up and over at the negotiator. <Oh, hello Megumi-chan, what are you doing here?>
Megumi beamed, <Checking up on you, of course! Is Hayasaka-sama taking good care of you?>
<No, not really,> Kimiko sighed. <She's been really busy and…>
Megumi cut in. <Too busy too take care of a sick friend. Something doesn't seem right about that.>
<I guess…>
<You guess?> Megumi looked at Kimiko <A friend's duty should always be to her friends, before her job or anything.>

Kimiko suddenly felt anger at Erika wash over her again. <Yeah! Yeah, you're right! She's abandoning me…but> she calmed down some, <it's not like I can blame her. I'm just a burden to her now.>
<Nonsense, you aren't a burden to anyone.>
<You're right…I'm just a complete failure.>
<No, no you aren't,> Megumi smiled. <Hey, if you're feeling alright, let's go get something to eat.>

Kimiko smiled back. <Yeah, that sounds nice, Megumi.>

As the two walked off, Kiada could only stare in wonderment. She really was the best.

<Okay, Agassi, follow at a distance,> he called on the radio. <I'll join you shortly at the restaurant.>
<Rodger.>

Agassi followed while the leader called in.

<Sir, all is going according to plan.>
<Of course it is,> Usaka said over the radio. <But don't let your guard down, Sergeant Kiada. Your men have to make sure that the negotiator is able to complete her work. It won't be as easy to do that in a crowded restaurant.>

<Yes sir,> Kiada responded.
Usaka cut off the conversation there.

Kiada radioed Ray and told him to keep a watch on the train station. The EMP they had set off earlier wouldn't delay Hayasaka's arrival for too much longer. She should be arriving shortly.

Ray radioed back, <Sir. The Idol's train is arriving. I'll try to hold her off long enough for the negotiator to get out of the area with the target.>
<I'll back you up, Ray. Just hold on.>

Kiada radioed Agassi to tell him that he would be late, but to keep ahead with Nanasawa-san and the negotiator.

As he pulled out his pistol, Kiada smiled. The job was about to get a bit more interesting, he thought. The sergeant released the safety and raced towards the train station.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Preview
Hayasaka cares deeply for her friends, but can she convince Kimiko of that?
Will she even get a chance to try?


MegaTokyo TimeLines
Chapter Twelve: Signing bonus
Author's Notes
Sorry about the wait on this. My weekend was a bit hectic. Hopefully you'll find it to have been worth the wait.

Chapter Twelve:
Signing bonus [part one]

The train screeched to a halt inside the station and the doors slid open. A mass of humanity was unleashed upon the building like a flood, with dozens of late people trying to get to their destinations. Ray Peterson laughed at the sight, knowing full and well the EMP he had set off earlier was the cause of the panicked venue.

But his mind quickly snapped back to his objective: Hayasaka Erika. Ray spotted the tall blond exiting the train. Despite the sunglasses she wore to hide who she was, Ray noticed her instantly and radioed his commanding officer to clue him into the situation.

<Sergeant Kiada, I've spotted the target.>
<Very good, Peterson; keep an eye on her and radio in anything suspicious. I have your back.>
<Sir, she seems to be with someone.>
<A bodyguard?>
<No…he doesn't appear to be built for that. He looks like your standard pretty boy: slim, tall, dressed like he has cash.>
<Appearances can be deceiving. Keep an eye on this new guy too. I'd be surprised if she didn't have any protection from Microsoft hanging around.>
<Rodger sir.>

Ray lit a cigarette, much to the annoyance of several people around him. He shot them a glare and the commotion that had started up in the no-smoking zone quickly stopped.

The Idol was holding hands with the man who had followed her off the train. She was laughing at a joke he had told, but quickly looked away, silencing herself. A serious look returned to her face as she got close to the Sony operative.

All at once, Ray realized he wasn't smoking anymore. The woman held it in her hand for a second before letting it fall in her path. She stopped and shot a look right through Ray before turning back around and continuing on.

Who is this woman? he thought. The man next to her started to snicker at the surprised look on Ray's face.

<Amora, enough,> the Idol turned to face her companion. <Fools like him want that kind of attention.>

Rage started to boil under Ray's skin before he noticed that his earpiece was going off. <Ray, what's going on there?> It was Kiada.

<You just let the target pass you! Stop her, you idiot! Use any means necessary!>
<Yes sir,> Ray whispered. Turning towards Erika, he yelled out, "Hey, no one makes a fool of me!"

Hayasaka didn't even turn around. "It seems you're doing a perfectly fine job of that on your own."
Ray fumed. Think, man, think. How do you stop an overconfident famous bitch?

<Hey! Isn't that Hayasaka Erika, the famous seiyuu?!> Ray yelled out.

He was nearly tossed aside himself as the crowd pushed to get a view of the Idol. In the commotion, Erika's sunglasses were knocked to the ground.

As the sunglasses shattered underneath a stampeding fan's feet, Erika's confident visage melted like an ice cream cone in the summer heat. Almost immediately, a gunshot went off.

The crowd barely flinched, but Ray's trained ears could hear the muted return of the QDP. <This is Kiada; Ray, we have a situation. Microsoft thugs scattered around here. They're in damage control mode. Move to neutralize.>

<Yes sir,> Ray sighed as he pulled his own QDP. Damn it, he thought, this was supposed to be easy.


<Damn it,> Megumi thought as she was informed of the situation through Agassi, <This was supposed to be easy.>

<What's wrong, Megumi-chan?> Kimiko inquired. <You look troubled. Is everything okay?>
<Yes, Kimiko-chan, I'm fine.> Megumi sipped on her tea. <Now, are you still trying out for seiyuu positions?>
<No.>

Kimiko picked at her ramen. It had hardly been touched, but she wasn't that hungry right now. <I'll never make it in the business; why waste my time trying anymore.>

<What kind of spirit is that?> Megumi stared at her target. <Kimiko-chan, you have talent. Promise me that you'll never give up on your dream again.>
<What talent?>
<Promise me!>
<Okay, I promise.>

Kimiko sniffled a little. <I'm sorry for getting all weepy and depressing on you.>
The negotiator smiled. <Now that we're through that, let me let you in on a little gossip I heard…>

Preview
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The situation escalates and the hands are shown.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Next in MegaTokyo TimeLines:
Chapter Thirteen:
Signing bonus [part two]
Chapter Thirteen:
Signing bonus [part two]

Six minutes, twenty-four seconds ago; Masaua Rail Station…

Sergeant Kiada walked inside the train station. He quickly spotted Ray waiting for the train to arrive and looked upward for a vantage point.

Finding one on the balcony on the second floor, Kiada sprinted up the stairs and crouched behind a support beam where he could see the Idol's train slowing down inside the station. Sure enough, the train doors opened and the passengers emptied out into the station looking flustered from the longer-than-usual ride.

Kiada clicked a tiny button on the side of his sunglasses and a display appeared on the inside of the lenses.

<Scanning for target neurosignatures…please wait…30% completed…>

Kiada sighed. This was the problem with technology; everything took too long at first. He had been briefed on the Idol's appearance, but he couldn't spot her from this distance.

The neurosignature technology Sony had developed a few months ago was still in its beta stage, but the device was useful enough to scan the area for specified targets. Sony Enforcement hoped to have everyone in Japan marked by the end of the fiscal year and everyone in the Western world by the end of 2007.

For now, though, high-profile targets and targeted Japanese and American citizens, such as those working for rival companies, had had their neurosignatures (or energies emitted through thought patterns) scanned into the system. The governments of both countries had put up a fight, but Sony had dirt on enough members of the concerned ministries to shut them up.

<…new targets (6) acquired…85% completed>

Kiada blinked. Six new targets?!

He knew that Hayasaka was important to Microsoft, but five potential guardians?
<Data collection completed. 8 total targets discovered. Compiling information for transfer…completed.>

Kiada's PDA vibrated. He pulled out the Cleo and the six targets' names, photographs, and position in relation to Kiada appeared. He clicked to expand the data on the primary target, Hayasaka Erika. Her address, phone number and her locations for the past thirty minutes appeared. Currently, she was on the ground floor. He clicked out to look at the other acquired signatures.

Ray was scanned in, but all the others were unknown to Kiada. However, all but one worked at Microsoft. Kiada put down the PDA for a second when the com unit also inside the sunglasses turned on. It was Ray.

<Sergeant Kiada, I've spotted the target.>
<Very good, Peterson; keep an eye on her and radio in anything suspicious. I have your back.>

Kiada pulled out his QDP and aimed it at the target.
<Sir, she seems to be with someone.>

<A bodyguard?> Kiada looked at the man next to Hayasaka and, sure enough, his neurosignature had been acquired. <That's one down,> he thought.
<No…he doesn't appear to be built for that. He looks like your standard pretty boy: slim, tall, dressed like he has cash.>
<Appearances can be deceiving. Keep an eye on this new guy too. I'd be surprised if she didn't have any protection from Microsoft hanging around.>
<Rodger sir.>

Kiada pulled out his PDA to look at the other signatures. Finding that four of them were in the train station still; Kiada looked down at the platform again to see Ray looking dumbstruck as Hayasaka walked past him.

<Ray, what's going on there? You just let the target pass you! Stop her, you idiot! Use any means necessary!>
<Yes sir.>

A few seconds later, the sergeant heard Ray bark out that Hayasaka Erika was in the building. All of a sudden, a gunshot went off in the air above Kiada's head.

<What are you doing sneaking around up here?>
<My job,> Kiada smirked as he fired off his QDP into the attacker's chest.
<W-w-w-w-what the hell,> the man stammered as he aimed his gun. The pain of the plasma shot was clearly affecting him, though. Kiada took advantage of it and fired a second shot into the attacker's skull.

The bloodless corpse fell to the ground. Kiada checked it out through the scanner. One Microsoft employee down, three to go. Two others started coming up the stairs after hearing the gunshot.

<This is Kiada; Ray, we have a situation. Microsoft thugs scattered around here. They're in damage control mode. Move to neutralize.>
<Yes sir.>

Kiada charged to the stairs. Firing off a shot down the stairwell, he tried to slow down one of the two men running up. Sure enough, the shot slowed one of the guards enough to give Kiada a shot at him, which he took. The other fired and missed with his rifle as Kiada ducked back behind cover. When the fool reached the top of the stairs, he met Kiada's foot as it was shoved into his face.

After killing him, Kiada called the TPCD to report Microsoft's unscheduled event with Hayasaka Erika. He then proceeded to head down onto the main platform. By now, the place was empty aside from the fanatics that continued to hound Hayasaka even in the middle of a firefight.

The pretty boy was the lone remaining guard in the station, but for some reason, Ray hadn't taken him out. Aiming at the last threat, Kiada looked over at Ray for a split second to see that he was coiled up in pain on the floor.

<How…in…the…hell?>

The crowd surrounding the Idol split open as Hayasaka came running towards Kiada. She elegantly grabbed the QDP, flung it out of Kiada's hand, and flipped him onto his back.

<How,> Kiada groaned, <did…she…do that?>

The pretty boy walked over to Hayasaka. <Nice job, Erika. Remind me to never piss you off.> The fans continued to stand in adoration of their Idol, like mindless zombies.

As he looked at the scene from the floor, Kiada got two communications. One was from the TPCD, thanking Kiada for his assistance. The other was from the negotiator.

<Kiada, the mission is near completion. You can stand down, Hayasaka is no longer a threat.>

Kiada laughed as he gingerly rose. <TPCD will be here soon. We've already won.>
<And who is 'we?'> Hayasaka asked.
<That's of no concern to you, Hayasaka-san.>

The pretty boy pulled out a gun of his own. <Are you sure?>
<Yes. Go ahead and kill me. Like I said, we've already won.>

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Megumi returned from the girl's room to the table. Kimiko was still crying from the revelation that Erika auditioned for the part of Kotone in Lockart's Sight as well. Sadly, this was the one thing Megumi didn't have to lie about, even if she had to change the facts around conveniently. Microsoft had bought out the publisher Cubesoft five months ago and, as part of their overall marketing for the Xbox 360, wanted their new poster girl to voice the main character of their big dating sim.

Of course, Microsoft's involvement wasn't divulged to Kimiko, but it would be soon enough, to help her build brand loyalty.

Megumi patted her target on the back. <It's okay. I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you.>
<But…why would she take that part without even telling me?> Kimiko sobbed.
<I don't know, but I'm sure she has her reasons. But, hey, I have happy news for you too.>
<What?> Kimiko asked as she looked up. <What could possibly be happy news?>

Megumi smiled, <I have a friend that would be very interested in having you as a voice actress in one of his company's games.>
<Really?> Kimiko looked just as stunned as when she heard about Erika's endeavors back into being a seiyuu.

<Yeah. He saw some of your stuff from other auditions and thought you just needed a little boost.>
<I see.>
<So, are you interested?>
<Of course! What company?! What game?!>
<I don't know the game, but the company is Sony. He wants you to meet him tomorrow. Is that good for you?>
<Sure…but how can I face Erika tonight?>
<Well, if you're concerned about it, why don't you stay the night with me and we can figure this whole thing out together?>
<Thanks, Megumi-chan. You're a great friend.>
Chapter Fourteen:
Interrogation

Seraphim woke up on her chest and tried to look around. She was in a patent's outfit with her back and wings exposed much as if she was in some twisted hospital. Though she wasn't tied down, she couldn't move at all aside from some minimal head movement. Her wings were uncomfortably stretched outward and her body was in intense pain, but she couldn't move out of her position and she couldn't scream for some reason.

"This must be a dream," she thought.

The room, from what her blurred vision could see, was a pure white. She couldn't see any furniture other than the white steel table she was on, or any doors to enter through. She heard a whooshing noise behind her, followed by a soft woman's voice asking how she was doing in English.

The conscience tried to say "how do you think I'm doing," but found she couldn't speak at all.

The woman moved into view. She was dressed in a lab coat, t-shirt, jeans, and glasses to compliment her long red hair. She chuckled a little and pulled out a PDA.

"I see the intruder has been suitably affected by the chemicals inputted into her system," the lab tech said while the PDA recorded. "She seems to still be paralyzed and unable to speak."

She walked out of Sera's vision cone and came back with a needle. Barely looking at Seraphim, she poked the needle inside the conscience's skull.

"20:50 hours; the drugs to remove the paralysis from the subject's larynx, mouth, and tongue have been administered.

Seraphim continued to try to scream. For a few seconds, nothing came out. Then, she could speak again.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

The woman looked up from her note-taking. "Subject is hysterical due to injuries received prior to initial treatment."

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

The door opened again. Seraphim could hear Usaka's voice.

"Calm down already. I could almost hear you screaming outside."

Sera stopped screaming, the pain was dying down. He moved into Seraphim's field of vision and knelt down to where he was looking inside her eyes.

"Now," he said, "that's better."

He looked at his prey. "Normally I wouldn't even be down here, but you know, this is a lot of fun."

He moved a mirror into position. Sera could see her twisted wings and battered face now. Her glasses were gone, as she had expected, but she looked like she had already been beaten badly. Her face was bloody and bruised and her wings looked like they would never fly again.

Seraphim opened her mouth to scream again, but was quickly silenced in fear as Usaka pulled out a tiny tool. Seraphim had no idea what it was, but the way Usaka looked at her while holding it terrified the seraph beyond screams.

"Now, my dear Agent Seraphim," the director of operations chided, "are you ready to tell me what the CEA is doing messing with the time-space continuum?"

"You bastard, what did you do to me?" the conscience sputtered out.

"Ah, still a little feisty, are we?" Usaka laughed. 'We'll take that right out of you."

He took the tool and moved it over to where the wings met the back. The device attached to the flesh and delivered a powerful stimulant which stretched out the twisted wings and painfully straightened them out. The feathers stood straight up.

"Remember what I said about how much fun it would be to tear off each feather one by one? Now I'm going to find out just how right I am…unless of course, you'd like to tell me what the fuck is going on. Not like you'll be flying anytime soon anyway, but hey, it's less painful my way."

"I'll be damned if I help you screw with the lives of the people of this country any further."

"Have it your way," Usaka said as he plucked the first feather. Seraphim grimaced in pain. Her body wanted to curl up and protect itself but the drugs in her system made that impossible.

"You won't stop me by not talking; you'll just make me take an unnecessary risk," Usaka said, plucking the second feather.

Seraphim let herself scream again this time, loud enough that those walking outside the room could hear the conscience's agony.

Inside, Usaka just laughed as the fifth and sixth feathers fell to the floor. His cell phone rang and he picked it up, granting Seraphim time to weigh her options.

A few moments later, Usaka hung up with a satisfied look on his face. "Well, the Idol didn't make it easy, but Nanasawa Kimiko is practically Sony's. Hayasaka Erika is sufficiently out of the picture, as well. Now all that's left are those Americans. We'll soon have our Idol."
Types:
Chapter Fifteen:
Rapid change in progression

Agassi hung up the phone just as Kimiko and the negotiator walked past him. Usaka didn't say much beyond a few muttered "yeah's," but the operative could tell the director was pleased with the developments. With Microsoft about to have to go through a hell of a lot of paperwork to keep their new marketing tool out of jail, it wouldn't be too long before Sony gained even more of an advantage in the next-gen console wars.

He could care less about the results of a market share battle, but Agassi knew it was in his best interest to help Usaka-san keep the suits upstairs happy. The progression that SE had made today towards its long-term goals looked to do just that. The neutralization of a rival Idol was just icing on the cake at this point.

But for now, it was time for Phase Two. Without the Catalyst, all the work done so far was for naught. Agassi made his second call, to Enforcement's man over at TPCD.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ed walked out of Anna Miller's with his coffee-to-go in hand on his way to his temporary assignment, the monitoring of the two Americans in TPCD custody. His cell phone rang, and Ed picked it up.

After quickly going over the current state of progress with Agassi, Ed hung up. The police station where Piro and Largo were being detained wasn't too far from the restaurant.

He flashed back to his actions right before getting called back to Sony headquarters this morning, when he saw his college pals walking with the targeted EDS. Ed couldn't help but wonder just why they were in Japan, let alone with a dangerous assassin and his pet android.

The Sony operative arrived at the station. The plain-looking brick building looked innocuous enough, but Ed knew that inside was some of the most powerful technology in the country, if not in the world. Walking inside the structure, marked plainly "Tokyo Police Department – Cataclysm Division," Ed sighed.

"What a boring assignment," he thought. "Like TPCD needs Sony's help in keeping those two in check."

A short heavy man walked up to Ed, saying, "Ah, you must be the American from Sony. You're the last of your group to arrive, just like Usaka-san said you would be. I'm Lieutenant Takama of the TPCD. Let me show you to the containment center."

The man led the way through the edifice. "So," he asked, "why does Sony not want us to deport these troublemakers? Normally they'd already be back in America, but Director Sonoda seems to feel these guys are worth breaking policy over."

"I really have no idea. I knew these two in college and nothing special really comes to mind. The redhead seems to be insane sometimes and the blond one can be depressing, but nothing too special at all. Even if HQ cares, I don't. Just, don't do anything to hurt them. I have little doubt they're mixed up in this for no good reason."

"Interesting. So, why does Sony care so much about them that they're sending some of their top enforcers to keep tabs on them?"

"That's classified. So classified I don't even know all the details. Operations Director Usaka did want me to ask you about the CEA situation, though."

"Oh yes, the search Sonoda-san wanted performed in the car. We didn't find anything."

"Odd. Usaka-san seemed so sure there was going to be something with them."

"Well, we have a report of something whizzing out of the car when the search was to be performed, but we couldn't find anything outside."

"Yeah, those buggers are small."

"Well, here we…"

BLAM!

A massive explosion interrupted the officer and shook the building. Part of the massive containment block was now on fire. As Ed looked on with awe, a Rent-a-'Zilla rose from the ground and broke through the ceiling six stories up. Carrying three people on its back, the 'Zilla started to march towards the cell where Largo and Piro were being held.

The officer broke out into a sweat as the computer came on.

<Attention. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched. Repeat. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched.>

<Shit,> Lt. Takama sighed. <Damn 'Zillas. Now we have an unscheduled disaster at headquarters of all places.> He ran off, leaving Ed to his own devices.

Takama got to the elevator, which was luckily unscathed by the 'Zilla, and traveled down to the ground floor.

<Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched. Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched.>

Exiting the elevator, he saw the 'Zilla's three passengers jump down. A tall, if somewhat scrawny man, an even taller and muscular Ninja, and a school-age girl all landed with ease.

They launched at the three Sony Enforcement personnel in front of the cell and easily took out the trained professionals. Two of Sony's men were thrown through the wall. The final operative was slammed into the cell, which opened as the now-unconsious guard slumped to the ground.

The two men went into the cell and grabbed two detainees – the Americans.

<Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched. Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched.>

As Takama looked on with awe, the two men leapt back up to the 'Zilla's head. As if on cue, the girl joined them and the 'Zilla marched out of the building as the alarm continued to sound.

<Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched. Alert. Detention Blocks 201-299 have been breeched.>

Lt. Takama grabbed his radio. <This is Takama. We have had an escape of two high-risk detainees. Subjects are two Caucasian males. First is approximately six-foot-two with red hair. The other is approximately five-foot-nine with blond hair. Accomplices are two Japanese males and one Japanese female, escaping with the aid of a Rent-A-'Zilla. This is a Code One operation; high priority.>

<This is Sonoda. All pursuing officers stand down.>

<Sir?>

<You heard me. This was scheduled. They have their paperwork in order. The two prisoners were Sony Enforcement's men. Let them deal with it.>

<Yes sir.>

<Get Cataclysm Repair up and running down there. I want the entire sector repaired by 1am tomorrow.>

Takama looked up at Ed four stories up, who looked like he was on his phone. As the officer looked on, Ed looked out towards the now-revealed Tokyo night sky, then turned and fled out the emergency exit, a pistol now drawn seemingly out of nowhere. He wondered what the hell these Americans were up to as a scene of chaos filled his field of vision yet again.

<Takama to Cataclysm Repair. Have I got a job for you: Headquarters Detention Blocks 201-299 and damaged areas of Sector 1…>

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ed quickly scaled the stairs of the emergency exit and ran towards the 'Zilla, wondering what he could do to slow them down. He looked skyward towards his friends…his TARGETS; because that's what they were now…and clearly saw the girl that had assisted with their escape. It was the rogue EDS.

"Two birds with one stone," the operative thought as he smiled despite himself. This battle could wait for another day.

End - Day One

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