The Forbidden and the Gifted
[12:03 a.m. August 8th, 2048; Seoul, Korea. The shot pans to a jet black Toyota Sienna, driving along low-lit Seventh Street; Drift is driving with Naomi in the passenger seat, Shin and Electra sit in the middle and Ashe and Yuki sit in the back]
Yuki [To Ashe]: So, what’s your name?
Ashe: Ashe. [Pauses] Ashe Yoshino.
Shin: [Surprised] Yoshiro?
Yuki [To Shin]: No idiot, Yoshino. Yo-She-NO.
Shin: Aw shit.
Yuki: What, you thought she was related to him eh?
Shin: Well, maybe?
Yuki: Yoshiro’s common around these parts. Even if it was a ‘Ro’, I don’t think you’d be finding his cousin or whatever. Especially not one with Scandinavian blood like her.
Shin: Guess you’re right.
Yuki [To Ashe]: So, where do you want us to drop you home?
[Ashe doesn’t respond]
Electra: Hey missy, you falling asleep? Where do you wanna be dropped off? You’re surely from around these parts, no?
Ashe: I am, yeah.
Electra: Then tell us before you fall asleep eh?
Drift [To Electra]: Eh, easy there big fella, she’s been through a lot, ya know?
Electra: Yeah, yeah. My bad.
Drift: I know we do a ton of reckless shit, but I still feel for bystanders who get caught up in the mess that is our line of work. We – you especially Elec – need to be more sympathetic.
Electra [Thinking]: Easy for you to say, Mister Perfect. There’s a reason you’ve always been the better half of us two. Always been such a self-righteous guy, unlike me.
Ashe: Oh no need to defend me.
Yuki: Well though Ashe, where are you from? Downtown?
Ashe: No, I’m from a little while out. If you guys know where Jeong is…
Naomi [To Ashe]: You’re from Jeong?
Ashe: Yeah. [Pauses] Well, I don’t stay there anymore.
Naomi: Where do you stay?
Ashe: Downtown now. It’s quite busy. I can’t stay with my family though.
Naomi: Why not? Did something happen?
Ashe: No. My families always been really nice – they’re really simple people. My dad, Oskar, used to drive into Seoul every day to work as an office man, and my mom was the usual, stay-at-home.
Naomi: Sounds pretty nice.
Ashe: I also had two brothers and a sister; we all attended the west end school.
Ashe: No, that was the other one we could’ve gone to. We went to Ryouk instead. Honestly, reminiscing about it makes me miss my time there.
Naomi: Why’d you move though?
Ashe: Because a lot of people aren’t all that good. Hanging with the wrong crowd nearly put me in the state that I am right now three years ago.
[Yuki looks downwards]
Ashe: I thought I could trust him, he was just another guy in a group that I was so close with. But I guess… [Pauses] I guess people aren’t good.
Naomi: But you’re here now, no?
Ashe: Yeah, because they thought it’d be a good idea to try and break and enter our house to get the girl from the beauty pageant and sell her off at 3 a.m. Luckily… [Pauses]… luckily my dad… [Hangs her head down].
Yuki: [Pats her side] It’s okay. [Pauses] It’s okay.
Ashe: He didn’t die, and he held them off long enough for the cops to get there. Obviously, they ran off by then, but my dad’s injuries were too much. [Pauses] Fractured collarbone, fractured leg, broken right foot, concussions, the list went on. [Pauses] Before long, he was fired, and my mom had to find work, but you know how work is for uneducated women in these parts. Even in Downtown Seoul, she couldn’t find anything. And worst of all, those pieces of trash kept coming after me. We had to spend money that we didn’t have on security and other garbage, until I realized that they kept coming after me, cause I was the apparent ‘beauty’ of the area. I thought that I could keep my family safe by moving away from them and into downtown Seoul, and for a while it did. They lived happily, and so did I, even though I missed my life there dearly. I attended school and all, but today reminded me that I’ll never be able to leave that past behind. Cause the shadow of the hideous hell that is the shitty black market will always follow me around. [Pauses] Oh sorry, sorry, not you guys. I just hate the people that thrive off of corrupt shit in these parts.
Shin: [Grits teeth] Damn people like that.
Electra: Easy now Shin. There’s a reason we are who we are. Because people like that exist.
Yuki: Do you want some of our security from back home? We know some people; we’ll give you some help to you for nothing.
Ashe: I really can’t accept. We’ve just met, that’s way too much. Besides…
Yuki: Don’t worry, don’t worry! We don’t mind at all, right Shin?
[Shin nods in agreement]
Ashe: No, no. You see…
[Naomi looks back at her]
Ashe: I don’t wanna just be the protected delicate girl anymore. The truth is, I hate living fearing what someone could do. I hate being scared. I hate being the way I am. I want to do something against that can help against those creeps.
Drift: Listen girl. Being like one of us takes a lot of sacrifice. We aren’t police. We aren’t the military. We aren’t detectives. We’re fugitives, who’re playing with our lives like it’s a part of a game. It’s risky business, all things considered.
Ashe: Even then…
Drift: Are you really prepared to sacrifice everything? There’s times where you’ll hate yourself. There’s times where you won’t be able to comprehend why you’re doing what you’re doing. Because we aren’t the law. We’re our own embodiment of justice, however different it may be from the true form of justice. What we are, and what we believe in, none of that’s absolute you know?
Drift: Don’t Drift me. I know too well the struggle with a life like this because I know you, Naomi.
Naomi: Don’t do that… please. I’m not like everyone else.
Drift: You are. Us four [looks at Electra, Shin and Yuki]… we’re the oddities. Cause we can take shit and move on. We’re the weirdos here. Not you. But because you’ve been surrounded by weirdos you think you’re the weird one, even though you’re more human than any of us.
Ashe: What are you talking about…
Drift: Naomi… [Points to Naomi], she couldn’t shoot a soul. Not even when her life depended on it. She could’ve been pushed against a wall, with a gun in her hand, and she’d choose to die. Even if the person in front of her had killed everyone she had known.
Shin [Sternly]: DRIFT.
Drift: Sorry, sorry Shin. I didn’t mean it as a slight against her. I meant it as a compliment. She’s a human, and even when she eventually was able to pull that trigger, she remained far more human than the rest of us.
Naomi: But it cost you…
Drift: My losses, no matter what they are, don’t matter.
[Ashe looks forward towards the driver side door, and sees Drift’s metallicized hand on the steering wheel; the metal extends down his arm, to her shock]
Ashe [To Yuki]: Is that?
Yuki [To Ashe]: Yeah. His arm was severed back then…
Drift [To Both]: You don’t need to explain. All I’m saying is, if I’m not there, or the others aren’t there, and you can’t pull the trigger, what’s to make of you?
Ashe: Even then… even then… I want to be there.
Drift: But you don’t have to do this. Why choose the path of no return, like we all have?
Ashe: Because I should’ve been taken it back then. Because I shouldn’t be here right now. Because my life is just a mishmash of so much bullshit that it makes me sick. I hate everything about life. Classes don’t give me the same uplifting feeling they used to, where I’d actually be interested in what I was studying… hell, the major I’m in is only what it is because it’s the easiest at the Uni.
Drift: But does that really warrant throwing your life away? If you take our security personnel and protect your family, you might find that flame of hope again; you might…
[Naomi taps Drift’s metallic right hand and shakes her head]
Naomi: It doesn’t work like that. Once that flame’s gone, it takes legitimate miracles to stir it back to life.
[Electra clenches his teeth in the background]
Naomi: You know well enough Drift, that you’re the miracle that caused my flame to be set ablaze again. It doesn’t come from taking people’s handouts. I know it all too well, because I thought I’d be happy by just accepting the things that were thrown at me. But it was working with you guys that gave me the confidence to shoot that gun back then… and that’s what changed everything. It started because of you – don’t try and fan out the embers she has left because you think it’s right.
Shin: [Interjecting] Even so, even so, what’s your plan girl? To team up with us? I love the idea that you have, but you gotta know, we’re a pretty elite batch. Even her, [Taps Naomi over her seat], she’s easily one of the most wanted people in the world, despite how innocent she looks and acts. We can’t be babysitting you, you hear?
Yuki [To Ashe]: And besides, not to be rude, but do you have any experience in any sort of fighting, martial arts or anything of the sort?
Ashe: Yeah. Kind of had to do something to try and ward of the weirdos at least. I’m a black belt in Karate, and I’ve done some archery, so I’m not awful with a bow, but I’ve never used a gun of any kind before.
Yuki: Black belt? Holy shit. [Looks at Shin] That’s higher than you, sadist.
Shin: Screw off, will ya?
Yuki [To Ashe]: Still though, what Drift said was right. Him, the sadist, Elec and myself are the oddities here. Naomi’s found a purpose, and that’s why she can stay on in this gutless field, but us four are so used to death that it doesn’t faze us anymore. Cause we know, everyday, we’re being hunted without remorse, and we know we could possibly die without seeing the sunset even if we’ve seen the sun rise. Can you do that? Can you put your life on the line, every day, without consideration? Not even for other people, but to actively do a job?
Ashe: I don’t know. I’m not gonna bullshit you and tell you I can right now. I know it’s not cliched, but I don’t know my own capabilities, both mentally and physically.
Electra: It’s good to hear that, you know? But what we do is taxing I’ll tell you. There’s not too many of us who are members of our little association, hell, those security personnel would’ve just been contracted by us. We’re like a little family, but that doesn’t mean we have time to look after each other and babysit, as they said before. We’ll have jobs that we have to work together to finish, some more brutal than others. If you choose to join us, you likely can’t see your family ever again, because you’d be too much of a wanted person, and you’d be putting them in danger, which I know you don’t wanna do.
Ashe: It’s not like I see them anyway. I told them when I was leaving that I’d distance myself, and maybe send some texts or letters occasionally. I haven’t seen them in person since I left the house that day. [Pauses, then laughs] You probably think that’s overdramatic right? [Laughs] To never see them again, just because of one incident? [Laughs] I know right, it’s so stupid.
Shin [Thinking]: But we know that wasn’t the last of it. Once you left, they kept coming. And so you shut yourself in, to never disturb your family. And you let them know that, but played it off as you moving somewhere far away, and that’s why you barely see them anymore. It’s written so plainly on your face, even your laugh can’t wipe it away.
Yuki [Thinking]: It’s written on your face that you’ve been through so much, and you want to throw yourself into this hell as well? I don’t know what you’re thinking, but at the same time, I think Mi has a point with her needing to find that flame. I don’t know if it’s here, but I don’t know if it’s anywhere else either. Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know!
Electra [To Ashe]: So, are you sure you wanna do this?
Ashe: If it was any other group, I’d be having second thoughts. But you guys, I don’t know what it is, I feel even more inclined to join you guys. I’ve only ever felt such a strong sensation towards people when my dad saved me that one time. I haven’t felt this way otherwise.
Electra: Hm. And you’re sure you don’t want to do it legally right? Like through the police, or feds or military, or whatever?
Ashe: I couldn’t. I know a bunch of people who’ve joined. They do nothing but sit on their asses and punish the people who don’t even need to be punished. And they’re just lapdogs for all the higher ups… they’ll never do shit to change the shadows, cause what goes on in the shadows isn’t affecting any of them anyway.
Ashe: Believe it when I say it. I want to help more than anything. I want to work with you guys. Even if some of the shit you guys do is beyond me, and even though some of it doesn’t feel right, you guys give off a different aura. There’s no reason for people working in the shadows to offer to return me home, let alone offer security personnel and willingly think about rgar person’s best interests before letting them join. You guys may not do the right thing all the time, but it’s clear that you guys have your hearts in the right direction, and I want to do whatever I can.
[Naomi looks at Electra, who nods at her]
Shin: Well, well. You certainly have the heart, wouldn’t the rest of you agree?
[Yuki nods her head]
Shin: I’ll ask again though. You’re prepared for everything that’ll come with doing this. You don’t have to do this. Don’t think it’ll be easy. But I’ll say one thing… [Pauses] you’ll feel more alive than you’ve ever felt with us.
Shin: I don’t want you to think we’re all doom and gloom, and that we’re pushing you away. In fact, we love people like you with spirit like that. It’s for that reason that we try to push you guys away, to use your talents somewhere else, where you don’t have to be living in darkness. But if you truly believe that spending your life with us is the best choice for yourself and is the only way to set your heart ablaze again, then I won’t stop you. Right guys?
Drift: I said what I could before. But I don’t want to stand in your way, and I’ll gladly accept someone with that kind of attitude on our team.
Electra: Yeah, for sure. Only reason I was so hesitant is because I didn’t think someone who looks like the next Miss Seoul would be willing to get her hands bloodied.
[Ashe blushes, then laughs]
Yuki [To Electra]: Flattery doesn’t work, dipshit. It’s why Nina left you.
Electra [To Yuki]: Oh, could you forget about her? [Sighs, then laughs] Damnit!
Yuki [To Electra]: Like hell I could! [Laughs]
Naomi [To Ashe]: Well, I guess with that, I think it’s safe to say: Welcome aboard, Miss Yoshino! I hope you’ll come to love us, your merry band of idiots. Go on, go on, introduce yourselves properly you lot.
Yuki [To Naomi]: Aw Mi, why can’t you do it for us?
Naomi: I’m not doing everything you know! Plus, even though I’d probably get the point across better than most of you, especially you Drift… [Drift smirks], it’s better for her to hear it from your own mouths, you know?
Yuki: Fine, fine, fine. Who’s going first? I vote for Shin.
Shin: Fine bastards. You two gotta get us dinner in Shanghai before we fly out, ya hear?
[Yuki and Electra both sigh]
Shin: Well, if you couldn’t already tell, or if I haven’t said so already, I’m Shin Taiki, from Japan. These guys call me a sadist, and well, I can’t really oppose that sentiment, cause I’m in the same boat as you. I hate most of the asshats who are part of these underground chains and enterprises of the sort. So, after two years of secondary, me and her, that bitch Yuki, partnered up to make this little gig. We both, as well as Mi there, were from the countryside, so we knew that nothing exciting was gonna happen anyway if we just stayed the course – how were we gonna get into Tokyo or Osaka or any of those metropolises anyway? So, we decided on doing something to help people, even if it wasn’t in the most legal way.
Yuki [Thinking]: He purposely omitted the real reason for it eh? Man.
Shin: Anyway, I’m basically the head of operations and shit in this whole gig ya know? I’m not the most skilled fighter or martial artist or gunman or practically anything, y’hear? But I can make some pretty useful plans, and I’m pretty good with technology too. These guys sometimes call me a wizard, although you’ll never hear Yuki admit it [Yuki scoffs in the background], but I like to think of myself as a backbone in many ways. Even if I’m not overly strong, I like to plan, I like to scheme, I like to torture the bastards who I’m up against, and I love what I do. If you ever need anything really, just hit me up. I may seem like a complete ass at first, but after a while, you realize I’m only like that to Yuki. [Pauses] Oh yeah, Drift…
Drift: Yo, you want me to go next?
Shin: You can if you want, I don’t mind. But I wanted to use your phone.
Drift: Huh? Why?
Shin: I wanna call Karina.
Drift: And you… don’t have her number?
Shin: I brought my 18 instead of my 20, cause I didn’t wanna use the 20 and get roaming charges and all that other garbage.
Drift: But… won’t it apply to your 18 as well?
Shin: Nah mate, I got this tapped. I don’t have to pay international coverages or nothing and works like a charm. You should swing me your 18, it only works on them anyway.
Yuki [To Shin]: Why have I never heard of this?
Shin [To Yuki]: Because you don’t deserve to. Simple enough answer?
Yuki [To Shin]: God, I really do hate you.
Shin [To Yuki]: Oh, oh, the feelings definitely reciprocated!
Ashe [Whispers to Electra]: Uh… how did these two?
Electra [To Ashe]: They’re a lot closer than they act. They love teasing each other.
Ashe [To Electra]: It’s only teasing?
Electra [To Ashe]: Yup. They’re like brother and sister those two, they could tease night and day but they’re one of the most badass duos I’ve ever seen when they’re on their game. Even if it were their families, their friends, anyone really, if it came down to it, they’d choose to die for each other over any of them.
Shin [To Electra and Ashe]: Huh? What are you two talking about? You already owe me lunch, Elec, don’t think it’s just Yukes.
Electra: Yeah, yeah, I know.
Shin [To Drift]: Anyway, anyway. Hand me the phone, Drift.
Drift: [Tosses the phone] Here, dipshit.
[Shin calls Karina, to which she responds]
Shin: Oh Karina, thank god you picked up! [Pauses] It’s late? [Pauses] Huh? [Pauses] How is 12:41 late? [Pauses] WHAT? You’re calling me a lowlife with a messed up sleep schedule? [Pauses] Who was the one who watched seventeen episodes of anime in one night, starting at 10? [Pauses] Yeah, you’re real quiet now, eh?
Yuki [To Ashe]: God he’s annoying, isn’t he?
Ashe: [Snickers] Hahaha, I guess so.
Shin [To Yuki]: Buzz off you stupid witch! Stop trying to corrupt the poor newbie! [Pauses, then talks to Karina again] Oh yeah. Yeah. We got a newbie. The hot girl we were talking about? [Pauses] Yeah, her. [Pauses] I know right? It’s crazy! [Yuki slaps him, to which he hits her]
Yuki [To Shin]: I’m telling you; you won’t be able to woosh her off her feet you prick!
Shin [To Karina, ignores Yuki]: When you get back, slap the shit out of Yuki for me? [Pauses] You will? Oh delightful, delightful! [Pauses] Oh yeah, what I was calling for. I wanted you to contract some security guys from Tokyo. [Pauses] Yeah, yeah. [Pauses] Yeah, yeah, don’t worry. Send em into Seoul for next week, alright? [Pauses] Perfect. Yeah, that’s perfect. Okay, thanks Karina, thank you! [Hangs up]
Ashe [To Shin]: Wait, wait, you really don’t need to, you know?
Shin [To Ashe]: It’s the least I could do to show my appreciation, you hear? Don’t think to much of it. They won’t be noticeable to your family at least, so don’t worry. Think of it as a welcome gift from your crew here.
[Yuki, Naomi and Electra all smile]
Electra: Well, who should go next? Naomi, you want… [The car comes to a stop]
Ashe: Wait, why’d we stop?
Drift: Save the intros for a little bit. We’re here.