Chapter 16:


The Forbidden and the Gifted

[10:59 a.m., August 8th 2048, London, England. Natsumi, Daisuke and Hachiro approach the building with the two henchmen standing in front of it. From the opposite direction approaches a luxury Bentley, which comes to a stop in front of the building. Lockwood, dressed in a blazer and dress pants hops out of the car and stands in front of them, as do three bodyguards]

Lockwood [To Henchmen]: These the guys you were talking about?

Henchman 1: Yessir, they got here at 10:00 sir.

Lockwood [To Natsumi and Daisuke]: The girl, I assume you’re Natsumi, correct?

Natsumi: Yessir, that’s correct.

Lockwood: Oh, drop the sir, no need to be so formal. [Laughs]

Natsumi: Oh okay – would you go by Lockwood?

Henchman 1 [To Natsumi]: He goes by –

Lockwood [Raises his hand towards the Henchman]: Shut up. [Pauses] Lockwood is fine by me, thank you very much. [Pauses] And of you two, which one is Daisuke?

Daisuke [Raises his hand upwards]: That would be me, yes.

Lockwood: Perfect, so I take it you’re Hachiro then? [He points at Hachiro with his left hand] The one that wasn’t mentioned on the reports.

Hachiro: Yeah, that’s me. Sorry about the late notice, my crew only got me in on the second flight in with a transit, so we weren’t sure if I’d make it. If you don’t need me, I can leave.

Natsumi [Thinking]: He really can lie with a straight face. Wow.

Lockwood: Oh no, no, you’re fine. I just wanted to make sure that I had the right three people.

Hachiro: Yeah, we’re all here and ready whenever you are bossman.

Lockwood: Perfect, let’s get inside then.

[Natsumi, Daisuke and Hachiro follow Lockwood into the building, which is extremely well-lit once past the first three security doors. The building is tall, reaching eight stories high, with different office spaces and such spread around. The three follow Lockwood towards the private elevator, and his bodyguards follow from a slight distance]

Lockwood: So, what was it that you wanted to talk about? You guys got a date with the Russians, eh? Is that it?

Daisuke: Yeah. We’re gonna be travelling to Petersburg for tomorrow to meet up with the rest of our squad.

Lockwood: Oh really? Why’s that? [Pauses] Well actually, I kinda know why. Y’all are after Katarov and his men, eh?

Daisuke: We got a lead on them.

Lockwood: They came to Japan?

Daisuke: They did.

Lockwood: Why?

Daisuke: Oh man, did Karina really give you no info? Shit man, I’m sorry.

Lockwood: Oh, don’t sweat it, I told her to send me whatever she could, so she only sent me that y’all are going after these guys and that it was you two that were coming. [Pauses] But yeah, why’d they wanna show up in Japan of all places?

Daisuke: Well, they had a human trafficking deal set up. The girl was Miss Seoul sometime back, and I guess she looked like easy pickings for them.

Lockwood: Really? That’s it? [Pauses] Nah man, there has to be more to it.

Hachiro [Interjects]: Well, methinks they might want someone who’s related to this girl… either that or they just wanted to see how far they could get on our soil without pissing us off.

[The elevator opens, and the four, in addition to three bodyguards, walk inside]

Lockwood: Well, for the latter I’d say they didn’t get far. [Laughs] For the former, I wouldn’t doubt that to be fair, that seems to be an ideal reason to specifically target someone. They aren’t morons, they know y’all exist – hell, if I know that you guys exist all the way from England, you bet your ass they know too.

Hachiro: Yeah, but still, who the hell could be worth all that time and effort? It can’t be her, right? She’s way too young.

Lockwood: You got a name?

Hachiro: Ashe. Ashe Yoshino.

Lockwood: Yoshino… Yoshino… Yoshino. Fuck, that seems familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. Even then, that’s probably a pretty common surname, no? Like searching for a needle in a haystack then.

Hachiro: We sorta narrowed it down, and we found out she’s half Scandinavian. Not sure from which side though, but we have that… she’s also one hell of a beauty, if that helps.

Lockwood: Hmmm. That makes things a bit more intriguing then eh? If she was fully Japanese, then if there was a linkage to Europe, it would be through her family’s travels to this side of the world, not through their previous living here. Hmph.

[The elevator door opens]

Hachiro: What odds would ya give me for it being more than just a general trafficking?

Lockwood: Oh, you wanna play odds eh? You know us Brits.

Hachiro: Well, I’ve heard y’all use it pretty often.

Lockwood: Yeah, we do. [Chuckles] I’d say the odds should be 70/30 that there’s some bullshit behind them choosing her. They’ve got something brewing I’d say.

Hachiro: Friggin hell, haha. More shit that we need to know before we fly out then, eh?

Lockwood: Well, not necessarily.

Hachiro: Eh?

Lockwood: It’s not like that’s make or break for you going there, right? You’re gonna be going there regardless because they infringed on your turf.

Hachiro: True.

Lockwood: Whatever the reason, even if there is some shit brewing behind closed doors – who cares? At the end of the day, you just need to stomp out the fucker at the top for what he’s done. Who cares what their reasons were?

Daisuke: I take it you don’t like them either eh? [Chuckles]

Lockwood: Y’know, I wished we could’ve gotten off on better terms, but they’re so aggressive with everything they do. All they want is land control and territory man. It’s so annoying. And they’re so mainstream in the Baltics that it isn’t even like us.

Daisuke: Oh man, you’re like us in that case?

Lockwood: Yeah. We’re pretty under wraps.

Daisuke: Really eh

Lockwood: Yeah man. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if England had harsher restrictions on shit like this than Japan.

Daisuke: Really, eh?

Lockwood: That’s how it’s been. I’m pretty sure we’re known of by the authorities and the people in higher positions, but they appreciate what we do – for the most part.

Hachiro: So, they leave you be?

Lockwood: Well, if we don’t create too much of an uproar or bring forth chaos, yeah.

Hachiro: And if you do?

Lockwood: They’ll probably send the military to wipe us out.

Daisuke: Damn really?

Lockwood: That would be my first guess. They’re really cautious of situations like the one that happened in the Baltics, so they don’t want that to happen again. That’s why we have a certain amount of leverage on what we can do, and why they don’t shut us down completely.

Daisuke: So, in order to have your own freedom and autonomy, you’re basically just forced to operate in the darkness.

Lockwood: Yup. No trace of us should be known to the general public or make it onto the front covers of headlines or whatever. And if we start an uprising, heaven help us.

Daisuke: Yeah, it’s similar for us out in Japan, right Nats?

[He looks to Natsumi, who appears to be thinking to herself]

Daisuke: Natsumi? You good?

Natsumi [Stops zoning out]: Oh yeah, what’s up?

Daisuke: You good? Thinking of something?

Natsumi: Oh no, I just had my mind on something and didn’t wanna forget it and get caught up in your conversation.

Lockwood: Is it something you need help on?

Natsumi: Well, technically yes, but it isn’t the negotiations that we’d be having. That’s something different entirely. This is just something that we had been reminded of that I suddenly remembered and couldn’t afford to forget.

Lockwood: Ah okay, what is it?

Natsumi: It’s about someone’s family – we were told to give them special protection.

Hachiro [To Natsumi]: Huh?

Daisuke [Realizes]: Oh shit, oh shit, yeah, the Russian guy’s family, eh?

Natsumi: Yeah.

Hachiro: Huh? When was this?

Natsumi: Remember when they called Karina from Seoul telling us that they secured Ashe?

Hachiro: Yeah, yeah, and they told you two to hop on the first flight out.

Natsumi: Yeah, they added that we had to help out a family there. It was that Russian lackey’s family, wasn’t it?

Hachiro [Clues on]: OH YEAH! I completely forgot, good thing you remembered.

Lockwood: What’s going on?

Natsumi: So basically, we got a family that needs protective custody in the Baltic states. This ain’t even part of the negotiation, but we’d really just be looking for two, hell, even one competent enough soldier who could help us out with that.

Lockwood: Who’s it for?

Natsumi [Pulls out a piece of paper]: The family of Serge von Mikolev.

Lockwood: A Russian guy, eh?

Natsumi: He’s the Russian guy that we found in Seoul.

Lockwood: One of the guys behind the whole heist?

Natsumi: Nah, just another one of the lackeys. Nothing too special, but a guy who couldn’t really live with himself because they’d probably kill him if he returned empty handed to em.

Lockwood: So, your guys killed him?

Natsumi: That’s what we were told, and that's what probably happened, yeah. He probably wanted to have his family protected at least, so we thought it was the least we could do.

Lockwood: Ah, pretty heartfelt.

Natsumi: We like to think of ourselves like that. Maybe we don’t do the greatest jobs, and sure we kill people every once in a while, but we like to think we have a sense of justice. Right?

Hachiro [Nods]: Yeah. It’s what keeps us going. Especially our main guy, Shin.

Lockwood: Ah, Shin… Taiki, I’d presume?

Hachiro: Yeah. You heard of him?

Lockwood: I’ll tell ya more when we sit down and get down to negotiations, but I know a lot of his brother, the ‘Hellhound’, Ichigo Taiki.

Hachiro [Nods his head]: Yup.

Lockwood: Anyway, I’ll tell you more about him later. [Pauses] Then again, you guys probably know more about him than I do. [Shrugs] Anyway, whatever. Let me get to this case of yours with this Mikolev guy’s family.

[He pops his head into one of the offices, and signals with his hand towards a 30 or so year-old man who’s sitting in front of his P.C]

Lockwood: Ah, this is perfect.

[The man walks out of the office towards Lockwood and the other three]

Lockwood: Roy, these are our guests – they had a small request which I think you can fulfill.

Roy [To the three]: Pleasure to meet you. What’s up?

Lockwood: They were looking to send one of our men on a sort-of taskforce type of job, if you know what I’m getting at?

Roy: Like a custody type of thing?

Lockwood: Yeah, yeah. You can find someone?

Roy: Probably. Got a bunch of guys on standby, so I can get one of them to travel if I give them a bit of an incentive. You got a little bit?

Lockwood: Yeah, I’ll pay the difference, no stress.

[He signals to the three that they’re fine, the payment will be made on his behalf]

Roy: Where are we heading?

Lockwood: Russia.

Roy: Russia, eh? [Gasps] Wow. Alright, yeah. I’ll get my guys ready.

Lockwood: How many you gonna send?

Roy: Just one for the stationing, but me and like two others will probably go just for safety reasons, for the first few days.

Lockwood: Yeah, that’s fine with me. I’ll head off with these guys, alright?

Roy: Yeah, that’s about all I’ll need. I’ll get my guys stationed as soon as possible.

Lockwood: Drinks on you when ya get back?

Roy: Aw man, you doing the newbie like that eh?

Lockwood: New? Ha! You’ve been here for too long, actually!

Roy: Still! [Laughs] Whatever man, I’ll catch you alright? [To the other three] You three, stay safe and best wishes!

[The three wave in a friendly manner to Roy, who hops back into his office, as they continue to walk with Lockwood]

Lockwood [To the three]: That’s Roy. New-ish guy. Not really, but he’s one of the newer ones that we’ve gotten, since people don’t always drop by a place like this. [Laughs]

Natsumi: He’s from around these parts?

Lockwood: Moved from France, hence the name. Lived a little south of Paris, but couldn’t get much work here in London, so I met him at a bar when I was with a couple of the other guys from here, and he seemed to be smart, so we offered him a job, which he took.

Natsumi: Ehhh? But doesn’t that go against the policies you have with the Government and all that? Doesn’t it?

Lockwood: Well yes and no – yes, in that we are communicating with the public, but no, in the sense that they don’t know our every single move, and they can’t technically stop us from doing these little things. They want balance, and we make sure any moves we make with hiring people or bringing guys in is done in a discrete and smart manner.

Natsumi: Ah, okay, gotcha.

Hachiro: He any good? Despite being so new?

Lockwood: Oh Roy? He’s great. Maybe it’s cause he’s a little older, or maybe cause he’s French, who knows, but he gets everything so easily. Maybe he worked in these parts in another life.

Hachiro: What does he even do though?

Lockwood: Oh, he’s just one of the guys who takes international jobs – thought it’d be pretty useful to have him out there considering he’s an international guy himself. Plus, most of our international shit is in Europe anyway.

Hachiro: Y’all gone to the Baltics before? Or nah?

Lockwood: A couple times, yeah. But nothing too seismic in terms of conflict. I personally haven’t been out there, or even to Russia. [Pauses] But that’s what you’re here to talk to me about eh?

[Daisuke nods at Natsumi]

Natsumi: Yeah.

Lockwood: That’s perfect. My office is just down the hall, we can have a nice discussion about this in there rather than just standing around.

Natsumi: Sounds good to me.

[The three walk to the end of the hall, where two large doors stand closed. Lockwood enters a passcode on the right side, which is followed by an eye-scan, and the doors open]

Daisuke: Pretty fancy, eh?

Lockwood: Eh, the security’s about what you’d expect – the doors though, yeah, imported African lumber. Cost me quite a bit to get em, but I think they look nice.

Daisuke: They do fit well with the design of the rest of the place, yeah.

Lockwood: And hell, what am I gonna do with a lot of the money I get anyway – better to spend it on stuff after all, am I right?

[He walks across the room, which has a large meeting table, and sits at the far end, hitting a button which automatically opens a drawer, presenting his personal laptop, as well as two alcoholic beverages. He signals for the other three to sit across from him]

Lockwood: So… where can we begin? [Pauses] First off actually – what do you need?

Natsumi: Well, we’re looking for some assets and some people.

Lockwood: Talk to me.

Natsumi: Well firstly, we didn’t bring any weapons or anything of the sort into the country to avoid hassles, especially since we’re flying long-haul. I don’t know about the rest of our guys who are gonna show up here, but I’m flying under the assumption they’re gonna show up with nothing.

Hachiro [Interjects]: Mind you, I still have my sniper rifle.

[He drops his knapsack to the ground and pulls out a long rifle]

Lockwood: Oh man, this thing’s nice. Yours?

Hachiro: Yeah man.

Lockwood: How’d you bring it?

Hachiro: Smuggled it in through the suitcase which has a saxophone in it.

Lockwood: You brought a sax?

Hachiro: It’s to cover up for the rifle. They don’t ever check that shit so I normally get by, even on long-hauls.

Lockwood: I’m surprised, normally long hauls don’t allow that kind of shit.

Hachiro: I was too, but hey, I’d take it you know?

Lockwood: Yeah, for sure. [Turns to Natsumi] So, what’re you looking at?

Natsumi: Well, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at the weapons y’all have, but we’ll take whatever’s available so long as it fits our needs. We probably don’t need all that much for our guys though, since there aren’t too many of them.

Lockwood: Well, I could certainly provide you with some stuff – I got stun guns, got a couple of older swords that y’all may be interested in.

Natsumi: Any rifles?

Lockwood: Snipers?

Natsumi: Nah, he’s our sniper, we’re covered on that front.

Lockwood: Well, I probably do have AR’s and the sort, but I’m kinda hesitant in lending that kind of stuff out, you know?

Natsumi: Oh, don’t think we’re taking anything from you for free. We’re willing to pay upfront for your services on the weapons, no questions asked.

Lockwood: Really, eh?

Natsumi: Of course. At the end of the day, we’re both businesses and we’re striving towards different goals – it’s just that we have some common ground in stomping out these Baltic guys.

Lockwood: That’s true. Still, I was willing to lend you some of this stuff without questions asked.

Hachiro [Thinking]: Huh? Really? Did Nats get stifled?

Natsumi: Oh, not to worry on that front. We’ll pay market value for everything that we borrow and use, but in that case, would we be able to upgrade to using shit like the ARs and whatnot?

Lockwood: See, the thing is, I just don’t feel comfortable lending that kind of stuff out to anyone. Now I get it – you guys are people trying to forge an alliance here, so it’d make sense to get off on the right foot by making deals like this. It’s just that… I don’t know. With all the restrictions by the Government, I don’t like dealing this kind of stuff to people outside of our own organization. Like I told you, we have our own autonomy, and are allowed to work freely in the shadows – but only in the shadows. Take a step into the light and those government goons will kill you, and then come for us – especially if you’ve got weapons that were given specifically to us.

Natsumi: No, no, I totally get the anxiety in doing something like this. Trust, we got the same type of situation in Japan. It’s a little more lenient, but we’re the darkness to the Government’s light. We keep law and order, but we don’t move and infringe on their jobs. [Pauses] That’s why though, it’d be important for us also to get some of your men too, isn’t it?

Lockwood: Yeah. That’s with regards to the guys that you want for that Mikolev case, isn’t it?

Natsumi: Those guys, yes, but we were also interested in potentially bringing in guys who could be of use to us when we go to Petersburg to see Katarov.

Lockwood: Oh… you’re interested in people to come with y’all then eh?

Natsumi: Yeah.

Lockwood: How many you thinking?

Natsumi: How many do you think you’d offer?

Lockwood: See, I don’t know if I’d even offer anyone for a skirmish like this, y’know?

Natsumi: Really?

Lockwood: Yeah. Sure, a lot of guys are lackeys, but I don’t want guy’s dying who don’t have to, right? And for sure these guys are gonna be your vanguard, eh?

Natsumi: Well, I won’t sugarcoat anything for ya, so yeah, a lot of them may be up in front, or at least supporting us in anyway they can. More or less, our utmost importance would be to protect our two main leaders, Taiki and Yuki.

Lockwood: Good on ya for not sugarcoating, but see, that’s where you lose me. I just don’t know if I can do that.

Natsumi: Right now, how many men do you employ?

Lockwood: Right now? In terms of just solo manpower, we’re big. If we’re talking these lackeys, I probably have at least 1000 or so that have signed up over the few years that we’ve started. Not that I know any of them personally that is.

Hachiro [Interjects]: One whole thousand?

Lockwood: Is that a shocker?

Natsumi: Well, kinda.

Lockwood: How much do you guys have?

Natsumi: Us? In terms of our elite force – that is, the people who we work with constantly on a day-to-day basis and who know the ins-and-outs of everything, we have like 10 people? [She counts on her hand] Yeah, ten. Apart from them, we’ve gathered maybe 100, 150 or so odd people to work with us and to be a part of things for rewards and money. They’re what we’d call lackeys as well.

Lockwood: They loyal?

Natsumi: 50/50 – actually, maybe 60/40. Some come back and enjoy working under us in these types of jobs, some don’t and leave after they get their reward.

Lockwood: What do you do if they leave?

Natsumi: What do we do? Normally leave em, I guess. If they’re too much of a nuisance, we’ll eventually just eliminate em, but that rarely ever happens. Honestly, I think it’s only happened twice, once cause the guy tried to kill Shin, and the other time cause the guy tried to leak information to third-party sources from other countries.

Lockwood: Y’all really have everything on lock, eh?

Natsumi: We do, we do. But we’re a much smaller group compared to your 1000. So really, if we were asking for a portion of your group to come work with us, I’d probably only ask for 50 men.

Lockwood: Fifty, eh?

Natsumi: Frankly speaking, 50 men isn’t too much of an ask considering the numbers that you guys have, right?

Lockwood: Yes, but…

Natsumi: You’ve gotta factor the importance of doing something like this as well for your side.

Lockwood [Confused]: Whad’ya mean?

Natsumi: Well, you’d obviously get the benefit of the partnership with us.

Lockwood: That’s a given though, right? And besides, in terms of numbers itself, we essentially outnumber y’all 10:1.

Natsumi: I can’t argue on numbers like that for sure, but you do understand the benefit of having a long-lasting partnership with us, right?

Lockwood: I mean, that means that we’d be able to secure the entire east coast in Japan and Korea, right?

Natsumi: Oh, we’re much beyond that.

Lockwood: Really?

Natsumi: We run much of the port cities in China, including Shanghai and Xiamen, so we can trade with almost anyone. We also have a hub in Singapore that we’ve gotten quite recently, as well as central focuses on groups in Thailand. More importantly though, we’ve established some sound connections with guys in Sydney and Auckland down south.

Lockwood [Stunned]: You guys know the Aussies? Really?

Natsumi: We do. We’re close with the head of Highwater down in Sydney, and they’re pretty useful for reasons that you’ve probably already clued onto…

Lockwood: They can get into and out of South America no problem with all their stuff, eh?

Natsumi: Bingo. Australia has relaxed security anyway, so whenever we’re trying to make deals for stuff out of South America, we’re using their routes. You guys can’t do the same for getting stuff into England, can ya?

Lockwood: I told ya our situation with the feds already, but you know that they’re thoroughly inspecting shit that we’re bringing from Brazil or Argentina way more than they would be for shit from Japan or Dubai.

Natsumi: So yeah – that’s a benefit that y’all will have with us. Don’t worry though, we’re here to make peace regardless of your answer, so we won’t shun you guys away at all over this. I just wanted to let you know one of the main pros of doing stuff with us.

Lockwood: How would the movement of shit work though? Would it be through you guys?

Natsumi: Ever since we partnered up with them, we’ve got anything we need – whether its weapons, munitions, whatever – through them, and they do all the work to get the stuff into Sydney. From there, we just move the stuff from Sydney to Tokyo through a private airport and we’re good to go. For you guys, I’d think that you guys can get stuff from us for market value, and we’ll process everything that you want into Tokyo, then either we send one of our guys to y’all here in England and deliver it, or you guys have one of your guys come and get it. The money transactions and paperwork are all pretty light if you guys just write us a cheque at the beginning of the year.

Lockwood: I see, I see. To be honest, I’ll probably be able to get someone from the international comms to go and pick it up, but I do like the sounds of things. How long have y’all had the relationship with Highwater?

Natsumi: Not too long – when was it again Hachiro?

Hachiro: When me, Yukes and the others went to Sydney. I don’t remember the date though, but it wasn’t too far back.

Natsumi [To Lockwood]: Yeah, it wasn’t too far back. We’re on good terms with them now though, and they’d definitely be open to allying with a strong enough group from Western Europe.

Lockwood: I understand that, but I’m still not overly thrilled with wanting to send that many of my men, even if I have so many. How does 20 of them sound? If it meant getting into an alliance like such, I’d be willing to chalk up that much.

Natsumi: Mmmm, I like where you’re going, but 20 still seems low. We were thinking fifty on the low end, after all.

Lockwood: Fifty on the low end? Really? You don’t think you can go any lower?

Natsumi: Just based off our own discussions, that was the number that we felt was right at least. Maybe five lower could be done, but even then, I don’t know. Fifty seemed ideal.

Lockwood: Oh man, I don’t know about this one. I like the offers and I like what you guys are talking about, but I just don’t know.

Natsumi [Smiles]: Well sir… [Hachiro and Daisuke look at each other and nod] Let me explain to you what you’d be getting out of this type of deal…