Chapter 19:

Calm Before The Storm

The Forbidden and the Gifted

[7:21 a.m., August 9th 2048, St. Petersburg, Russia. Shin, Yuki, Martial, Drift, Karina, Ashe and Kohaku step down from a black SUV towards a large, regularly shaped building at an abandoned street corner – the Sun still hasn’t risen, and the area is still rather dark. Shin and Yuki lead the way, with Drift and Karina patrolling from the back]

Yuki: Rina, this isn’t the place, is it?

Karina: No, next street over. But it should have the same look as this building.

Yuki: Alright – Nats has the go-ahead to go whenever then, right?

Karina: Yup. Whenever the siren goes, we’ll know. Her and Elec should’ve already met the rest of those English guys, and she should be meeting back with us soon enough.

Shin [To Kohaku]: You know the plan, right?

Kohaku: Just gotta hop through the side window with Nats and open the side-door, right?

Shin: More-or-less, yeah. Just make sure you ain’t stepping anywhere without Nats seeing to it first, alright? We don’t want anything to happen to ya.

Kohaku: What could even happen?

Martial [To Kohaku]: Oh, come on, don’t make us look stupid.

Kohaku: What?

Martial: There’s probably traps everywhere – even if people don’t come rushing you down, you don’t wanna be taken down by some weirdo’s contraption, now do you?

Kohaku: Oh no, I really don’t.

Martial: Exactly, so then just follow Natsumi’s lead, alright?

Kohaku: Okay, I’ll try.

Drift [Looks to them both]: Don’t worry, there shouldn’t be too much bullshit in the way. You should be able to get in and out pretty safely, I’d say. And Nats has been through stuff like this before, so you’re in good hands.

Kohaku: Thank you so much! Y’all really care a ton!

Drift: That’s just who we are, really. We get it from our guy at the top, eh Shin?

Shin [Looks behind him]: Eh Drift? You say something?

Drift: Nah, carry on mate.

Kohaku: He’s really a good guy, eh?

Drift: As much as the girls joke about him being a sadist – which in part, he may be – he does care a lot about the people around him. Everyone who’s apart of Eastern, he really values, even if he doesn’t show it. Even the one guy who left, who was part of our main squadron – my best mate – he still cares about him too.

Martial: Y’all really are the sappy bunch eh? Even though y’all are cutthroat killers by night? [Laughs]

Drift: He is, that’s for sure. I can’t speak for the rest of us though.

Martial [Chuckles]: Ah, I see, I see.

[Natsumi and Daisuke approach and wave down the group, before meeting on the next road over]

Shin: Y’all got everything done on your side?

Daisuke: Yeah.

Shin: Met the English guy’s leader?

Daisuke: Yeah – guy was laid-back, all things considered. Didn’t seem like a total moron – unlike a certain someone [He whacks Natsumi on the head].

Natsumi: Eh? What was that for?

Daisuke [Ignores her]: Anyway, I told Elec he could give the signal whenever he wanted. He said he’d wait a little bit since he figured that y’all wouldn’t be too close, and he was right.

Shin: Where’s the place then?

Daisuke: From behind us – end of the road. It looks like a dead-end with an abandoned building, but that’s where the address is.

Shin [To Karina]: Oi Rina!

Karina: What?

Shin: You got us dropped off a bit far from the place, didn’t ya?

Karina: Well of course we did, we’re the back-entry group after all. We can’t just be dropping ourselves on their front porch asking for a cup of tea, now, can we?

Shin: Fair, but this far? Dais said it’s at the end of the street!

Daisuke: Well, the end of the street ain’t too far, to be fair.

Shin: Really?

Karina: Look ahead of you, you moron. [To Yuki] Look, it’s the same type of building.

Yuki [She looks straight ahead to see a larger, abandoned building at the end of the street]: Oh shit yeah, no way. That must be it, yeah?

Daisuke: Yeah, that’s it.

Ashe [To Drift]: Uhm… why does the place look so badly kept?

Drift: Well, as much as it stands out on the outside, it looks abandoned, so no one would really give a second thought about it. The inside of it though, especially the basement levels, are probably more high-tech than anything you’ve ever seen.

Ashe: Really?

Drift: Oh for sure. That’s the norm for places like this. Upstairs looks like it’s straight out of a horror movie, downstairs looks like it’s straight out of a damn spy film or some shit.

Ashe: Wowza. But still, won’t a place that’s this down and decrepit eventually catch the public eye?

Drift: Well, yes, but you gotta remember that even though Russia ain’t the Baltics and this isn’t technically Katarov’s territory, they’re funded pretty publicly by the Russians. Technically speaking, they could get as outlandish as they wanted without facing backlash from the government or any state officials because, well, they’ve got em right in their back pockets.

Ashe: Wait then, why have such a shitty place?

Drift: Well, there’s always foreign threats, right? Like us. Even if you track ‘em down to this city, you wouldn’t think its an old building at the end of the road in the middle of the city, right?

Ashe: Fair point, yeah. You guys got a place like this in Japan?

Drift: It’s somewhat similar in functionality, yeah. Except, we aren’t technically a ‘legal’ organization there – haha. But we make do.

Shin [To Drift]: Oi Drift!

Drift [Turns his head]: Yo, what’s up?

Shin: You ready mate?

Drift: Yeah. We the – oh shit, yeah we are here already, what the fuck? That felt a lot closer than it should have been.

Shin [To Natsumi and Kohaku]: You two should be get in the front just in case, we need to move as quickly as possible.

Natsumi: Gotcha boss.

Shin [To Daisuke]: Yo, you got the weapons?

Daisuke: Oh yeah, right, right. I don’t have one for everyone, but Rina, Nats, Shin and, I guess Martial can have one? Yukes, you don’t need one, right? [He grabs them from his knapsack and hands them to each of them four]

Yuki: Nah, I’m good. Don’t really have good aim – besides, I prefer a good ol’ fistfight.

Daisuke: You may not get that, y’know?

Yuki: Oh, I’ll make sure I get that, mark my words.

Daisuke [Shrugs]: Whatever ya say. I’m not gonna be one to go against what you think.

Natsumi [Looks at Daisuke]: Where’s your shotty?

Daisuke: It’s in the bag. Don’t worry, you’ll see it when we get inside – don’t be in such a rush.

Natsumi: Fine, fine.

Daisuke [Grabs a switchblade and throws it to Ashe]: Yo, take this!

Ashe: Oh shit, for me?

Daisuke: Yeah. I know the other girls got this bozo to accompany her, so she’ll be okay, but you’ll probably need something to hold onto to keep yourself safe. I didn’t wanna give a loaded gun to someone who’s never had one, so I guess you’ll have to settle for that. Just try and stick with the rest of us, alright?

Ashe: Yea, sounds good!

Shin [Looks back at everyone]: So, everyone knows what their role is once we get in?

Karina: Yup!

Yuki: I’m good!

Shin [To Martial]: Yo, bud.

Martial: What’s up, captain?

Shin: You confident with a gun, eh?

Martial: I’ve used em a little before. I’d say I know how they work though. Just load ‘em up and fire away, right? No rules here, we’re on international soil anyway.

Shin: Yeah, I’m fine with that man. You’re our ace here though, alright? They could’ve known that we’d meet up with Sybil in England, and they could’ve known that we’d come all the way here. But there ain’t no damn way they’d know about you. So you and your sis, we’re counting on you guys, alright? You more than anything, in fact.

Martial: Listen man… I’m just an informant here for the thrill of it. I’ll do whatever the hell I can, that’s for sure. I just wanna have some fun and load some bodies with bullets, that’s it.

Shin: You sound motivated…

Martial: Just a little excited, that’s all. Being an informant’s lame, that’s all. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, y’know? Shit gets the blood pumping through your damn veins. Shit’s crazy. S

Shin: Hell mate, I’m all for it if it gets you riled up like that. Make sure ya came out alive though, alright?

Martial: Oh don’t worry. I may be crazy, but I’ll make sure to come out of this in one piece.

Shin [Turns to the rest]: Alright. As the leader here, lemme just start by saying – I expect you all to come out of here alive. I don’t wanna see none of you dead on the ground. Anything’s better than that. Anything. Alright?

Drift [To Ashe]: See? Told ya he’s a softie.

Ashe [Laughs]: He is.

Shin [To Drift]: I can hear ya, ya old, injured fart.

Drift: My bad, my bad, go on, go on.

Shin: Anyways… Nats and Ko are in charge of getting us in, but once we’re in, we’ll stick together, as we descend. If we split up, split down the middle, with the front half coming with me, Yukes and Dais, and the back half going with Rina and Drift. More than likely, they’ll have guards on the first floor down that we’ll have to take down, and then we’ll either find Katarov’s room, or we’ll have to go down another flight or two to find him. Regardless, by then, we should be backed up by our reinforcements from England, so we should be good then. [Pauses] Remember though, we don’t know shit about the building’s actual layout in the lower levels. These are all just guesses based on the blueprint for the original model – who knows what reno’s have been done or whatnot. Still, I think we’ll be alright. We haven’t come all this way for nothing, have we?

Yuki: No, we haven’t. We haven’t got this close for us to let him off here, have we?

Shin: We haven’t.

Drift [To Shin]: You want first crack at the big fella eh?

Shin: Yeah man. I know it’s probably not the smartest plan, and not the one Dais would draw up [Daisuke shrugs his shoulders], but I want a piece of him. No matter what.

Drift: That’s all you man.

Martial [Laughs]: You’ve got the same energy as me then, eh?

Shin: I have a reason to kill this moron though.

Martial [Chuckles]: Fair, fair. Still, I like seeing that energy exuded from anyone. Makes me feel a little less crazy.

Shin [Laughs]: I guess we’re all a little crazy though.

Martial: Guess so.

[A siren sounds from nearby, and Karina peaks her head around the corner, and sees the front entrance being bombarded, as the Sun slowly starts to peak itself up]

Karina: I guess that’s gonna be our go-ahead then.

Shin: Oh, hell yeah, it is. Let’s fucking go guys!

[The group runs towards the side, while gunshots, screams and sirens blast from the front entrance. Yuki catches a glimpse of Hachiro, sitting far in the back with his sniper rifle, and sticks a thumbs up to him, which he responds to by saluting to her. The group then makes it to the side window, and Drift picks up a large brick with his metallic hand and smashes the window in, breaking the glass and triggering another alarm]

Kohaku [To Natsumi]: You going first?

Natsumi: Yeah baby! [She jumps through the broken window and stretches out her hand to help Kohaku get through] Grab my hand!

Kohaku [She grabs Natsumi’s hand]: Okay, I gotcha!

[The two fall through the window, into a small, dark room, which lights up as Natsumi first stands up. The noise from the outside can be heard, as can a loud humming noise, which can be assumed to be a generator]

Natsumi [To Kohaku]: You alright?

Kohaku: Yeah, I’m fine. How about you?

Natsumi: Yeah, nothing’s hurt here. [She looks at the door] Now, for this…

[She approaches the door and sees that it is off of its hinges, so she signals a go-ahead to Kohaku]

Natsumi: This doors unlocked, we can get outta here!

[She opens the door, and the noise becomes louder, but only from their left. Both of them turn right in the hallway, towards the side entrance door]

Kohaku: So, the outside door should be locked then, right? It can’t be this easy, right?

Natsumi: That’s what I’d think. Your brother been in any situations like this before?

Kohaku: Oh, probably, but he’d never tell me, that –

Natsumi [Grabs her and pushes her to the side]: Watch out!

[Kohaku falls to the side, as three large spikes fall straight down from the ceiling, landing right between the two, before contracting back to the ceiling]

Kohaku: Holy!

Natsumi: You okay?

Kohaku [Gets up]: Yeah, I’m totally fine. Nothing even hit me.

Natsumi [Walks towards her]: That’s good then. That’s what we meant by traps and shit though, there’s always garbage like that hiding in these kinds of places. Scummy shit, but no ones ever here to play by the rules.

Kohaku: How’d you even see it though?

Natsumi: Ceiling was uneven there, and there only. As much as you normally hate to guess the worst, in situations like these, it’s the only choice you have.

Kohaku: No wonder you guys are experts at this stuff… impressive really. No wonder Maki’s so interested in you guys and this kind of lifestyle.

Natsumi: He is? Really? He seems like a pretty smart guy himself.

Kohaku: He’s more of the wild one in the family, even counting all of our cousins. He’s always the one who wants a thrill and he’s always mentioned that he’s wanted to meet y’all, since y’all are always doing this type of crazy stuff. He’s a bit crazy for sure, but I’m okay with that, since I’m a lot more on the docile side.

Natsumi [Laughs]: Y’know, you can never be docile in this type of life. It’ll only get you killed, whether it’s mentally or physically. Don’t worry though, when this is all over, you can go back home with your bro.

Kohaku [Smiles]: I know, I know. Anything to protect him really – that’s the reason I’m out here right now. [They both laugh, and approach the side door, which is locked from the inside. Kohaku tugs on it, but to no avail] Ah shoot, it’s locked.

Natsumi: Dang. Think we could bust it open?

Kohaku: Like with a hammer or something?

Natsumi: Yeah.

Kohaku: It looks pretty fragile, so we might be able to. You have something to use though?

Natsumi: Oh, no. I thought you might.

Kohaku: Oh, I don’t have anything either, no. I didn’t carry anything with me.

Natsumi: Shit. Well, I could search around…

Kohaku: I doubt they’d have a hammer around here though, right?

Natsumi: You never know…

Kohaku: True, but still… [Pauses] Wait, Nats, is that a live wire over there? [She points to a stretch of cable running adjacent to the wall]

Natsumi [Walks over to it and looks at it]: Huh? This?

Kohaku: Yeah. Is it live?

Natsumi [Picks it up]: Oh no, it’s not connected to anything.

Kohaku: Oh sweet, really?

Natsumi [Confused]: Yeah… wait, why do we care? We know the electricity is running in this place anyway, so one dead wire –

Kohaku: No, no, I don’t mean it like that.

Natsumi: Huh? Then…

Kohaku: You think you could rip me a piece of it if its dead?

Natsumi [Confused, still]: Huh? I mean, okay…

[She rips the wire, then hands it to Kohaku, still confused]

Kohaku: Perfect.

Natsumi: Huh?

Kohaku: Wait, you still don’t know what I’m doing?

Natsumi: No… shouldn’t we be looking for a hammer or something like that?

Kohaku: No, no! I used to be able to pick locks all the time! It’s the one random skill I had while growing up – all I ever needed was a thin enough piece of wire like this and I’d be good!

Natsumi: Oh, what the hell, actually?

Kohaku: Yeah! [She begins to insert the wire into the lock, as Natsumi watches]

Natsumi: Oh, what the?

Kohaku: What happened now?

Natsumi: I thought the lock was a heavy-duty style one, like electronic with a passcode or whatever.

Kohaku: Oh no, it’s just this old-fashioned one.

Natsumi: Weird, eh?

Kohaku: Really?

Natsumi: I mean, kinda right? This is supposed to be their base of operations, and their side doors are locked using regular old latch-pad locks?

Kohaku: Hey, I mean, latch-pad locks are cool in their own right too! And I think it’s probably more heavily secured outside than it is inside. They probably haven’t really spoofed up the inside of this run-down building, right?

Natsumi: True, true. Plus, there’s no real need to have locks on the inside at all, right? Having the stuff locked from the outside is good enough.

[The pick works, and the lock opens]

Kohaku: Ah, it worked!

Natsumi: Shit, that was the quickest lockpick I’ve seen in my life. Sheesh.

[Natsumi tosses the lock aside and opens the side door, but sees no one standing outside]

Natsumi: Huh? They didn’t come here?

Kohaku: We went the right way, didn’t we?

Natsumi: Yeah, we did – this was the way that was outlined on the plan and blueprint that we got from Takuya. They should be here… right?

Kohaku: Maybe they went to a different side entrance?

Natsumi: Maybe, but why? They’ve got both Dais and Rina with em. They should be –

Shin [Pops up from around the corner]: Yo! You guys done already?

Kohaku [To Natsumi]: Look!

Natsumi: Oh, there they are.

[The group runs towards Natusmi and Kohaku]

Yuki: You two okay?

Kohaku: Yeah, we’re alright!

Natsumi [To Yuki]: Where were you guys?

Yuki: Huh? Whadya mean?

[The group walks through the door, and follows the same hallway that Natsumi and Kohaku had walked through, with Natsumi leading to make sure of traps]

Natsumi: Why were you guys hiding at the corner of the building? Why not just be right here?

Yuki: Oh, well, there was obviously some form of backlash from authorities and whatnot ever since the gunfire started at the main entrance – so we just hid to make sure that we weren’t in plain sight of no cops.

Natsumi: The cops showed up? Really?

Yuki: I mean, these guys got them in their pockets, no?

Natsumi: Yeah, that’s fair, they kinda do.

Karina [Interjects]: There wasn’t a heavy amount of them though – they did show up, but not in droves like I thought they would.

Yuki: Wait, really?

Karina: Yeah. I counted like seven or so cars… much less than what I’d expect. Maybe they didn’t expect our assault to be as big as this?

Yuki: I doubt it. We’re talking about Katarov after all.

Karina: True, but still – it feels off.

Yuki: Maybe Kat doesn’t want police intervention?

Karina: What, you mean to say he knows that we’re here with these types of numbers after all?

Yuki: Honestly, I doubt he knows about our numbers with who we’ve got from England, but I also don’t think he’s stupid enough to call in any less cops or backup than he actually needs.

Shin [Interjects]: Yukes is right – the bastard’s cunning, and what’s worse, he’s resourceful as shit. He’s cocky sure, but if he thought he’d need more backup, he’d have called for more backup. There’s a reason there’s only seven or so cars.

Karina [To Yuki]: Then what’s the theory then?

Yuki: Oh, a theory? I don’t really have one. [She looks around] Dais, you wanna shoot?

Daisuke [Looks up, confused]: Eh? What?

Yuki: Never mind, forget it. We’ll cross that bridge when we have –

Martial [Interjects]: If it were me at least – I’d think he’s brought backup for whatever extra troops we’d be bring. He had to have known we were coming – at least the ten or so of us, and probably took bets that we’d have some form of backup, although probably not to the extent we got, but still, he definitely knew we’d get something or the other out of that bastard – what was his name again?

Yuki: Who, the English guy?

Martial: Yeah, him.

Yuki: Nats, what was it?

Natsumi: Lockwood.

Martial: Yeah, yeah, him. He probably knew that we’d get some reinforcements from him and planned accordingly. An alarm trigger probably automatically called upon a standard number of cops – say seven, like Karina called – but he can just as easily ring more up if he’s holed up downstairs and was threatened by our numbers.

Yuki: Wait, wait, are you insinuating that this place is a farce? That this is a decoy in and of itself?

Martial: That’s one possible scenario for sure. As I said, if he’s holed up downstairs, don’t you think he’d be more frightened of our numbers? His predictions likely predicted that we’d bring reinforcements, but not forty-five armed British soldiers, right?

Karina [Confused]: Wait, so you’re agreeing with me then? That we surprised him with our numbers?

Martial: Well, not quite. What I’m saying is, he wants us to think that he’s predicted wrong.

Shin [Confused]: Wait, hold it. I’m still not following. What the hell are ya talking about?

Martial: He wants us to think that he’s predicted wrong, and then for us to doubt that same theory, because we know it’s Katarov and we know how smart he is and whatever, and that there’s no way he actually could’ve predicted wrong – just like how Yuki was saying.

Yuki: Wait, wait, what?

Martial: He wants us to think like you’re thinking right now – that he hasn’t made a mistake, and that he’s prepared for this. But then why seven cops? Regardless of how you think about it, that’s an absurdly low number. That isn’t enough to guard him, is it? No matter how strong he is, with the numbers we have, we’ve got to be able to overwhelm him right? Even though he is as strong as a demon, we’re what, fifty-five strong?

Shin: Yeah, but just like you said, he is as strong as a demon. My brother could take down at least ten men at once. This guy took him down. I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to take down numbers like that at all.

Martial: Exactly!

Shin [Confused]: Wait, what?

Martial: The seven cop cars are more than enough for him to defend himself, considering his overwhelming strength – plus, he has his right-hand man with him too, that Fetistof guy, right? Plus that other guy, what’s his name, the assassin? Oh well, doesn’t matter too much. But see, he’s still strong enough to overpower even these numbers – but we’d be so caught up in the lack of back-up that we’d start thinking that it’s actually all part of his plan, and that this place isn’t actually his hideout, and that we’ve been duped completely.

Yuki: Wait, weren’t you the one who came up with that idea?

Martial: I was – but if you guys kept talking about it, that’s eventually the conclusion that you guys would come to as well. I just saved the arguing and the time-wasting, that’s all. And that’s the conclusion that he’d want us to end up at, because then we’d waste even more time looking for his actual hideout, while we’d have left it originally!

Shin [Shakes his head, trying to comprehend everything]: So basically, what you’re saying is, he was trying to play some form of 8d chess, or something with us, where he was trying to dupe us into believing something that never even existed, but we’d concoct by ourselves to satisfy the conditions that had been presented to us…

Martial: Exactly right. It’s just a simple battle of the minds, at the end of the day. He was just playing a little bit of a mind game by having that little backup show up. It was a test, so-to-speak.

Shin: So essentially, the right decision is to do nothing at all and to pay no attention to the backup and the numbers and all that then, right?

Martial: That’s exactly right.

Shin: So basically, your entire spiel meant nothing then?

Martial: Oh, to an extent, yes. But eventually, discussing this kind of thing would have led you to believe that he didn’t actually stay here, while in fact, he is probably sitting right underneath us, sipping a glass of white wine. Like they say, everything is nothing, and nothing is everything. Sure, I could have said nothing here, and nothing would have changed, but I said everything, and everything has changed. This is how he, that man Katarov, would be thinking at least.

Shin: You’re smart, aren’t ya? You seem to do well under pressure.

Martial: You called me your trump card or something, didn’t you? I’m batshit crazy, yes, but I’m always up for a battle of wits y’know – just like a good ol’ bloodbath, this gets the blood rushing too. It’s awesome man.

Shin: Yeah, I did, but the way you think – only someone like Kat would think like that.

Martial: Yeah. He’s a smart leader man, but I ain’t one to just let him win, y’know? I’m here to have fun too – right Ko?

Kohaku [To Martial]: Huh?

Martial: I said that I’m here to have some fun, right?

Kohaku: Uh, I guess so? That’s what you’d told me all this time, right?

Martial: Yeah, I did. [Looks back to Shin] I won’t be outdone here, Shin. Don’t ya worry about me – you called me your trump after all.

[Shin nods, and the group continues to move down the hallway, led by Natsumi in the front, Shin, Yuki and Martial behind her, and Karina and Drift in the back. Suddenly, Natsumi raises her hand]

Natsumi [From the front, calling to the back]: Yo!

Drift: What is it?

Karina: You see something?

Natsumi: There’s a staircase here… and the main entrance is just up ahead, the noise is getting much louder here.

Karina: Alright, so we should be seeing those bastards sometime soon, shouldn’t we?

Natsumi: Yeah, we should… watch out on the right… [she hits a hidden switch, which triggers]

Yuki: Huh? Was that a trap-door switch?

Natsumi: Yeah, couldn’t ya tell?

Yuki: Not really, no…

Natsumi [Laughs]: You’re getting slow, eh Yukes?

Yuki: Oh, shut up, will ya?

Shin [Steps in front of Natsumi and Yuki, and sees the staircase downstairs]: So, this is it eh?

Natsumi: Yeah. This looks like the only staircase here.

Shin: Perfect, alright. And we’re here before the guys from the cops, reinforcements and front entrance guys could change to focus us – we should be good then. [Pauses] We should still help the front though, considering where we are right now – Rina, Dais, Ashe, you guys okay to go help the front?

Daisuke: Gotcha cap. [The three of them nod their heads wishing ‘good luck’ to the others, before taking off towards the noise from the front doors]

Shin [Looks at the others and smiles]: Now… where do we start? [The group walks down the staircase, and just as they reach the door at the bottom of the staircase, it opens]

Fetistof [Opens the door]: Indeed Shinzo… where do we start?