Chapter 1:

Chapter 001

Ergon V


From the very start, it was evident it wouldn’t be yet another typical Tokyo spring night. While the eerie cluster of dark clouds was a common sighting for the time, the blinding glare of lightning bolts, let alone the whistles of the strong breezes, were offbeat outside the rainy season in June. Even the myriad red lights on top of the high-rises seemed to flicker in anticipation, the lone helicopter flying above them struggling to stay on track towards its intended destination.

Or maybe this was how the young woman saw things as she prepared herself for what was about to happen.

Only wary eyes could spot the female silhouette perched near the edge of Cytek Headquarters’ rooftop. A mid-length hooded cloak concealed her features, its edges flapping against her hips in the wind. And as for the building below her feet, it housed the world’s largest technological corporation. Its quasi-trapezoidal structure towered vastly above Shibuya Crossing, a thirty-story vertical column of interjected glass and steel columns, standing with arrogance in the symbolic heart of Tokyo where a mythical shopping emporium was once located. Even the many shimmering neon-lit advertisements and massive video monitors along the area felt dimmed by it, the sea of flashy colors more alive than ever during the gloom.

Yet not of these were the center of her attention.

With her helmet’s upper frame pushed up on her forehead, the woman fixed her naked eyes on the sheer drop before her. Down at street level, a tide of rioters was packed in the northwest corner of the busy crossing. They waved signs with vehemence, of different sizes and eloquent phrases in protest, while tens of police officers stood around them, ensuring they wouldn’t leave their delimited area. Then, there were also their traffic counterparts, trying to bring order amidst the chaos of vehicles flowing across three of the junction’s four routes.

It all looked like a breeding ground for a catastrophe, even more so if a military operation took place in the middle of it.

“This is Alpha-One,” came a sudden masculine voice crackling through the woman’s helmet intercom, on a restricted channel. “I have a visual on the engineer. He’s made contact.”

“All right, people,” replied an older man, carrying the usual cadence and authority she had grown accustomed. “Nobody moves until he leaves the scene. Let’s not turn Tokyo into a war zone. Big Boss out.”

The female operative felt a surge of adrenaline as she settled low into a crouch, anticipating the command for her to spring into action. In a kind of nervous meditation, she closed her eyes for a few seconds and slid down her helmet’s lower frame until she locked it on her chin. Then, a series of hidden motors latched its retractable mouth plates onto her face, just as the upper segment lowered over her eyes and clicked into place. Finally, she picked up the fearsome directed-energy sniper rifle lying beside her.

She couldn’t afford, after all, to miss the smallest detail of what was now underway.


A second crowd of people had gathered in the corner opposite the protesters. They were onlookers either commenting on the developments, taking photos, or recording videos with their cell phones. Even the woman giving a stand-up broadcast among them could pass as yet another commuter, one who was sharing a colorful portrait of the city‘s downtown panorama at night.

“A new day of rallies occurs before Cytek Headquarters,” she enthused into her microphone, “where hundreds of citizens call for the energy tycoon to stop meddling in Okinawa’s affairs. After a series of leaked documents revealed Cytek has been acquiring volcanic mining rights in exchange for providing advanced weaponry for army troops during the ongoing civil war, many feel it’s time for the company and its American patrons to back off.”

Her presence was hardly something that jumped to the eye in such a crowded place, except for a young man such as Yoshiro Sugiyama.

Behind the wheel of his designated black-and-white patrol car, the twenty-three-year-old rookie officer eyed the reporter as he guided his ride down a wide lane in 2 Chome-2 Dōgenzaka. It was that or suffering a headache at the situation unfolding before him. When traffic lights turned red, he spotted a large flow of vehicles coming from the east being diverted to both directions of the street he traversed. Besides, there was also the matter of the weather. As he leaned toward the ajar window of his car, a gust of wind filled Yoshiro's nostrils with the scent of wet earth; it would start raining sooner rather than later.

And still, there was something far worse than the prospect of driving amid chaotic traffic on wet tarmac.

Seated to his left was Matsuda Sasaki, his ill-tempered training officer, whose gaze was lost at the rioters’ spectacle while he yawned every so often. He had just got his new position, although Yoshiro wondered how he had qualified for it. Becoming a police officer in Japan wasn’t a simple task. Following an extensive six-month academic training, Yoshiro was undergoing the first of a seven-month period in the field, to which later he would have to add four extra months back at the academy to improve his skills. As for the experience he had accumulated so far, it had been inconsequential. His eight-hour shift comprised him staying at a designated police box and patrolling its surroundings on foot. At least the salary was acceptable, or he would have quit long before. Yet what bothered him the most about Matsuda was how much he resembled his younger brother. That disinterested attitude bordering on haughtiness tended to exasperate him, and he knew better than most such people were difficult to deal with.

“There goes my quiet night on patrol,” he said, determined to get a few words out of his T.O. and lighten the mood.

“Don’t even bother, Sugiyama,” Matsuda barked, neither addressing him properly nor meeting his eyes. “You won’t get me to talk. I’m here to train you, not to make friends.”

Baffled by his response, Yoshiro began drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. His eyes averted the rioters as he focused on the female reporter, now chatting with the cameraman as he repositioned the tripod holding his working tool. “Fine,” he muttered at last, “but you could try being a little nicer, you know, Matsuda-san?”

“It’s Sir, to you, Rook. And I won’t do so until you’ve earned it.”

Yoshiro rolled his eyes at his response, then started looking for something to draw away his attention. He bumped into two guys sitting on the edge of a flowerbed near the group of curious onlookers. One of them wore an olive sweatshirt, a hood covering his face, while the other guy had a striped long-sleeved gray shirt. They were talking with their backs to him, most of the conversation coming from Hoodie-san. As for Shirt-san, he seemed tense, his left hand gripping the opposite arm’s bicep as he clenched his right fist. Then, he suddenly jumped to his feet, as if he were about to leave for good—but Hoodie-san put his hand on his shoulder to reassure him. Unfortunately for Yoshiro, his curiosity wouldn’t be fed much longer. The guy operating the television camera came between him and the two men, looking for a new angle to display for his broadcast station.

At any rate, Yoshiro felt like digging Matsuda a little further for words. He recalled a nationwide drill had taken place the previous day. While he loathed such exercises, working with a kinder training officer than Matsuda, even if only for a short while, had been a blessing. “So, what was your task the other day, during the earthquake drill?”

“You won’t want to talk to me about earthquakes,” Matsuda replied. “My grandpa was a fisherman in Miyako. He died during the Tohoku earthquake.”

Yoshiro tried to put on a look of empathy, but all he could muster was a crooked smile. Of course, he knew what his T.O. was talking about. When he was still in his mother’s belly, a high-magnitude earthquake had hit the northwest region of Japan, causing tens of thousands of deaths. “I’m sorry,” Yoshiro said, sympathetic. “My parents were in Fukushima back then, but I guess they had better luck—” The corners of his mouth turned down, and his eyes softened almost to the point of moistening. “…only to get killed in the US embassy raid six months ago.”

Matsuda’s face remained hard as stone. “Too bad for them, I guess.”

Yoshiro gritted his teeth, glaring at his partner in frustration, “What the hell is wrong with you? I’m just trying to have a conversation here and you—”

“The light is already green, you know, Rook?” Matsuda replied, this time turning his face to him.

That much was true; vehicles were picking up speed around the police car. Not intending to fall behind, Yoshiro switched to first gear and hit the gas—only to plunge his foot on the brake pedal right away. It turned out a truck veering towards Miyamasu Zaka had stopped halfway, blocking a bus in front of the patrol alongside the rest of the traffic. Yoshiro cursed under his breath as the sound of the drivers’ horns grew around him.

To top it off, Matsuda had to add one of his affable remarks. “Looks like a fun night. Wishing you had chosen a better job, right?”

Yoshiro grimaced, offended. “Hey! It’s hard unless you’ve been to a good college!” he barked at him.

“But I’ve read your file. You clearly had better options.”

The truth in his words had smarted. Not wanting to dwell on past mistakes, Yoshiro diverted his gaze to a pack of protesters standing next to the halted bus. They were getting tangled up with police officers, who hit them with their batons as they struggled to keep the rioters at bay. Things were escalating quickly, and what Yoshiro wanted the least was to get involved in such a situation. No sooner than the truck had made the turn and freed up some space than he yanked the wheel to a side, swerving his ride beside the bus.

Then, out of nowhere, a human figure appeared in front of the patrol as if it were a ghost. Yoshiro slammed on the brakes, his body lurching forward as he caught sight of the smoke boiling up from his tires in the rearview mirror. Once his vehicle stood still, he straightened himself, coming upon a fellow in a striped long-sleeved shirt smashing the patrol’s hood with his fists as though demanding something.

And before any of the officers could react came the gunfire.

Yoshiro gaped in horror as the man was sprayed with bullets mercilessly, his body jerking like a rag doll until he went limp and collapsed to the ground. As he reached for the holster where his pistol rested, his muscles tightening while his heart pounded faster, Yoshiro realized the menace was now in front of him. Two guys had taken up positions around the patrol, submachine guns in hand. Wasting no time, one of them fired a brief burst at the transit officer in the area—as his comrade whirled to the police car and leveled his weapon. The rounds came right through the windshield, safety glass exploding inwards as Yoshiro crawled under the dashboard for protection alongside Matsuda. A chorus of screams and shouts had erupted all around them as the fire discharges pinging off its chassis followed one another in heaps. Yoshiro sensed his bloodstream thundering in his ears, his mouth gasping for air like crazy. Somehow, armed terrorists were carrying out an attack right before him. He felt everything he had learned was useless; he’d never been involved in a shooting, let alone fired his gun. What if he ended up being—?

Boom!

Yoshiro nearly jumped at the echo of a sharp explosion not a few meters away. The sound had been louder than a gunshot, almost like a lightning bolt, yet that made little sense. His sudden urge to poke his head over the window, however, was even more absurd. His right hand wrapped around his Glock 19, Yoshiro verified it was fully loaded, then pulled the slide back, cocking it into place. He glanced at Matsuda as if seeking advice, but his instructor shook his head at him. 

He went for it anyway. In one swift motion, Yoshiro kicked the door open, sat down on the driver’s seat, and took aim at the hole in the splintered windshield. He bumped into one of the gunmen lying on the floor straight ahead, seemly unconscious. And then, from the corner of his eye, he saw his comrade strolling away from the area—to then fade behind the rows of vehicles to his right.

Yoshiro adjusted his body into the corner of the seat, his mind racing for an immediate course of action. He glanced at the surroundings, a drifting cloud of tear gas wreathing all over Shibuya Crossing. Civilians and protesters desperately fled away from the area like a seamless, mindless mob. He knew there were a few more alternatives he could have delved into, but in the end, it was his duty to go after the thug. That was what he had been trained for and what he believed. He stepped out of the patrol—only to find Matsuda pulling him back inside by the arm. “What are you doing? What if there are more of them?”

“Then report the guy’s position and call for backup!” Yoshiro yelled back at his TO as he broke free from his grasp, sprinting toward the pinned-down guy. As he reached an open area, he crouched beside the body and placed his fingers on the man’s throat. Instead of a pulse, a sudden static discharge greeted him, causing him to recoil slightly. He frowned at that, noticing there were no visible bullet holes nor blood spurting from him. An eerie silence had suddenly fallen over the crossing, the air thick with fumes and fear…

Until a barrage of automatic-weapon fire shattered it.

Yoshiro got up at once and dashed to one of the tens of halted vehicles below a train underpass. Bronze casings zipped past him again and again, but he made it to the front bumper of a car, then slouched as low as he could to shield himself from the line of fire. The gunfire kept spreading further, an abrupt chatter of 9mm bullets coming from the opposite direction now joining the carnage. At this, and with a sense of hope, he jerked his head to the row of cars beside him. There, he caught sight of a man in uniform diving toward a halted car from a crouch.

It was Matsuda. “You have a death wish, Rook?” he shouted at Yoshiro as he took cover behind the vehicle. He shook his head at him as if resigning himself to events. “Alright, I’ll cover you while you approach him from the side!”

After the bursts of machine-gun fire ceased, Matsuda squeezed off a few shots over the hood, a signal for him to act. His heart thundering madly in his chest, Yoshiro moved around the car in a low crouch, coming across a red hatchback bodywork as he went deeper into the tunnel. Peering at the window above him, Yoshiro spotted a couple inside embracing each other with their heads down as their arms trembled with fear. He found their gaze and gestured to them with his free hand to remain calm, hoping this would reassure them. Then, all of a sudden, the bullets stopped, their deafening noise replaced by the crying of half a dozen car alarms. A faint click jerked Yoshiro’s head up a moment later, the sound repeating itself a few times until it was gone. He squatted higher at this, and peeked around the edge of the bodywork to confirm the terrorist had, in fact, run out of ammo.

Adrenaline pumping, Yoshiro took a deep breath, then got up as he stepped from behind the car. He leveled his gun at the terrorist’s torso, ever ready, as he commanded, “Police! Drop your gun and put your arms behind your head! Now!”

The gunman tossed his weapon aside in response and followed his command. Yoshiro’s pulse decreased as he moved toward him with caution, one step at a time. He had his finger fixed on the trigger, ready to fire if the bastard tried anything funny. He jerked his head to a side, ever so slightly expecting to see Matsuda beside him.

Instead, he heard him scream in pain.

Risking losing sight of the terrorist, Yoshiro dared to look over his shoulder. What he saw next took the breath out of his lungs. The overpass lights’ revealed a hooded silhouette fighting Matsuda until a sudden fist bump rendered his instructor unconscious. And when the assailant turned to Yoshiro, he looked at him in the eye for a brief moment—and went for him right off the bat. The rookie officer fired at him once, but somehow the shadow deflected the shot with his right arm as if it were a small rock. He then grabbed hold of his left wrist, sticking down on it in one swift swoop and forcing him to let go of his weapon. Yoshiro had no time to process the stab of intense agony he felt since was struck in his jaw and torso straight off, his body tossed against a car outside of the underpass. Half a heartbeat later, his body battered beyond hope, he felt his assailant’s fingers tightening around his throat with inhuman force, their touch stiff and cold. A tiny flash of light from their chromed surface made Yoshiro realize it was a mechanical prosthetic.

As his eyes reddened, he made an effort to breathe while clinging to the fake limb in an effort to free himself. He tried to identify his executioner, but he only discerned a pair of fierce dark eyes above a black mask covering his face from the nose down to the chin, a devilish white smile with protruding fangs drawn on it. Desperate, he gazed over his shoulders to find someone who could aid him. Under the faint shadow of the bridge, he spotted the couple inside the reddish car abandoning their vehicle in haste. Their eyes crisscrossed for a second, and Yoshiro grasped his terror reflected in their gaze. But it was no use. All that they did was to run away. He couldn’t blame them, though, since this was far beyond their means; they wouldn’t hesitate to place their safety above his. As the seconds went by, Yoshiro saw his death draw closer and closer. He had no time to grieve over his short and miserable life or wonder what would become of his younger brother. What a reckless fool he had been, always willing to take risks to prove to himself that he was brave. Yet now he was beginning to feel weak, as fragile as a leaf. His face had acquired a purple tint, and the toughness of his arms and legs had almost vanished. He could no longer cling to his executioner’s arm, to the life he had deemed unfair…

But his demise never came to be.

Instead, as the one-handed man frowned at something above the bridge, Yoshiro found himself free from his grasp—just as a thunder-like burst tore the air apart and brushed his right cheek. An annoying high-pitched ringing took over his ears as he put his weight on his hands, trying to catch his breath. But a tiny vibration on the asphalt compelled him to lift his head. Amid all the madness unfolding around him, he glimpsed the one-handed man throwing himself inside a bluish vehicle that had shown out of nowhere, speeding away from the area in a rush. Yoshiro pushed himself forward, clumsily crawling down the street in his eagerness to give them chase. But he was on the verge of collapse.

That was when he caught the sound of a familiar voice in the distance. “This is 137. Officer down at the intersection of Meiji-Dori and Miyamasu-Zaka. I require immediate assistance, please.”

Yoshiro smiled in relief as he heard his patrol call sign coming from Matsuda’s mouth. He also made out a few distant shouts and the blaring of a few police sirens. And still, from one moment to another, his body gave away. He found himself laying on his back, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the edge splitting the underpass’ feeble veil from the ominous night above him. As the world began to fade out around him, and with a sense of gratitude, it occurred to him his part in that deranged night had come to an end.