Chapter 2:

Chapter 002

Ergon V

At the command of the cloaked woman atop Cytek Headquarters, the helicopter circling over the crossing skimmed down toward the high-rise. It came in from the west to hover a few meters off the ground, its four slapping blades stirring the air around the helipad carelessly, a husky and monstrous thing that almost made the rooftop tremble on its own. But semblances were inconsequential, as the cloaked woman atop the high-rise knew all too well.

Function and purpose mattered the most.

Imprinted on the chopper’s sliding door, the familiar acronym of the UNSMF—which stood for United Nations Special Mediation Forces—greeted her. It was the designation of the brand-new antiterrorist unit sanctioned by the UN Security Council within the framework of the Sentinels Initiative. As soon as she hopped inside, she sat on one knee on the floor and rested her weapon on a series of sling straps at the door placed there to ease her aiming maneuvers. The aircraft bore aloft until it began darting away, heading south in a bold and curving flight. The thick cloak masking her features billowed as the wind came underneath, briefly exposing the titanium-dipped composite plates that made up her armor’s outer layer. Painted in digital urban camo, and in conjunction with her undersuit’s flexible muscle fibers, they provided extensive protection against blunt trauma and kinetic energy. The woman also wore a lightweight mechanical harness that resembled a dirt-bike chassis with joints. It could follow and amplify her movements with remarkable accuracy, sustained by electric motors powered by an energy core that produced electricity from heat. State-of-the-art weaponry, for sure, made possible thanks to the recent technological revolution led by her country.

What she cared about the most, however, was that it performed as expected. For as long as it would, there was nothing for her to fear.

“All teams, this is White Leopard,” she announced on her comms device, employing her mandatory call sign. She thought nothing else of herself while on a mission. “The terrorists are moving in a blue Toyota along Meiji-Dori. They’re about to reach the police station.”

As While Leopard pressed her visor to the lens of her rifle’s 2-8x32 telescopic sight, the picture magnified four times its actual size was transferred wirelessly to her helmet’s display. In the monochrome green of night vision, she struggled to fix her sights on the fleeing Toyota, overwhelmed by a constant flow of light flashes. Yet once she did, the IVAS—or Integrated Visual Augmentation System—processed the image through an infra-red lens, highlighting its surface in orange-hot for her benefit.

When the Toyota raced past the large Shibuya Police Station complex, a patrol zoomed up onto the street from an underground parking area, barreling off in pursuit. “This is high-speed unit 17,” came the staticky voice of one of the officers inside, which she heard since she had broken into his frequency. “We have a visual on the suspect car.”

“Received, 17,” replied a dispatcher on the other end. “Be advised, the suspects are considered armed and dangerous. Proceed with caution, please.”

A fifty-plus-story building stood between the sights of her rifle and the fleeing Toyota. At this, White Leopard signaled one of the helicopter crew members for the chopper to gain altitude—just as a familiar voice broke into her radio. “Blue Jaguar to White Leopard. Can you take them down from up there?”

Her brother. She had almost forgotten about him.

No sooner had she spotted the Toyota again, now overtaking cars across a two-way, two-lane street closer to her, than White Leopard felt a tingle on her right index finger. Deep down, she wanted to pull the trigger and end the affair with no further delay, taking advantage of the overwhelming power she could unleash from her weapon; one of the terrorists, in fact, had already experienced it. But she wasn’t a blunt instrument of suppression. She had to analyze the situation and foresee any potential collateral damage.

“Negative,” she replied bluntly. “Too many civilians, cars, and buildings in between. We need to take them to a more contained area.”

“Sure it’s not just you wanting to avoid another sync rate screw-up?” his brother half-quipped, referring to the response time of the exoskeleton’s limbs. White Leopard bit her tongue. Optimal numbers implied it would mirror her movements with remarkable precision, improving her odds of accomplishing her mission with success. Middling ones could lead her to fail… As they had once before.

“That’s not funny, Blue Jaguar,” she replied, displeased by his remark. ”Just give me your position, would you?”

“Moving southbound through Komazawa-Dori, right past the 402 junction.”

White Leopard aimed her scope’s dial further northeast until she bumped into a glossy greenish spot flashing past a two-way avenue. It was a sports bike, driven by a man wearing the same powered armor she did, also hidden behind a thick cloak fluttering wildly in the wind. Now, what was his game plan going to be? The entire operation had gone south as soon as it had started. Their intelligence profile had been low-threat with the aim of following up on the chatter between an Amaterasu operative and an allegedly compromised Cytek employee. But, in the blink of an eye, the terrorist had murdered him to then flee with an accomplice after killing a policeman and injuring another officer. It was clear a chase in downtown Tokyo wouldn’t end up well.

“What’s your move?” she asked him, knowing he could do something silly on his own without taking all the facts into account. “Remember, one of them has a military-grade prosthetic. Enhanced strength, countermeasures against electronic devices... And we need that stick to know what this ‘Project Porphyrion’ that Amaterasu plans to launch actually is.”

“I know. I’ll neutralize them from down here, but you should set up an ambush point ahead on the road, just in case.”

“Yeah, good luck with that. You sure your stubbornness isn’t clouding your judgment?”

“Just do your stuff and coordinate that ambush with Alpha and Bravo, fast. We can’t let this escalate any further.”

“And yet, why do I feel this will end badly anyway?”

“Your optimism is much appreciated, as usual. Blue Jaguar out.”

White Leopard was far from convinced of her brother’s course of action, yet there was no point in arguing any further. After all, if Big Boss had any objection, he would have radioed it; he ought to trust him that much. And so, though not without a sort of vague distaste, would she.

The squeal of a motorcycle’s rear tire brought a quiet crossing in Hiroo to life. Leaving behind a trail of white smoke, Blue Jaguar dived southwest into a lonely two-way street in pursuit of the terrorists. His bike’s hybrid four-cylinder engine gave him a throaty roar in response as he shifted gears and urged it away from the avenue junction. As he kept gaining speed, the pinpoints of streetlights blurred by along with the howling of the vehicles he outpaced. He swerved from side to side to dodge them, getting lost in the constant hammering of his heart and the echo of his breathing. If this was the spur of the moment or a mere release of adrenaline and endorphin into his body, Blue Jaguar didn’t mind. He enjoyed being out there in the field; it felt right. Even better, it would be just him and his prey down on the road now, no one else in between.

Or as far as he knew, anyway.

“Heads up,” came White Leopard’s voice on his radio. “You’ll see them passing by before you at the next junction.”

Once the street went through a shy downward slope, Blue Jaguar allowed his motorcycle’s engine to catch a breath. Ahead, the unmistakable blue tint of the Toyota sped past the street parallel to a short train overpass in the blink of an eye—followed closely by two black-and-white police cars. “What the hell?” he allowed himself as he worked the throttle and screamed off into the street.

Ahead on the road, the two-tone sirens blared as the patrols closed in on the Toyota, their flashing red-and-blue lights reflected off the wet pavement; it seemed a sudden drizzle had fallen over that part of town. As Blue Jaguar closed the gap, a terrorist leaned out the rear passenger-side window of his vehicle, submachine gun in hand. He fired his weapon with abandon, spraying bronze housings all over the patrols’ tires, the popping noises faded amid the light water spray. At this, Blue Jaguar found himself fighting his handlebar, forced to slow down before their evasive maneuvers.

“Why are patrols still in pursuit?” he yelled at his radio, his sister surely listening to his complaints on the other end. “Tell them to go away!”

“I’m just monitoring their comms, you know? While we’ve already contacted their superintendent, he isn’t exactly cooperating with us.”


Blue Jaguar disengaged the clutch while switching gears and rolled on the throttle to maneuver his ride between both cars. Since the terrorist was reloading his weapon, he seized his opportunity. His right hand loosened the grip on the handlebar as a series of small and short-lived lightning crackles arose all over it. Against the blast of wind, he stretched his arm forward, rock steady, as the tips of its little and ring fingers touched its thumb in a ritualistic hand gesture; the electrical charge would now do his bidding. Indeed, he caught sight of the police officers gaping as sparks began jumping from their dashboards, which then blacked out along with their headlights. He had cut off their entire electrical systems, even their sirens, which were now silent as a graveyard. And once the patrols’ engines sputtered, Blue Jaguar rocketed his ride ahead of them, leaving them out of the chase for good.

The fugitives, in contrast, were far from yielding. Half a block ahead of the bike, the Toyota’s brake lights flared as it slipped into a train underpass. Blue Jaguar followed their lead as he slew his ride into the tunnel, flashing across it in a few seconds. Now shifting his weight to his left, he tackled the opposite road running alongside the tracks of the Yamanote Line. But focused as he was on the fleeing terrorists, he suddenly lost traction on his rear wheel. Forced to counterbalance his body mass, he straightened his handlebar as best he could in such slippery conditions. 

Once he let the tail end snap back, he realized the terrorists had gained some ground. He tucked over the handlebar and made the most out of his bike’s power, starting to gain speed devilishly. The spray pouring out of the Toyota’s rear wheels seemed within his grasp as they arrived at a chicane a few seconds later. And since the terrorists lingered their way around the bend more than he did, Blue Jaguar found himself close enough that he could almost reach out and touch their car’s rear bumper.

In a frenzy of despair, the terrorist in the back seat stomped his feet against the rear windshield, smashing it to pieces as he unleashed his automatic weapon. Blue Jaguar rocked his ride to avoid the bullet impacts just as both vehicles came across an avenue. Green lights favored the countless cars and buses moving across the four available lanes, two per direction. The Toyota braked hard as it wheeled left onto Route 305, followed closely by Blue Jaguar’s bike. Before them, a short underpass stretched from north to south, enveloping them in a gloom packed with yellowish lights and a symphony of vehicle engine sounds echoing all over it. But as soon as they emerged from the tunnel, the terrorists swerved their car from the inner lane to the outer one, sweeping away the right-rear end of another car. And to make matters worse, a bus smashed its driver-side door with a horrific, shattering crunch. The oncoming automobiles panic-stopped before the wreckage, sending a high-pitched scream of pain into the night. Blue Jaguar cursed under his breath, yet he kept racing toward it. Slowing only slightly, he summoned all of his expertise to carve a path among it, losing no ground to the terrorists.

Two hundred meters past the tunnel, both vehicles reached the crossing with the prefectural route 416. The Toyota swerved into it first, and then came the motorcycle. At the next deployment, Blue Jaguar released a little tension in his jaw. Past the central flowerbed full of grass that split the routes of the artery flowing in both directions, he spotted red traffic lights. Cars occupied the two available lanes ahead, so there was no gap for the terrorists to go through.

He should have known better.

Blue Jaguar gazed with wide eyes as the Toyota barged its way into an on-ramp, its chassis bouncing wildly while climbing onto the deserted curb and sending a row of parked bicycles flying. Favored by the small size of his vehicle, Blue Jaguar sped down to squeeze it through the narrow space forged between the flowerbed and the row of automobiles. As he reached the next junction, he glimpsed the Toyota going down an off-ramp to his left, its shock absorbers bumping hard as the tires landed on the asphalt. But the terrorist at the wheel yanked it in such a way his car’s tail swerved to shove Blue Jaguar toward oncoming traffic. The muscles in his arms tightened as he fought to tame his now unruly two-wheeled steed, ending up right where the terrorists wanted. But since traffic lights were still red, he got it straightened out in no time. He evaded the stalled cars and pulled out onto the sidewalk, bringing his ride back on the tarmac.

The road before Blue Jaguar dipped a little as it curved to the east. His previous pathway now stretched a few meters above him as the ever-growing leafy bushes in between made him lose sight of the Toyota. What he had failed to grasp, however, was that he was moving the wrong way. A sudden blare of horns drew him back to his reality, bumping into a pack of vehicles peeling off in either direction to avoid a collision with his bike. Blue Jaguar knew the safest course of action was to throttle back and change lanes, yet he couldn’t afford to lose any more ground. His pulse quickening, he shifted his body’s weight from one side to the other, his ride swaying at his pace while slipping through the rush of oncoming cars.

The pressing danger behind him, Blue Jaguar steered his bike across several lanes at the following crossing, swinging back into the same way he had started. He scanned the way ahead for the Toyota, breathing a quick sigh of relief as he spotted the bright blue chassis no more than thirty meters ahead. He closed the gap in no time, weaving his ride in and out of light traffic effortlessly to find himself about to catch the terrorists two intersections later. But the bastards were well aware of his progress. They had shifted lanes to ram a town car onto the containment fence at one of the corners, crashing so hard it bounced off and into another vehicle. Facing a two-car wreck blocking his path, Blue Jaguar hissed in frustration. He worked his brakes and pulled off a sluggish maneuver amid the cramped available space. And once he found a clear road ahead, he shot off to resume his pursuit.

Blue Jaguar straightened in his seat and stole a quick glance backward over his shoulder, bumping into the chase’s havoc wake as the drivers left their rides without a hitch. Yet he couldn’t help wondering how worse things might have turned out; this couldn’t go on for long. “White Leopard, please tell me you have already set up that roadblock,” he yelled at his comm.

"We got Alpha and Bravo in position at the north and east corners of the Gaien-nishi-dori intersection," replied his sister. "Charlie is closing on the south corner, but I’m afraid it will take a while for the police to set up a perimeter and block the cross streets."

Blue Jaguar shifted his gaze back to the front and craned his head to confirm what she had reported. Indeed, two blocks ahead and below a junction of four elevated pedestrian crossings, a group of armed men in dark tactical uniforms had taken positions next to a series of black SUVs at the crossing. The road to the left was free, but since they only needed to hit a couple of shots to the tires to stop their car, this was far from an inconvenience. But as he eyed the terrorists’ car gaining speed before him, Blue Jaguar realized something wasn’t quite right. They were about to reach a bus ahead, positioning the Toyota near its rear bumper as if ready to swerve around it and into the oncoming turn to the left.

“Damnit, I think we spooked them!” he barked in frustration. “It looks like they’re gonna break left!”

“You can’t be sure of that!” White Leopard prompted on the other end. “Stick to the plan, and don’t do anything stupid!”

Paying his sister no mind, he worked his throttle, speeding up to move in on the bus before the Toyota could get away. As the motorcycle screamed alongside the large vehicle, he glimpsed the passengers looking at him from inside. Then, he maneuvered his bike gently toward it, caressing its chassis enough for the driver to yank the wheel all to his right as he went through an intersection. Blue Jaguar urged his ride to slow down, letting the steel mole surge ahead, then slid in behind to dive around it and into oncoming traffic. There, he bumped into the honking of another bus, its front end almost on top of him. Hissing in frustration, he leaned hard to slide his bike further to the right, missing a collision by mere millimeters.

As Blue Jaguar sighed in relief, he saw the Toyota fishtailing about twenty meters ahead, not having made the turn and heading once again toward the ambush. Its driver was struggling among onrushing cars, its left rear door oddly hanging loose just as they were about to reach the crossing. Blue Jaguar eased off the throttle and pressed down the brake hard, slowing his bike to a rumbling putt as he sent up a plume of white smoke. His work finished, there was no use in keeping up with them. It was time for Alpha and Bravo to do their part now.

It was then that the unexpected happened. A silver coupe car shot past the intersection, speeding down Route 408 too fast to react. It smashed into the right rear side of the Toyota in a screeching impact of twisting steel and shattering glass, sending the fugitive’s vehicle to swerve out of control and on the verge of flipping over. Blue Jaguar saw the Toyota giving in to momentum as it began rolling and bouncing, chunks of it breaking off across the pavement as it tumbled across the intersection. It didn’t stop doing so until it crashed into the fender with a shattering crunch, the crumpled vehicle landing on its roof with a thud. 

Blue Jaguar squeezed his handlebar’s front brakes and skidded to a halt amid an awful shriek. He put his left foot on the ground near the apex opposite the wreck, gazing at the catastrophe he had helped arise with a worried grimace.

“Oh, shit...”