Chapter 2:

To pay what is due

Jet Black Rock

Thursday, the 12th of August 2077 6 pm. “Today is the day, just a few hours more.” Yami drags himself out of his sofa and towards the sink. Splash! he washes his face and stares into the mirror. “Just gotta calm down and do this one simple job, stop being so nervous. We’ll see what happens after today, but since they know about Akari, keeping her safe is my first priority. I wonder how she’s doing, been a while since she last texted me.” Knock knock! “Hey, you ready kid?” It’s Jake, he leans through the van door and glances inside. “Yeah, I’m here, coming!” Yami shouts. “Hurry up!” Jake answers.

Jake and Yami start walking towards the underbelly. “You could’ve told me that it was you who would pick me up.“ Yami says quite relieved. “I Didn't know back then kid. Boss decided today that since we’re already acquainted, I should follow through with you. But don’t make any mistakes, I’m here for the job and I surely don’t need to remind you about what Kumoda said? Screwing this up would not only mean your own skin.”

Jake lays his hand on Yami’s shoulder and makes sure he realizes. “The first stop is Tsuni’s skin shop, he’s a tailor working for us who combines modification modules with clothes. That way, we can give you a stun mod without having to do an operation. Of course, it is an inferior version compared to a modified arm and a huge downside is that its small battery makes it only single-use, but when things go south you can at least take someone out, it’s non-lethal.”

They arrive at an older building and Jake says they’re here. From the outside, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a skin shop or even a shop at all. There are no signs, no lights, doesn’t stand out at all, you have to know it’s there to find it. “You can go inside and tell Tsuni that Komoda sends you, he’s aware. I’ll wait outside and make some calls. In about 30 minutes they’ll come to pick us up and drive us to the dinner on New Kings St. I’ll give you the details in the car.”

Yami goes inside, a small older man is standing near the counter. “Need anything?” he asks. “I’m here for some clothes, Kumoda send me?” “Ah right away sir.” as he slides open the curtain behind him, revealing some stairs leading downwards. He gestures; “After you sir, we have the finest mods available for Mr. Kumoda.” Going down they enter a brightly lit room. Mannequins are wearing unfinished clothes in the middle, And the walls are plastered with what seems to be a variety of modifications. There’re some gun types, hidden knives, and even some types with elemental properties like air, lighting, fire, or poison.

“While you may pick any sort of clothing from the bottom right row, we have been instructed to equip you with shock modules only, I’m sorry for the inconvenience sir. We’ve already received your measurements, so as soon as you decided, we can start fitting.” Yami points at the set on the third from the right, bottom row. It’s a business-casual look, and they start fitting immediately.

The process goes as you’d expect with a regular tailor, except for the wirework in the sleeve. Tsuni explains how to remove the safety of the stun shock mod by turning the wrist in a specific way and activating it by holding your hand out. “Thank you for your patronage sir, best regards to Mr. Kumoda.” Yami’s unfamiliar with fitted clothes and as he leaves looks one last time in the mirror. “Quite a different sight from earlier.”- He thinks to himself-“ I guess clothes really do make the man.”

Half an hour passes. With his new clothes on, Yami leaves the building and follows Jake into the car that was waiting for them. It’s an old Streamline 4000, a model of hovercar that was popular with the middle class some ten-ish years ago. It has a modified back so there’s more room for passengers. “Nice choice of clothes kid” Jake smirks as he pours some fizzy water. “Now let’s fill you in on the details.”

“First off, Kumoda gave you those clothes because chances are you’ll have to use the shocker today. Kumoda’s acquaintance, to which you’ll be giving a tour, will have a case that contains a solid version of Jet. We have it scheduled that Kumoda himself will buy the goods at 11 pm at the warehouse in the northwest sector, it’s on the corner of Tetsu St. and Mokutan lane.”

“You can recognize it by a huge white rhino painted on the side of the building. We’ll also park some black jeeps out front. Thing is, we already paid a large amount of Yula in advance as insurance and Kumoda said that’s enough for him. So as soon as he gives the order, you’ll stun him and we’ll take it from there.”

Yami’s surprised, “I thought I just had to give him a tour, this is something else entirely?” Jake looks him dead in the eyes. “This is how things go, it’s business and you owe us. Besides everything will go smoothly.” Yami takes a sip of water and asks “Then why the tour?”

Jake answers, “He’s an interesting fellow. He’s European and said he had only seen the upper parts. So, since the deal is going down in the lower parts, he wanted to become familiar first. He probably wants to scout around and avoid the main roads by navigating the rooftops. He asked for a company-neutral guide, so that’s why you’re the perfect guy. Just don’t raise any suspicion and show him whatever he asks for.”

“Okay, and what was the sign you were talking about?” Yami asks. “After you guys enter the warehouse, we’ll fake some negotiations. You just have to stay by his side and wait for Kumoda to take out his cigar. As soon as it’s lit, you go for the stun and your job for the evening is done but make sure the case doesn’t drop like you did earlier this week. We’ll take him with us and interrogate him to learn more about Jet’s source.” Yami nods “And then Akari and I are safe right?” “Yeah, don’t worry about it.”

They arrive at the dinner on New Kings St., it’s pretty packed. They’re a place known for their famous syrup pancakes, imitation strawberries, and beautiful chrome-modified waitress. Usually, its clientele consists of newcomers to the city and people who saved up for special occasions. “He’s inside.”- Jake says-“ You’ll recognize him by a black trench coat and some shades. Just approach him and introduce yourself as the guide, don’t mention Kumoda’s name though. I’ll be waiting here in case something comes up, good luck.”

Yami goes inside, there’s a smell of strawberries. People are enjoying themselves. On the right side, there’s a guy with his family injecting pancakes straight into his veins but yeah, his face has been replaced by all kinds of mods, so how else is he supposed to eat them? A strange sight for a “family” dinner, but all kinds of people have to eat. Yami walks further in when he sees a guy matching the description drinking dark liquor at the bar. He has a black metal case with a blue shine resting on the barstool between his legs. While going up to him, the guy looks over his shoulder and turns a little. One hand on his hip, the other on his glass.

He clears his throat and asks in a deep voice “Tour guy?” Yami answers “Pleased to meet you sir, my name’s Yami.” He looks at Yami from top to bottom, extending his hand. “Quite a youngster aren’t you? You can call me Haiiro, don’t call me sir.” They shake hands, his grip is firm. “Ready to go Yami?” “Yes, si- Haiiro, where would you like to go?”

Haiiro acts a little unsure, “Mhh, If I understood correctly, the warehouse is about 25 minutes from here on foot, 30 if we go by rooftop? We have a little over two and a half hours left, so I suggest we move towards there and make some stops in between. Do some shopping? Are there any gun -, modification -or medical shops along the route? Maybe a chapel as well? Oh! And while we’re at it, we’ll definitely need some jewelry as a gift for my better half.”

Haiiro leaves some Yula on the counter, paying for his drink and they leave the dinner through the back. Yami parcours up to the third-story roof using some of the windows and ledges. He looks down to see if Haiiro can get up while holding the case and sees him taking a few steps back. He starts running towards the wall and jumps, it almost seems like he’s running alongside it. In one smooth motion, he grabs a ledge using his free hand and flings himself up, landing perfectly next to Yami. “Wow, that’s kinda neat.” Yami says. “Practice makes perfect kid” Haiiro answers.

They continue along the roofs occasionally dropping down to enter a shop. Haiiro has money to spend; a vintage foldable railgun, a custom hunting knife, a gold sapphire encrusted necklace, nicotine suppressant band-aids, and a pack of six single-use mod batteries. In between, they also went to pray at the local chapel and bought ice cream.

Nearing the scheduled time, they move towards the station to rent a locker. He thanks Yami for the tour and stores the purchases. “I’ll take them with me after the meeting.” He’s been very nice to Yami all day, even treating him to ice cream. For Yami, who hardly felt any stress anymore, it really was a fun evening. He can't be too distracted yet though, the job is not over.

“Shall we go?” Haiiro asks while closing the locker. He looks at Yami and puts the locker key around his neck and behind his shirt. “Even though the tour was great and you were able to help me out getting everything I needed, there’s still business to be done tonight.” Yami nods, “Yeah, we can take the bus towards the industrial zone. It should drive by the bus stop just around the corner every 10 minutes.”

They hop onto the next bus and drive towards the industrial zone. After touring the busy underbelly, it’s suddenly getting quiet. The bus is being driven automatically and they’re at the second to last stop so there are not a lot of people on the bus anymore, only four left. The group of other passengers acts dodgy, eyeing Haiiro’s case now and then. As soon as they enter the industrial zone, one of them walks toward Haiiro. He’s slender, full of tattoos, and wears a black-white stained bandana.

“I haven’t seen you guys around here. Didn’t they inform you about the entry fee? You see, the industrial zone is our territory, everyone knows that. And you seem to have one nice-looking case? You can hand that over to us and we’ll call it even.” He pulls out a butterfly knife. “Now, hand it over” Haiiro stands up, holding the case in front of him. “If we can make it quick, we still got some business tonight.” “Sure old man.” He smirks as he goes for the case.

With his knife in his other hand, the goon takes a step forward. As soon as he’s in range, Haiiro drops the case and shoots a wire from his sleeve, flinging it around the attacker’s wrist. He then quickly steps forward and disarms the knife by twisting his arm.

With his foot, he catches the case so it doesn’t take a heavy shock and continues his fast movements. Haiiro slides to the side and pulls the goon close to him, stretching his arm and wrapping the wire around his neck. With the guy’s back towards him, he’s in complete control. The others barely have time to react and stand up immediately.

One of the guys, the one rocking a mohawk, runs towards him with a machete. Haiiro extends his free hand towards the knife on the floor and pulls it in with some sort of magnetic field. He rapidly throws the knife towards the buzz cut’s shoulder, severing one of his tendons. He’s unable to hold the machete anymore and grabs his loose arm in pain, giving up on the charge.

The remaining two hold on to the injured one. “Okay man we get it, you don’t have to hurt us anymore.” They’re nearing the stop and the doors open. Yami’s taken aback by the sudden chaos and hasn’t even gotten up. “You can get out Yami, it’s our stop.” Yami snaps awake; “Yes sir!” “It’s Haiiro!” He shouts as he retracts the wire and pushes the hostage toward his buddies.

It’s gotten quiet again. The one released from Haiiro’s grip is breathing heavily, recovering from the choke hold. The guy hit by the knife is whimpering softly. We can hear the sound of construction work and very faintly, the sound of water.

Haiiro remains eye contact with the group, takes his case, and gets off the bus, retracting his wire at the same time. Psshhhhhh! The bus doors close and it drives off. “Since we scaled the roofs together, I knew you were no ordinary businessman, but I didn’t think you were this good…” Yami states. “Haha, when you’re in the business for as long as I have, you pick up a thing or two.”

They start walking along Tetsu St. which is known for harboring companies that focus on some sort of soil processing or metal construction. The warehouse at the end of the street seems to provide the latter and its rhino painted on the side is hard to miss. As described, there’re multiple jeeps parked out front. They enter the compound and are greeted by Kumoda’s men. One of them has a bruised nose with a band-aid plastered on it. It’s Jimmy; “Kumoda’s expecting you, I’ll bring you to him.”

They follow Jimmy inside the building and enter the main hall. They’re in a wide-open space divided into four parts. One of them contains high-tech machinery, another a giant glass tube with black liquid inside. The other two seem dedicated to research, one biology, another electronics. In the middle, there’s a glass box office on top of a platform. Kumoda’s standing by the window and signals them. Jimmy guides them up and Kumoda greets them, “So glad you could make it Haiiro, how was your trip? Did you like the underbelly? And the guide we appointed?”

They shake hands. “It was great! We saw some architecture, met some locals en went shopping! Yami here knew all the good stores.” He wraps his arm around Yami’s shoulder, who’s getting a little flustered. “Good to hear!” Kumoda pours himself and Haiiro some scotch. “Now, were you able to bring a completed artifact? We do appreciate the sample you send us, but since we had a little accident, we haven’t been able to replicate it yet and mass-producing without the reference is pretty though.”

Haiiro places the case on the desk and inputs 4559 as the code. He slowly opens it and turns it towards Kumoda’s crew. Inside there’s a beautiful and pure dark uncut stone, protected by red suede. “As soon as you transfer the agreed-upon amount, it’s all yours. Genkei city is within your grasp.”

Kumoda takes a cigar from the desk and sits down behind his laptop. “You Europeans sure are expensive, but as I saw the product first-hand, I know for sure it is worth it.” He leans back in his chair and lights his cigar. “With this, I’ll have no trouble taking over.” It’s the sign Jake told Yami to watch out for. He doesn’t want to but keeps thinking about Akari. “If I don’t do it, she’s going to get harmed.” He thinks to himself. Kumoda sits upright again, puffing some smoke in Yami’s direction. Yami, who’s standing right next to Haiiro extends his arm towards Haiiro, twisting his wrist. “I’m sorry Haiiro”

Haiiro had already noticed Yami’s arm moving through the corner of his eye and unsheaths a long katana-like blade from between his knuckles. In one swift motion, Yami’s arm is cut off and the shock mod goes flying. For Yami, everything seems to happen in slow-motion. Kumoda is starting to stand up “Take him out!” He shouts as his men were already pulling out their guns. The shock mod is flying through the air, sparks illuminating the place, fizzling out, and lighting up the room. Haiiro dashes forward, instantly cutting down one of Kumoda’s men. Then the next one and the next one. Kumoda panics and stumbles, yelling for his goons. The blood covers the insides of the glass box.

Jimmy barges in and aims his handgun, but is cut down before he can pull the trigger. More suits start firing from the research tables below. Haiiro dodges back inside, pulling Yami, who was standing still in shock, down as well. From behind the desk, Kumoda tries to get the case as he sees his chance, but Haiiro’s too quick and kicks one of the chairs towards him, knocking him back. He flings his wire towards the case and reels it in.

More suits start climbing the stairs, the first one jumping over Jimmy’s corpse to enter the cube. Haiiro’s already up and greets him with a dive kick, knocking over multiple attackers, almost surfing down the stairs. He takes them out and starts dodging in between the machinery and disappears out of sight. Kumoda realizes he’s outmatched and breaks the glass behind him, escaping with his life.

As the gunfire and screams don’t stop, Yami’s starting to realize his arm is now gone. He screams in pain, struggling like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Moving haphazardly, he kicks the case next to him and the stone falls out. It starts vibrating and is being pulled towards Yami. The rock shoots up into his flesh, there where his arm once was. Yami’s starting to lose consciousness. The Last thing he sees before blacking out completely is Haiiro coming back in, out of breath and covered in blood, leaning against the doorframe. He yells something, but to Yami, it’s inaudible.