Chapter 3:

That which is inside of me

Jet Black Rock

Yami wakes up drenched in sweat, screaming and clenching the sheets around him. As he sits upright, he instinctively grabs his missing arm. It’s hurting but… it’s still there? Maybe it was a dream and all that didn’t happen? He realizes it’s wrapped in bandages, all bloody around where it would’ve been cut. He finds himself in a bed in an unfamiliar room. There are a few chairs and some dirty clothes around, but not much else. One of the chairs has Haiiro’s case on top of it, open and empty. “Then maybe it did happen?” He whispers.

The wooden door opens, screeching as it scratches the ground. Haiiro’s opening it with his back, holding a glass of water and some pills. “Oh, you’re awake? Good, take these!” Haiiro says relieved and in good spirits. He sits at the side of the bed presenting the pills. Yami’s still holding onto his arm and looks at Haiiro with a puzzling face. “They’re painkillers.” Haiiro elaborates. “They should help a little with the arm.” “Wh-what happened?” Yami asks.

Haiiro begins to explain; “Well, what happened was that three days ago, negotiations broke down and you’ve been asleep ever since.” Yami takes the pills and chugs the glass of water. “It seems like Kumoda was never planning to pay and thought he could catch me off guard by using an outsider to take me down. That’s where you came in and forced me to take out your mod. Sorry about slicing your arm off.”

Yami’s confused; “Then what about it? Even if you were able to reattach it somehow, I wouldn’t be able to move it by myself right?” He asks and Haiiro nods. “The rock reacted to you as if it chose you. When I came back into the room, it had merged itself with your flesh and some sort of black tentacles were in the process of reattaching your arm. While it’s not perfect yet, I’m sure that the injury will recover in full over time. I only gave you first aid, brought you here and it has already come that far.”

“I thought it was some kind of substance? What is this Jet actually made of, am I going to be okay?” Yami keeps asking questions. Haiiro stands up and starts explaining. “A few months ago, a rock was found in an open field in Belgium. We think it broke off from a meteorite that passed by. Inside, we found a small bizarre pool of black goo. When our agents tried to recover it for research, they inhaled the damp smoke coming from it and gained superhuman abilities. That reminds me, I should properly introduce myself.”

“My name is Haiiro Furukara. I’m a Lieutenant agent-researcher for C.E.R.C., the task force created by the Central European government, and was one of the agents that were sent out to recover the stone. Surely, you have already noticed that my physical abilities improved drastically?” Yami’s taken aback; “I thought you were just a shady businessman from another country.” Haiiro laughs.

“I was acting as a businessman because we’ve desperately been trying to figure out Jet’s secrets. Kumoda’s scum, but with his research lab already established, we might’ve been able to uncover new clues. You see, Belgium is not the only country that acquired a stone. We’ve had reports of events that involved similar enhanced abilities from our contacts in Canada, Brasil, Egypt, and Korea, so it’s actually kind of an arms race. And as you might already have figured out, Jet isn’t a chemical or a substance. It’s some sort of technology we’ve never seen before, comparable to nanomachines but on a whole other level, almost akin to a living organism. Thus we haven’t been able to reproduce it.”

“That’s a lot to take in. Am I going to be taken away to become some sort of guinea pig?” Yami asks. “Since I have yet to report to my superiors I don’t know their decision, but you should be free to go as long as you keep in touch. While you were out, I implanted an observation chip in your neck to monitor things like your temperature and heart rate and so far it’s looking good. We have never had someone consume the entire thing before, only small bits and fragments, so we might be able to learn a thing or two without harming you.”

Yami rubs the back of his neck, there’s a small incision. “Wait, what about Kumoda’s research facility? Don’t you need to further examine me?” Haiiro shrugs; “Yeah, that’s no longer an option, I kinda went overboard and burned it to the ground. But even then, it would be too dangerous to go back since Kumoda got away and would most definitely not like our return.”

Yami’s face is starting to become pale “Kumoda’s alive?” He asks. “I need to go right now, my sister might be in danger.” He throws the sheets off his body and gets out of bed. Haiiro stops him physically by grabbing his shoulder before he storms out of the door. “Yami wait, I understand your concern but Kumoda’s forces have been decimated. It’ll take some time to rebuild them. Time you could use to think up a plan! What are you going to do? Storm Genkei city? The enforcers would get involved! And do you even know where to find him?”

“I could at least get my sister out!” “And go where? Even if you’re somehow able to enter the upper parts, you won’t be able to leave with her!” Both Yami and Haiiro are raising their voice. “I- I just want to keep her safe!” Yami calms down and sits down again. Haiiro sits down next to him and pleads, “Then let me help you. In return, you help me with my research.” Yami sighs, knowing Haiiro’s right. “Okay, then what’s the plan?”

“First of all, you need to get used to your new powers. As soon as you’ve fully healed, you need to train yourself and become aware of your new limits. I will teach you some basic martial arts and give you pointers since I have comparable powers, but to be honest, I don’t know what you’ll be capable of.”

“Secondly, we need intel. I’ll contact headquarters, pull some strings, and try to put a team together. I have a friend near Genkei center who owes me a favor, they’ll be able to keep an eye on your sister and can get us in the upper area unnoticed. Lastly, I’ll think of a tactic to take down Kumoda. If everything goes as planned, you and your sister will be safe. After that, you should come with us to Europe for further research. And of course, she can come as well. What was her name again?”

“It’s Akari. Let’s give it our best!” Yami answers relieved. With a loud smack, they grab each other's arms, which allows them to encapsulate the moment. It’s the start of a new comradeship.

A new day has arrived, it’s dawn and the sun is barely up. Yami’s arm has fully healed and he is in the middle of doing sit-ups. Haiiro’s already out running errands. He has been on the phone all evening yesterday, pulling strings as promised. “Since Haiiro’s already doing his part, I should do my best as well, it’s for Akari anyway.” Feeling motivated, Yami jumps up and dresses in the clothes that Haiiro prepared. They feel easy to maneuver in but also have some hidden features, like built-in wires. “That reminds me, Haiiro was going to show me how to use a wire mod. But since he’s not here yet, I’ll go for a jog instead.”

Yami leaves the compound and heads off to run. It doesn’t take long before he’s picking up speed without even realizing it, almost sprinting through the streets. He’s running so fast that people are taking notice, staring at Yami when he sprints by. “Better not attract too much attention.” He says as he takes a sharp right into the alley. “Up we go” He jumps both hands forwards toward one of the balconies, but overshoots and fumbles. To stop himself from falling, he reaches out. Black string-like smoke comes out from his right arm.

The smoke obscured his vision so he couldn’t see what happened properly but he somehow managed to grab the side of the roof and pull himself up. Standing on top of a building three stories high he holds his hand forward and asks himself; “Did my arm just extend a little?” Yami inspects his arm but doesn’t see anything particular.

“Better be sure, here goes!” To check if his eyes were deceiving him, he makes a fist and thrusts his arm forwards as hard and fast as he can. “Bzzmmt” A stretching -and bungee-like sound is created as his swing goes out further than expected. With a powerful force, he hits a cluster of generators, air conditioning, and satellite dishes across the street. The sudden destruction makes a loud sound as the cluster falls down and the building’s power goes out. Some of the black smoke coming from Yami’s arm went traveling into the power grid.

At the same time, some unfamiliar faces around the world sense something akin to a connection. There’s a white-haired bearded man in the snowy mountains, battling a heavy snowstorm. A young dark boy in an area looking similar to Suramachi, holding a blood-stained machete and fresh corpses behind him. A cloaked woman in the desert, covering her face. And a young short-haired Asian lady wearing a Korean police uniform. They all suddenly stopped in their tracks and look over into the distance.

Yami did not sense anything and is perplexed by what just happened. Right as his arm extended, his skin seemed to rip a bit. There were black fibers rapidly replacing the muscle in the open cuts. Having retracted his arm again, Yami takes another look. His veins are now solid black, slowly fading back to their original color. “I think that’s enough for now, better ask Haiiro about it.”

As he returns to the safe house and opens the front door, he picks up the scent of a strong smell, just like something’s burning. The safe house! Quickly climbing the stairs, he kicks open the door to their apartment and is met by Haiiro, who’s a little surprised but rather joyful, “Ah right on time, I made us some parsnip soup, care to have a bowl?”

They sit at the table with the hot steaming bowls in front of them. Haiiro’s enjoying his liquified parsnip and asks, “How is it?” Yami takes a sip, it’s bitter, definitely something to get used to. Trying to bear with the taste he quickly changes the topic and explains what happened to him while he was out jogging. “Well, that’s definitely not something I can do.” Haiiro affirms.

“You lost a lot of blood, so maybe the stone has taken some of its place? But even then, I can’t explain the extending part yet. All I can say for sure is that, if you’re able to control it, you might have gained unbelievable power. This would give you the upper hand in one-to-one combat for sure, especially if the enemy is not aware.” Haiiro pinches his chin. “I guess it’s time to start teaching you martial arts now. But first, let us finish this soup!” Haiiro shouts as he downs the entire bowl.

The training ranges from regular hand-to-hand combat, disarming people who attack using melee and even dodging gunfire. Haiiro's punches are fast and hard but by the end of the day, Yami is only just able to match his movements. Sometimes, when blocking or counter-striking, a negligible impact wave emits some of the black smoke. "How peculiar!" Haiiro says as he tries to push Yami to his limits. The day passes by as Haiiro drills everything he knows into Yami. Back at the safe house, they're both exhausted. Another bowl of burned parsnip soup and it's time for bed.

Yami turns off the lights and closes his eyes. "They’re coming, they're coming." Yami opens his eyes as he hears the faint words whispering in his ear. Yet there's no one to be seen. He closes his eyes again. "They're coming, they're strong." Yami shoots up. "Who's there!?" He yells. "They're strong. My kin." He hears it again, coming from somewhere inside of him. His arm is stained black, with a tainted and cold thick smoke oozing from it. "My kin."

The air is chilly and the night goes quiet. Yami had tried to call upon the voice but wasn’t able to succeed. “I’m sure I heard something. Calling out to me, warning me.” After a final attempt, Yami decides to give up and goes back to sleep. He thinks to himself; “Tomorrow’s a big day after all” Tomorrow, the Genkei center contact that owes Haiiro a favor promised to smuggle them inside, and after that, they’ll be able to face Kumoda.

The night passes and after an early breakfast, both Yami and Haiiro start packing up their things. While Haiiro changes his shirt, Yami notices the key around his neck and asks; “Oh, you didn’t get your things from the station yet?” Haiiro looks at the key and clenches it tightly within his hand. “I did, I’ve been there the day before yesterday. I took the weapons with me and swapped my mod batteries out. We’ll probably need them where we are going. I’ll go get the rest after the job today is done. Can’t wait for my other half to see the necklace, she really does love sapphire after all.” Haiiro’s eyes sparkle a bit, it’s obvious that he cares a lot. “But that’ll have to wait, first let’s go take the elevator up to the center.”

They make their way to the elevator of the 4th district. It’s there where Haiiro’s contact told them to meet some guy named Tarou. When they arrive at the checkpoint, a muscular guy is sitting on a crate out front, his clothes stained with oil, and holding a wrench. As soon as Haiiro comes into view he gets up. “You two must be today’s cargo, to be delivered to lady Nikko?” Haiiro nods. “She goes by Nikko now?” Tarou grins. “I’m Tarou Yamada, main mechanic and part-time operator of the elevator at the 4th district, nice to meet you both.”

He pulls out a crowbar from one of his overalls' side pockets and opens the crate he was sitting on. “No cargo goes in or out of the center without my knowing and it’s by lady Nikko's humble request that I’ll be allowing the import of some luxurious marble to her wonderful estate for the reconstruction of her kitchen. Now, if you’d be so kind as to hop in?” Tarou’s way of speaking does not match his appearance at all. He looks rough but he’s definitely a Genkei citizen.

Yami’s a little wary of getting in the crate after only a brief introduction, but since Haiiro’s immediately acting upon Tarou’s request, he follows in as well. Tarou puts the lid on and nails the edges, shutting it tightly. “Remember! No talking!” Tarou says as he slaps a white seal with red markings on the crate. Using a forklift, Tarou moves the crate towards the checkpoint. He is stopped by the elevator guards but is quickly let through as they see the seal and recognize Tarou. “My regards to lady Nikko.” One of them says while saluting.

Taking up the elevator, and the rest of the trip to Nikko’s estate is rather uneventful. The import of the marble had cleared all the inspections and was planned properly. Lady Nikko must be an influential woman, to import goods on such short notice. Yami wonders about Kumoda, as he and Jake could enter the personnel elevator rather freely last time. Tarou opens the crate as they arrive and Yami’s the first to exit. He is greeted by this beautiful woman in a long dress, she looks in her thirties, around the same age as Haiiro.

“You in there, you bastard?” Ms. Nikko doesn’t pay attention to Yami at all. She stares at the crate with a pissed look, arms crossed and the tip of her heel tapping the floor. Haiiro pops out his head. “Yes, dear.” Haiiro responds carefully. “After all these years, I finally hear from you and you have the guts to ask for a favor?” She turns around to Yami. “I don’t know what’s up with you, but you two owe me now.” Yami’s visibly confused.

“Oh, he didn’t even tell you about me? Up until two years ago, I went by the name of Furukara and I was married to this scumbag. Before he left, he told me he had to go to Europe for his job.” “Just a year honey!” She quotes, mimicking his voice in a mocking way. “And then one year turned two, and two turned five! That was when I realized his job included a new wife!”

She’s getting more livid as she continues talking and Yami, unfortunately, is standing in between the two. She continues; “Undercover he told me! To keep people from suspecting him as an agent! Unbelievable! Took me half a year to change my name as well!”

She sighs and stops venting as she calms down and goes up to the crate, looks down, and kisses Haiiro’s forehead. “Welcome home sweety.” Haiiro, having survived the verbal assault, stands up and hugs her, giving her the sapphire necklace that he bought in the underbelly. “You’re beautiful when you’re mad, dear.” Now, Yami’s even more confused.

She sighs and signs towards the front door. “Let’s go inside, you’re running out of time.” Inside there’s an office with multiple whiteboards covered in writing and photos. Similar to what you see in those movies about intelligence bureaus. She shows photos of Kumoda, meeting with government officials, making deals, and building up his forces. There are a few pictures of his men as well. One of them includes Jake shadowing a woman. “That’s Akari!” Yami shouts. “We know.” Sen answers.

“We were shadowing her but my men were taken out a few hours ago. We believe she was kidnapped and is currently being held at the Kaidan conference center.” She elaborates. “We have to go now! She has nothing to do with it!” Yami shouts desperately. Sen continues, “It’s a government building guarded by trained enforcers and we believe that Kumoda’s there as well, so it might be a tra-.” Yami interrupts; “Even so! We must go!”

Haiiro grabs hold of Yami’s shoulder, trying to calm him down. “Since Kumoda is in a government building, he’ll be protected very well. It might not end like last time. We need a plan! The C.E.R.C. strike team I requested will be here in a few hours, let’s wait until then and infiltrate by nightfall.”

Sen follows up, “We know that he’s been in cahoots with the military and has been delivering new weapons and technology for years. Supposedly, Jet would’ve been one of his new products, so they won’t hurt their hostage until they can ensure acquiring it. If Jet falls into their hands, however, they won’t batch an eye if some kids get hurt in the process.”

“Okay, I get it! We’ll prepare properly, but Akari’s safety comes first!”