Chapter 7:

Project: Alliance

Project: Overthrow

As Daiki entered the building, he blinked a few times, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting inside. Gazing around, he noted that the overall place was rather disorganized and messy. There was a generous coating of dust on the floor and build up of grime on the walls, along with scraps of paper scattered around the room.

Diagrams of various kinds were pinned onto the walls, with markings and notes on them. Some odd electronics were on the tables and desks which seemed to have no apparent organization or layout, a few of the screens adding a bit more light to the dim room.

“Reminds me of those dingy old detective offices you’d see in movies. They always managed to find things despite the mess, though.” As he took in the details around him, his ears picked up on footsteps coming from the far end of the room, where a flight of stairs led further upwards into the building. He casted a glance at Masumi next to him, who showed no sign of alarm, rather walking deeper into the room and extending her palm, indicating he should wait.

Out of the stairwell came two men, the shorter one wearing a loose white coat along with a green and black striped tee and jeans.

"If these people are who I think they are, then maybe I can progress things quicker with their help." At first glance, Daiki noted that he was very animated, whatever conversation he was having with the other man having him wave his arms around and motion in an exaggerated manner. His eyes were narrow, and his black hair was buzzed down to a fine layer on his head.

The other man seemed older, with silver hair and a full beard and mustache of a similar tone. His muscular build was still noticeable under the pitch-black trench coat and pants he wore. His forehead looked furrowed as if either in deep thought, or thoroughly annoyed with the smaller man in front of him.

As they noticed Masumi, both men paused, the silver haired one nodding in greeting while the man with the buzz cut gave her a smile and a wave, beginning to move towards her. However, the bigger man placed an arm in front of him, his gaze passing over to Daiki. His forehead furrowed even more as his, while the other man squinted at him, before his face broke out into an uncomfortable smile. An awkward silence passed between the four before the silver haired man spoke.

“Masumi, why is he here?”

“Kurai, this is uhh-”

“…Daiki. I ran into him during the mission as you know and he helped me escape. He has the files I need…” She motioned for him to come closer to the three.

The smaller man took a few steps forward and his smile turned into a sneer as he let out a harsh chuckle. “So you had to bring a boytoy home, huh? Couldn’t keep it out in the field to separate business and pleasure? Who knows what he’ll do here~”

Masumi flushed and glared at the wiry man, glancing between him and Daiki, who had come up slightly behind her to the side. “Bingus, cut it out! He helped out and I thought-”

Her sentence was cut off by Kurai, who’s voice quickly silenced the other two. “Taiyo, enough. Masumi, the bastard has a point. This is a stranger who interfered with an interest of ours. He’s already proven a liability, and he’s sloppy from what we saw through your gear.”

He turned to Daiki, gave him a smile that didn’t quite seem genuine, his eyes hard and cold. In one fluid motion, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and took a deep draw. “No offense kid, but this isn’t a place for newly bred bastards. Not ones that look like they just left their momma’s den and haven’t seen the daylight in years.”

“Kurai, he’s more skilled than he looks! He’s not bad in combat and he’s technologically skilled. He was able to hack into things and honestly, saved my life like two times back there. Those borgs would have caught me without him.”

The man called Taiyo, also known as Bingus, muttered loudly. “You wouldn’t have been in a bad spot if he hadn’t interfered.”

At this point, Daiki felt compelled to speak up. “I wasn’t trying to get in her way, or yours for that matter. Our paths crossed and we got out well enough. It wasn’t clean, but it was still done.”

Kurai’s eyes flashed and his voice dropped. “Listen here, you little shit. That kind of attitude? It’s not gonna fly. Wasn’t clean? Means it leaves traces. Means they can analyze what traces you left, and at some point, the little bits that weren’t clean? They all add up into one big mess.” He took one more draw from his cigarette and flicked the still-smoldering half at Daiki.

Rather than simply avoiding it, Daiki moved to catch it, the stub between two of his fingers as he scowled at Kurai, who’s eyes widened for a brief moment at the quick reflexes.. “I mean… I get it. But I can help, and it wouldn’t be nearly as messy from my end next time,” Daiki explained himself.

“Kid’s already assuming there’s a next time! What did you tell him, Masumi? Or did you just take him in cause’ he looked at you like a lost puppy?” Bingus snickered, elbowing the girl in her side.

Kurai turned around and picked up a pen on a nearby table, twirling it through his fingers as he looked back at Daiki. “Beginner’s luck that you made it out. Maybe a lot of the things you’re getting away with are beginner’s luck.” He subtly tosses the pen at Daiki, who once again catches it swiftly out of midair, much to the surprise of all three.

Masumi stomped her foot on the ground and glared at the silver haired man. “Kurai, stop it! If you want to test him, ask him to do something properly, not just chuck things at him like an ass!”

“Or what? What are you going to do, love?”

Her frown intensified before she replied. “I initially failed to receive the files we intended to fetch, and it’s because of him that I was able to succeed. If you have any ounce of trust in me after all the god damn shit we’ve gone through, you’ll give him a fair opportunity.” Her eyes were as still as ice as she glared at Kurai, not a hint of uncertainty in her body language.

The two men exchanged a glance, a small shrug eliciting from Bingus, and a sigh escaping Kurai’s lips as he rubbed his temples. “We’ll give the kid a chance.” He motioned to a few seats around the area as he took one, pulling out another cigarette for a quick light and draw. “Bingus, anything pressing that we needed to get done?”

Bingus sat down at one of the nearby screens and swiped through a few things before he sat up. “Ah-ah- Yes yes, we do need to handle getting that footage from that bar if I’m not mistaken- you know…? The mission we compiled last week~”

Kurai scoffed, then looked at Daiki and chuckled. “Hope you’ve got a strong stomach, kid. You’re gonna be smelling booze n’ bastards all night.”

- -

Daiki brushed the blood off his hands, taking a glance over his outfit for the night. As he opened the door and began down a flight of steps, he heard a static in his ear before Taiyo’s voice came through. [Aye, newbie, you can hear me, yeah? You got the contacts and the ear stud in?]

Daiki nodded, then realized he had to speak as he couldn’t be seen from the other end. “Yeah, yeah I got them on. What’s going on down here anyway?”

[Alrighty, so the contact lenses allow us to run information checks on people you’ll see down where you’re headed, so expect us to see what you see. If you gotta use the bathroom, for dear God, please turn it off…] he shuttered behind the ear piece, recalling a memory he hoped to forget. [Ear piece is to stay in contact. We’ll get plenty of info from the comfort of home through your eyes and ears.. There’s supposed to be a big gathering of all the corporate bigheads. Usually it’s done earlier, and we just obtain the footage from the cameras. But since it moved to today… Well, you’re attending in person. Get the footage as well but some in person intel is always nice.]

“Alright, I see. Just lay low and learn what I can. You’re sure no one will notice any of the gear I have on?” Daiki fiddled with the small earpiece before straightening out his clothes.

[Yeah, as long as you don’t make it obvious by toying with it! Pretend it’s a piercing, even if they assume you’re- uhm… nevermind. Just blend in as best as you can. I’ll zip it unless something important comes up.]

“Okay. See you on the other side.” Daiki took a deep breath and walked through the door at the bottom of the flight of stairs, blinking a few times to adjust to the lighting coming from the dim staircase.

As he gazed around, his facial expression threatened to contort into an unpleasant grimace. Taking a few breaths to calm himself down, he began to walk through the tables towards where more of the staff seemed to be standing. Around him, the debauchery was almost inhumane.

“Places like this really exist? It’s the complete flipside of how they live their lives publicly.” He noted many wealthy men sitting at tables surrounded by scantily dressed women who pressed up against the men, their hands roaming across their bodies in a sensual manner. Some of the men were talking and drinking, with various alcoholic bottles at each table. Others seemed to be partaking in narcotics, administering the doses to those around them while pocketing the money they made from their trade.

As Daiki walked through, he wrinkled his nose for just a moment as the scent of the area began to wash over him in full swing. The smell of alcohol, narcotics, and the faint but undeniable odor of sweat and lust hung in the air.

As Daiki came up to the staff’s door, he was immediately accosted by another waiter who only gave him a customary glance. “Ah, you’re here. We need someone on table 21, they’re just one man short.”

Daiki gave the man a nod and headed in the direction indicated, noting the table number as he stepped up to it, which had two men sitting at it accompanied by three women, who all looked at him with a lazy glance before turning their attention back to the two men.

A slightly familiar voice met Daiki’s ears, and he turned to the man who spoke. “Finally, you’re here. Let’s get some drinks going for my partner and these smokin’ ladies, yeah?”

“Why, certainly sir. What can I mix for you tonight?” Daiki kept his gaze level as he tried his best to hold in his shock.

“R-Rolly…? What is he-”

Making sure not to stare too long at the familiar face. Rolly looked back at Daiki, pausing for a moment.

“Yo, have we met before? Something tells me we have.” Daiki simply shook his head as he grabbed a few bottles and glasses, giving Rolly a forced smile. “I’m sure you have me confused with a different member of the staff. We do look alike with our uniforms.”

Rolly nodded and laughed. “Could be possible. I wouldn’t give you a fraction of my attention anyway, since I have much better things to look at.” He looked over to the woman sitting next to him and wrapped an arm around her, brazenly fondling her ample chest as she snuggled up to him, her raven hair across his chest. “Make em’ what they want. Drinks are on me tonight.”

As Daiki listened to the drink orders, he heard Bingus in his ear. “Alright, I’ll tell you how to make those drinks. Keep the other ear open to their conversation. The one called Rolly is just a gang leader. The other one is much more interesting, he’s listed as a shareholder for Haven.”

Daiki simply proceeded with making the drinks, letting the conversation flow freely around him. Rolly was the first to return to the conversation, turning to the other man. “How was the last shipment? I know I got it to you a little later than promised, but the quality should have been better than before.”

The other man nodded as he spoke. “True, I can say they certainly proved a little more promising than the last batch. Who knew outlanders had their uses?”

“Hah, you right! It used to be just the brawn that was useful, but now we’re makin’ use of the brains too. I guess it takes a bit of time to select the smart ones for the project.”

“Yes, but as long as you deliver within a reasonable time, the project should proceed smoothly. The outlanders are also much more resilient physically, so keeping them maintained in the pods while we use the mental power consumes less resources. If we can’t have high quality, then we’ll just make up for it in quantity.”

Daiki bit back his tongue as he continued to make the drinks, forcing his eyes to not widen from the surge of emotions rushing upon him. Overhearing more of the ‘project’ that was being worked on—the similarities to what happened to his sister many years ago made him sick to his core, knowing people were being used to simply fuel the lives of others. Most of all, this was someone who the outlanders, especially the Thrashers, trusted with all their support.

“I… I have to warn them. This is unacceptable!”

Around half an hour had passed when the music in the room was interrupted by a waiter. “I apologize for interrupting your evening, but could all staff please keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces? We have a suspicion that someone here may not be on the invite list.” Unsure of what happened and why, all Daiki knew was that he had to act urgently.

As the music started back up, Daiki continued as normal, scanning quickly around him to see if anyone was casting glances his way. To his relief, most of the room seemed to be looking around at nearly everyone with some hesitance. However, due to the substance use, many simply lapsed back into their normal dealings while the staff circled around making a few checks. “Sir, you’ll need to excuse me for a moment while I run the checks with other staff.” Rolly simply waved him off, not bothering to respond.

Daiki made a round with some of the other staff as they ran checks, and as he neared the exit towards the upper level, managed to slip off, waiting for the others to go ahead as he pretended to tie his shoes before slipping through the door.

As he headed upstairs, he heard a hissing sound in his ears from Bingus. [The footage! Don’t forget it. Get that and then leave, or else it’s no good.] Daiki sighed internally, knowing he had forgotten as well.

“On it, don’t worry.”

He slipped upstairs and went into one of the restrooms, pulling his phone out and going through the list of devices. “Not good… Those cameras have heavy security. Even if I get in, I’ll have an issue with the alarm going off. I need to mask it with…” His eyes drifted over the sprinkler system on his interface, and a grin spread across his face. “Taiyo, going offline for a minute. I’ll be right back.”

[Wait, what do you think you’re-]

As Bingus’s voice cut off, Daiki began tapping rapidly on his screen, muttering to himself for a few moments as he worked through the system. With all the commands in place, he sent one small file attachment through the system before setting off the sprinklers at the same time that the alarm went off from the access to the security footage. He felt the spray of water beginning to come down as he pocketed his phone and left the bathroom, joining the rush of people trying to leave in panic, hiding himself amongst the crowd surging to the door.

As he rushed out the door, he made eye contact for just a moment with one of the senior staff members in the building, who had just shut off the sprinkler system. His eyes narrowed at seeing Daiki in the staff uniform, but as he pointed towards Daiki and shouted something to the rest of his staff, Daiki had already slipped off, shedding the waiter outfit as he began his route back to the hideout, connecting back to Bingus. “On my way back. See you in a bit, Bingus.”

Atop a different building some distance away, Kurai nodded in approval, having watched the scene unfold through a set of digital binoculars. “Bastard’s not bad. We’ll see what happens back at the crib.”

- -

As Daiki entered the building, he was met by all three, with Taiyo being the first to speak. “Why’d you go offline suddenly? Did you… have to take care of something in the bathroom?”

Daiki held up his hands and explained. “I planted a bit of data on another person’s device about the shareholder. And believe it or not, it’s another shareholder, but not as dominant as the one we first saw. Not all of the info is accurate, but it should give incentive for some friendly competition between the two. Specifically on this date, where I mentioned there might be a big shipment going in and out.”

He shifted his index finger and pointed to the date on his device. “If things go right, there should be a clash between the two and we should be able to take advantage of that to get more information or resources. I’ll also use a custom flash drive and infect the devices with a virus that’ll give us the info we need whilst erasing all surveillance and data from them. It doesn't get any better than this.”

“And how exactly do we know he’s going to fall for that trick of yours?” Masumi questioned, visibly unconvinced.

Daiki skipped ahead with captured surveillance footage until a certain frame remained still on the screen. Pointing to the second shareholder, he then continued. “See this evil grin on his face as he looks at his phone? It’s the exact moment I sent the ‘classified leaked document’ to this idiot. Just hearing a few conversations with him and I knew what type of person I was dealing with. Anyway, I included a detail that more than half of their security will be away from the facility, making it come across as an opportunity to raid them when they’re vulnerable. The night they head in, we take advantage… if all goes well, that is.”

Kurai nodded, as Bingus calmed down, and the two noded at each other, before glancing at Masumi, who returned their looks with a hopeful smile. They didn’t have much to argue, as not only did they not expect such a brilliant move, but was also impressed at how effective it came across. Kurai then held his hand out to Daiki. “You’re one convincing bastard, you know? You can stick around for now. But one slip up, anything fishy, and your luck is out, and you’ll be dead before you know it.”

"This is a relief. I can finally find more information, and hopefully build my way towards Inagawa. I'm certain of it." Daiki sighed before turning his back and walking towards another room.

“A friend used to tell me I was one tough son of a bitch, so I’m fine if you set some expectations on me.” After initiating a thumbs up, he disappeared from the room, leaving the others to reflect on their upcoming plan.