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Chapter 13 - The Rebel Girl[]

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04/19/3041 - Hanamachi District above Dark Earth City, Kirei Na Niwa, Draconis Combine


The ‘Beautiful Garden’ Hanamachi district lived up to its name smelling of wildflowers, incense, and soap from colorful Okiya and Ochaya sprouting from its rich soil. Squat hills raised over the plains planted with trees chosen to bloom or fade throughout the year creating a vibrant tapestry above the capital. Lanterns outside each was being extinguished as the night went on and women (and some men) working within ceased their labors.

Faint light from one held by a girl pierced the dark paper screens of the garden teahouse. Rocks moved under the girl’s sandals creating a great sound in the quiet of early morning. She whispered through the screen. “Kano-chan?”

She heard nothing so raised to a sweet faint voice trying not to draw any more attention to herself, “Are you there, Kanoka? Okasama sent me to find you.”

A paper door quietly opened to an empty room used for tea ceremony, “It’s time to sleep,” She looked around to see burned down candles, the charcoals in the brazier were still warm, but the iron teakettle was off its stand, contents spilled on the tatami mats hastily covered with a cloth.

Looking about she couldn’t find any trace of the other girl…or the client that was supposed to be here. “Come on Onee-san, I’m tired. Where are you?” She gently touched the kettle to ensure it was still cool, it was but it was also sticky. Her hand came away red, with blood, she had only enough time to let out a shriek before she passed out from the sight of it.


Kanoka fought her gut which was telling her to redline the stolen car as fast and far as the gas tank would take her. She had only a few hours to make her escape before Shugo (Sheriff) Takeuchi Souta received a call from Okasama about his missing ‘bride.’ The latest in a succession of desperate young women who tragically perished when they grew old or boring. Her only chance was to make it to the forest, survive with the money she had stolen from Daichi long enough to….

To what!

Panic overcame her practiced calm making her lose control of the car and herself. The car rumbled through the gravel shoulder coming to rest on an embankment just before a field. Lights from some vehicle shone in the distance but she turned her own off.

How was she going to escape him?

He was the Sheriff she was just a girl bonded to the Okiya since she was six by her abusive adopted family. One that saw her as a burden holding their own children back. She didn’t know how to live in the wilderness or anybody that would shelter fugitives from the ruthless lawman.

Would she just have to sell herself to someone else instead?

The very thought of it made her sick. She tumbled out the door tearing her kimono on the stones, threw up what little food she had this evening, and leaned against the embankment brushing away what remained of her makeup. Her stolen car was trashed and Kanoka collapsed on the ground crying as lights drew nearer.

Sounds of car doors opening, and weapon’s rattling caught her attention, but she didn’t look up. It was all over; she was caught by Souta’s Shugodai (deputies).

She heard a man’s voice above her, “Now what have we got here? You’re a little young to be driving by yourself this late at night Maiko. Especially in such a nice car. Who’d you steal it from?”

“Tamura Daichi”

Another voice whispered, “He’s a minor executive at Amphigean, Genzo-san.”

She knew that name ceased her crying for now and faced him still on her hands and knees, “The rebel Ito Genzo?” “The very same.”
“Please sir, I need your help.”
“If Shugo Takeuchi catches me, it’s all over. This was my last chance to escape him.”

A long pause came over the assembled before they murmured among themselves
“Bringing her is going to put a lot of heat on us. You must think of the others.
I don’t think it’s a good idea boss. She’ll crack within a week of the wilderness.
She can barely stand. She’ll slow us down; we can’t chance it.
What does she have but a pretty face?”

“She has her freedom, and that’s the most important thing. What is your name?”
“Kanoka.”
“Surname?”
“Not anymore. I was abandoned…twice.”
“Then you won’t mind changing it, or miss your old life?”
“No!”
“Know that I can’t promise anything but that we will not abandon you if you can keep up.
Now hurry! We must escape before the Shugodai arrive.”


10/29/3042 | Newton, Kirei Na Niwa, Draconis Combine


Two DMCS soldiers rested their rifles against rough metal chairs while zippering their gray ‘wind-breaker’ jackets. Both sat beneath a flickering yellow light above a pole gate adjacent to Kinkakuji Manufacturing’s worker tenements. A weak electric heater glowed between them providing scant relief from the chill wind racing through the Needles.
“Looks like another storm tonight, Kinju.”
“Seems like it Haijie. Why did we have to piss off the Sho-Sa, today of all days?
We could be in barracks while Hotaru and Kujia froze their asses off out here tonight.”

“You are the one that got drunk and stole his car.”
“You were also drunk. I’m not sure it wasn’t even your idea.”
“I wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat.”

Kinju slammed his palm on his helmet, “Baka! (Idiot) You conned me into it!”
“But you fell for it.” Haijie rattled a vacuum flask on the chair leg, “Tea?”
“I got thrashed.
Yet you offer tea?”
Kinju snatched the flask from his companion. “I’m taking it all.
You can freeze.”

A young woman appeared from the alleyways and started toward them, “If you need a little warmth Heishi, maybe I can be of assistance.”

Both men snapped up as her face came into the light. She meekly held a lunch tin before her as the conservative dress and her short hair blew in the wind.

“Halt!”

“It’s just past curfew, Yujo aren’t allowed to solicit outdoors, and even if we were tempted…” Both men looked toward one another and then back to the girl. “It would be a dereliction of duty to engage while on watch. So go back to wherever you came from. Writing you up for curfew violation will just be tedious. I’d rather sit in the cold.”

“Thank you, Sirs. That is very generous.” She looked down and fiddled with a cheap lighter, “Can a girl at least get a light? Mine isn’t working with the wind.” Kinju’s shoulders slumped at the tediousness of it all. “Fine. come over here girl. We can’t leave our posts. Rebels might be about.”

The DCMS issue electric lighter burned cherry hot at her touch. It rapidly cooled before returning to the trooper’s pocket. “Rebels here? Are they dangerous?”

“A full Ashigaru battalion is here just to protect Kinkakuji. You have nothing to worry about.”

She leaned down to caress his chest with her left hand, “That seems like a lot of guys. The kind of thing that girls like me do worry about.” “I’m sure you’ll handle it just fine.”

Her grip tightened on his harness as a steel claw clutched in her right drove itself through his neck. Blood sprayed onto the gravel as she launched herself on the seated man before doing the same. Both clutched at their necks before expiring. Certain they were now dead she righted their chairs making it seem as if nothing were amiss. More faces appeared from the shadows of the buildings nearby.

Genzo’s stern but approving face was first to materialize made her feel at ease. “They have a Battalion inside, Sir.”

“Underestimating us as usual. Good work Taigasu.”

She rifled through their vests taking the lighter, a rifle, and spare magazines from the fallen sentry. “I guess you’re right Heishi Kinju. I did handle it fine.”


11/27/3046 - Newton, Kirei Na Niwa, Draconis Combine


“Of course, it has tiger stripe camouflage on it.”

Miya chuckled as she stood at the foot of ‘a’…no ‘her’ Tora (Tiger), the six-meter tall Battlemech stood head to canopy of the jungle of Nashik. Its autocannon arm and missile rack prominent. The cockpit shielding, like all DCMS mechs made after 3030, appeared as a Samurai’s mempo, in this case, that of a tiger’s fangs. Its secondary armament included front and rear facing medium lasers (on everything but light mechs).

“Now if only I could get the money to buy a proper cooling vest from the Canopians.”

She looked down at her lean torso, bare except for a skimpy bandeau wrapped around it. Everything below was DCMS issue gray fatigue pants and jungle boots. “At least there’ll be no tan lines when I get back, and I can see those abs poking through. Who would of, thought I had the money to get fat in Masamori. Must be Mrs. Sato and Reika’s doing.”

A thought popped into her head, whether Percival Filington might like her paler, like a proper lady.
Too late for that Lord Filington. I stopped being a proper lady long ago, and you didn’t seem to mind. “That’s just nonsense anyway. He probably is already engaged to some Noblewoman. Just an opportunity fling, nothing more. You know how it is. All to well.”

She shook her head, hair bobbling slightly at the action, digging dirty nails into palms calloused from so many pull-ups on palm bark. “Concentrate on the mission.
Rebels in the hills need to be taken out.
The scenarios these guys come up with.”

Miya muttered darkly to herself as she climbed the chain ladder to the cockpit, “No wonder Genzo’s gang knee-capped so many Wasps in our time. This mech would be hopeless, but if that is what the Tai-I wants, then so be it. I’m just a Constable that used be a Criminal rather than a Concubine.”

Her Tora powered up and regrouped with the others. Their Lance Commander delivered the final briefing with intel gathered from a Boomerang flyby. “The enemy has deployed Bulldogs in emplacement positions. Kibo you are on the right flank, Sanchu on the left.”

It was a wise move, Sanchu’s Sanjin and her Tora’s cluster munitions could disable the vehicles from their vulnerable flanks while the Kyudo and Ronin would take a more substantial beating up front. Her instincts told her to stick to cover, without Jump Jets the forest and undergrowth snarled her Mech’s limbs and required every ounce of its enhanced myomers to keep pace with most of her lance-mates.
“Keep up, Kibo.”
“I should have taken the left flank Tai-i. I keep getting snarled in the woods. Sanchu would have had an easier time of it, and I could have used that pass to speed ahead and strike from the rear.”

The Tai-I’s Ronin loomed large in the center of the formation ahead of all others. He was already releasing reduced PPC bolts toward the Bulldogs on the hilltop. Even she could see that return fire was not forthcoming from the machines and that was weird, the trainers hadn’t tried that before.
“What do you know of warfare Constable?
I ordered you on the right flank.
Are you second guessing my orders?
Follow them and keep up…or you will be left behind.
We have no time for a woman’s games.”

Small explosions erupted from the jungle floor as she stepped over them. Leftover mines, the DCMS Engineers must have been sloppy with cleanup last year. Drone Bulldogs opened fire with light autocannons first stitching low energy but clearly marked patterns into the center line, followed shortly by smoke missiles, and finally ‘safe to armor’ (there were always some idiots who thought laser resistant glasses were uncomfortable) lasers.

Miya lagged wishing desperately for a mech sized machete to clear away tangling vines holding fast to thick trees. By the time she reached the objective the battle was functionally over with her three Lancemates contributing overwhelmingly to a successful mission and now was time for a debriefing.

Before that Miya threw on a tank top and jacket over her belt and sheathed knife. Miya looked in the mirror to see the sun burn, busted lip, and scratches she had accumulated with the DCMS training cadre. “I belong here as a MechWarrior. I survived everything they threw at me.” She slammed her fist at the unbreakable mirror hung in her latrine.

Other women had started but she was the last one left. “But I know when I am not wanted!”

Sho-Sa Suzuji Yuto stood before the projector while the six cadets sat on folding chairs. An electric fan creaked softly providing little relief for the stifling humidity and tropical heat of Nashik’s jungles. Sunlight filtered in through the thinly woven shelter. “Excellent work gentlemen. We got those rebels.”

A voice from the back spoke firmly toward her ‘superiors.’ “If there were really rebels in the hills. They wouldn’t bother using tanks. Mechs already can’t get through dense forest without the aid of jump jets. They would also use water and have advance recon elements in place along with booby traps, decoys, and mines.”

“And you know this how, Constable.”

She bolted upward and walked forward into the light of the projector. “Because I read the damn manual!”

Miya pointed toward the cocky looking man up front, “and Tai-I Isuki doesn’t! Otherwise, he wouldn’t have ordered me to take my non-jumping Mech through the forest.”

Miya turned on her heels and leaned menacingly toward the Sho-Sa. “With the explicit purpose of slowing me down so I wouldn’t be able to contribute to our…

No!

His victory even though it was a stupid plan.
If there were actual people in those tanks, he’d be dead or piloting a broken 'Mech by now.
Not looking at me with that Kuso kui niyaniya.”

Isuki Kai stood up and slapped her across the face, “Hiretsuna meinu, I will not sit idly while my honor is questioned by a policewoman who is only here because she slept with Tai-Shu Isoroku, and who knows how many others.”

He felt a pressure near his groin and looked down to see Miya’s knife uncomfortably close. “Keep going Isuki. Maybe you will use one of your brains to make the right choice and shut the hell up.”
“Yuto, are you going to sit there while she threatens me like this?”
“Break it up you two!”

She pushed off the Tai-I and held the knife sheath away from her before making a big show of the sheathing. “I’m out! Packing my stuff and taking the next shuttle back to Yoshitune.

I never had much respect for the DCMS but if this is the best they can do.
I’ll take my chances with the Ghosts.”

Kai closed toward her, “You are going to quit just like that? I always knew you were going to fold because you are a coward.”
“Anata o fakku! Tai-I, you talk real big for a guy that just had my knife to his balls.”

Bright sunlight penetrated the tent through the open fold, Miya looked back at the assembled ‘dirty half-dozen’ the last whittling of more than sixty cadets after two months.
“Oh, by the way idiots.
I didn’t sleep with Isoroku Kurita.
I saved his life,

and

You can bet he will hear about this.”

Despite their tans each man blanched in fear, an expression of dread that put a smile on her face all the way to the shuttle-port.


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