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Chapter 14 - Three Strikes[]

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11/29/3046 - Yoshitune Starport, Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine

A DCMS shuttle arrived at a Yoshitune Starport enveloped in a greasy fog so thick it muted Miya’s bootsteps as she walked across the tarmac. She crossed her arms and shivered at the shocking change in temperature. “You just had to quit the jungle when winter showed up here in Masamori.”

Miya pushed into a clutch of Yoshi’s gathered around the steam vents fed from the district’s heating like Jingu penguins under the watchful eyes of Port Authority guards. The Yoshis shuffled in slow motion to avoid loitering charges from the DCPA moaning about their plight. Money was drying up, so Masamori’s factories were idling capacity and laying people off. With less product to ship the Starport was not far behind. Ocean trade kept the dockyards active for now at least. The gangs were getting antsy as there wasn’t as much Mizo Shubai (‘Water Trade’) to skim from and everyone was on edge.
Miya wrapped her thin jacket tight about her looking for some relief from the cold, her stomach was not far behind. In a race verse hunger and chill she choose clothes shopping first. She browsed the local secondhand store browsing aisles of DCMS surplus clothes and helmets, soiled jumpsuits, high visibility vests, ‘exotic’ outfits, and even found some like new MMK uniforms. Occasionally something fell into her shopping basket and upon further consideration was returned to the shelf. A gaudily dressed, matronly saleswoman with too much costume jewelry appeared from the back.
“Can I help you, Miss?”
“Hopefully you can help these uniform manufacturers, Ma’am. Lately quality control seems to be slipping.” “When it falls off the back of a truck, sometimes it gets ‘damaged.’ You wouldn’t issue these uniforms to our brave boys that put everything on the line to protect us?”
“No, we wouldn’t want that would we? The best among us deserves the best we can give them.”
“Oh, and the backlog of processing so many brave soldiers.” She chuckled, “Sometimes things get ordered upon enlistment and don’t make it to them before they quit. So, they end up here.” “Lucky you.”

Both women found their way to the register and Miya presented her card. The wrong beep sounded twice, “Miss, I am sorry, but it seems the bank has put a hold on your account.”

Miya clutched the card in her right hand till it turned red.
“That can’t be right! I should have two months of back pay in there.”

She shoved the card into her purse and clutched the warm clothes in despair. “I can’t be in arrears. I had plenty of…enough money in there before I deployed and no expenses. There must be some mistake! What will I do?”

“I suggest calling them or stopping at the nearby branch office.
Maybe it’s probably something easily fixed. I will hold onto these until your return.”

Miya bowed slightly to the woman before rushing out the door into the cold morning light. The local branch of Murasaki Mercantile bank was once a grand white brick building but like Yoshitune was covered in grime and only kept clear of vagrants by local Yakuza toughs. Four of them sat on the steps bats in their laps. They stood initially keeping their distance but looked her up and down as they drew near.
“Looking good, soldier girl.”
“Soldier girl?”
“You got the hat, right?” He leaned forward to snatch the DCMS garrison cap off her. Silky black hair fell in waves now that it was freed. “Want a chance to ride this Panther?”
“That’s a little small for my liking. I’ll pass.”
His companions erupted into laughter. One of them slapped him on the back. “Soldier girl has your number, Kaiyo.”
“We like you, Soldier girl.”
“I’m honored.” She ran her hands through the hair to put it into some bit of order. “Keep the hat.”
“Oh Kaiyo, maybe she warm to you already. She’s giving you presents.”
He folded the hat up and put it to his nose. Inhaling deeply and making peculiar contortions. “Smells like roses.”

When she was safe in the revolving door, she looked back at the toughs playing ‘keep away from Kaiyo’ with her hat. “It’s obviously lilac you cretins.”

She breathed deep as she passed through the metal detector and waited calmly until a teller opened. They exchanged the standard greetings. “Pardon but there seems to be a problem with my account. The balance should be positive, but I can’t use my card.”

“Sounds serious, lets see.” The teller typed a few keys before pointing toward a terminal, Miya complied with the ID requests and heard the reassuring tones of acceptance. “Well, the good news is that your account is still quite positive ma’am. However, you need to speak with the branch manager and fill out some paperwork as there are some discrepancies. Afterwards your funds should be immediately available.”

“What kind of discrepancies?”
“I am unfamiliar with this code.” The teller pointed toward the stairs. “The manager is presently free, and he can explain it to you faster than I can find it in our system.”

An armed guard opened the door to the Branch Manager’s office for her. A middle aged man sat below an ink painting so broad it took up most of the back wall. He stood up and pulled a chair out for her at a side table creaking with reams of yellowing paperwork and half-emptied inkwells of a half dozen colors.
“Please sit Miss Kibo. I have some paperwork for you to fill out.”

She accepted the chair as a runner arrived with a sheaf of papers in a manila envelope. “Let me first apologize, we attempted to contact you last month about this, but your phone was off.”
“I was deployed overseas with the DCMS.”
“Aren’t you a policewoman though?”
“I was selected for MechWarrior training.” She attempted to swallow to little avail. “What seems to be the problem with my account?”
“Well, it is not necessarily a problem. You see a large sum of Ryu was wired to your account from the Kurita Family Trust last month. Unfortunately, we need your chop on these papers to make the transfer official.”
“How large was this transfer?”

The manager peeled away the Manila cover to reveal her account balance. “ONE MILLION RYU!”

Miya woke with a start at the smell of ammonia salts pulling her head back so violently that if the pillow wasn’t there, she would have cracked her head on the chair. She found herself in an unfamiliar place, panicked, and hyperventilating. An assertive man’s voice and hand on her shoulder was reassuring even as the world was still spinning beneath her.

“Apologies Miss Kibo. I didn’t expect you to pass out otherwise I would have better prepared you.”

She looked intently at the printout, her account had One Million, Twenty Thousand Ryu and 47 Yen in available funds. It was right there in black and white no matter how many times she read it or turned the paper around. “There must be some mistake.”
The manager pointed toward an embossed glyph that appeared as a graceful crane. “As you can see Keeper Constance’s seal is on the paperwork. There is no error.” “I can’t accept this.”
“You would refuse a boon from the Kuritas. That is unwise young lady, they may be insulted.”
“It was only supposed to be ten thousand. For reimbursement of my dress.

I didn’t do anything to warrant this. I... I… I only did my job.”
“Constance Kurita seems to disagree.”

Adrenaline surged through her as survival instinct kicked in, “Do I need to reserve some for taxes?”
“Clan Boons are tax free. Ultimately the Imperial Treasury and Mint are at the Coordinator’s disposal.”
“Then I suppose I must accept then.”
“A Clan Boon comes with certain conditions, but I am confident that an upstanding public servant like yourself meets all of them. Failure to meet them however will result in harsh punishment up to a death of your choosing.”

He moved the initial account statements off to the side and opened a fresh stamp pad of bright crimson.
“First Condition, by sealing this you verify that you are in fact the recipient, Miya Kibo, of Masamori presently employed by the MMK, and have not lived under any other name or as a fugitive of the law.”

Bright Crimson leaves on the hills of the Hanamachi, iron pot, bloodstains on tatami mats and another girl's white makeup.


“Second condition, that you have not engaged in, provided support for, or conspired with seditious or treasonous elements opposed to the Draconis Combine, its vassals, or allies The Azami Caliphate and Capellan Colonies.”

Bright Crimson, Arson, murder, sabotage, one man's freedom fighter is another's rebel terrorist.


“Third condition.
That this boon will not be willingly used to forward criminal enterprise or any other dishonorable or illegal activity within the borders of the Draconis Combine. Nor that it will be invested in foreign securities and thus directly or indirectly fund the enemies of the Draconis Combine.”


The final stamp crashed into the wood like a gavel on the courtroom bench. She looked at it seeing with relief that it was still intact before cleaning off the remaining ink. Ink that might as well have been her own blood. Blood freely given in kindness that now flowed over the page. Binding her to another devil's contract accepted under duress.

“I will confirm that I witnessed these with the branch stamp and have them filed away. The funds will be released by the time you exit the building.”

Miya started toward the door, “Oh, and Miss Kibo if you need any investment advice or financial services do feel free to utilize our bank’s options.”

“I will take it under consideration.” She curtly bowed to him maintaining as much poise as she could manage, “Thank you.”

Coins poured into a phone booth outside as she dialed it in. A modulated voice answered her, “You are behind on your payments, Miya.”
“I have your money. It was a bank problem.”
“That doesn’t matter. We expected you to honor our contract.”
“I will pay the penalty.”
“You will, one way or another.
Tonight, same place, bring it all.”

As the adrenaline faded her cold, cruel, hard world seemed to close around her like a tomb. She sighed as the phone was hung up before being overcome with shivering. Fear or cold she couldn’t tell. There was only one way to find out and finally she could see a way forward.

Ferries shuttled between Headwaters and Murasaki on the other side of a foggy river. A woman watched them pass through glass in a warm café. Even bundled up from knee-high boots to the hood of her waist length coat she was unable to combat the chill, although fresh brewed tea helped. Her plain canvas backpack occupied the inside of the noodle shop bench within the terminal.

“Nice outfit Miya-chan. Are those new?”
“You know they are, Reika. I missed the fall specials…and well the fall. Masamori is freezing now, and I hate it.”
“No need to be so dramatic. It’s just a little nippy out there.” “For you maybe. I got used to the sweltering heat of the jungle. Your letters helped me get through the rainy season. To know I have friends back…home that support me. It meant a lot.”
“Well, we were all rooting for you. Our little rookie, the MechWarrior cadet.”

Both exchanged smiles as lunch arrived and Corporal Reika Ya’an sat across from her as Miya took in the woman’s appearance after their brief absence. “The new uniforms look good. Well cut, blue with black striping. Very professional I can’t wait to pick up mine.”
“They are already waiting. We didn’t know when you were going to come back.
You are not looking so bad yourself. I don’t think I’ve seen you with a tan before and you’re looking lean and mean. Like a MechWarrior should.”

Miya choked on her broth and noodles so much that Reika leaned in to assist her but was pushed away, “I didn’t complete the training…”
“But you were so excited. What happened?”
“It wasn’t my thing. I guess.
So, I quit.”

“Power abuse?”

“Idiot Officers…and I wanted something different, real.”

Reika leaned forward with her card in hand for the bill, “Well let me be the first to welcome you back.”
Her partner grabbed her wrist before she could, “This one is on me senpai (Teacher).”
“You insist?”
Miya nodded, paid the tab, and waited a bit before pulling a stuffed envelope out of her backpack and placed it on her side of the table. “This is what I owe you. You have been very kind but I want to make us square.”

“Are you sure? You’re not getting that raise from MechWarrior status and you only got the base rate for your backpay. No overtime, special assignments, or bonuses. You never missed a loose shift and always volunteered.”

“Please take it.”

Strangers gave them side glances and Reika hesitated to put the envelope into her bag, “You know Miya. If people didn’t know us. Well, they might think you are paying off a uniformed police officer in public.”

She chuckled and gave an awkward embarrassed smile, looking toward one of the strangers, “I am a cop too. We’re friends, having lunch together.”

“Have you been drinking?
You are acting”

“I wish! Maybe when I get back to my place.”
“You know if anything is wrong. We’ll do what we can right?”
“Thank you, Reika, but I’m fine. Just tired.
The discharge and flight back took most of two days.

I’ll be back on duty sometime next week.”

Despite the bizarre exchange Reika placed a hand on her shoulder as she almost departed, “See you around then, kiddo.”
“It’s Kibo!”

I know, but you need to ease up. You look tense.
Get a massage,
or a boyfriend.

Or a boyfriend, that is a masseur.”

“Why are you always trying to hook me up with people?”
“It’s how I show my friendship. I expect reciprocity if you happen to know anybody.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open.”
“I promise.”

Within a Love Hotel on the other side of the river bank Miya sat next to stacks of Ryu on the bed. A glass of amber whiskey, top shelf or what passed for it here, gently caressed her hand. The door opened to a black man in a white suit with a purple tie over his lavender shirt.
"Where's the normal guy?"

His accent was artificially cultured, Davion, and falsetto. "Am I not good enough for you Miss Kibo, or whatever your name actually is."
He sat down next to her and poured himself a shot from the same bottle. "Yet I am the one Watanabe-sama sent, and don't try any of those fancy Geisha charms Miya. I quite enthusiastically bat for the other team."

"The Jirigawa's money is there. Count it if you like."

"I trust that your pretty head can count. I do wonder though.
How can an innocent young policewoman come up with sixty thousand Ryu on such short notice, in cash?
Is she involved in some criminal activity? The public must know."
"They won't."
"That remains to be seen. This is your second strike. Your first one was quite grand, very clever escaping from our snakeheads and joining the police thinking it makes you untouchable. There are only two types of people in Masamori Miya, Sharks and Bait."

The Yakuza collector leaned forward to her, hooking two of his fingers into her cheek and pulling sharply upward.
"The real thrill of fishing is the fight. If you wanted to eat fish, you use a net, but that is not how Watanabe sees it.
He likes to watch his bait wriggle on the hook. Right now your struggles entertain him.
However, if you falter even the slightest. The Sharks will strike.
So don't get to comfortable Miya, your freedom and friends depend on it."

11/29/3046 - Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine

The past few days Miya had gotten used to Masamori’s chill but that didn’t mean some extra warmth wasn’t appreciated. She stood in a collection of gossiping young women wearing long coats and little else beneath in a pool of light under a propane heating tower. Rumbling heavy truck traffic and loud, honking motorcycles on the other side of a sheet metal wall.

“Frankie, no he doesn’t come in here much. Too local for him. Most his crew are just underage peepers and known to the bouncer. Except for Esper, she is cute and growing up nice. Sometimes she stops by for a chat or advice dealing with too many teen boys.
Sakamoto likes the exotic imports out in Srinagar. Even though we’re right here. Who does he think he is. A Prince or something?
His crew hasn’t been in since the shootout either.
Another week and I am sure Tuyen will be back and greasing our palms…and other places.
Well, hopefully everything will be less unsettled Hana, so I don’t know.
Those Tikonovians were creeps anyway. I hear they preferred host clubs and those bath clubs.
What do you care about all this stuff anyway? Miya, right?”

Miya had peered too far, too long, too quickly. It was sloppy detective work. She needed to make an exit and fast. “I saw his name in the news. About the shootout.”

“They didn’t print that in the Metro. I heard it from one of my girlfriends. Are you a cop? If so, you’ve got no jurisdiction here!”
The other women turned toward her pointing ferociously, “This is all DCPA! and rough. Frankie is one of the better guys around here. With him around we only need one form of protection.” “I’m not a cop.”
“Then scram!”

She was pushed out onto the Yoshitune’s sodden nighttime streets under the glowing neon lights of the ‘Bunny Bar.’ The doorman (armed as far as she could tell by the lay of his jacket) looked at her then back to future customers queuing behind pole barriers. “Getting kicked out of a strip club is new. Normally they just think I’m competition or looking for companionship. I must be losing my touch.”

A constant stream of traffic accompanied her, “How am I going to get him to trust me then?”
In panic she disappeared into a side alley dominated by decaying pallets and the smell of machine oil from the nearby workshops. Once more she opened her tablet consulting Franklin Sakamoto’s (long) MMK file, looking for anything relevant. He seemed to have a weakness towards girls in trouble, a fast trigger finger, dislike for the Jirigawas, and a criminal history that read like a resume for the perfect man to help her unique…situation. Preferably without ending dead, in jail, trapped in Ukiyo, or on a prison brig back home to a worse fate.

“His role in the shootout in Neon Arcade is not even in the damn report! What the hell! A cover up? Who has that kind of access? What else is missing?”

Most of the pallets had the Isesaki Shipping logo emblazoned on them. “******! I’ll just ask him myself.”

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