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Hachiman, Hard Boiled (Golden Lion AU) Cover Art

Chapter 15 - BST[]

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Asking for some Help[]

12/02/3046 - Yoshitune Starport, Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine

Yoshitune Starport Complex was a giant’s playground. Great gantry cranes loomed over the quays and squat industrial buildings placed anywhere they could fit. Yards burst with stacked, colorful multimodal containers from across the Inner Sphere leaning worryingly above LoaderMechs, Trucks of every configuration, Straddle and Stacking Cranes, Teleloaders, and Exoskeletons. All carefully organized from the complex’s Tanadi Smart Control System, a blueprint for increasing automation of the Draconis Combine’s laborious industry.

Outside of the TSCS’ order entropy took over, squatters lived in condemned warehouses abandoned as the launch complex moved further away from the growing Masamori Metropolitan Area. As the stock yards shrank slums took over, the DCPA didn’t mind so long as the trains and trucks ran uninterrupted, and goods remained with their rightful owners with any loss being easily explained as ‘damaged during shipping’ or ‘lost in transit’ and thus covered by insurance. Dropships dotted the horizon waiting for cargo or their launch window. When ready they streaked across the sky toward the great beyond of the Draconis Combine and perhaps even further.

Miya Kibo leaned against a quayside railing slurping down noodles she had acquired, along with gossip, from a nearby food truck. She looked at her watch again, “Thirty minutes, Franklin. Way to keep a lady waiting.” To her surprise they had her bottled pomegranate smoothie to clear the salt and grease, “You could have at least brought me a drink.”

She could almost feel the barge tug’s rumbling through the canal terminal when her comm-pad beeped. ‘You have fifteen minutes.’

A razor wire topped fence surrounded the Isesaki Office its posts were sturdy and numerous. The main gate had a smaller one built into the steel doors and every inch of the yard and office area were watched by cameras. Miya walked beside the great hydraulic wall that protected it from errant access, or intentional ramming. Few DCMS Forts had such protections, because who would be foolish enough to attack the mighty DCMS.

They never wised up even when someone did.

Two teens buzzed her through the small gate, a teenage girl and boy armed with a shotgun. “Alright Miya who apparently knows Franklin enough that he let you in even though he told us no visitors. Esper here is going to pat you down and check your purse. For security reasons.”

“Is there a problem?”
“Nothing we can’t handle.”

Finding nothing Esper returned the purse and motioned toward her companion before they escorted her past the hunched forms of Kyudo and Komodo Battlemechs. The lights dimmed noticeably as plasma torches created showers of sparks as teens in MMS jumpsuits serviced them and the two LoaderMechs in the facilities’ Mechbay. A highly polished red roadster, pair of dually trucks, a Kei and panel Van, moped, garishly painted bosozoko cycles with their ‘tombstone’ passenger seats, and a turbocharged trike roadster stood opposite them.

“Interesting collection of autos you have.”
“You think so. What’s your favorite?”
“I like the purple moped. Although duallies bring up fond memories.” Esper giggled next to her.
She enjoyed her own curt laugh, “She understands.”
The boy took a moment to understand some of the potential implications as they ascended the catwalk toward the foreman’s office. “Oh, I see.

I like the Mach Five, but I only got to drive it once. To the body shop.”

Franklin picked up two Canopian chicks, at the same time! That morning and had them over for dinner later.

The luck of that jerk. Anywhere here’s his office.
He’ll escort you out when you are finished whatever you are doing here.”

He and Esper departed, and Miya caught a brief exchange about whether he could pick up a Canopian with his video game trophies. “Hey that’s not funny Ess, quit teasing me.”

Miya shook her head, “What a bunch of weirdos,” she reapplied her lipstick in a nearby window’s reflection. “Not like my friends.” Pausing for a moment she recalled who was left of Genzo’s own eccentric band with its Maiko assassin looking back at her. “Right?”

Behind her the door opened to reveal Franklin Sakamoto in a blue, partially open Judo Gi. She couldn’t help but stare a little at his muscles. “Hey, I don’t want to tell you how to use your fifteen minutes, but dolling yourself up isn’t going to charm the clock.”

As she entered, she was overwhelmed by the certificates and pictures attached to the walls certifying Franklin to operate at the highest level of stellar engineering in the Draconis Combine. Everything was mercifully neat and orderly on his desk so unlike her own which was probably stacked high with paperwork. She took the seat offered and admired the scale model of an Invader Jumpship and Mule Cargo DropShip atop it and blueprints for some piece of astral engineering far beyond her understanding.

“Can I get you something to drink?”
“Shochu, straight.”
Franklin picked a bottle of a nearby shelf pouring the off-white beverage into a pair of clear glasses. “That kind of day, huh. You aren’t driving right?”
“No, and I can handle my liquor. Thank you very much.”

“I believe you. Did you ever try that plum wine?”
“I did.” Miya sipped on her shochu which cut through the sickly sweet and umami of her lunch. “Chilled was the right call.”
“That makes me happy. So, what do you want from me?
I doubt this is a social call, we didn’t exactly start or leave on the right foot.
What was your interest in Mrs. Uchida anyhow?”
“Her husband hired me. He suspected something was up.”
“He wasn’t wrong.” Franklin gave her a roguish smile, “Guilty as charged for charming a beautiful woman. If Isamu put as much effort into watching his woman as you did. She wouldn’t have sought me out. So why do you?”

Miya hated compromising her pride, so she paused and took another sip, “I need your help.”

“I owe money to the Jirigawas. You don’t like them; they don’t seem to like you either.”

“All the more reason for me to be cautious with them. They own an interest in almost every business on Hachiman. Do you have the money? Can you get it? Or know something to trade?”

“I have the money.”
“Then pay them off. That’s all Watanabe cares about.”
“It’s a little more complicated with me. The Jirigawas smuggled me out of a bad situation to Hachiman with a job to pay them off.”

His eyes looked her over, again, and again “Ukiyo?”

“Yes, but I escaped, so I already started on their bad side, but made my payments as agreed.
I was told a few days ago that the only reason they don’t just abduct me or expose my friends is that Watanabe finds my predicament amusing. ‘Live bait’ or so he says, they enjoy watching me flounder and want me to come back begging.”

“How did you get the money?”

“That’s not important. What is…is that I need it to not be linked to me or my benefactor.”
“Did you trade one master for another?”
“In a way yes.”

“I am willing to help you, I will cut you a discount on my normal rate due to our shared enmity. It’s still not cheap.”

Franklin reached into his desk and pulled out a manila envelope, “Once you fill out these financial documents you will start a limited business account within Isesaki Shipping, leave the number blank right now. The money must remain within it for at least thirty days but will come out clean minus a processing fee from Isesaki and my personal fee, all of which will be properly invoiced.”

She shook the folder at him, “You are offering me a credit card?”

“A temporary line of credit properly, more of a bonded security. Are you questioning my methods?
It works, you will have to trust me. I am Isesaki Shipping’s chief shipping agent on world, no one else on Hachiman can give you such a clean deal.”

Her eyes rolled, “This is ridiculous. You’re conning me. There must be something more to hiding almost a quarter million Ryu.”

“There is but it’s mostly for my fee. I would not be a very good businessman if I conned my customers. Centuries of fine print hide a great deal and a quarter million is a pittance compared to what I’ve moved before.”
“What’s the catch then?”

“I am planning an excursion to an Indian casino in Jingu to watch the races next weekend. If you come with me, I can use Isesaki Shipping’s suite without paying, for entertaining a potential client.”

Miya crossed her arms and looked out toward the bay and away from the handsome outlaw in front of her. “I am not going to sleep with you, Mister Sakamoto.”
“You won’t have to. If you don’t want to that is.
My fee with be compensate professional companionship. You can do whatever you want in the casino. The only condition is that you must sleep in one of the suites. Chips are included, it’s very nice. Great view of the countryside. Has an exclusive Onsen (Hot Tub Resort).”

“You want me, who was recruited for the pleasure quarter by gangsters to pay for your hooker for a hedonistic vacation weekend?”

“That is a discount compared to my normal rate. Besides I need a vacation, you look like you need one too.” He looked toward a damaged suit jacket still in plastic marked ‘repair,’ “these past few weeks have been very stressful.”
“You’re telling me.
Before I agree I want an estimate for your ‘professional companionship’?”

“With pleasure.”

He reached for the archaic handset and stopped the creaking fan above him, “Srinagar, Dawn Pleasure Circus, Operator connect me with Caskata Rio. Yes, I am in her book already. Apologies Miya, would you like it on speaker?”
“No, I’d rather not.”
“Suit yourself.”

She listened in on one side of the conversation and cursed herself for not asking he do it in Standard, she couldn’t understand most of the words. “Ciao Caskata, Você recebeu meu presente?
‘Hello Caskata, did you get my present?’
Bom, bom, você está livre no próximo fim de semana?
‘Good, good, are you free next weekend?’
Excelente, é meu aniversário, mas tenho um cliente para entreter”
‘Excellent, it is my birthday, but I have a client to entertain.’

“But aren't you a Pisces?”

Franklin gave her a dark and worrying look, “Desculpas, eu tenho outra ligação esperando. Vai ligar de volta mais tarde.” ‘Apologies, I have another call waiting. Will call you back later.’

His hand was wrapped around her throat, and she was slammed into the desk scattering the models, knocking the glasses away, and ruffling the blueprints. Before she could squeak out an “Oh no,” Franklin had her pinned down. “Now how would you know that, Miya?”

Interrogation by a Angry Man[]

“Who sent you! <ref> Was it Khadan? <ref> Ninyu?<ref> Answer me!”<ref>

Miya struggled instinctively to get free from the unexpected attack as Franklin held her in place, eyes fixed darkly on her contorted face. “I don’t know those names I swear!”<ref>

“Then how do you know? My real birthday isn’t written down anywhere.”, he told her<ref>

“One of the girls down the street told me one of your people, Two Yen she called him, delivered a cash donation marked ‘a birthday gift from Sara’ early last March, shortly after I arrived on world. I don’t know who that is, but I thought it might be you.”, she told him.<ref>

Franklin released his grip on her throat but kept his hands on her shoulders. Miya coughed several times, as he paid more attention. He felt something hard poking his chest. “A hush puppy, but you were checked.”<ref>

“Don’t be mad at Esper. She was through.” <ref>

She slipped the derringer pistol into her blouse pocket. “If I was an assassin sent by whoever those people are would I hesitate to pull the trigger? A pair of six mil, subsonic, hollow points are lethal at this range.”<ref>

“I’d give you five minutes, plenty of time for me to undo some buttons to help explain everything away. Easy story, you made an indecent offer, I refused you, we got in an argument, and I was so worried for my own safety.”<ref>

Faux tears came on command and her voice broke, “Even your own people would have doubts.”<ref>

“You’ve done this before?”, he asked<ref>

Tears were wiped away on her sleeve as she raised herself to a seated position still on the desk. “It’s not my preferred method.”<ref>

A battered metal lighter emerged from her purse before she sparked it. “Normally I get close, pretend my lighter doesn’t work, and then.”<ref>

Her fingers formed hook and drew across her own neck, “A slash across the throat, deep enough that they can’t scream a warning.”<ref>

“Savage.”, he said<ref>

“What if they don’t smoke?”<ref>

“I don’t smoke either, but enough DCMS do that I manage.” he said<ref>

In response he pushed her legs aside to access his lighter and pack of smoke, “It helps with the boredom, fatigue, and poor rations. I tried to quit but have bad dreams. Sometimes I have bad dreams anyway, so maybe it’s not entirely the cigs.”<ref>

Miya circled her legs around and carefully stepped off the desk avoiding the suddenly and violently displaced models and other accoutrement. She turned and kept her hands very visible on the opposite side of the desk.<ref>

“Franklin, I am an outlaw like you, so I did what I needed to in order to survive. My people are on the wrong side of the law in a different way.”, she told him.<ref>

“Terrorists?”, he asked

“We prefer freedom fighters or at least rebels. Please.”, countered Franklin

“Is this money you need ‘changed,’ blood money?”, she asked

“Not as you think of it. I don’t kill for money. I selflessly saved a life, and it was given to me in gratitude. That’s why I can’t just use it to pay off the Jirigawas. It would taint that generosity.” Miya told him

“I’m trying to leave it behind and start fresh her in Masamori, but my friends and I; We’re losing, and I can’t help them while the Jirigawas own me.”

“They never abandoned me even when they should have. So, I can’t either.”

“You seem to be the only person I think I know that might be able to understand. You are not the only one living under false papers.”

“I’ll help you, but I don’t want you coming back. When we’re through that’s it.
I don’t need any more heat on me or my crew.”

Franklin shuffled through the material on the floor and handed Miya the envelope again, along with a phone he pulled from his desk. “The number we are going to use is already programmed.
Fill out this paperwork, I will check it and submit it after we get back from Jingu.
If everything goes well, you can eat leftover Toshikoshi Soba as a free woman.”

“Arigato, Franklin Sakamoto”, she said

As she opened the door, “It was my mother’s name Miya.”

She turned slightly to see Franklin seated and ashing the cigarette on a chipped handmade ashtray retrieved by the floor. “What was?”
“Sara, probably not her real name, but it’s the only one I know.”

“Kanoka, I think, but I never knew her.”

“I’m sorry.”

Miya closed the door behind her before Franklin could see real tears.

Back in Uniform[]

12/09/3046 - Police Station, Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine

Snow flurries gently fell into the river coating the riverside park Genryu’s Koban was situated above. Children made snow angels outside while Constable Miya Kibo furiously stamped reams of paperwork into neat piles carefully filed in one of the associated bins.

“Why is there always so much? Every time I look away or leave, it somehow grows larger.”

Miya looked over to Saburo and Shogi enjoying empty desks and cups of steaming chai while talking about whatever happened to be guy stuff at the time. “You aren’t sneaking your stuff into my drawers, right guys?”

“We wouldn’t dream of sneaking anything into a lady’s drawers.”

Sharp pneumatic pops caused both to suddenly shoot up, “Ouch!”

Reika appeared behind them with a bright yellow ‘Lil Bugger’ salt shooter in her hands, “You better not.”

They looked behind their back to see her smugly smiling toward them. Shogi reached back and massaged the back of his neck. “That thing stings.”

“I thought I saw a fly.

Shouldn’t you be on patrol? In the snowy freezing darkness outside.”

Once more she brandished the ‘Lil Bigger’ toward them, “Miya laid it up for us. We couldn’t leave it hanging.”

“Drive carefully boys.”

Both men stood, walked toward the coat rack, and recovered their mugs before departing. “Right away, Corporal. It was getting icy in here anyhow.”

Corporal Yara’an occupied her orderly desk occupied by a small ikebana made from flowers from her latest boyfriend, the fourth that Miya knew of. “You don’t have to do that, Reika.”

“Tease the boys?”

Miya nodded as Reika breathed in the Bodhisattva violet’s fragrance that occupied its center and put down the salt shooter. “I enjoy it.

I hear they call me Corporal Punishment.

In their dreams.

Take a break from the paperwork, it will still be there when you return. Inspector Genju would like you to meet him in his office.”

“For what?”, she asked

“I don’t know.”

She stood up, donned her cap, and checked her reflection. The new black and blue uniforms looked very sharp, especially after two months of intense exercise and diet in the jungle. “It better not be for this weekend. I have plans, and it would crush my friend if I had to cancel.”

“Going out of town?”

“That’s nice. You seem kind of off since you came back from Nashik and good trip might be what you need. I hope you have a good time.”

“Me too.” She turned sharply and pointed aggressively toward the piles, “Stay right there! and the same size! I will be right back.”

“You really need that trip.” Although she muttered it out Miya could hear Reika as she passed her desk.

Inspector Genju’s eyes caught the reflection of the desk’s computer monitor in the darkened room as Miya stood opposite him. “Constable Kibo. Just the lady I was looking for.”

“What would you like to discuss with me, sir?”
“You are on the shortlist for a special assignment.
Protection detail for a teenage boy enrolled in college. The MMK have been tasked with his safety.
He’s in our district so I would like it if you accepted the assignment if it is offered.
There will be a meeting next week with the subject at headquarters for final selection.”

“Is a teenage boy an appropriate assignment for someone like myself?”
“Do you not like teenage boys?”

“I think they might like me too much.”
“He has an older sister so is already comfortable with a female presence. You have the appropriate skills, knowledge, and temperament.

Just consider it, Constable.
The tender is right from Commissioner Marangoz’s office.”

“I will attend the meeting, Inspector.”

“Fine work, Miya. Glad to have you back in uniform.”

“It is my pleasure but thank you, sir.”

Miya adjusted the salute back to the MMK standard rather than the DCMS, but it was sharp & snappy just as she trained at the start of last year.

A Prayer[]

12/10/3046 - Shrine, Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine

Snow crunched underfoot as Miya passed under many Torii gates and pine boughs within a park blanked with white silence. Only partially visible between the pines in lantern light were the ominous armored Zujin guardian statues armed with real weapons and wearing actual armor. The top of an ancient kneeling Gladiator Battlemech peered over a nearby bamboo grove. Its helmetlike head locked in a respectful bow toward the crimson and black shrine as if it would rise like a great Samurai hero of yore to its defense if asked all by itself.

O-mikuji fortune papers tied to fences and pine trees creaked softly in the wind as Miya settled in the solitude of the shrine that she couldn’t help but see every day but at the same time she couldn’t bear to enter it either, until today. She tried to relax, breathing out clouds into the freezing night before approaching the Saisen box. Siriwan Kurita’s face appeared to her on the pair of 50 Ryu notes she placed in the box. The white and red suzu rope rang the bell whose cool tinny noise barely carried beyond her before being absorbed by the suffocating silence of winter’s night.

Two bows, two muffled claps, a silent prayer for those she lost, found, and never knew, then another deep bow.

Miya sought out an O-mikuji fortune paper for herself despite there being no Miko to choose. She found them stacked atop one another with a rock to hold them firm in the bin, and an honor box beside it. Another 20 Ryu filled the bin, and she opened it up to read her fortune (‘Sue-Kichi’ Future Blessing) and short poem inside on the resilience of willows (inspired by this ). Overcome with emotion and tears she faced the honden and bowed with hands outstretched in prayer.

“Thank You, Benten."

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