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Hachiman, Hard Boiled (Golden Lion AU) Cover Art

Chapter 17 - Blood Oaths and Unpaid Debts[]

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Kidnappers on the Move[]

12/13/3046 - Masamori, Hachiman, Draconis Combine
18:30


The van bounced on a speed bump sending Franklin sprawling out of the laundry bin. Muscles refused to respond even if his eyes could make out only the faintest of faces. His ears worked fine however and heard an unseen voice came from ‘the front.’ “Kano, strap him in.”

He felt pressure on his shoulders and back as strong hands attempted to push him into a side-seat within the van before belting him. “Come along sweet Prince. What are we doing with him anyway Samir?”

“We are going to pick him and his brother up. Then the Sons of the Dragon are going to hold them hostage until Theodore steps down.”
“He has other heirs.”
“Who will suffer unfortunate accidents on their way to their grandfather’s imminent funeral. Everything has already been planned.”

20:28
Something was making a horrible creaking. Franklin felt the heat of an explosion behind and cold air around them. A woman’s voice tinkled indistinctly into his ears.


Prince Charming Awakes Up[]

12/14/3046 - Nugoa Medical Center - Hachiman, Draconis Combine


00:20

Franklin Sakamoto woke with a start to a room filled with beeping health monitors and bright lights. A shocked nurse strode over and shone a bright light in his eyes. She cut him off as his pulse quickened, “Mister Sakamoto, please relax. You are safe. Stay here while I get the others.”

He looked out over the bay watching the lights twinkle from the buildings onto the dark ocean beyond. A lighthouse shone brightly on a nearby promontory to the bay based on the pattern it made on the drapes. Two turbaned bearded men entered their size making the hospital room suddenly feel crowded. The older of the pair introduced himself as the Casino’s President Imar Singh who gently quizzed him on his lost time. “Unfortunately, it is foggy. I was drugged.”

“Mister Sakamoto, it is my great shame that you have encountered such a travail while staying at my casino. In order to apologize I am comping you another two days to recover, with company of course.” Imar gave him a jovial elbow and wink, “Who better than a Canopian to aid your recovery and restore your vigor?”

“Where’s Miya?”
“She has already departed for Masamori.
Slightly delayed from her initial departure. Mondavi is paying of course. As I said we are very sorry.”

Imar shaped his fingers and the nurse from earlier reappeared in the door, “Ma’am, as soon as Mister Sakamoto is discharged, please give me a call. I will send a car for him.”


Catching a Flight[]

Resort Town of Srinagar - Hachiman, Draconis Combine


The resort town of Srinagar was blanketed in a thin layer of snow as Franklin and Caskata returned in the morning. Franklin returned Cas to the Dawn Circus with a parting kiss before he went about the business of emptying the safe. His double shotgun was secure inside but placed trigger ‘down’ rather than the DCA’s approved ‘up’ position. “Did I put it in upside down?”

He slung it over his shoulder and opened the gray rectangular can where Miya’s revolver and their ammo were. “Her gun and ammo aren’t here!”

Another look revealed that the paperwork she needed to launder her freedom from the Jirigawas wasn’t there either. Franklin dialed up the burner phone. No dial tone meant it was dead or off.
“What the hell, Miya? Answer the damn phone!”


Meeting the Assignment[]


Miya sat in MMK HQ’s break room with her phone in hand despite the amazing view of city lights and the river where small ice sheets broke under the hull of its many ferries or bridges. You could hardly tell it was a city on the edge of a full-blown gang war between the Jirigawa and Sumiyama groups over diminishing prospects.
“Constable Kibo, they are waiting for you.”

She stood and snapped a sharp salute before entering the interview room where the erudite face of MMK Commissioner Marangoz waited on the other side of a metal table. “I am sorry sir, but I was told ‘they’ would be waiting for me.”

“There was no misunderstanding, Constable. Minoru just needed to step out for a moment.”
“Minoru Kurita?”
“Yes, he is your assignment.”

“My…assignment?”, she asked in disbelief.

The door behind them opened and Minoru stepped in taking a side beside the Commissioner. His hair was slightly spiked, and he wore a fur lined motorcycle jacket with the collar up. It was a new look based on how he carried himself, cute but awkward. “You come highly recommended Miya. I am happy to have you looking out for me. Can we start now, Commissioner? I have class at noon.”

“I don’t see any problem with that, Minoru.
Do you, Constable?” asked Commissioner

It took every bit of willpower within Miya to not outright object to having this teenage boy hoisted upon her. “No problem at all, Sir.”

“Can we take your motorcycle?
I want to learn how to ride. I hear you’re the best in your patrol section.”

Minoru and Miya stood alongside the sleek black and red bike she received to replace the one lost in the summer. She stood almost head-to-head with the young man with her arms resting on her waist and blue eyes firmly fixed on his own. “Hands here, no higher, no lower. You ride the bike not me. Understand?”

Future City at Night

Miya & Minoru ride off to his school.

He nodded as she traded his hat for her helmet, mounted the saddle and with a kickstart its high performance gas engine roared to life in the MMK parking garage and onto the streets.


Reuniting with the Crew[]

12/17


Jerri, Esper, Yugon, Tuyen, and the others were waiting for Franklin as his car arrived from Srinagar. “Welcome back. You must have been having a lot of fun to add a few more days to your vacation.”

They each gave him a grateful pat on the back, “It was quite the trip.”
Franklin faced the rest of his crew of juvenile delinquents, “Hey, the Scoundrels are up for a rematch with the Tiger Sharks. Friday Night at HTI. After a tour of the campus.”
Each of them looked at him in shock, “Really!”
“Yeah, there are slots available if you want them. Classes start Mid-January. You’ll have to find off-campus housing, and how to live like normal people.”

A great cheer erupted from the teenagers which bounced off the corrugated metal building as they marched off to their dormitory to celebrate. “NEVER! SCOUNDRELS FOR LIFE!”

Smiles were all round as Franklin yelled toward them, “Hey, you better be practicing in there!
I want to see a win on Saturday.”

He looked back at his associates, “Did I miss anything besides the continued decline of the Draconis Combine while I was away?”

They leaned against heavy wooden crates emblazoned with Isesaki’s logo, “Takashi, the Fisher King. At a certain point you must ask why he doesn’t end it himself. Rather than drag us down with him.”

“Well, there’s that and the fact that Jirigawa and Sumiyama are feuding now. It hasn’t spread to Yoshitune yet.”

Komoto Medium BattleMech (In City)

Komoto Medium 'Mech

Tuyen looked over his shoulder at the militarized LoaderMechs, Kyudo, and Komodo cradled against the wall, “But let’s just say it’s a good thing we have mechs and other options.”

“We could carve out a nice spot in the Colonies with what we’ve got already and some hired muscle.”

Franklin lit a cigarette and stood with his back toward the Mach V, “I’m not going back to that madhouse. Setting up here until I get a better option.”
“You’ve gone soft, Frankie.”
“Nah, plenty of trouble here in Masamori. I don’t need to go adventuring for it.”


Deep into Debt[]

12/18


Miya sat on the bed beside the black Yakuza in his white and lavender suit studying a 500g gold bar with Togura Mint Markings. “I have twenty-seven more just like it. Enough to pay off my debt.”
“Watanabe demands you to bring it to him in person.”
Her voice took on a dark tone, “That wasn’t the deal.”
He matched the same energy, “Oh, my, my…Look who’s interpreting the deal now.
You ran and didn’t pay us as agreed. So, the deal has been altered. If you want your freedom ‘Miya.’
Go to Ukiyo and buy it in person. One last reel in for the bait.
Say New Year’s Eve.”

The gold bar fell onto the garish blanket as the Yakuza departed leaving behind a trail of musky cologne. She secreted it back into her coat pocket, “I’m never going to get out of this deal. It’s a trap and I can’t get someone to help me escape it.”

Fingers brushed Franklin’s burner phone which had been turned off for days. She was going to drop it in the river on the ferry ride but hesitated. “No…I can’t.”


12/19


Minoru and Miya (“His Sister”) sat across from a stylish metal table with their backs toward the Automat that served as Hachiman Technical Institute’s dining hall. Steam rose from their breakfast, bowls of miso soup, white rice, and cups of black tea. “Minoru, I saw posters going out around the stadium. Is something going on this evening?”

“The Tiger Sharks is rematching with Isesaki Shipping’s Scoundrels. Our previous event was interrupted by a dozen Vory gunmen. There were some casualties, but the MMK Storm Team and Franklin Sakamoto handled them.”

Miya choked on her soup for a few moments as she heard that name. Minoru stood up and patted her on the back until it abated, and she signaled that she was okay.
‘Umm…humph’
“Sakamoto…that sounds familiar.”

“It’s a family with a proud heritage. He’s adopted, but he’s an Alumni of HTI.
Apparently, the Scoundrels are to be enrolled here for next semester. They are taking a tour today.”

Minoru lifted his Tiger Shark’s branded hat to run his hand across spiky hair which bounced at his touch. “I guess we’ll have to start an Intramural E-Sports League.”

‘You guys are total nerds.’

Franklin ducked out of the HTI Stadium for a smoke break in the cold night air. The campus was quiet, finals were done, and most of the students spent the winter break with their families. HTE ‘Powders’ were out patrolling in force considering the event occurring nearby. He settled on a bench in the park admiring the enduring pines, statuary, and industrial art adorning it.

A woman appeared under the streetlight coming from the Stadium hiding her face under a Tiger Shark’s colored hat. Something sparked in her hands several times before she approached him.

“Excuse me Sir, my lighter doesn’t seem to be working. Would you mind?”

His hand closed on a Tanto hidden in his coat. “Bold move, Miya. I know you don’t smoke. Why are you here?”


Talk between Frankie and Miya[]


Miya approached cautiously. “Come on Frankie. If I meant you harm. I could have taken you anywhere in the park. This is closer to my natural environment than yours.”

Her puffy jacket scrunched slightly as she sat beside him on the bench, and he noticed her perfume was as light as the pines around them. He removed his hand from the knife. Both eased against the wooden bench as if they were old friends or lovers that hadn’t talked in ages. “There are other ways to hurt people. For someone who expended effort to get my help you disappeared without a trace.”

As she removed the hat, Franklin saw a small fish sticker glowing in the dark next to the Tiger Shark’s logo. “I’m sorry about ghosting you. I thought it would be easier for both of us. It takes me a long time to get comfortable with someone.”

“You’re probably the closest I’ve been since I left Kirei Na Niwa. For what it’s worth I hesitated when I thought about destroying the phone and didn’t do it.”

“Yet, you still didn’t turn it on or leave me a message.
Why did you remove the documents from the safe?”

“I don’t need your help paying off the Jirigawas anymore, so I took them back and burned them.”
She exhaled sharply, “If I didn’t have standards. I could become a rich woman killing men,” then chuckled, “instead of saving them.”

“Thank you, Miya.
Caskata didn’t say anything, but I knew it was you.
Singh paid you off I presume. To protect his reputation.”

“Genzo always said the greatest weakness of the Draconis Combine’s men is that they will die to protect their reputation. A quarter million Ryu seemed a fair trade. I should have asked for more, but the bag was just too heavy.”

Franklin and Miya both laughed, “They’d start taking gold leaf off the walls if you asked.”
“It was very tacky.”

“I can’t help but notice that you didn’t tell me why you happen to be here.”
“I live nearby. With all the students away and increased security this park seemed like a good location for a walk.”

“I may not have the best sense when it comes to pretty women, but at least a portion of that is a lie.”

“I assure you that everything in that sentence is truthful.”

She reached into her purse and pulled out a tube of lip balm, “Honestly I intended to seek you out.” the lip balm was returned, and a printed picture came out, a bronze medallion engraved with ‘Filli Draco,’ laying on some nondescript countertop.

“This was on the people that abducted you. I couldn’t find anything about these Sons of the Dragon through my sources, or what they wanted with you. They seemed possessive, but unorganized. Luckily for me they were better at getting past security than dodging bullets.”

He accepted the printed picture and studied it as well as he could with the park lights. “Was there any other evidence on it?”

“No, it’s been through a forensics lab. I had to execute some limited countermeasures before handing it over for my own protection. They found some material but no matches in the Combine’s databases. Do you remember anything about why they might want you?”

“Too fuzzy.
What are you a cop? Asking me such questions.”

She pointed toward herself, shocked at the audacity. “Me, a cop!
Come on Franklin, that’s like suggesting you’re a Prince. We are both just outlaws.”

Her watch blinked blue, and she stood up donning the hat once more, “I will turn the phone back on for now, for you.”
“Thank you, I’ll call if I found out anything through my sources.”

Franklin stood as well; Miya began walking away, but paused and turned toward him causing her short ponytail to bounce slightly.
“My help is not free though; you owe me that dinner I missed saving your ass.”
“Is that all my life is worth to you? Dinner?”
“It’s going to be a very expensive dinner. All I can eat wagyu, caviar, crab, and top shelf bottles.”<br> “Well, I can’t let my reputation suffer.” “Your wallet will suffice.
By the way, Franklin, the first call I am making from that phone is to Cas. In order to see if your magazine had sufficient volume Monday and Tuesday.”
“I was drugged. Couldn’t live up to my usual potential.”

Miya turned around and smiled before disappearing into the shadowed pines. He lost track of her but worked his way toward the stadium to watch the conclusion of the final round between the Scoundrels and Tiger Sharks. Cheers erupted from the small crowd when the home team won by a single point against Isesaki. The two teams bowed to each other and high fived.

While the Scoundrels packed their stuff into the van and Tiger Sharks did the same to their cart Franklin and Minoru stood face to face across from one of the tables. Minoru’s hat was laid out on the table in front of them revealing the spiky hair which initially provoked amused reactions in Franklin.
“Great game, Minoru-san.”
“I’m glad we didn’t need your special skills tonight, Franklin-san.”
“Me too. Thank you for doing all the work to accommodate them with only a few days’ notice.”
“I look forward to learning beside your people. What are you going to do now?”
“Weather the bad shipping climate. Maybe work for Stellar Trek or go back on long hauls. Although there are not a lot of Successor States that will allow me in their borders. I have a complicated past.”
“You’re not the only one. You could always lecture here; I’ve read your thesis.”
“It’s not even published yet and you’re in the robotics program not the Astral Engineering one.”
“I know people.”

The older man picked up the hat then handed it to Minoru who accepted it readily while the article concealed the clear tape attached to Franklin’s fingers.
“I’m glad you appreciate it. I’ll give you a signed copy of the manuscript once its finished.”

They took a step back from the table bowed to one another.
“Arigato, Mister Sakamoto.”
“Oyasumi, Minoru-san.”


12/20

Fin-like towers rose high above the river valley catching the first rays of dawn as Franklin’s car disembarked from the ferry toward its destination. The rented kei-car puttered along streets bustling with people in scrubs on the sidewalks and skywalks that served as capillaries for the vast looming body of Murasaki General Hospital. Ambulance and MMK Patrol sirens echoed over brutalist concrete canyons.

Franklin stepped out and into one of the many subordinate outpatient labs servicing the hospital. He was given a clipboard to fill out by the technician and returned it immediately along with three 100 Ryu bills. “Come on back, Sir.”

“Thank you for the hasty service.”
He stepped into one of the patient rooms where another technician was already waiting. “What can I do for you?” “I need a DNA test on these two samples. One that won’t use or be on any database.” “I have a family dispute and want to keep this in my back pocket in case it blows up.”

Two black canisters were placed on the lab bench and tapped one. “This one is a saliva sample from me, we’ll call that the control.”

“This second one has hair samples. I want to know if that sample has any of the same DNA. Remember I don’t want it run through the database or logged anywhere, or else. Just a printout will do.”
“It will take a few days. You got the money?”
Four 500 Ryu bills were placed beneath the two canisters followed by a post-it note with a phone number on it. “Call and tell me ‘it is done’ nothing more and I will come back to receive the results.”

Those bills disappeared into his pocket without hesitation, “As you wish, Sir.”


Bloodlines[]


Ukiyo’s bright lights reflected off the turbulent river making Miya’s rented telescope into a kaleidoscope. Sparkling lights and bright streamers hung on bare, hibernating trees while children threw snowballs at one another over the rolling hills and landscaping walls. Sweet, spicy smells from baked pastries lingered on the breeze. Minoru had departed for Chandrasekar’s Deolali Mansion until next week. She was invited but politely declined, not wanting to get into a jurisdictional dispute with the ISF or have them look at her record again. The Jirigawas were probably playing them for their own amusement.

Nothing occupied her time or energy except the threat posed by Watanabe and his syndicate. Every day while on patrol she felt certain people were watching her. Yakuza seemed to lurk on every street corner, hiding their tattoos under winter coats, and eyes behind polarized glasses. Even in the Koban she felt exposed. Every visitor a potential informant, her trusted coworkers moles, that would turn on her at any moment.

“I’m trapped,” she strongly considering leaving Hachiman and the Draconis Combine for good. Maybe to the Free Rasalhague Republic or Outworlds Alliance or anywhere else. If she did though the Jirigawas would surely betray her, slander the MMK, and then send her back to Takeuchi in disgrace and collect a handsome reward for their trouble. She paused and took in the sight of the magnificent city that had treated her so well, and its festering sore on the opposite shore with its gaudy lights and carnal delights. “You deserve better. I won’t let those bottom feeders take us down with them.”

She collapsed on a bench deeper into the park. Whispering to herself with the burner phone’s small screen providing faint light against the gnarled canopy. “Franklin, I need to ask a big favor of you. No, that’s not going to work.
I have to work on it.”

Franklin Sakamoto locked his office door behind him. His winter overcoat weighed heavily on the stand, he switched on the desk lamp and ripped open the envelope he received from the crooked lab techs.


DNA Result | Compared to XY control
Two Unknown individuals detected from provided sample
Unknown XY – Common Y, 27% Allele Match, probable half-brother
Unknown XX – 6% Allele Match, Most common on X, probable second cousin


Four more times through wasn’t even enough for this to make sense, “Two individuals. I only took hair from Minoru. Who else would wear his hat?”

His fingers tapped on the desk, “Who else was there that night?
My crew, the Tiger Sharks, Miya…
The sticker on her hat, was the same. Just like Minoru’s uniform in Neon Arcade.”

The cell phone in front of him rang, it was her number, “But that would mean that…
Damn."

He rushed over to the backbar and poured out a double shot of whiskey phone in hand, “Sorry, I need a drink before I answer this.”


Christmas Eve[]

12/24 19:45


Two days later, Christmas lights twinkled on the tinsel decorated pine tree in front of Masamori Mechanical Services. Teen apprentices frantically packed crates with their possessions for their impending big move. Most of the vehicles were gone, but a pair of PowerMan Loadermechs stood loosely in their mounting cradles with faint light shining down on them. The other bays in the cavernous work bay were empty.

“Hey, Jerri where are the Battlemechs?”
Jerri stopped and looked toward the bays as Tim pointed, “I guess Franklin took them.”
“But who’s the other pilot? Huyen and Shan are on a fishing trip.”


The slanted trigonal shapes of blue gray Komodo and Kyudu Battlemech marched outside of Yoshitune’s ferrocrete foundation. A steady tempo of shuttles and aircraft departed the starport and associated airport scattering visitors throughout the continent of Ojin. Each mech carried a high-power searchlight like a right-angle flashlight in one of its hands to illuminate the frozen marsh beyond the headlights of MMS’ Sherpa trucks. “Watch your step, Miya. These marshes are treacherous.”

“I don’t want you to wreck my Mech.”, Franklin told her

Her face was dimly lit in red as the Kyudo’s tutorial program updated her on recommended controls in a proper Avilion accent. The new cooling vest Franklin gave her as a ‘Christmas present,’ clearly of Canopian manufacture, fit snugly over and accentuated her form like a corselet. Her neurohelmet was not as well-fitted so she fiddled with its straps to find the right combination. “I won’t. I bet you’ve lost plenty of people in these reeds.”

“Accidents happen. Some people just can’t help but fall on their blades.
Often multiple times…because they are very clumsy.”

A chuckle came over the headphones, “What a relief, Miya, you’re normally so serious.”
“Would you rather me be cracking jokes.”
“I would. Assuming you know any.”
“Throwing down the gauntlet. I see.”

“Anyway, just follow my mech. My beagle probe can search out an optimal route to somewhere we can safely practice. We will have to walk through water on the way back. I don’t want this muck messing up my paintjob.”

Franklin turned off the radio speaking only to himself, and ‘Big Blue’ whose Moe mascot was painted into the inside face of his control panel. “Because soon I won’t have apprentices to do the scut work.”



The Announcement[]

12/27 19:45


Miya and Franklin perched over a layered map of Ukiyo (Floating City) with the flickering light of and faint buzz emanating from the corner television which playing repeats of some melodrama. Boxed tea, cups of noodles, and bottles of sake filled the litter bin alongside crumbled up papers. An arsenal was laid out on workshop benches for maintenance and tuning.

Despite being less than 100 meters away from the shore the Floating City was an artificial island with a decommissioned depot ship at its core. It was thus a ‘stone frigate’ and subject to planetary nautical law rather than that of the MMK or DCPA. Even the bridges to the island were known as ‘gangways’ for reasons other than the number of criminals they serviced.

Another box of tea disappeared through Miya’s straw, “Getting in seems easy enough.”

His cigarette smoke rose lazily before the fan scattered it to oblivion, “We are walking into a trap. I expect Watanabe won’t try to stop us.”

She moved the plastic tokens, taken from one of the Bozos board games, with chop sticks toward the Jirigawa base. “How are we getting off the island? If we can get that far.”

“I have a plan for that.” Franklin pulled away several transparencies to reveal nautical charts of the river, “You see…”

The TV volume increased suddenly, and the screen turned red causing both to look toward the screen where a well-groomed man with an VoD pin on his mandarin collar sat behind a desk.

//“We interrupt this program for an announcement from the Interstellar News Network. Delivered by The Voice of the Dragon.\\

//It has been confirmed that Coordinator Takashi Kurita died last night in his sleep on Luthien at the age of seventy-six from complications due to stroke.\\

//Abbess Tomade Yamira and the Ministries have requested that a twenty-five-day mourning period be observed in his honor.\\

//All subjects of the Draconis Combine should expect travel delays as dignitaries will head to Luthien to give their Oaths of Fealty to the new Coordinator when they are selected. This will disrupt regular operations until the end of First Quarter Thirty Forty-Seven.\\

//Takura Migaki. \\
//“Signing out.”\\

After the broadcast the TV returned to its previous settings, contrasting the somber broadcast with an overly comedic performance for the actors in the show.

Franklin turned back to Miya, whose hair had fallen without the chop sticks for support. “I suppose we should light some incense then.”

“It was getting rank in here.”


Personal Motto[]

12/31 21:48


Despite frozen flags flown at half-staff prismatic fireworks erupted throughout Masamori, doing little to lift the mood for Franklin and Miya sitting next to one another on a crowded ferry heading upriver. Miya’s dark blue jumpsuit and Franklin’s burgundy suit faded to black after each blast. Ukiyo’s lights grew closer with each passing second.

“Do you know of the Anglerfish, Miya?”
“I’ve never heard of it. A Fish that Fishes?”
“It’s an ugly, abyssal creature that lives surrounded by darkness.” Franklin created a hook hand, “It uses a bioluminescent protrusion to draw in foolish prey.”
“What makes you bring that up?”

A scintillating beacon atop ‘The Crow’s Nest,’ the Jirigawa Syndicate’s Headquarters, projected holoimages onto its mirrored windows. “Nothing.”

They walked up to the observation deck as the ferry approached the quay. Franklin pulled a cigarette out of a metal case in his jacket. Before he could reach his own Miya had her battered lighter ready for him. He accepted the light and puffed, “So, it does work sometimes.”

“Only when I choose.” She slipped the lighter into her coat pocket, “It’s the last thing I have left of who I was before.”

Miya then recognized what he noticed before. “Franklin, have you ever heard of the proverb, fools rush in where angels fear to tread?”
“I consider it something of a personal motto.”

“Well, that’s something else we have in common.”

“As bizarre as it sounds, I’m glad we can do this together.
I have unfinished business with Watanabe myself. Best to start fresh for the new year.”



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