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Replica: Tokyo on Fire

R E P L I C A[
**]TOKYO ON FIRE

PART 1

CHRISTIAN JOHNSON

REPLICA: TOKYO ON FIRE Copyright © 2016 Christian Johnson

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously.

 

Edited by Alisha Vargas and Michael Stockdale

 

Cover artwork by Arun Naina mhazaru.tumblr.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

All inquiries should be addressed to:

Christian Johnson

[email protected]

Table of Contents

//Chapter 1 1

//Chapter 2 6

//Chapter 3 12

//Chapter 4 17

//Chapter 5 21

//Chapter 1

“You’re always making up excuses!” the young Japanese woman shouted, her breath hot with anger as tears welled up behind her eyes. “What’s more important to you? Work, or me?”

Poised in front of the open doorway leading out of the apartment, the young woman stared back at the Mai with open disgust painted across her face. Her eyes were sharpened and narrowed like the edges of a dagger, wet with moisture, and red with exertion as they glared down at the seated woman. Hatred filled the gap that separated them, choking up the air with its nearly palpable energy, yet Mai remained unmoved. Sitting upon the rooms only couch she hung both arms across her knees and stared down at her bare feet—resigned to the verbal lashing she was taking.

“You know what?” the woman standing in the doorway shot out before Mai could defend herself. “Don’t bother answering that. I already know what you’ll say. It’s the same answer, time after time after time. You’re always using the same excuse and I am so done with it.”

Mai exhaled slowly, the breath passing out through her lips as she closed her eyes and let her head fall forwards to hang between her shoulders. Her shoulder-length jet-black hair ruffled only faintly at the motion.

This wasn’t the first argument they’d had and, while a part of her knew that it probably wouldn’t be their last, she couldn’t help but to admit that she’d never once seen Ayumi this upset. Still, there was nothing she knew she could do or say that would make everything right. Her hands were tied, Ayumi knew that. No matter how badly she wanted it to be otherwise, she couldn’t change the fact—which is exactly why she didn’t even bother trying. All she could do was to hope that Ayumi would understand. Though, given the circumstances, she’d certainly understand if she didn’t.

“You don’t even care about us anymore, do you?” Ayumi spit out after a brief pause to wipe the tears from her eyes. “You’ve never cared about us. Not really. Not like how you care about your damn job, at least. And you know what? I don’t care anymore either!”

Mai opened her eyes back up as the words reached her ears, her hands slowly balling up into fists and her nails digging into the palms of her hands. She craned her neck around and turned her gaze up towards Ayumi’s face. The young woman was still just as beautiful as the day they’d met, despite the anger contorting her expression.

“You know that’s not true.” Her words were hardly much more than a whisper, slipping out through her lips as her eyes met up with Ayumi’s. “I’ve never once stopped caring about you, and I never will. I love you and you know there’s nothing more in the world that I want than to be with you right now.”

“Then stop making up excuses and be with me!”

Mai’s expression hardened up ever so weakly as Ayumi’s plea chipped further away at the armor of her heart.

“You know I can’t.”

“No,” Ayumi shot back quickly. “I know you won’t.”

Turning around to face the open doorway, Ayumi spoke over her shoulder as Mai stared silently back. “Goodbye, Mai. I hope your job is worth it.”

Mai wanted to respond, to stand up and force Ayumi to stay if that’s what it took, but there’d be no point. It would only serve to drive the wedge deeper between them; instead she bit her tongue and watched in silence as the woman she loved walked out on her, the apartment’s door closing behind her without another word said.

Her heart sank, dropping down into her gut as the stillness of the room slowly took hold of her thoughts. Hesitating, Mai reluctantly turned her gaze away from the now closed door and directed it aimlessly out towards the room in front of her. Leaning back into the couch as she draped her arms across its backrest, she stretched her bare legs out in front of her and let out another hushed sigh.

Turning her thoughts inwards, she dragged her mind back onto the argument that had been kicked off earlier in the night, an argument that she so desperately had wanted to concede. Sadly, that choice had never been hers to make. It had already been made for her three weeks earlier by a group she’d only read about in reports and heard about in meetings. The Free Mars Society.

Up until twenty three days ago, they’d been labeled as ‘mostly harmless’ by both the Japanese and international counter-terrorism community—a group of self-labeled freedom fighters aiming to secure the independence of Mars from the so-called tyranny of the Earth-based nations that had settled the red planet over a century ago. Mostly consigned to low-profile, low-damage hacks and cyber-attacks, the group had been hardly more than a political nuisance for as long as they’d existed. That all changed the day they hacked into the seven American city-sized population stations orbiting the Earth and forced them down into its atmosphere with catastrophic results.

As a captain within the Tokushu Sakusen Gun, the counter-terrorism branch of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, Mai Tsukino found her work and social life instantly thrown into a state of extreme imbalance. It didn’t help then that Ayumi’s only brother was aboard one of the city-stations that was destroyed. His funeral, as it so happened, was to be today, though Mai’s plans had already been made. She had an operation to run against a suspected FMS cell and, while she wasn’t entirely sure that Ayumi would understand, she had an obligation to her duty first and foremost—not that her sense of responsibility made it any easier to live with her decision. She’d regretted every second of it, a fact that her squad had been keen to pick up on.

“Hey captain, you there?”

The memory of last night’s argument vanished, fading away like a cloud of smoke as a man’s voice pulled her out of her brooding. Her eyes opened back up.

Around her, the small darkened cabin of the aircraft she was strapped into trembled and shuddered, shaking briefly as a small wave of turbulence passed through the body of the jet. She was standing upright, strapped tightly up against the cabin’s port side fuselage next to the front bulkhead with the narrow doorway that lead into the pilot’s compartment an arm’s length away off to her left. The voice she’d heard hadn’t come from the pilot though. It had originated from the man strapped in directly beside her on her right, Toma Nasumi—or Tom, as he liked to be called—her unit’s second in command. Sporting a millimeter-thin layer of cleanly shaven bleach-blonde hair atop his head he narrowed his inquisitive gaze and opened his mouth back up before she’d even had a chance to respond to his first question.

“You still thinking about her?”

Turning her head to the side, Mai shot the man a quick and derisive look, silently berating him for even asking such a question. She knew that he couldn’t help it. It was in his nature to pry into other people’s lives, a fact that she’d often scolded him on to no avail. She’d since learned to simply ignore his questions, a tactic that she chose to use now, redirecting the conversation somewhere more productive.

“All I’m thinking about is this op, which is all that you should be thinking about too, lieutenant.”

He paused, hesitating as the curiosity painted across his face deepened. It bled quickly away, disappearing altogether as he turned his gaze to look past her, beyond the bulkhead leading up to the nose of the jetcraft.

“You think this one’s the real deal? Or are we chasing after ghosts again?”

Her gaze sharpened, her mind acknowledging his words as she turned to look out across the rest of her six-man squad that was strapped in around her. Bathed underneath the row of crimson-colored overhead cabin lights, the five people sharing the cabin with her were as close to a family as she had. Directly across from her was Daisu. Typically quiet and reserved, he was the squad’s oldest member, as well as the only one without any hair to speak of. Next to him on his left was Kev. The man’s lighter skin color and blue eyes marked him as distinctly half-Russian despite his otherwise normal Japanese features. Taking up the rear position next to Kev, strapped in next to the aircraft’s rear-mounted loading door, was the squad’s only other female member, Saku—her long, bright red hair marking her as physically distinct when compared against Mai.

Off to her far right, near the rear of the jet and sharing the same sidewall that she herself was strapped into, was Suko, the unit’s giant of a sniper. Standing nearly two hundred centimeters tall, he was easily a head taller than Kev, the unit’s second tallest. Yet unlike Kev, he only had Japanese and Korean blood running through his veins. Toma stood buckled into the wall between him and Mai, his eyes now turned back onto hers as he waited for an answer.

“You know I don’t like to speculate about orders. If command thinks this is worth sending us, then we go. It’s as simple as that.”

“Yeah, well, command thought it was worth sending us on those last two runs and those turned out to be nothing but wastes of time.”

Mai turned away, her eyes falling down onto the dimly lit grated metal decking running along the center of their small passenger cabin. Her memory jogged back one last time, pulling up Ayumi’s face as she stood in the doorway of their apartment with tears in her eyes. The pain behind her eyes was just as real now in her head as it had been then in person.

“No such thing as a waste of time,” Mai replied, shaking the memory free as she spoke.

Sharpening her gaze, she quickly pulled her thoughts back to the here and now, and to the full-faced combat helmet strapped onto and dangling from her body armor just below her abdomen. Her hands went to work freeing it as she continued speaking, though her mouth didn’t have to open this time. Speaking through the AR communications network linking her squad together she literally thought her next words into the minds of everyone strapped in around her.

All right, everyone. Helmets on and check your weapons. We’re dropping the second we’re given the green-light.”

A chorus of affirmations rang in through the link, entering her thoughts just as clearly as if they’d been spoken through a pair of antiquated headphones. Her squad was ready, geared up and poised to drop once more into the unknown. All that was left to be seen now was whether or not this operation was worth the time and effort and, while she’d never admit it to anyone under her command, she very much shared Toma’s sentiments. There was, indeed, such a thing as a waste of time and, right now, any time spent away from Ayumi felt like exactly that.

//Chapter 2

Three minutes until incursion,” Mai noted over the AR link shared between her team. “Last check, people. Safeties off. Stun rounds only.”

Dropping her eyes down onto her weapon as she spoke, Mai checked to make sure that her own AR-51 variable ammunition combat rifle was loaded up and ready to go. Around her, the squad of six that she led did the same. The clicking sounds of safeties being toggled and chambers being checked faintly washed through the red, shadow-strewn cabin of the jetcraft. With all of their helmets on now, they were each nearly indistinguishable from the next, Mai included. Decked out in suits made out of Rhino Skin type three personal body armor that looked vaguely like the riot suits most Japanese police precincts utilized, they were fully covered up from head to toe, sacrificing a bit of mobility for superior protection—a fact that still irritated several members of her unit.

Hey, cap,” Kev chimed up a moment later while inspecting his weapon. “Any word yet on when we’ll be able to run stealth-ops again?”

Didn’t I tell you earlier not to bother asking that?” Toma shot quickly back, answering for Mai before she could reply. “When she knows, she’ll tell us—so stop bringing it up already.”

Lifting her eyes up from the rifle she was holding, Mai shot a stern glance between the two men and stepped into the conversation to answer for herself.

Its fine, Tom. He can ask me as many times as he wants, so long as he doesn’t get tired of hearing the same answer.”

I told you,” Saku added, stepping into the conversation as she prodded Kev’s arm with her elbow. “She doesn’t know either, stupid.”

Well you can’t blame me for trying to get an answer,” he replied, bumping Saku right back. “At least I wasn’t afraid to ask.”

I wasn’t afraid. I just knew the answer. Same as the lieutenant did.”

Oh, so you’re both mind readers now?”

No, we’re just smarter than you.”

Hey—” Kev began, speaking at the same time as Toma who jumped back into the conversation to put an end to it. Both of them were cut off as Mai spoke back up a moment later.

Listen, I know you don’t like being kept in the dark on this. If I had an actual answer to give to you, I would. Right now, though, I know just as much as you do, Kev. The moment that changes, you know I’ll say something. For now, Command is keeping tight-lipped. So just try and get used to it for the time being, all right? And stop bothering Tom about it.”

Mai could almost see Kev’s expression dampening behind his facemask as he spoke back up.

Yes, ma’am. Sorry to bother you with it…. It just sucks though, you know? We’re a stealth unit, not front-door assault. But thanks to some dumbass Americans, we’re now stuck doing grunt work for who knows how long.”

Suko chimed up next, adding his voice into the mix as he fidgeted within the restraints strapped to his suit.

You know, Kev, for someone so perfectly suited for grunt work, you sure do like to complain about it every chance you get.”

What’s that supposed to mean?”

It means you’re clumsy and loud,” Saku answered, poking Kev’s helmet playfully with a gloved finger as she spoke.

Knock it off, you three,” Toma quickly barked out. “We’re now one minute out, so that means all quiet on comms. Understood?”

Another round of affirmations flowed across the comm. network, though Mai knew better than to assume that this was the last she’d hear on the matter tonight. Truth be told, she hated the situation just as much as Kev did. Or, for that matter, just as much as the whole unit did. Unfortunately, her hands were tied on the matter just as they were tied when it came to her relationship with Ayumi. She had her orders she had to follow and, towards that end, her opinion on them mattered very little. Breaking them would mean a court-martial and, considering the Ministry of Defense owned the rights to her genetically engineered body, she knew she had no real choice in the matter at all. Her squad, just like her, would have to deal with it until the ban on stealth-ops was rescinded. It was as simple as that.

Finishing up her brief inspection of her weapon, Mai lowered it down towards the decking and closed her eyes. Leaning her head backwards as their ride bled off speed—the cabin shuddering around her as the airframe strained against the forces placed upon it—she let out a quiet breath of air and waited, anticipating the pilot’s voice before it had even spoken.

Ten seconds until arrival, drop zone is clear. Good luck down there.”

Thanks for the lift,” Toma answered back. “We’ll see you when we’re all finished.”

Roger that.”

Mai’s eyes opened back up as the aircraft slowed down to a rapid stop around her. Knock knock, she whispered only to herself. Time to see who’s home.

With one final shudder, the aircraft came to a complete stop. The decking below her feet vibrated gently as the jet’s massive engines kept it afloat mid-air. A few seconds later and that decking split apart straight down the center, the grated metal splitting apart lengthwise along an invisible seam that widened up to rapidly expose the cabin to the world beyond. Yet despite the flooring opening up below their feet, not one member of Mai’s squad fell. Held in place by the straps latching them to the cabin’s walls, they dangled loosely over the darkened, rain-battered rooftops half a dozen meters beneath them—rooftops which were built into the slanted carbon-glass face of the massive urban pyramid rising up from the ground another six hundred and fifty meters down.

This was the megacity of Chiba, Ichihara ward—Tokyo protectorate zone seventeen. Home to over thirty six million people, the massive urban sprawl was nearly six thousand square kilometers of concrete, steel, and glass built across the entirety of Japan’s Boso Peninsula. At its center was their operation’s target: a suspected FMS cell located within the city’s Mobara district, residential pyramid number nine.

Home to over eight hundred and fifty thousand people, the massive, mostly hollow megastructure glistened underneath the coastal storm pounding the countryside. Jagged and scabbed over as skyscrapers pushed up through its skin from below its otherwise smooth surface glowed weakly in the night-time downpour, its face lit up by the tens of thousands of windows comprising its skin. Sheets of water ran down its sides, distorting the reflection of the three VTOL jet aircrafts hovering in the raging sky overhead—the one Mai and her squad dangled in taking the lead position as it prepared to deliver its human payload.

The lighting with the jet’s cabin turned from red to green. An instant later and the straps holding Mai and her squad against the interior walls broke apart, releasing them into the waiting clutches of gravity.

Falling straight down out of the opened belly of the transport craft, Mai quickly dropped feet first into the rain-storm whipping up the air above the city. Gusts of wind shrieked past her, the storm howling out in a shrill whistle as she fell from the sky like a rock—uncaring and unmoved by the tempest raging around her. Her mind was focused, her body tensed up and poised at the ready as the sharply slanted glass surface of the housing pyramid rushed up to meet her. Just before she crashed down against it, her body abruptly slowed down in its fall, the nearly invisible nano-thick microfiber spiderlines connecting her with the jetcraft above tightening up at the last possible second. Her feet touched safely down against the slanted rain slick glass, the epoxy-like material coating the undersides of her boots keeping her from slipping as her momentum dropped her down to sit onto her heels with a short bounce.

Around her, the five other members of her team also touched down without incident, landing in the shadow of a towering spire-like skyscraper that rose up out of the pyramid’s surface nearly two dozen meters down from their location. It was inside that building that suspected FMS cell was operating, making it imperative that Mai reach it before any element of surprise they may have had vanished into the rain pouring down around her.

A brief cursory inspection of her squad later and Mai was up and moving. Lifting her gun up to aim down ahead of her, she pushed herself up into a low crouch and leaned forwards, her suit instantly deploying another pair of spiderlines that tethered her to the glass before she could tumble face-first down the nearly forty five degree incline ahead of her. Gravity did the rest for her, pulling her steadily down towards the skyscraper with next to no effort on her part aside from placing one foot ahead of the other.

Alpha squad is green and on the move.”

The words left her mind almost out of reflex, her inner voice spoken into the ether of the communications network linking her squad with both the pilot who’d dropped them off and their mission operator back in Tokyo.

Roger, Alpha lead,” the reply came, the male operator’s voice entering her thoughts just as clearly as if he were speaking into her ear. “Overwatch, confirm eyes on, over.”

The pilot of the jetcraft that had dropped her unit off quickly acknowledged the request, letting both Mai and her unit’s operator know that he was indeed watching her squad as they rappelled down the side of the structure. His words were only an afterthought in her head though, faint background noise that she all but ignored as she moved down towards the base of the skyscraper rising up in front of her.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Chiba city-sprawl, stretching on endlessly behind it like a sea of stars, the massive spike-like tower stood darkened and resolute in the night-time storm. It was faintly illuminated by only a handful of backlit windows and a meager sprinkling of safety lights scattered across its six faces. Yet, despite its impressive size at such a close distance, the spire was hardly anything more than the uppermost tip of the building hidden below the glass surface that it had broken through. Just like all of the other buildings that poked up through the reflective skin of the pyramid engulfing it, the tower rising up in front of Mai was designed with an externally accessible maintenance entrance carved right into the very base of the structure’s spire-like protrusion.

Roughly seven meters wide, four meters tall, and five meters deep, the hollowed out inlet that her squad was to use to breach the structure was completely hidden in the shadow of the tower it was built into. Rainwater spilled down in front of its opened face like a thin waterfall, disappearing into the spires shadow well before splashing down against the hardened ferrocrete ground of the man-made cave. It was almost hypnotic, the scene. Viewed from the near absolute silence within Mai’s helmet the water seemed to fall off in rhythmic sheets set to the tempo of her breathing, the zigzagging patterns she spied within the runoff lulling her into a false sense of security as her squad neared to within ten meters of the inlet.

Two steps later and an alarm within her helmet snapped her quickly out of her trance. It was a weapon-lock alert, broadcasting through to her squad from the aircraft that had dropped them off moments earlier.

I’ve got something trained on me, command,” the pilot started as Mai tensed up her muscles. “No visual. Alpha lead, do you see anything down—”

His words were cut off in an instant, silenced as the waterfall in front of Mai exploded outwards in a deafening burst of cannon fire.

//Chapter 3

Punching a hole clean through the runoff, the massive gunshot lit up both the darkened inlet and the surrounding area like a bolt of lightning. Mai didn’t get a good look at whatever had fired the shot. All but stumbling over herself as the force of the cannon shell rippled out to slam into her, she fell promptly down onto her left side, smashing up against the reinforced glass paneling below her. She didn’t catch a glimpse of the jetcraft that had dropped her off banking sharply to the side either, its engines whining loudly as a surge of power was fed through them—not that it was enough to keep the aircraft from being hit. There was no avoiding the shell fired at it, a fact that the jet’s onboard computer system picked up on and reacted to quicker than any human mind ever could.

In the blink of an eye, a small disk-like segment of armor blasted outwards from the jetcraft’s port-side tail section. Fired off in a trajectory that took it into direct contact with the shell screaming towards the aircraft, the small disk erupted a nanosecond later, releasing the contents of its shaped charge just as the two collided less than two meters away from the side of the jet.

The cannon shell exploded mid-air, breaking apart in a spray of tungsten shrapnel that embedded itself into the side of the aircraft. The damage wasn’t enough to bring down the jet, though, a fact that Mai witnessed for herself as she snapped her neck around to glance up at the aircraft. As a surge of adrenaline pumped its way into her veins, she watched as the pilot quickly returned fire, the swivel-mounted thirty-millimeter chain gun located just below its nose snapping sharply around to aim down at the inlet her squad had been making for.

Before she could even blink, the weapon fired, roaring to life as it spit out a short white-hot burst from its tip that instantly drowned out the sound of the storm raging overhead. The inlet in front of her exploded an instant later, pulling her attention back to face forwards as she reflexively brought her arms up to shield herself from the blast.

Hostile down! Repeat, hostile down. Board is clear, all threats eliminated.”

The pilot’s words entered Mai’s thoughts as she ventured a glimpse out past her armored forearms, her eyes homing in on the burning debris lighting up the previously darkened inlet leading into the building’s spire. Whatever the debris had once been, it hadn’t registered on her suit’s optics, or the optics housed within any of the three jetcraft circling overhead—and that meant only one thing: it had to have been coated in adaptive camouflage, the same type that their stealth suits used. She didn’t get more than a moment to dwell on that fact before her squad’s operator pulled her head out of her thoughts.

Copy that, overwatch. Alpha lead, you are clear to proceed. Mission is still live.”

Mai’s brow furrowed in anticipation.

Understood, command,” she replied while keeping the reluctance from her voice. “Going in hot.”

Pushing herself back up onto her feet, Mai brought her rifle once more to aim down ahead of her, its barrel pointing into the midst of the flaming debris burning just inside the maintenance entrance.

Squad, on me! Going in. Shoot anything that moves.”

Right behind you, cap,” Toma answered back, speaking for the rest of the squad. “Following on your heels.”

His confirmation was the only thing she needed to hear. Starting forwards, Mai rushed down the incline without any further hesitation. Her right index finger pressed snugly up against her weapon’s trigger as her eyes scanned ahead of her for any signs of movement. Cutting easily through the heavy clouds of smoke billowing out into the rain, her suit’s optics painted the interior of the rectangular cave in a faintly glowing orange hue, highlighting every speck of smoldering debris for her to see. Of course, it was what she couldn’t see that bothered her.

Adaptive camouflage. She’d read all the reports about what had happened to the American CDA operation in Las Vegas three weeks ago—or, at least, the portions she’d been allowed to read. She knew all about the FMS cell’s use of adaptive camouflage there, and of their apparent hacking of the CDA’s communications and control network. It was why they’d been forced into using heavier armor, with the Ministry of Defense banning all stealth-ops until their networking security protocols could be fully revised. Still, no matter how better protected her squad was now, she didn’t like the idea of going in against an enemy that they couldn’t see. Not when they themselves stuck out like sore thumbs, albeit heavily armed and armored sore thumbs. Until the ban was lifted though they’d have to make due, which meant rushing headfirst into a flaming open-faced garage ninety-three stories up in the middle of a rain-storm.

Mai approached the edge of the maintenance inlet a few moments later, the field of cracked and splintered glass paneling leading up to it crunching beneath her feet with every step. Yet, despite the damage the superstructure’s glass face had sustained in the explosion, it held, supporting both her weight and the weight of her squad as they rushed over it to reach the veil of water separating the storm outside from the smoke-filled garage. Passing through it without any trouble, Mai stepped off of the residential pyramid and onto the cracked ferrocrete flooring of the spire, all the while keeping both her weapon and her eyes sighted down onto the metal double-door located against the rear wall of the garage.

Entry is clear,” she spoke up as she continued forwards, entering the field of burning wreckage strewn about the inlet. “No hostiles. Moving to breach.”

Copy, alpha lead. Bravo and Charlie are in position. Ready on you.”

Roger. Breaching in progress. Standby.”

Coming to a stop two meters away from the non-descript loading-door, Mai dropped down onto one knee and lowered her aim. Sighting her rifle down against the center of the door where it met the ground she toggled her weapon’s firing-mode selector to make use of the secondary clip loaded into its stock. Her finger pulled back against the trigger, letting off a single round that impacted up against the door’s face like a wad of old chewing gum. It was a remotely triggered explosive round, and it was soon followed by two more—one placed center-mass of the door and the other at its uppermost edge.

Moving in past her as she placed the explosives were Toma and Saku, each taking up a position directly adjacent to the doorway. Standing only an arm’s length away from its edge, they lowered their weapons down towards the ground and waited, poised to move in at a seconds notice. Meanwhile Kev, Suko, and Daisu all took up spots to cover them, their rifles aimed up towards the door as they stood off to the sides. A small array of thin laser-trails blinked into existence from the tips of their rifles, the five narrow beams cutting through the air as dust and particulates crossed their paths. Mai triggered her own laser-trail last, the narrow red line used for spotting stealthed hostiles painting a bead right in the middle of the door in front of her.

All set,” Mai chimed shortly back up, speaking into the network as her eyes dipped down onto the lighted window hovering beside her rifle’s grip. Moving her left hand back to hover over it she reached out with her index finger and held it in place just above the detonator switch.

Breaching in three… two…”

Just as she was about to trigger the explosives, a burst of weapon’s fire tore outwards through the door like a swarm of angry hornets erupting from their hive. In that instant, Mai’s heart came to a standstill. Shredding through the metal barrier as if it weren’t even there, the streams of white-hot tungsten reached her before she’d even had a chance to register what was going on. More than a few rounds found their way up against her body. Smashing into her abdomen with enough force so as she could feel their punch the rounds did little more than break apart, shattering as they came into contact with the ultra-dense material of her suit.

Alone, the single bullet posed little risk to her, unable to do much more than to give her a small bruise—if even that. What did pose a risk were multiple, consecutive strikes against the armored segments, which is exactly the sort of situation she found herself stuck in. Within the span of a single heartbeat, another half-dozen rounds spattered against her suit’s heavy carapace, the sound and feeling similar to that of being caught out in a hailstorm whilst wearing a heavy, padded raincoat.

Her armor began to give, its nano-weave structure breaking apart underneath the storm of gunfire smashing up against it. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, Mai was given no time to think, only to act. Her finger slammed down against the virtual window above her gun.

The door in front of her blew inwards, putting a momentary pause to the gunfire coming from the other side. It was in that instant that her team reacted, both Toma and Saku stepping into the dying flames licking the doorway the moment it was cleared of its covering. Kev and Daisu followed them in like shadows, the four of them entering the smoke-filled opening with guns blazing, returning fire without any hesitation. Only Suko remained outside. Dropping down onto one knee beside Mai he turned his gaze onto her while lowering his weapon to speak.

You okay, cap?”

Mai nodded once. Slowly opening her eyes back up, she rolled her shoulders around and flexed out her stomach muscles, releasing a bit of the tension she held in her body. She was fine. Granted, she felt as if she’d just been kicked around by a pair of military academy combat instructors, but aside from a bit of tenderness in her abdomen, forearms, and thighs she was fine.

I’m good,” she answered back while pushing herself up and onto her feet. Starting forwards without any more delay, she brought her rifle back up to her shoulder and stepped towards the unlit doorway in front of her.

C’mon. Let’s catch up.”

//Chapter 4

 

The wall in front of Mai exploded outwards. Its pearl white facing shredded apart under the relentless barrage of ammunition being thrown into it from the other side of the open doorway directly on her right. Collapsing down into the hallway she was standing at the end of, the artificial wooden planking coating its surface toppled much in the same way as a building would—dropping to the floor in segments as a second wave of gunfire tore into it. Dust and spackling quickly began choking up the air around her. Spreading outwards like a heavy fog, the dust cloud slowly filled the short length of darkened corridor running off to her left, while at the same time slowly creeping into the room she had her back to.

Having fought her way through most of the building’s ninety eighth floor, Mai now found herself deadlocked, her squad held at bay by the last vestiges of the self-labeled ‘freedom fighters’ they’d been sent in to apprehend. At best guess, only a half dozen or so were all that remained, holed up inside what appeared to have once been a conference room of sorts. That room, however, was now transformed into a bastion, thanks, in large part, to the military-grade portable barrier splitting it in two. Nearly a meter and a half in height and an eighth of a meter thick, the carbon-tungsten barricade running the entire width of the room looked to have been erected in haste, having broken straight through the center of the room’s massive table splitting it in twain. It was also nigh impervious to any weapon’s fire her squad could bring against it, which was more than could be said about the doorway and wall directly beside her.

The edge of the doorframe closest to her shoulder began to disintegrate, splintering apart as the erratic hailstorm of gunfire began tracking slowly in her direction. Letting out a short gasp-like grunt, Mai snapped herself quickly back from its edge, sidestepping her way backwards as the trail of bullets tore through the wall behind her. The rest of her squad did the same, shuffling backwards in the darkened, dust-filled corridor as she eased herself out of harm’s way. The flurry of white-hot ammunition being thrown at her stopped shortly afterwards.

Her grip tightened around her rifle, her muscles itching to put an end to this operation before it could drag on any longer.

Toma. Paint the room.”

The squad’s lieutenant responded instantly and without question. Standing directly beside her, the man reached down into one of the small pockets embedded within his suit’s thigh armor. Pulling out a small cylindrical canister no larger than his pinky finger, he jammed his thumb down against its top, stepped out into the center of the hallway, and tossed the device in through the shredded doorway in front of Mai. Several shouts of alarm echoed out from within the room, yet they were unnecessary. The small grenade wasn’t lethal in the slightest.

Bouncing and rolling to a stop a meter and a half into the room, the tiny cylinder popped open in a miniaturized explosion no louder than a firecracker. Its liquid contents splattered against every surface in sight, painting the walls, ceiling, flooring and the underside of the splintered conference table in a spackling of silver-colored paint. Infused with millions of tiny nanites all designed to work together to form a three dimensional lens, the ‘paint’ fed Mai back a virtual reconstruction of the room and all of its inhabitants.

Turning her head to face the wall on her right, Mai was now able to ‘see’ through it, her suits optics superimposing the virtual camera-feed in over her normal field of vision. Inside, she now clearly saw eight targets, their bodies painted orange and clearly visible behind both the wall and the metal barrier they’d deployed.

Dropping her left hand down to the pouch just inside the small of her back, Mai pulled out a thin rectangular strip of plastic that loosely resembled a stick of gum. She snapped it between her fingers a second later, speaking back up as she did.

Toma, you get right side. I’ll take left. Saku and Daisu straight down the middle on top of the table. Ready?”

Her squad’s affirmatives echoed into her thoughts without pause. They were prepared to follow her anywhere just as she was ready to do whatever it took to complete the orders given to her, a potent combination which had worked to skyrocket their group to the top spot within the Tokushu Sakusen Gun.

Tossing the small broken strip of plastic into the doorway she closed her eyes and counted backwards from three. She was up and moving on the count of one, darting blindly forwards a half a step towards the doorway just as the flashbang she’d tossed inside went off.

The inside of the room was transformed in the blink of an eye. Letting out a deafening bang loud enough to shatter any unprotected eardrums nearby, the small plastic strip instantly bathed its surroundings in a light brighter than the sun, blinding anyone that may have been looking in its direction. Mai, however, was protected from both effects, the shielding in her full-faced mask keeping her from dropping to the ground in a painful bout of spasms. The same thing couldn’t be said of at least two of the individuals hiding behind the room’s impromptu barrier.

Still painted in an orange hue, the two men writhed in agony on the ground behind the metal ballistics-wall, their bodies convulsing as they clawed at their eyes with jagged fingers. Yet, despite the pair’s misfortune, there still remained six others behind the wall who’d been a bit more prepared. Having either turned their gazes away from the flash or covered their eyes up the six that remained also seemed unaffected by the eardrum shattering pop that had accompanied the explosion of light. Mai wasn’t given any opportunity to ponder what they’d done to safeguard themselves as they lifted their weapons back up to shoot blindly over the barrier just as both she and Toma stepped in through the doorway.

Her rifle was already up and in the firing position before she’d even entered the room. Sighting her weapon’s laser-trail down onto the target furthest to her left, Mai squeezed her finger back against her weapon’s trigger, letting out a short burst just as the first of the hostile weapons fire whizzed past her. Hitting her armor at random angles, the shots that actually found her skimmed and ricocheted harmlessly away, finding their way noisily into the walls and ceiling as she pushed her way further into the room one swift step at a time. Most, however, simply missed, screaming towards the back of the room where the rest of her squad filed in, two at a time, through the splintered doorway behind her. Her aim, on the other hand, was spot on.

With the first pull of her trigger, she sent a trio of stun-rounds screaming downrange to hit the rifle she’d sighted in on, the electrically-charged bullets blasting open on contact in tiny flashes of light and sound that instantly burnt out the weapon’s circuitry. She didn’t wait for it to fall from its operator’s grip before snapping both her aim and her laser-sight onto the next weapon, dispatching it just as quickly as she had the first.

In a matter of seconds she’d all but closed the gap between the doorway and the barrier wall. Having taken three of the six weapons shooting at her squad out of commission, she sprinted the last few remaining steps before dropping down into a crouch against the base of the short metallic wall, falling onto one knee in the midst of a sea of spent bullet casings. Toma did the same, mirroring her movements on the other side of the shattered conference table separating them. Their parts were over with—all that was left now was for Saku and Daisu to mop up.

Rushing forwards on top of the heavy, faux-wooden table that had once been the room’s central piece, the two members of Mai’s squad quickly overtook both her and Toma, sprinting past them to leap over the top of the segmented barrier in a single motion. Dropping down behind it as their laser trails washed erratically across the room, they turned their backs to each other and snapped their weapons up to aim down at the startled group of enemy combatants.

They let loose a split-second later, putting an abrupt end to the gunfight as their silenced weapons dished out painful, light-filled stun rounds three shots at a time.

//Chapter 5

A blanket of silence slowly crept across the darkened room, broken only by the sounds of muffled groans and shell casings rolling around across the flooring. The firefight was over with, the brief exchange having lasted only a matter of seconds. For Mai, though, it had felt like minutes.

Craning her neck around, Mai glanced through the metal barrier wall behind her. Her suit’s optics painted both Saku and Kev in a blueish hue, the pair easily visible despite being hidden behind the heavy bulletproof obstruction. Also visible were the eight bodies scattered around unconsciously at their feet as well as the two remaining doors located at the back of the room—one built into the wall off to her left about a meter and a half beyond the barrier and the other directly opposite the door they’d entered from.

All hostiles down,” Saku chimed in over the network. Lifting her gun back up as she spoke, she swept its laser-trail across the space in front of her before aimed its sights down at the center of the doorway on Mai’s left, with Kev doing the same for the rear most door. “This side’s secure. Ready to advance.”

Mai’s lips cracked open to release the breath she’d been holding onto. Her hands, meanwhile, tightened themselves around the rifle she was holding. Pulling her eyes away from the results of her squad’s brief engagement, she lifted her rifle back up to her shoulder and swept its nose out across the dusty, paint spackled room she’d just run through. The tension in her muscles eased slowly out a moment later as her beam crisscrossed the room without any signs of distortion.

Despite being optically, thermally, and audibly invisible, stealth suits weren’t without their flaws. They still operated on the principle of bending light around them to create their illusion, and as such there was always a faint amount of visual distortion present when inspected closely. Generally this distortion was picked up as a weak blurriness when the wearer of such a suit was in motion, though no such blur was present if one were to remain perfectly still. A laser moving through the suit’s field, however, would appear slightly broken, as if passing through a piece of glass or water. Such was not the case with the room in front of Mai.

She pushed herself upright a short moment later. Stepping towards the broken table running down the length of the room in front of her, Mai reached out with her left hand and placed it firmly down against its surface, silently acknowledging Saku’s words in the process. Next, lifting her right foot up and over its lip, she pushed down against its surface and pulled herself forwards, climbing onto the table’s broken top and onto her hands and knees.

Toma, Suko—ready up on Kev. Daisu, you’re with me.”

A round of confirmations filled her thoughts, the chorus of voices spilling into the network as she pushed herself upright on top of the broken conference table. Starting forwards as Toma climbed up beside her, she stepped over the top of the wall sprouting up through the table beneath her feet. A few moments later and she was dropping back down onto the floor on the other side, with Toma, Suko, and Daisu following shortly behind.

Shuffling up to stand behind Saku, Mai tapped at the woman’s shoulder with her left hand, signaling her to move up. Taking the woman’s place as point-man on the door breach, Mai lifted her weapon back up from its lowered position and pressed its butt against her shoulder. Saku then scurried forwards to stand adjacent to the closed doorway. Daisu rushed in to take up the spot on the opposite side of the door as the woman lowered her weapon to reach into one of her suit’s chest pouches. Pulling out a thin translucent strip of adhesive plastic, Saku quickly slapped it up against the door’s unpowered control-panel and, with her fingers, counted downwards from three.

Mai sucked in a short breath of air as the woman’s count reached zero.

A flood of dim bluish light spilled out into the conference room as the doorway split open, pouring in through the angled transparent wall opposite from them. Looking out onto the massive urban sprawl transfixed across the city’s darkened horizon, the narrow two and a half deep section of floor space Mai found herself aiming at was virtually empty. Nobody was inside—at least nobody she could see. Just a few office chairs turned towards the slanted floor-to-ceiling window marking the distinctive angled face of the housing pyramid’s exterior surface.

Her gaze narrowed as her finger eased back off the trigger.

Clear.”

Daisu and Saku made their move the second the word had hit the network, darting in through the opened doorway as they lifted their laser-sighted weapons up in search of targets. Mai was a few paces behind them, rushing into the room to glance down the length of the small and seemingly abandoned lounge they’d entered. A quiet sigh escaped her lips, slipping out alongside a heavy dose of tension she’d been holding onto.

The room was abandoned—empty, save for the office furnishings scattered around its length—not that it was much of a surprise. With the ability to see partially through most walls and some thin objects her suit’s optics had given her a pretty clear indication that they were breaching an empty room. Still, she had to see it with her own eyes before signaling the all-clear, and even then she knew better than to assume they were showing her everything. Fortunately Daisu and Saku were way ahead of her on that.

With their guns raised up in front of them, they scanned the width of the room with their laser-trails, the thin glowing red lines crisscrossing the empty space in search of would-be hostiles. As expected they found none. If there were any hostiles wearing stealth suits in the room then they were doing a damn fine job at hiding—though so far she’d seen no signs of adaptive camouflage since entering the building, not including the anti-aircraft combat drone that had been destroyed on the way in. Just as she was about to give the all-clear, a giant beam of light flashed into existence around her, flooding in from the airspace outside the room’s glass-like wall.

Twisting her head in the direction of the floodlight, Mai lowered her weapon and immediately spotted its source: Alpha overlook. Hovering a few dozen meters out from the side of the housing pyramid, the jetcraft slowly banked around to face the room Mai was in, bathing it in a wash of light from its nose.

Alpha lead, this is alpha overlook. You guys almost done down there?”

The grin behind the pilot’s words were almost palpable, drawing the edges of Mai’s lips upwards in response.

Just about, overlook. Give us ten and we’ll—”

Her words were interrupted mid-sentence as Toma voiced up over them.

Hey captain, you’re going to want to come over here and look at this. You won’t believe what we just found.”

Mai’s expression darkened at the somber tone in her XO’s words. Turning, she began promptly towards his location without another word.

The doorway Toma’s half of the squad had breached led into a small, crowded, and unlit utilities room. Filled up with water purification tanks, electrical boxes, and air-conditioning tubes there was hardly any space inside to move. Still, a narrow pathway did run around towards the back of the maintenance closet, which is where Mai found Suko waiting for her, the team’s sniper standing within a small doorway that wasn’t listed in the building’s floor plans. That doorway led into a cramped and pitch-black hallway built between a pair of walls, at the opposite end of which Mai could see light spilling into it from yet another unmarked opening. Passing through it she quickly discovered that Toma had, in fact, been correct. She couldn’t believe what he’d found.

Stepping out into a small rectangular room just three meters deep by six wide, its grated metal flooring clanking underfoot with each step, Mai barely even acknowledged both Toma and Kev before finding her gaze spellbound by the sight before her. Her eyes widened instantly, her mouth slowly opening up in disbelief. In front of her, nestled up in a tight row occupying the entirety of the room’s far right wall, stood a row of six cylindrical, liquid-filled growth vats.

Cloning chambers.

Five of them were empty. One, however, was not. Within the last of the chambers on the left floated a woman, naked and hairless, suspended within the bright blue liquid as if held in place outside of time. Her skin was a pale white, reflecting the colored glow of the water in which she bobbed. If Mai had to guess, she looked to be in her mid-twenties. Tubes swayed lazily around her, feeding her oxygen and providing her nutrition, though she didn’t appear to be conscious of her surroundings. With her eyes closed and her arms hanging lazily down at her sides she looked to be sleeping, unaware of the eyes turned curiously onto her.

They’re all her.”

The words were Toma’s. Spoken up over the network, they pulled Mai from her befuddlement, her eyes blinking in a flutter as she turned her stare to her lieutenant who, himself, turned his own gaze back onto the floating woman.

All the vats. They’re all her, and her alone.”

Mai’s forehead wrinkled in confusion.

What do you mean?”

Take a look for yourself,” Toma replied, glancing back at her briefly as he spoke. “They’re all marked with her name on it.”

She paused, hesitating for a brief second to absorb everything before starting forwards. Walking past both Toma and Kev, she stepped up to the vat where the woman floated in suspension. Her hand reached out, tapping at the lighted control display hovering over its face. A name and number pulled up into view, the words plastered virtually against the tank’s glass face at eye-level.

Blake \\ SA-110-2-83.

Walking over to the closest empty tank Mai pulled open the same identification prompt, and was, again, greeted by the same name and number combination.

The shadow growing across her expression deepened, as did her curiosity. Blake, SA-110-2-83. The name she didn’t recognize, yet the number was familiar to her, or rather the number sequence. She’d seen identifications like that before, she was certain of it.

Toma, this number… Isn’t it American? NSA or… no… Cyber Defense agency, right?”

Yep. I looked it up. Belongs to one Ver—”

Before he could finish the pilot that had dropped them off cut into their network, panic clearly evident within his voice.

Alpha lead! I’m picking up a major spike in thermal energy just below your position! Get out of there!”

No sooner had the words entered her mind than an alarm began to ring within her helmet, alerting her to the explosion building up just below her feet. Her eyes dropped down to the ground, her gaze passing through the flooring as her suit’s optics painted the room below in a faint orange outline. In its center she could clearly make out the source of the warning: a small suit-case sized box glowing white hot with heat.

In that instant her heart sank into her stomach.

Lifting her gaze back up onto Toma she slumped her shoulders and let her breath out while turning her thoughts backwards, onto Ayumi. The memory of their argument the day before flashed in front of her eyes.

Goodbye, Mai. I hope your job is worth it.

They were the last words she remembered. A second later and the room she was standing in exploded, white-hot flames shooting up through the flooring in a blast that tore straight through her suit as if it weren’t even there, killing her in the blink of an eye.

 

…//End

 

 


Replica: Tokyo on Fire

Twenty three days have passed since the Burning Sky disaster shook the world to its core, twenty three days since the disintegration of the seven American city-stations that had once been in orbit around the Earth. Brought down at the hands of a terrorist organization named the Free Mars Society, a group working to liberate their home planet from the oppressive governments that lorded over it, the incident spurred every nation on the globe into heightened state of alert. Anti-terrorism units from around the globe were put on call, units like the one Mai Tsukino commanded. Rushing into the heart of a Free Mars Society cell operating within Tokyo she’d soon discover there was more to Burning Sky than the world had been told.

  • Author: aurodar
  • Published: 2016-05-13 06:05:08
  • Words: 9177
Replica: Tokyo on Fire Replica: Tokyo on Fire