We stood outside the door to the apartment that Lydia had told us was the target. The building reminded me of one of those motels you see in America where the doors to the individual rooms are on the outside of the building. However, this building aggressively displayed the industrial late-20th century style unique to Japan.
As John put the small circle of plastic explosives on the door right above the handle and I drew my Beretta, I said, “I really hope that Lydia and Andrew are steering us straight. It wouldn’t be good to just breach and clear some poor asshole’s apartment all for nothing.”
“Do we still want to do this?” John asked.
I thought about this. Then I nodded, pulling down a ski mask over my face. “Ok,” John said, pulling a mask down as well, “On three…”
To back up a little, that text I had received while getting away from Kage fortress wasn’t from Jennifer. It was from Andrew, one of the obviously less experienced bodyguards. The gist was that Jen had disappeared and that we should meet “where we had last met.”
We had parked in an abandoned parking lot a few blocks from the Maid Café. As Mayu and John got out of the car, I texted Andrew to let him know we were coming. He replied back, telling me to meet him and Lydia behind the café. That made sense, seeing as it was pretty late at night by the time we had arrived and the restaurant was a breakfast place. Still, I adjusted my sweater for easier access to my guns.
We found the two of them waiting nervously, two backpacks at their feet. They looked up in surprise. “Who the fuck’re they?” Andrew asked suspiciously, indicating John and Mayu. I noticed that he and Lydia were also armed. Despite being tightly buckled, Andrew’s pants sagged to one side and Lydia’s suit jacket bulged slightly under her arm.
“This is Mayu Nakashima,” I said. “We need to keep her safe and secure. John… If Jen hasn’t told you anything about him, you don’t need to know anything about him.” At that last bit, John nodded gratefully.
“I’m sorry,” Lydia said, “but we thought we’d get… you know, someone experienced. Where’s Eliza?”
“Experienced in what?” John asked.
“SWAT shit,” Andrew said. “You know, kicking down doors and shooting mofos in the face.”
“You lucked out then,” I said. “Eliza’s specialty is foiling the door kickers. John and I are the breachers.”
“Yeah, ok,” Lydia said, and I could hear the panic in her voice, “but we were expecting Eliza, y’know?”
“And I was expecting Jen,” I said.
“Yeah,” John said, “but life’s full of disappointments. Now, would you kindly take us to a safe house?”
“No.” That was Lydia.
John and I turned our gazes on her. Mayu giggled. “Excuse me?” I asked.
Quailing under Mayu’s creepiness, the negative attention of two trained killers, and whatever other pressures she was under, Lydia said, “Listen, Jen is the one who knows you. I don’t know what kinda deal she has with you two, but she’s gone. Someone gassed our hotel room and took her.”
I paused. John looked at them incredulously. “Excuse me?” he asked.
“There’s some good news!” Andrew said hurriedly. “Thanks to a subdermal tracker Jen had us implant, we know where she is, but the gas has still got our team’s power houses pretty fucked up. If you can get her back…”
“Ok,” I said, “get her,” at the word her I gave a shrug indicating Mayu, “to a safe place, and we’ll get Jen back.”
“We will,” Lydia said. “Meantime, we got some toys for you in those bags.”
“Two… One…” There was a thump and a flash of light, and a hole appeared above the door’s handle. In response, I kicked it open. Immediately, I saw a man staggering back, covering his eyes with one arm. The other arm was hanging loosely at his side and carrying what looked like a SIG-Sauer. Behind him were two other men.
My reaction had been drilled into me by a semester in what was called Kill House Lab. “Drop the gun!” I said in a loud, commanding voice. “Hands on your head, face on the ground.” John burst in besides me and repeated the commands in Japanese.
Instead of following our commands, the staggering man raised his gun. There were several gunshots, only three of which were mine. In between my second and third shot, I felt something hit the plate Lydia and Andrew had given me and I knew I would be feeling it tomorrow.
The man, however, would probably not be feeling anything ever again in a short while. Each of my three shots had hit him right in the heart. Judging by the red splotches on his once-pristine white dress shirt, he hadn’t been wearing armor.
Meanwhile, a table had been flipped over. Judging by the spray of blood on the window behind it, John had been able to get at least one of the guys who had been sitting there. A half-eaten meal of McDonalds had been scattered across the floor, the greasy smell of the food and the scent of the coffee already mingling with the coppery tang of blood and the smoky scent of gunpowder. Maybe that was the Japanese equivalent of bad Chinese food on a stakeout.
As we advanced, the other man popped up from behind the table. He had an assault rifle with a large, bulky silencer. There was more gunfire, not only from John and I, but from the man. Splinters and blood flew, and I was pretty sure that I saw the man fall back.
I hurried forwards to check the men. Both seemed dead, the one who had shot at us with the assault rifle had holes in his face, neck and chest, the one I hadn’t seen go down had a blood-stained hand clamped around his neck and a pool of blood nearby. I also noticed that a sawn-off semi-automatic shotgun had been taped underneath the table. Judging by the other bits of tape on the table and on the assault rifle, that gun had also been taped to the table.
I quickly kicked the assault rifle away from its former user just to be safe. I nodded to John, who had come up to me. As I did so, I noticed that he had a few holes where his plate was. He wasn’t limping, so I hoped that meant he was ok.
I did a quick scan. The room was a sort of kitchen-living room hybrid. There were also four Japanese-style futons and a strange device. Two security cameras, which I recognized as a popular model that could connect to the internet, were mounted on opposite corners of the wall. Off to the side were two doors. One was open to reveal a bathroom. The other was closed. I looked back towards the door we had entered from. There was an umbrella bucket, but instead of an umbrella, there was a curved, wooden handle indicating another sawn-off shotgun.
I indicated the closed door with a nod. We advanced on it from opposite sides, guns raised. We hadn’t even taken three steps when it opened and the fourth subject leaned out, an Uzi-like gun with a wooden foregrip built in, probably an early Minebea PM-9. There was an exchange of gunfire. I felt multiple impacts on my plate, but the padding stopped enough of the impact to keep me standing and my plate held. The fourth subject had ducked back into the door.
I looked at my gun. The slide was locked. I reached into a pocket and grabbed what Lydia claimed was a push-button flash-bang. I pressed the button and rolled it into the room. John reloaded while I was doing this.
The subject didn’t wait for the grenade to go off. He charged us, his right arm hanging loosely by his side, a bullet hole in that shoulder, and a cheap revolver in his left hand. John, by this point, had finished loading his gun. The subject fired once, his bullet hitting the floor. The grenade went off in a flash of light that blurred my vision and a thump that made my chest feel funny. It also caused my ears to ring. John fired five times, all of them hitting the subject in the center mass. All of this happened in such close proximity I wasn’t really sure what order these events happened.
I reloaded, careful to save the spent magazine instead of letting it drop to the floor. After all, the chances of getting another one were pretty low at this point. As I did so, I remembered that there were people who lived below the apartment. I seriously hoped they were alright. I also prayed to God they hadn’t called the cops.
When my magazine was back in, we entered the room. It was a bedroom with a Western-style bed, a dresser, a door into the bathroom, another web-accessible security camera, and nothing else. For a second, I panicked, wondering where Jen was. Then I heard a muffled voice say, “So, are you here to save me or kill me?” I looked underneath the bed. There was Jen, wearing the same clothes she had been wearing earlier that day when we had met at the maid café. She was looking the worse for wear, with her eyes looking slightly defocused and her clothes messed up.
“Rescue,” I said, holstering my Beretta. I turned to look at John. “John, check the bathroom. I wanna make sure we really are alone. Then gather up anything useful.”
John nodded. I turned to drag Jen out from under the bed. “Ah, Nathan,” she said muzzily, “howzzit goin’?” In the background, I heard John kick open the door to the bathroom
“Have you heard the term ‘FUBAR?’” I asked as I dragged her out.
While I asked this, I heard John shout “Clear!” from inside the bathroom. While Jen tried to comprehend the question, I heard John move back into the main room and called out “Clear!” again.
After the second clear, Jen finally said, “Yeah… s’rry, jus’ got gassed, which messed wi’ my head. Then they drugged me with something. There’s also th’ ani-jumfield they’ve got.” It took me a while to realize that she meant anti-jump field. So that’s what that strange device was. “Fuckin’ hate ani-jumfields. Make me feel like I’m buried.” Noticing her arms hadn’t moved from beneath her back, I flipped her over. Just as I thought, she was zip-tied at the wrists. “Hey,” she said, “not until our second date!”
Ignoring her, I flipped out the knife and cut the ties. “Can you stand?” I asked her.
“Yeah,” she slurred, “buh walkin’s gonna be tricky.”
I was distracted by John calling me in from the main room. “Hey, Nate! You better come take a look at this.”
“Wait right here,” I said to Jen, who was busy trying to get up. On the way out, I grabbed the PM-9 and slung it over my shoulder by the strap and tucked a spare fifty-round mag into my pocket. When I was in the main room, I saw John standing over the corpse of the first subject, the shotgun and assault rifle slung over his shoulder. “What is it?” I asked.
“Take a look,” John said. “Recognize that face?”
I suddenly remembered our first day at Kage fortress. “He was one of the first Defenders of Fuji we saw…”
Suddenly, we heard a laugh. It was a hysterical, drug induced laugh. We turned around to the door to the bedroom. There, leaning against the door frame, was Jennifer. Finally, she stopped laughing. “Well,” she said, “it looks like we finally have a common foe.”