Before we could ask Jen what she meant, there were the screech of tires. John and I looked outside. There, between us and the early ‘90s era Honda sedan we had stolen, was a white Toyota van illegally parked in the middle of the street. Two subjects, probably male and in their mid-to-late twenties, most likely locals, were getting out from the front.
Every instinct in my body told me that this was not normal. John’s must have been screaming the same thing because we both opened fire in unison. There was the sound of bullets hitting metal and shattering glass and the man closest to us fell down. We could tell he was still alive because he began trying to cover his wounds and calling out in Japanese. I noted, with some degree of relief, that he had dropped a modernized version of a PM-9.
The man who had been shielded behind the car was also gone. John and I, not wanting to be pinned inside, but also not wanting to be shot in the open, moved into new cover behind concrete pillars outside. This proved to be a wise move because not only did the subject we lost contact with pop back up from behind the van’s engine to take pot shots at us with an SMG, but three people with assault rifles and a fourth with a shotgun began opening fire.
I looked at John, who was blindly returning fire with the captured assault rifle (I think it was a Type 89-f.) This wasn’t good. They almost outnumbered us two to one, and I doubted they’d run out of assault rifle ammo before John did. Luckily, we still had some of the toys Lydia and Andrew had given us. I began to come up with a plan.
Before I could signal this to John, I heard several pops of gunfire. There was a weird sensation, like I had been suffocating without realizing it, but now I wasn’t. I tried to look back inside, but some gunfire made me realize what a bad idea that was.
Instead, I motioned my plan to John. Basically, what I was communicating in sign language was a typical plan called leapfrogging. I’d open fire, making the people in the van get down. John would use that as an opportunity to get to a concrete pillar closer to the stairs. Then he would open fire while I tried to get to the bottom without being shot.
When John nodded, showing he understood, I leaned out and began putting bursts into the car. Behind me, I heard John run down behind me. I had managed to time my bursts with most of them reloading. As I fired burst after burst, I suddenly became aware that the downed subject wasn’t the only one screaming. The civilians in the surrounding area had obviously noticed. We needed to leave.
My ammo, understandably, ran out rather quickly. Even with the fifty-round magazine and my trigger control, it was still an SMG with a high rate of fire that someone had recently sprayed and prayed with. Luckily, John had gotten far enough. He glanced up at me, waiting for confirmation. I reloaded, dropping the magazine, then nodded.
In response, John threw one of our party favors. There was a heart-shaking thud, then John leaned out and started firing.
I ran. The explosion’s bite, while impressive, wasn’t as big as its bark. The wounded subject was still alive, trying to drag himself to safety. The van was relatively undamaged, though some of its windows might have not been shattered before the blast. There was a nice crater in the middle of the street, however, around which bits of flames danced merrily. Huh, I thought as I ran down the balcony to the stairs, must be some sort of super-thermite.
As I got to the stairs, I noticed that the gunfire had slackened. I then decided to get greedy and continue down the stairs. It was all going well until I got to the bottom and started running towards one of the parked cars. The subject with the SMG saw me coming, turned to aim…
…And his head split open. Based on how it shattered, it had to be some kind of large, low velocity round from behind. The sound of an M3 chattering away backed that assertion up.
I just ran the final bits to a nearby Subaru four-door. Making sure to get down behind the wheel arches, I took out one of grenades Andrew and Lydia had given us. I flicked it on and rolled it down the street to the van. There were a few seconds where there was a lot of gunfire, but no explosion. Like Marvin the Martian wondering where his Earth-shattering kaboom was, I peeked out from behind the debatable safety of a boxer four.
I was just in time to see the Toyota’s front end rise into the air on a cushion of flame. It fell back to Earth with a massive crash. Then its fuel tank exploded. I remained crouched for a bit as the van burned, waiting for gunfire to start up again. All I heard was sirens. They were actually getting a little too close for my liking.
I got out from behind cover and began walking towards the flaming wreckage. A living column of flame staggered out. I drew out my SIG and put a couple rounds in the flaming subject. After he fell, I began walking towards the subject who had been screaming.
The subject had stopped screaming and seemed to be losing consciousness. He looked up to see me coming and said something in Japanese. I couldn’t make it out, but it didn’t matter. I shot him twice through the heart and once through the head with my SIG. It was both to end his suffering and ensure no witnesses.
“You two are very good at what you do,” Jen said. “Shame that you won’t take my money.”
Ignoring the heart attack she had given me by jumping right behind me, I said, “Honestly, as much as I pretend the difference between us is moral, I sometimes think it’s because I refuse to shit where I eat and sleep.”
“Interesting theory,” Jen said. “I’ll have to keep it in mind.”
I turned around. Not only did I see surprisingly sober and very tired-looking Jen holding an M3 grease gun and a double-barreled shotgun, but I also saw John running down the stairs. “We need to go,” he said. “The cops…”
“At this point,” Jen said, “it would be better to remain here.”
As if to punctuate her sentence, a patrol cruiser turned the corner. Two officers got out nervously, shouting “Anata buki no o otsu! Jimen ni noru!” repeatedly. Based on the context and how they occasionally flicked the barrels to the ground, that probably translated to get on the ground. I noticed that they were armed with crappy revolvers and they weren’t shy about pointing them at us. Unless someone had made a rimmed version of the Uilon Mangchi cartridge and given it to Japanese law enforcement without my knowledge, there was no way in hell they could penetrate the armor John and I were wearing. That didn’t mean they couldn’t get us in the stomach, face or legs, or Jen in the everything.
“Ima sugu sore o doroppu!” Even in the dim light, I could tell that the cop who had yelled that would fire soon. I was honestly surprised the two officers hadn’t already opened up on us. NIU campus security would have already ventilated us.
“Ok…” I said soothingly, holding my SIG by the butt with my thumb and forefinger and shrugging off my PM-9. “I’m dropping my weapons…”
“Yukkuri!” one of the officers shouted, pointing his revolver at John.
“Hai,” John said, “Yukkuri…”
Suddenly, Jen was on top of the police car. The cops had just enough time to make noises in surprise before Jen opened fire. One got both barrels of the shotgun to the back of his head, the other received a five-round burst to his back. Jen then casually tossed the shotgun away and jumped off the roof of the cruiser. “Always a pleasure to deal with law enforcement,” she said. “Especially ones not used to Jumpers.” She peered inside the cruiser.
“Jen,” John said, “what the hell?”
“What?” Jen asked innocently looking up from the cruiser.
“You did just kill two cops,” I said. “That’s going to cause some problems.”
Jen turned back to the cruiser. “Yes, but we won’t be here long enough for it to matter in the long run. Besides, the easiest way for my former hosts to have captured me would be to have outbid the police.”
“Still,” John said, “what the hell?”
Jen rolled her eyes. “Could you be useful and either pass me a bomb or get a car? I don’t think this car has a dash cam, but I do want to make certain.”
I nodded. “John, get the car. Jen, catch.” Making sure I hadn’t activated it, I tossed Jen a grenade. I have to admit, it was quite funny to see the look on Jen’s face when she realized what it was.
“I thought you were trained to be careful with explosives,” she said dryly once she had recovered. I would have been impressed if she had recovered instantly. Instead, she had planted the bomb and ran back to the car. As soon as she sat down, a mushroom cloud turned the cop car into a convertible. A huge chunk of metal bounced off the windscreen of our stolen car, causing it to crack dangerously.
John, who had just started the car and gotten his ski mask off, said, “Fuck this shit.” I suddenly began to rocket forwards, nearly hitting the car we were parallel-parked behind. I heard the screech of rubber. As we hurtled down the street, I noticed the speedometer was hovering around 130 kilometers per hour. “Fuck Charlotte, fuck, the Defenders of Fuji, fuck Japan, fuck this place in particular, and fuck you.”
“John,” I said, noticing the sign with Kanji and a giant 50 emblazoned on it, “speed limit.”
John growled in frustration and put on the brakes. Luckily for us, he was going at a reasonable speed when what seemed to be twenty cop cars drifted around the corner and began heading to the explosion. I breathed a sigh of relief. Jen’s trick had worked on those two cops, but if there had been four, things would have gone to hell.
Speaking of Jen, she had been swearing ever since John had stamped on the gas pedal. It had been loud at first, but now, she was just hoarsely whispering “oh shit” over and over again. I checked back to see how she was doing.
“Do you need a paper bag?” I asked. She nodded. I reached down to the floor where the owner of the car had left his lunch. I emptied the assortment of half-eaten food into the cloth waste basket in the center console and handed the bag to Jen. She took it, then began fiddling with something. It wasn’t until I heard the click that I realized she hadn’t been buckled in.
When she was done, she said, “So, do you mind filling me in?”
She then listened somewhat dazedly as we filled her in. “Do you want to know…” she said, with both a mixture of slyness and lack of breath, “…how Kage Fortress got its name?”
“Let me guess,” I said, “it was named after the Kagemotos. Specifically, your family.”
“Got it in one,” she said wheezily. She coughed for a bit. “My however-many-times great grandfather was lord of the mansion long ago. My however-many-times great grand-uncle, however, was obsessed with some prophecy or something. They had a fight, uncle dies, grandfather gets kicked out, and some creepy Rasputin-like asshole takes over the castle. Despite my family eventually running all the way to the new world, the grudge carried on until my father.” She laughed. “I’m actually surprised. I would have thought he’d have fought them just to have someone to hurt.”
“So,” I said, “why are they after you?”
“My father,” Jen said, in a dangerously conversational tone of voice, “didn’t like it when my brother left. So he lied to them and told them my brother was planning to start the feud again. I’m here to find the ones who murdered my brother, make them talk, then go back home and finally kill my father.”
“Why talk to them?” I asked. “Vengeance? Evidence?”
Jen laughed. “Evidence? I’m a gangster, Nathan. I don’t need evidence. I just need to prove I’d be a significantly better boss than my father or the Jade Emperor to justify killing him. Luckily, at this point, a potato could justify being a better boss than my father.” She shook her head. “Honestly, I just want to know why.”
“Well, now you know,” John said. “Can we leave now?”
I didn’t see Jen’s glare, but I could feel it. “Actually, considering all the property damage and murder, leaving may be for the best. Do you have any idea how we’d do that?”
Then, after a slight pause, Jen said the worst thing I had ever heard up to that point. “I thought you two had a plan.”
John groaned. “Fuck me, right?”