Zaibatsu: The Last Square

“Fuck Kozo. How did I let you ass-hats talk me into coming to this shithole?”

Suko Guro took a drag from his Golden Bat cigarette while scanning the interior of The Osaka Corral. The nightclub, done up in an American old west theme, is crowded and smoky. Holographic images of ancient Hollywood actors like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne mingle with patrons dressed as cowpokes and dancehall girls. Over on the karaoke stage, a man wearing a bowler is mangling an old Marty Robbins song.

Toshiro ambles over to the table. He’s in full cowboy mode: spurs, chaps, vest, even a ten-gallon hat perched on his head and a plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He spits out a stream of brown juice, striking the side of the spittoon a meter away.

“I’m up next.” He says wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“How’d ya manage that?” Kozo asks.

“Told that fucker running the soundboard I was going to shove a grenade up his ass if he didn’t let me jump the queue.”

“One little kiss, then Felina good-bye…” Echoes weakly through the speakers. Desultory applause breaks out.

“Gotta go pardners.” Toshiro grins. He swaggers over to the stage, grabs the microphone from the grinning singer, then gives him a firm shove.

“Now y’all gonna hear a song I wrote myself.” He says in a terrible western accent.

I’m down to my very last square
Oh, my poor derriere
I think I’m gonna cry
’cause it’s only single ply
And there ain’t no more TP anywhere

Now I’m just an ordinary man
Spending some time on the can
Here is the scoop
Just had a juicy poop
And I don’t want to get it on my hand

Oh why did I eat at Taco Bell?
Guess it’s ’cause the food they serve is swell
I polished off my order
Got the runs at the border
Now it feels like my colon is in hell

Well I’m almost done on the pot
And truly, I gave it all I got
I’m headin’ for the shower
Scrub my behind for an hour
I hope this won’t happen a lot

Now I’m down to my very last square
And I know that you really don’t care
But if you have a poo
Hope it don’t happen to you
Or at least you have a change of underwear

Numenera 2: The Journey Begins

I’ve not written this much in ages and my fingers already hurt from penning Maga’s letter. If I hadn’t told him we were nearly out of paper, I think he’d have rambled on more… Anyhow, back to my tale:

Magistrate Neomal told us to travel to Keyford for aid. Aydermen, the magistrate of that place could send  food and aid to our village as well as word to the King of Ghan. Apparently, Dudley had travelled to Keyford several years ago and knew this man. Jemmy’s mother told us to find an Aeon priestess named Terishini. She thought this woman might be able to shed some light on the automata that had attacked our village. We found a boat that had survived the attack and spent the remainder of the day repairing and stocking it. Keyford was a good day and a half away and the trip was uneventful.

Keyford is a rough and tumble place. Most of the inhabitants make their living harvesting lumber from the Westwood. There is a sizable number of merchant sailors in town as well. Brawls are common as the lumbermen and seafarers let off steam. We landed our craft at the docks, and began making our way to the town proper, when we spied a group of men pushing a cart full of weapons, household goods and other objects. They were led by an obvious mutant, and Maga was immediately spoiling for a fight. Dudley and I went to speak to the men and while engaged in conversation, I noticed an insectoid limb with the same type of biological dart projector we had seen attached to the automata that had invaded our village.

We pressed the men for more information on where they had found that dart projector. Their leader, who was becoming increasingly belligerent spat out Isolon, a village in Navarene, a neighboring realm, and then turned and struck one of the men I was conversing with. Dudley immediately struck him back. With a snarl, the man pulled out a pick and prepared to attack. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt struck him in the chest! Maga reloaded his weapon, while the mutant swung at Dudley, but seeing he was outclassed the man turned and fled. Maga chased him down and killed him! Jemmy and I were stunned at how quickly things escalated.

Once they had calmed down, the other men gave as a little more information. Apparently, Isolon had been attacked. A sole survivor had made her way to Bodrov and told her story. These men thought to loot the village and sell the plunder in Keyford where they were unlikely to be questioned. The men seemed somewhat relieved that their former leader was no more. We let them keep their loot and made our way to Keyford.

Our first stop was to see the Aeon priestess. Terishini was cordial, but gave us no immediate answers. She promised to contact members of her order for more information and encouraged us to investigate the village of Isolon to see if we could discover any more clues.

We next went to see Aydermen. He was very concerned and dispatched people to help the survivors of our village. He agreed that we should investigate Isolon since the incident seemed related to the attack on our home. He outfitted us with mounts and provisions from the journey and set us up in an inn for the night.

In the common room of the inn, we heard several rumors. One was a tale of an old crone from the Westwood who rails that something will emerge from that benighted forest and sweep the surrounding kingdoms away. More importantly, we also heard that a small town north of Harmuth was attacked in a manner similar to Isolon and our home.

Isolon was a couple of days travel from Keyford. Travelling by Aneen is a most unpleasant experience, the gait of the creature takes some getting used to. Other than queasy stomachs and saddle sores, we encountered no troubles on our first day. On the second day, we met a troop of thirty or more warriors from Bodrov, led by a man named Dilron.

Dilron was travelling into Ghan on a mission of revenge. The survivor from Isolon had said that woodsmen had attacked her home. We attempted to reason with him, arguing that we had evidence to the contrary and the attack on our village bore such striking similarity to the one on Isolon that some other force must be at work. The man’s mind was made up, and we could not engage such a force of men, so we stood aside. I sent Pyx back to Keystone with a message for Aydermen, warning him that a war party was entering his territory.

We continued to Isolon finding it deserted and looted. There were signs of a struggle and some odd-colored blood in places. We found a trail of blood that led out of the village, to the west. Eventually, we found a crater that had been marked off by some kind of warning totems setup by the locals. We explored the crater and Maga stumbled into an underground chamber.

It was literally a web of passages beneath the ground. Each room seemed to have a couple passages going down and a couple going up. As we explored the place, we were attacked by an insect-like being. It created realistic illusions and attacked with some sort of mental energy. I was sorely wounded in the ensuing fight. The insect arm we recovered in Keystone obviously came from one of these beings. We explored the place, eventually defeating a number of these creatures and finally found ourselves in a chamber with an underground river. Bodies of these insect-beings were piled in this chamber. The right arms of the creatures had been severed and they looked as though they had been “cooked” from the inside out.

This is another piece of a puzzle, but we still have no clear picture of what is happening. We theorize that these creatures were some unwitting or unwilling pawn of whatever created those biological dart throwers. I am a little concerned about Jemmy, who took it upon himself to graft one of those things onto his arm…

Numenera 1.1 Make the 9th World Great Again

Ok, Ildrak, I want you to write everything I say right there on that paper, just like I say it. Ok? Ok.

No, this letter ain’t for my dad, since he don’t read. Plus, he don’t care too much for me, truth told. It’s for my uncle. The one who run off to be an Angulan Knight. You heard that story before, right Ildrak?

Ok here goes.


It’s me, Maga telling you this. I know you been gone from Hyrem for a long, long time, and I wouldn’t ever know you if you were standing right in front of me, but Mama always told me you was a good man who knew his letters, so maybe one day I can find you and give this to you to read. Plus you’re a man who hates them muties and freaks just like I do. This here is the story of what’s been happening to us in Hyrem. And it ain’t good.

First thing, me and some of those boys I grow’d up with turned eighteen this Spring, and it was time for us to put on our fancy robes and get anointed, is that how you say it? as full adults. So Dudley shows up for the dunking wearing a robe so short his ass was half-hanging out, on account that you told him it was supposed to be real short for climbing up all those steps. No, you, Ildrak, you told him that. Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be telling this story to my uncle. So we’re made to climb all the way, way up there to the top of the cliffs and Dudley’s like, here Maga, I’ll carry you up there on my back, on account you look kinda sickly today, and I’m like, screw you, short robe, I’ll walk my own ass up there. Then Jenny and me and Dudley and Dudley’s pa, who is the Masturstrate, what? Oh, Magistrate, and you, I mean Ildrak, march our asses up the top of the mountain. I smoked like four or five fags on the way, it took so long to climb it. And then once we’re up there Dudley’s pa says get naked and get in the water with me, and I’m like, why don’t you guys go first. So, you…I mean Ildrak, and Dudley get dunked and come out all shiny and wet and adult. Then, no shit, right as I’m dropping trou, everyone’s like yelling that the village is on fire and takes off running back down the trail, and I’m like no freaking way I’m coming up here again, so I dunk my own self. Jenny forgets and runs down the mountain.

Anyway, we get down to the village and everything is on fire and the people are all stolen away, except a couple who is fighting these metal mechanical men, and I’m like, ain’t that just typical, evil foreigners come over to our land and fuck everything up and steal everyone. And, Uncle, I’m like, I can take a whack at these guys, ‘cuz I know how to fight, but I gotta go back to pa’s and my house and get some gear. So then me and Jenny go and whack on these metal foreigners for a while. And they’re pretty tough. But we kill’t one and then Jenny starts taking parts off it saying they’re valuable. So then, we’re fighting another metal man, and we whack it down, and Jenny goes off to help his ma, who you, I mean Ildrak, told him was hurt bad, and I’m like I’m gonna get some valuable stuff off this metal man too, and then like, the robot man wasn’t all the way dead or something, ‘cuz he blew me up a little and it made my ears bleed.

So then we find….Ildrak, see I got it right, with Dudley and and Jenny and Dudleys’ dad, and Jenny’s ma, Sari, and they all saw these metal foreigners taking all the people in these bags down under the sea down by the fishing boats, and now everyone is gone. Except us. So Sari says we gotta go to Keford to tell the Aeon Priestess about this, and I’m like no way, I hate the big city and it’s a nest of freaks and mutants there, and Mama always said don’t trust big city folk. Dudley says, no they’re just people like everywhere else, and I’m like, whatever, short robe.

So we sailed a couple days down to Keford, and hop off the boat. And I shit you not, the very first person we see is a fucking mutie with just one eye and his nose all sideways on his face! Regular folk, just like us, my ass! And this mutie is leading a bunch a regular pussy looking guys pulling a cart full of junk. And I’m like I’m gonna kill this mutie scum, so I load up my crossbow, but Dudley is like, I’ll handle this, and he’s talking to the stinking mutie and trying to convince him to tell us stuff, and go figure the mutie tells him to go fuck himself, and then all of a sudden Dudley’s fighting the mutie, and I plug him, what? no the mutie, not Dudley, I plug him with my crossbow and they’re still fighting away and I plug him again real good and he’s trying to limp away, and I follow after him and reload, and then I’m like, are all the people in Keford freaks and mutants and mutie-lovers and are they gonna lock me up for killing this mutie? ‘cuz I’m not sure I want to be locked up right when I turned into an adult, and I see some guards up there by the town wall kinda watchin’ what’s going on. But then I kill’t him anyway, stinking mutie.

So the mutie and his gang had came through some town called Isobar, or some foreign name like that and looted a town totally empty of people, just like Hyrem was empty, so maybe we gotta go there to see what’s going on.

Then, uncle, we met the Aeon Priestess lady, and she was real nice, and she liked our robot parts we brung her, then we went to talk to the King of Keford, what? Ok, the Magistrate. He talked funny but, no shit, he had a pin on that was like two crossed cutlasses on a red and blue shield, and I think it was Angulan Knight pin. So I liked him. Then he let us go to the tavern and we talked to some other people with funny accents, but I liked them anyway, and they told me about another town up by Harmuth that got totally stolen away too. So there’s lots of people getting stolen away by foreigners, metal men, and probably mutants, all around the country. And that ain’t good.

So Uncle, then we had to ride on these tall, tall critters with two legs, for ever and ever and I was so sick in my gut. Probably din’t help the King, I mean Magistrate, let us drink as much as we wanted the night before. We were riding to Isobar to see for ourselves what happened there, ‘cuz Galvan knows that mutie I kill’t was lying to us. Then we crossed into another country, Navarene, I think it’s called? It looked just the same as Ghan, truth be told. And then later, there was this huge posse of glaives on the road and they looked really mad, and they were heading to cross back over to Ghan to go fuck up the woodmen who they said stole all their people. I was just about to say yeah, let’s go fuck up those woodmen, when I see one of that posse has like octopus tentacles instead of arms, and my head nearly exploded, ‘cuz this posse is a bunch of mutie-lovers! And it was all I could do to keep from starting it up with that mutie. Their boss was called Dillron, and he was a total Dillron.

Then we got to Isobar and like, everyone is gone, just like back in Hyrem. But we found a trail of yellow blood, like from the insect arm that the dead mutie had. Oh, I never told you about that before. Anyway, the trail lead to a big crater in the ground with some old markers sayin’ don’t go down there or you will die, and so we went down there. And then I fell down into a hole in the ground I din’t see, and it was dark and things crawling on me, and then everyone came down on a rope which was better than falling. Then there’s tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels and rooms going down and down. And then everyone’s acting weird and seeing shit that ain’t there. And THEN there’s a fucking seven foot tall cockroach. And so we’re shooting at it and…Ildrak is looking pretty messed up, like that cockroach had been using his brain for a punchin’ bag. We kill’t the roach and keep going down and down, then fight another roach-thing, who makes Ildrak run after his invisible girlfriend. We’re totally lost. We’re all beat up. I’m lost, but somehow Jenny knows right where we are, and we gotta keep going down. Then another roach-thing is just about to feel my club in his face, when he sends me to a bad, bad place. I’m all alone in a cavern and there’s muties everywhere, and they’re all poking me and laughing at me and calling me names. Uncle, it was a madhouse down in those tunnels. But my buddies musta kill’t that bug, because I came back.

But sure enough, we found the underground ocean-river flowin’ through the cave and Jenny’s flesh compass was workin’ good. What? Oh, I better explain more. The compass don’t find flesh. It’s like made of flesh and it finds north, but only when it’s near salt. And that ocean-river was salty, alright. Right beside the ocean-river is a pile of those insect people, all with one arm hacked off. We all are guessin’ that whoever is stealin’ folks everywhere, took their arms to get the dart guns attached to them. Or somethin’ like that.

Uncle, Ildrak is telling me that he’s almost out of paper and next time I gotta be shorter with my story. It’s hard when everything is so fucked and don’t make any sense. So for now, I’ll roll a fag and we’ll rest up and get outta this dark place and go find who done all this crazy shit. And I’ll say, talk to you later. Your nephew, Maga.

Numenera 1: Attack from the Depths

My name is Ildrak. I’ve never kept a journal before, but I feel I must have some sort of record, to let Anell know that I desperately tried to save her.

I grew up in Hyrem, a small fishing village on the western shore of the Ryness Bay. I was a foundling. My adopted Father told me a story of how a beautiful woman beckoned to him to the eastern shore of the bay while he was out fishing. He must have been disappointed to find her gone when he drew his boat to shore and only a synth bassinet with myself and a fledgling owl (whose name is Pyx) inside. I’ll credit him that he didn’t leave me there to die. He brought me back to his home and added me to his already large family.

I’ve never fit in. I was always “the foundling” to the other villagers. I had no interest in fishing and while I do feel a pull towards the Westwood forest where I was found, the woodsmen would never take a skinny lad to harvest lumber. I only connected with one soul in the village, my dear Anell. A restless soul, like myself, she dreamed of leaving Hyrem and finding her way in the wider world. I’ve a certain talent for illusion and we hoped to make a name in Qi or some other city as stage magicians.

As is tradition in our village, when a child reaches their eighteenth year, they undergo a ritual passage into adulthood. It is no great ordeal – a baptism by the magistrate is all – but the family and friends of the person usually gift them with a few shins or other goods to help them start a household. Anell and I agreed to wait until I had undergone the rite, collected my presents and then slip off into the night while the rest of the village celebrated. Oh, how I wish we’d not waited…

I was to undergo the rite with three other youths. Maga, a sickly warrior obsessed was mutants. Jemmy, son of the village healer and an explorer at heart. And finally Dudley, the magistrate’s popular and well-loved son. (He is perhaps the opposite of me in every respect.) The ritual is held atop a hill, some distance from town. I’d been dunked and Dudley had just had his bath when we noticed smoke billowing up from the town below.

Now, I have a peculiar ability in that I can share the senses of a willing creature, so I sent Pyx aloft to see what was amiss. The village was under attack! Lances of energy set buildings alight. We didn’t tarry, but hurried back to the village as quickly as we could. By the time we arrived, the battle was nearly at an end.

We crept into the flaming ruins, searching for survivors. Maga and Jemmy went to find weapons. Dudley spied a seven-foot tall automaton attacking a group of villagers and strode off to confront it, hurling bolts of energy as went. I had only one thought in mind: “Find Anell and get her to safety.”

While my companions sought conflict, I slipped through the village in search of Anell. As luck would have it, one of the automatons discovered me. I tried to avoid it using my illusions, but it was most persistent. Finally, I ducked around a corner, ran straight into the magistrate and fell flat on my back. The magistrate pulled a cypher from under his coat and made to attack the thing, but was felled by a paralyzing dart. I had concealed myself behind a rain barrel as this exchange took place and the automaton abandoned his search for me. Snatching up the magistrate, it bore him down to the beach. As I recovered the cypher, I saw the magistrate placed into some sort of huge sack. A few other sacks were also on the beach and I watched in fascination as another automata dragged one of the sacks into the depths of the bay!

Making my way through the village, I discovered our healer Sali in a pool of blood. She was delirious, but I was able to staunch the bleeding and promised her I would look for her son Jemmy. A short time later, I stumbled across my young foster brother Ulrie. He told me that the automatons had taken many of the villagers prisoner, encasing them in some strange sacks and dragging them below the waves. I told him to look after Sali while I went in search of her son.

I found him and Maga engaging an automata but a short while later. I discharged my cypher at the thing, but missed it utterly. While Jemmy and Maga made short work of this metallic creature, I made my way down to the beach in hopes that the magistrate had another cypher. As luck would have it, he indeed had another ray emitter. I hurried back to the fray. We managed to take down another of the automatons, but the rest retreated below the waves.

Only the Magistrate (Neomal), Sali, Ulrie, and the four of us remained in the village. The magistrate had no idea what type of being had attacked, but he instructed us to travel to Keyford and ask for assistance there. We’ve gathered weapons and supplies and will set out in the morning.

Anell, I know not where you have been taken, nor what you have endured, but I am coming for you!

Zaibatsu 17: Quarterly Review

Suki Greenberg rapped on the bathroom door again. A low, moaning sound came from within. “Come on out Kozo.” She coaxed. “We’re not here to kill you. I swear it.”

“Want me to kick it in sweet cheek?” Suko Goro asked as he approached from down the hall.

“No. He’ll come out eventually. What did you find out?”

“Toshiro looks like shit.” Goro begins. “I mean way shittier than usual. Sure looks like he swam out of an aircar that crash landed in the fucking ocean. Nobody else is here. They’re probably all at the bottom of Tokyo Bay like he said.”

“Shit. What else?” Suki says pulling a pack of cigarettes out of her coat pocket.

“They completely fucked up. Got ambushed. Had their asses handed to them. Toshiro figured he’d be doing everyone a favor by cutting that data cable instead of just hauling ass out of there. Snipers raked the hover car as he flew by. Knocked the fucker right out of the sky. I’m amazed that son of a bitch managed to swim out of the wreck after he ditched it in the bay.”

“Damn it.” Suki replies while distractedly patting down her pockets.

“Let me get that for ya babe.” Goro says holding up his lighter. Suki accepts the light, taking a long drag from her cigarette. Goro watches her for a minute, pushes back his coat and rests his hand on the saya of one of his retractable katanas. “Want me to terminate Toshiro’s employment?”

Suki thinks about it for a full minute. “No.” She says. “At least not now. Get your ass down to Tokyo Bay and see if you can find anything else out.”

Goro casts look towards Toshiro’s door, shrugs and then heads towards the elevator.

Suki makes her way over to the common area. Bobby’s reassembled SRAM leans against the arm of the overstuffed couch. Kitsune’s ‘goodie bag’ lies on one of the cushions. Looking down at the coffee table she spies a piece of paper weighted down by an overflowing ashtray…


Employee Name: Nosumi Matsuma
ID: 56698C-70199157-WWD
Rank: 2
Position: Sarariman
Direct Supervisor: Suki Greenberg

How would you describe your job performance in the past quarter?
I am exceeding expectations for my position. I have participated in several initiatives in the past three months. My supervisor has repeatedly commended me for the deal I brokered with Ishii. I have served as de facto leader for many of our missions despite the fact that more tenured team members are on the team.

What have you accomplished for Haruna BioLabs in the past quarter?

  • Participated in meeting with Neon Chrysanthemum members. Wounded during ambush by (as we later discovered) “Azure Shield” elements of Tokyo PD.
  • Brokered deal with Neon Chrysanthemum to sell “Juice Boxes” and “KitKats”. Repeatedly praised by direct supervisor for the favorable terms of the arrangement.
  • Participated in multiple attempts to conclude our deal with the Neon Chrysanthemum. Acquitted myself adequately during ensuing firefights.
  • Uncovered Sakai had betrayed Ishii and was working with elements of the Tokyo PD know as the Azure Shield.
  • Discovered the secret meeting place of the Azure Shield. Led the mission that resulted in crippling the organization. Recovered a significant amount of company property that had been stolen by the Azure Shield.
  • Led team that investigated the Makita Zalprex Lab. Determined the building had been destroyed by rival interest. Discovered body of (presumably) off-world agent with unique retrogenics. Recovered sample of these retrogenics. Found and recovered evidence that Makita is experimenting with extra-terrestrial DNA. Recovered samples for analysis. Defused potential firefight when confronted by security agents from Makita. Estimate savings of 1500 yen in ammunition and medical supply expenditure.
  • Led team to the Fuego Night Club. Picked up significant intel from Makita Exo-biology personnel. Engaged rival team assassination squad after they hit the scientists.

Note to self. Wrap this up with the next mission Suki briefed us on. Should be a cakewalk – how hard could it be to knock out a bunch of hackers in the old Hotel Imperial?

What can you do to serve the corporation better?
Toshiro is responsible for considerable property damage on nearly every mission. We can use this to our advantage. Envision a remodeling company that cleans up after the team’s missions. We could turn a profit in this space. Using day labor from the Kanghai Floating Shantytown and the construction adhesive our chemical division refined from the poutine samples secured from Parkfield Biolabs, we can undercut competition significantly. More importantly, such a business would be a great cover for any follow up missions. Underbid the competition, insert operatives into the drywall crew and we have relatively unrestricted access to the site. I can put together a SCOPE document for this.

Suki’s eyes drift back towards the top of the form again. “I am exceeding expectations for my position.” She mutters. “You didn’t even last three months you sorry son of a bitch.”

Back to Numenera

We’re on a hiatus from Zaibatsu after a near TPK. I’ve got a post in the works, but Icculus has to get back to me with all the names I forget or misspell in my write-ups:-)

We decided to give Numenera 2 a go. We’ve abandoned the characters and campaign we were playing a few months ago. Honestly, the rules changes are so minor we could have kept them, but the GM had “gotten his muse” back and wanted to run his own campaign rather than finish off the “Sun Below” stuff. We generated characters and so far we have:

Dudley is a Heroic Glaive who Absorbs Energy

Ildrak is a Stealthy Jack who Crafts Illusions

Maga is a Mutant Glaive who Hunts Mutants

Jemmy is a Curious Delve who Augments Flesh with Grafts

We started the campaign last week and I’ll have a synopsis up later on.

Zaibatsu 16: Hard Reset

Sparks shot from beneath the dashboard and a light haze of smoke filled the cabin of the damaged hovercar as the pilot gunned the throttle and banked hard around the derelict Hotel Imperial. The vehicle responded with a slight stutter and then the engines whined at full power as it picked up speed, headed directly for the cable dangling between the two towers. In the front passenger seat sat a gasping, semi-conscious man, his head leaning against the window. Blood ran down his temple and cheek, his hand clutched at his jacket and ballistic vest beneath it; from a small hole in the vest  pulsated his blood, soaking his shirt. The passengers in the back seat clutched the seats in front of them, watching helplessly as the dark buildings raced past on either side of them.

“Buckle up everyone!” yelled the pilot, flying directly at the cable.

To their left, they saw the landing pad and roof of the building they had taken off from just a few seconds and one orbit around the Hotel building previously. Three men ran across the roof toward the landing pad, guns raised, tracking the hovercar, muzzle flashes illuminating the dark rooftop. Just as the hovercar struck the suspended data cable and sheared it completely with a sharp “thwap”, another sound pinged from the front of the vehicle as a bullet struck the hovercar. Flames licked out of the engine access panel and immediately the car began to drop, it’s forward momentum hurling it blocks away from the building, out over the Ebisu Quarantine Zone and toward Tokyo Bay.

“Yeeehaaaw!” screamed the pilot, his hands held above his head, as if in in surrender.

Seconds seemed like an eternity to the four of them, as the rippled surface of the water mirroring the neon lights and streams of aerial traffic above the vast city rose up to meet the hovercar and its doomed passengers.

“They got the texture of the water just right, really amazing graphics!” said one of the hovercar occupants, actually 1st Midshipman of the PCCS St. Croix, pulling off his VR headset and looking around the gaming chamber at his shipmates still jacked into in the simulation, wearing their rigs: headsets, haptic feedback suits and gloves, and suspended on their VR treadmill platforms.

In the low gravity, the players rebounded lazily on their treadmills, the tethers around their waists attached to the machines so they wouldn’t bounce themselves into the ceiling of the game room.

“Thanks for spoiling the mood, ass,” said the St. Croix’s Comms Ensign, pulling off his headset. “And way to get us all killed. We’re on the goddamn waiting list for the VR room for three, four rotations, and now our shore-leave is shot. Ass.”

“That’s totally what Tokyo really looks like, I was there when I first shipped out for TC,” said the St. Croix’s Cryptology Technician, a Corporal by the insignia on his coveralls.

“I know, you said that, like three hundred times,” said the St. Croix’s 1st Fire Control Technician. “But we still have the game room reserved for one more cycle. We can just reset it so we can go back in and at least see how the story wraps up. Or do you want to try a different game? The AI that runs this one is a bit of a prick.”

“The most hilarious thing is how they make Parkfield Biolabs out to be either some evil corp or a bunch of bumbling idiots,” said the corporal, chuckling and taking a swig from a beer set on the floor next to the VR treadmill, and rubbing the Parkfield Biolabs patch on his shoulder. “Super-poutine! Gets me every time. You know, since that’s what we haul?”

“No, the most hilarious thing is how you think you can fly a hovercar,” said the midshipman. “Ok, we ship out again tomorrow, so do you guys want to see if we can finish it this time?” said the FCT. “Who knows when we’ll be back on a rock big enough to have a decent game room again.”

“And I love how Meatstick gets their product placement in there. Everywhere,” said the cryptologist, taking a bite from a Ghost Pepper Meatstick™.

Outside the game room, the station’s business continued, unconcerned with the VR simulation and the gamers, it’s multitude of crews performing their duties, maintaining  the ships docked there, and the station itself, half-buried on the surface of a moon orbiting a gas giant known as “Colossus”, orbiting a star called Epsilon Eridani, ten-and-a-half light years from Tokyo.

Zaibatsu 15: A Head Full of Dreams

A rare sunbeam penetrates the low dark rain clouds that are a permanent feature of Tokyo in 2225. The beam pierces the dusty window blinds at the Katsura Kojo Haruna Biolabs safehouse and sears its rays into the faces of several passed out people strewn about the room.

“Turn it off, please…” whispers Kitsune.

“Uhh, I don’t feel so good,” moans Kozo, as he rolls off the couch. The business journal that was spread over his face falls to the floor. He makes a quick dash to the bathroom and falls to his knees at the toilet, heaving up what sounds like some internal organs.

“Shut the fuck up, Kozo, you’re too loud,” mutters Toshiro. A cigarette burns in his mouth as his VR rig is perched askew on his face seemingly upside and backwards.

Bobby Datsun lies in a ball curled up under the dinette table among Meatstick and Bubble Wrap containers.

“What the fuck did we drink?” asks Nosumi.

“We drank all the Kirin and then Toshiro dared me to drink the stuff in Sureji’s jar, so I did,” responds Bobby without moving or opening his eyes. “Just a shot of that stuff got me totally fucking lit. Then you guys saw that I didn’t die so you all started dipping into it too.”

“Holy shit, that’s right,” says Kitsune. “I had the craziest dream—I was a software developer at some corporation. What a nightmare! I feel like I was passed out for like two months. What day is it?”

“Wait, what? We drank Sureji’s head juice?” asks Toshiro sitting up. “So he’s, like, really dead now?”

“No he’s fine, we left enough to so that his brain-stem is still covered. See!” Kozo says as he emerges from the bathroom. He points to Sureji’s jar sitting on the kitchen counter. Sureji’s eyes are bulging out like bloodshot marbles and his mouth opens and closes spasmodically. “Hey guys, my deck says it’s Wednesday. I seriously can’t remember….” Kozo cuts off as…

Suki Greenberg steps off the elevator and enters the common area. She walks in silently, kicking an empty sake bottle out of the way. She sits on the sofa next to the new guy, Nosumi, and adjusts the necktie fastened around his forehead so that he can see her, and then pats down his hair that is sticking up. She looks into his eyes and brushes off some crumbs stuck to his cheek. She wets her thumb and rubs off some cigarette ash staining his chin. “I had hoped you might be more….socialized than these psychopaths. Your sales pitch to the Yakuza was so inspired….” she says wistfully.

“So, you all are having trouble remembering what’s happened the last few days? Killed off the brain cell that was the tipping point for the rest of your limbic systems? Allow me to refresh your memories.” Suki stands as if to lecture to a classroom.

“C’mon, Suki, not now. I’m really sick,” begs Toshiro.

“Oh? You’re sick? Do you need a sick day? Do you want a tummy rub?” She brings down her entire body-weight onto his gut with her elbow. “Sit the fuck up and listen!” Toshiro doubles over, his hands on the coffee table in front of him as he dry heaves.

“Two days ago, you all were tasked with delivering a truckload of KitKats and juice boxes to the Yakuza at their supermarket drop. Apparently, you allowed your delivery route to be compromised, because as you neared the drop off, a mock- auto accident was staged, complete with ambulance, EMT’s and a patient on a gurney, who proceeded to load a missile launcher and aim at you. Oh, and several ‘innocent’ bystanders turned out to be armed with riot guns and turned those on you, as well. There was a huge firefight in the middle of the street, including smoke grenades, a rocket launcher, a mini-gun, many bad guys maimed, run over, cut in half, etcetera, etcetera, near fatalities on your side, company vehicles nearly disabled or destroyed, yada yada yada,…OH! And then you decided to high tail it and to not to deliver the goods! Anyone want to fill me in on the logic of that one? You were about four blocks from their warehouse.”

“So, like, we figured they were bad news and so we beat it out of there,” says Kitsune quietly.

“I take full responsibility. It was my sale and my call to abort the mission. I was pretty shot up, though,” says Nosumi. “If you want my resignation, I am prepared to give it to you.” He stands and bows deeply to Suki.

“Actually, what I want,” says Suki grabbing the necktie hanging from his head and yanking him forward so he sprawls half on the sofa, half on the side table, empty bottles flying. “What I want is for you sorry pieces of shit to put on your big boy pants and get out there and complete that sale! I want to see Wasabi KitKat and Happy Unicorn Juice Box in every vending machine from Tokyo Polytechnic to Yokohama Institute of Technology!”

Suki pauses, gathering herself.

“I’m going to need you guys to figure out how to finish the deal. Ishii wants Isumi’s head or brain or whatever is left of her as part of the first delivery. Fuck knows why. But that’s what she wants. Ichioka is using her brain for supplementary processing on his project. So you know he’s going to need another brain. He’ll want someone good.” Suki’s eye is caught by the business journal laying on the floor. “Someone like her maybe?” She holds up the magazine with a spread and photo of a woman in a lab coat. “I heard she’s the next big up-and-coming genius Over there at…” she glances at the article, “….Eurodyne Corporation. Oh, look, Kozo, she’s a Russkie.”

Suki, tosses the magazine back to Kozo, he flips frantically to the article. From behind the sofa, she puts her hands on Toshiro’s shoulders and gives them a merciless squeeze.

“Yes, the Yakuza seem to have a mole in their midst. But they’ll sort that all out, no doubt. They run a tight ship. And if they can’t sort it, then we will…..offer our assistance,” she says striding around the room, offering a hand to and helping Bobby up off the floor.

“And to show you that I’m not as big a bitch as you think I am, I have received approval to cut you all in for 20% of the proceeds of the first delivery. That’s two million for the numerically challenged. Smile! You all have finally hit the big time.”

Suki turns and walks back toward the elevator, glancing toward the kitchen on her way.

“For fuck’s sake, somebody give Sureji some more goop! He’s really freaking me out.”

Zaibatsu 14: He Who Laughs Last

“Ok, Goro time for the debrief.” Suki says tossing her empty bottle onto the growing pile of trash that hides the room’s only garbage can. “I just don’t get it. The first half of the mission goes without a hitch and then you totally fuck up what should have been the easy part.”

“I got a little caught up in the moment…” Goro replies.

“You’re supposed to be professionals. The explosion at the fight club is all over the news. There’s a tenement in that building. If emergency responders had been a few minutes slower that fire could have spread. If it got tied back to Haruna it would have been a PR nightmare.”


“You’re fucking hopeless… Get on with it.”

“That Aikiko bitch you’ve been blackmailing finally gave us something.” Goro begins. “This scientist fuckwad named Takagi shows up at Nobuda’s office and is trying to sell him some shit. Nobuda blows the fucker off, but as soon as he leaves, our buddy calls in his top operative Kido and tells him that he’s got to find out where this fuck is and steal all of his research.

“So, this Takagi used to work for Haruna, but has been rotting in prison for the past few years. Apparently he was trying to implant human brains into combat androids or some such shit. All highly illegal. Problem is he got caught. Guess we’re not the only fuck ups on the payroll, huh?”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to HR about the hiring process.” Suki says.

A tinny, electronic voice sounds from across the room. “Turn me around you fuckers!”

“If you ever reboot that project, I can get you a brain on the cheap.” Goro smirks.

“Anyhow,” he continues, “you ask us to run this fucker down before Nobuda can get his hands on him. All we’ve got is a shit picture of Kido, so Kozo runs him through the face-recognition software and we get a hit down near the Kantai Floating Shanty. We head on down and pay a visit to old Mamma Chang. She wasn’t happy to see us, that’s for sure. Guessing she got some trouble after we whacked Jimmy and Xiang a while back… Kitsune put his new face to good use and charmed the old bag. She’d seen Takagi and told us he was holed up in a warehouse just down the street.

“We head on over and case the place. It’s huge and full of squatters. Nobody wants to fuck with us, so we head on up looking for clues. We find a steel plate welded to block the staircase to the third level. Kitsune find some blood trails and then discovers a hidden switch that opens this plate up. We head on up and find ourselves a ripper-doc’s lair. Looks like a battle raged in this place. Two gorilla-sized goons laid out on the floor with the tops of their heads sawn off. Amateur job. Fucker scooped out their brains looking for something. Couple of dead street samurai we figured were Makita operatives. No sign of Takagi or Kido. We tried to follow the blood trails, but lost them once they left the building.

“Decided to head back upstairs and take some pictures of the brainless guys to see if our lab-rats could figure anything out. While we’re dicking around with that, Toshiro hears noise over by the stairs. Bunch of fuckers start screaming at us about killing one of their cousins or some shit. Guess Jimmy and Xiang had a fan club… Toshiro replies with a couple of grenades which kind of ended the conversation.

“Meanwhile, that Aikiko starts earning her keep. She must have hacked into the security cameras at her office and gotten a updated image of Takagi. Kozo runs it through his software and sees this fucker waiting on a bullet-train platform. Son of a bitch is headed for the space elevator. We just have time to fly over there and hop on the train. Make our way to his car and Kitsune starts having a pleasant conversation with him. He’s got two apes with him, so we’re hoping the ‘come back to work for your old employer’ pitch will work. No dice. Kitsune hits him with a hypo of happy juice, while his two bodyguards start working themselves up into a frenzy. Kitsune injects one of them and I kick the other fucker in the head. Lights out. We hop off the train when it reaches the space elevator, jump the platform before security arrives, then call Dopinder to pick us up. Deliver the mad doctor back to you nice and neat.”

“Yup.” Suki says. “That was good work. Now let me hear how you screwed the rest of it up.”

“You got Kozo trying to run down this Kido fucker while we were dealing with Takagi. Guy’s showing up all over the place, but never stays still for too long. You want this guy, dead or alive, so he doesn’t bring back any info to Makita. We’re all fucking puzzled why he hasn’t gone back to Nobuda already though… Finally, Kozo gets a good hit on this fucker. He’s gone into a fight club called Haha Ha Ha.”

“I thought it was called Hahaha Haha.” Suki interjects.

“Fuck Suki, I don’t want to get into this with you. Kitsune and Toshiro argued about the name the whole fucking drive over there.”


“Apparently Kitsune is a regular at the place. Knows the bouncers by name and gets us in without a cover or a weapon scan.”

“Here’s this Kido fucker. He’s probably weighing in at 65 kilos soaking wet. Son of a bitch is all hopped up on combat drugs and challenging the big boys to death matches. Fucker is winning too. He throws down the gauntlet to all comers; like anybody is going to be stupid enough to take that bet. Kitsune starts telling him he’s a fucking pussy and he tears into us. The three of us put him down pretty quick, but the ring Oni get their panties in a bundle because it wasn’t an ‘honorable fight’ or some shit. The come at us with naginatas and knuckle-blades. It was a fuck of a fight. Kitsune got knocked on his ass, but he gave a pretty good show. Toshiro and I tore into these guys and finally killed them all. As we’re slapping Kitsune awake, the bouncers head over and tell us they’re going to make us pay. Fuckers. Kitsune couldn’t talk his old pals out of mixing it up with us, so we left them bleeding on the floor. Fuck, we were almost the ones left to die…”

“And the fire? Toshiro, I assume?”

“Nah, that was me. I grabbed one of his grenades and pitched it through the door when we left. Guess it landed near the liquor and started the whole place on fire.”

“Fuck Goro, what were you thinking?”

“Like I said, I got a little caught up in the moment…”

Zaibatsu 13.3: A Head Full of Dreams

“Hey dipshits! Get the rest of the boxes and close the gate!” Suki Greenberg yells from the ancient elevator, which has stopped half a meter below the actual floor level. The drone of wig-making machines hums from below as she hoists a bulky cardboard box onto the floor level and awkwardly climbs up out of the elevator in a short tight skirt. She stoops as if to pick up the box and then thinking differently leaves it. “These are for you. You’re welcome.”

“You shouldn’t have, twinklepie,” mumbles Suko Goro, his mouth full of unidentifiable food product. He does not move from the sink where he stands eating.

“I got it,” says Bobby Datsun as he jumps down into the elevator. With his bulging arms he lifts the three remaining boxes easily, jumps out of the elevator and holds the boxes with one arm supporting them and closes the gate with the other.

“What is it? I can’t see!” yells Sureji’s disembodied head from the kitchen counter.

“Wow is all that chocolate syrup for us?” asks Kozo looking up from his computer deck.

“Yeah, go nuts. Is Ichioka here yet? He called me like three hours ago,” says Suki, just as the elevator hums into life and sinks down into the factory. “Hey Goro, can we talk for a second?” She motions for him to follow her into one of the safe-house offices.

He finishes cramming the food into his mouth without chewing or swallowing then walks into the office behind her. Suki shuts the door. “So I heard from HR that you haven’t filed the paperwork for your promotion or completed the credit bonus transfer. And you didn’t sign up for upgraded accommodation. What’s the deal?”

Goro pauses holding up one finger, chewing for at least twenty five seconds, breathing heavily in and out of his nose; finishes swallowing his lunch and says, ”Mom always said chew thirty times, stupid slag. Well, boss-lady, I went over to look at the Haruna PL apartments, and like, the entire fucking place was spotless and well-lit and looked like the kind of place where stuffed shirts go to die. This douchebag living next door to the vacancy comes up to me and he was all ‘good morning to you sir, allow me to introduce myself, my name is douchenozzle fuckface, Accountant Level 4’ and I said ‘fuck this’ and got the fuck outta there. I’ll stay here, thank you very much.”

“Are you turning down the promotion? Because I was thinking about it. If you were to turn it down, I could probably arrange for you to get all the perks of the rank: the cash, the retrogenics, the training, the PDT and throw in some significant extra cash in lieu of the apartment. I mean, actually, I had to convince HR to pass your previous APL promotion along despite the fact that you showed up to the written examination as high as a cherry-blossom-festival-kite and couldn’t find the stylus you dropped on the floor until the time ran out. You’d be doing me a favor by not taking this one. It doesn’t look good when a team-member is only a tier below the ADC. Think it over. Ichioka is here,” Suki says and walks out of the office.

“The wheels are already grinding away, boss-lady,” Goro replies.

“OK, Ichioka, you asked me to meet you here. Why don’t you update us all on your project,” says Suki banging a Kirin against the countertop to pop off the bottlecap.

“Oh, okay. Well, it’s actually pretty great. So, like a couple weeks ago, when I was simstim surfing the raw Net I stumbled upon this remote area that looked like a huge, ancient pile of rubble. Like there’s the hugest research park building you can imagine that got blown up in a nuclear war. I mean, there’s places sorta like that all over the Net, but this was really old, like moss-covered ruins old. So I started poking around in the rubble, and I see what looks like part of a program way under there. And I keep pulling rubble and debris off, and the program under there is huge. It’s this huge, ancient AI that has been hibernating or knocked unconscious or something, and so I, like, wake it up. And it turns out that it’s really smart and creative and wise and is really unlike any AI conceived of today. But it doesn’t remember who it is or who created it. But it’s helping me to create my program. It’s sort of becoming what I need it to be for the project.” Behind Ichioka, Goro and Toshiro are both wearing VR rigs and pointing at empty space, laughing at whatever they are looking at. “The other cool thing is that I’m using Isumi’s brain to help with the processing.”

Suki spits her swig of beer into a fine mist all over Bobby.

“She’s got a really unique brain architecture. So I wired her up to the AI.” Ichioka says.

“The fuck are you thinking?” Suki asks incredulously. “She tried to kill everyone here.”

“Not me,” says Kozo.

“Yeah, but she’s totally dead. I mean her psyche, her consciousness was uploaded to that mainframe that got blown up.” Ichioka turns and glares frowning at Toshiro and Goro. “It’s just an empty brain I can use. Which is actually why I came over. I was going to snag Sureji if you don’t mind.”

“Fuck you! No! Fuck that! Bobby, you take my jar out onto the balcony and chuck me off before that fat fuck ever uses me for a calculator!” screams the metallic voice of Sureji.

“Roger that, good buddy,” says Bobby, toweling Kirin off his face.

“Congratulations, Ichioka. You have officially stolen…” Suki glances at her watch, “..fifty five minutes of my life that I will never get back. Show the engineers that the Gamma Wave scan is flat before you do anything with Isumi. I mean unplug her as soon as you get back there, then do the scan. Or I will send these psychopathic idiots over and give you and your fucking AI a flatline brain scan! MOVE!” Suki yells. She shakes her head, pounds down the rest of her beer in one gulp and belches. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The new guy is supposed to get here tonight.”