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Zenith Omega
Contrapasso IV A
Sat May 16, 2009 7:37pm
174.18.3.119 (XFF: 70.192.119.56)

Contrapasso

Acquaintances New and Old


Zenith Omega bit back the urge to sigh as she walked along the length of a suspension bridge ignoring the way people stared at her armored form. Above and below her hover cars darted past each other in precise grids of traffic outlined by glowing red buoys. A softly shimmering force field kept the wind of their passage from knocking people off into oblivion while still giving a dramatic view of the vast techno-urban sprawl that was Shinoku, second largest city in Japan. Zenith didn't know much of the history of the city just that it had been built shortly after the Cataclysm that separated the time before from the now and it was the ancestral base of Satori Industries and several other prominent companies that specialized in cybernetics.

Before and behind her massive habitat towers rose. Each habitat tower held homes, offices, stores, and everything else a person could need to live a full life and rose hundreds upon hundreds of feet into the air. Between them suspension bridges gleamed giving the impression of strands of webbing spanning between sleek monoliths. Gauging how far she still had to go Zenith redoubled her pace. She had a dinner appointment with Lord Comb's new fiance and knew it would be unwise to show up late. She could have traveled by hover car and arrived within minutes but she needed the time to straighten out her thoughts, to deal with the utterly foreign concept of her new assignment.

“I have a job for you.” Zenith quirked an eyebrow and remained silent as her employer examined her from across the desk. “I want you to guard Yashira.”

“Guard? As in bodyguard!?”

“Precisely.”

The black-haired reploid shook her head. “I'm an assassin not a bodyguard. This isn't in my job description.”

James' handsome features always took on a dangerous cast when he frowned as he did then. “Your job is whatever I tell you it is. I would not forget the...delicacy...of my position were I you.” He had her there. Zenith had nothing outside her work. Was nothing. The CEO of Sugi Corps had given her life and it was well within his power to remove it as well. She nodded grudgingly. There was never any doubt what her answer would inevitably be.

“As you wish.”


At the door of the habitat tower Zenith presented her identification card to a blue-armored guard. He glanced down at it and the assassin could almost picture his HUD blinking as it scanned the card's barcode and matched it against a profile saved in the Shinoku Police Force's mainframe. After a brief moment the guard handed the card back and palmed the lock. As soon as the door opened Zenith was moving. Striding to the nearest elevator she keyed in the code, given to her by her employer less than an hour ago, and stepped to the side, away from the elevator doors. A habit gained from a lifetime's worth of constant readiness and paranoia. Seeing no threat she stepped inside. The doors quietly closed and with a lurch the elevator began its long ascent.

When they rolled open a hundred floors above she cautiously poked her head out and examined the short hallway before stepping out into it and heading for the only door; set at the far end of the corridor. Ringing the buzzer she stepped back and waited. She was just starting to grow annoyed when the door opened, revealing a simply clad woman and what appeared to be a wolf. However no wolf Zenith had ever come across had a body of titanium-x instead of fur. As soon as it saw her the wolf growled low in his throat, a harsh mechanical sound, prompting the woman to settle her hand on its head. The volume decreased but did not end.

“You are Zenith Omega?” The woman asked. Zenith nodded. “I am Yashira Satori and this is Tomoe. He is a gift from my cousin. Hamada felt I would need a bodyguard in my new life.” She blushed slightly as she realized what she had unwittingly implied.

“Lovely.” Zenith already didn't care for the creature, an opinion that was very obviously mutual.

“Please...come in.” Yashira stepped out of the door way and after a brief pause so did Tomoe allowing Zenith into the room. She immediately examined it for threats taking in the soft decor and warm lighting. Oh she's going to hate living with James. He always decorated in a post-modern style that gave the impression of cold stoicism and power. A sharp contrast to the apartment that seemed to be attempting to achieve the same feelings of warmth, comfort, and security a baby would have in its mother's womb. “Have you eaten yet? I was just about finished cooking dinner when you rang. There's more than enough for two.”

Zenith shook her head. “Don't worry about me.” She growled, her voice harsher than she'd intended. Her new job, so foreign to her sensibilities, had her off balance and on edge. It didn't help that the apartment's decor was actually having an effect on her. Despite herself Zenith was already growing to like the warm and cozy feel of it.

“It's no trouble. I'll just set an extra place at the table.” Yashira replied, softly padding away leaving Zenith with Tomoe. For his part the creature seemed content to simply follow Zenith with glowing eyes as she wandered around the living room searching for security devices. The number she found was almost startling. Hamada Satori very clearly cared about his relation's comfort and security. She got the distinct impression he had entertained some notion of courting Yashira himself. The mantle and its array of pictures caught Zenith's attention and she moved closer to examine them. One showed the hard angular face she instantly recognized as Hamada sitting in a very formal pose with Yashira. The others showed men and women with features similar to the girl's. Her immediate family no doubt. Briefly Zenith wondered what the young Satori's family thought of her engagement to a man nearly two decades older than her then shrugged. What Yashira's family thought was none of her business nor did it matter. As usual her employer had gotten what he wanted – as he always did.

The sudden sound of metal clattering against tile had both Zenith and Tomoe racing across the living room and into the kitchen where a red-faced Yashira stood looking down at an over-turned wok and scads of fried rice scattered across the kitchen floor. The young woman looked up and did a very poor job of hiding her shame as Zenith's cold eyes turned from the mess to her face. “My apologies...it slipped.” She explained, her tone quiet and pathetically apologetic.

“That's...all right.” Zenith looked about for a dustpan and broom. Tomoe's solution was much more immediate. He simply began licking the rice up off the floor displaying anachronistic life-like enjoyment as he gulped up the steaming-hot rice. Yashira laughed at Zenith's expression.

“Tomoe!” She mock-shouted. “You know better!” The wolf-reploid looked up briefly then stuck his face back down in the rice leaving his mistress to throw her hands in the air and heave an exasperated sigh. “You are the most useless creature I've ever met-” Tomoe flipped the wok over and started in on the rice beneath it. “And a glutton too!” Uncertain as to what to do Zenith let the two blather on, Yashira talking at the wolfoid while it placidly continued to eat. Within moments the floor was clean and Tomoe, despite his immobile expression, managed to radiate a very canine satisfaction. With a final glare at Zenith the wolfoid laid down on the kitchen floor and let out a digital wuffling noise.

“Suppose I'll have to start over.” She picked up the wok. “I don't usually cook but it's Hoshi's day off. I-I'm not very good at it.” The assassin-cum-bodyguard took a deep breath through her nose then held a hand out for the wok.

“I'll cook.”

***

The reploid's name was Codex and his credentials were very nearly awe-inspiring. The list of his accomplishments read like a 'Best of' list of criminal hacking endeavors. A background check revealed that he was as cool as they came when under pressure and that he never asked any questions when it came to why he had been hired. All that and more had convinced Aiden to hire the hacker but he was rapidly beginning to think he should reconsider in light of recent discoveries. The straight fact of the matter was that Codex never shut up. He managed a constant stream of talk that, to the sniper's annoyance, was essentially a monologue disguised as a conversation consisting of Codex talking and Aiden throwing in the occasional grunt during his all to brief pauses for breath.

“So then I basically just shoved my gun in his wife's mouth and told the dude that if he wanted to see his baby he'd cough up what he owed me and do it right quick.” Codex patted one of the two pistols holstered on either side of his chest plate as he spoke. “And I kid you not, swear to the Source, the guy actually pissed himself! Funniest damn thing I ever saw. This seven foot tall ex-merc with battle scars and everything pissing himself over some stupid fat fleshbag. Absolutely hilarious. I mean what is it with these humans and their mates? It isn't like the whore wasn't replaceable. Shit I passed five perfectly serviceable hookers on my way to his shack. Folly's full of hookers that'd leap at the chance to give up the life in exchange for carrying some rich old bastard's whelp. They call 'em sugar daddies... you believe that?”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Aiden finally snarled, glaring at Codex. The wiry reploid grinned and shook his head.

“Not while I'm awake. So anyways...this dude pisses himself and-” Aiden grimaced and tightened his grip on the small jet's steering yoke. The throttle was already shoved to full and he couldn't coax any more speed from the light craft.

He would simply have to suffer.

***

Lord James Comb settled back in his chair and considered the footage of his fiance dropping a wok full of fried rice. A slight frown creased his lips as he watched her interaction with Zenith. It was not the waste of food that bothered him. Not in the least. Even if those had been the finest of all ingredients their expense would have been less than nothing to him. It was her apparent lack of skill in cooking that rankled him. He found it disappointing to find such a failing in her domestic education. Not that it mattered in the long run. So long as she could produce heirs everything else was trivial.

Flipping the screen off Comb turned to face his desk and lifted the packet of papers up from its black marble surface. Soon he was deeply involved in examining the contract between Sugi Corps and Satori Industries; his bride to be relegated to just another contractual detail to be weighed and measured as such.

***

Zenith proved a much more efficient cook than Yashira and within twenty minutes she was setting a fresh wok of what she insisted was fried rice down on a pad in the center of the table. The Japanese girl looked doubtfully at the contents, the slightly brown rice, peas, left over meat, and carrots. “You are sure this is edible?” She asked politely, her voice void of sarcasm even to Zenith's acute ears.

The assassin chose to say none of the several unfriendly remarks that drifted to the forefront of her mind. “Yes. It's highly edible.” To prove her point she spooned up a big portion and shoved it in her mouth. Yashira watched with wide eyes as she chewed and swallowed. When Zenith didn't keel over she dug into her own bowl managing to combine the elegance of a woman born to high station with gulping bites not dissimilar to those Tomoe had displayed earlier.

“Oh this IS good!” Zenith felt a satisfied grin spread across her lips.

“I told you.”

The rest of the meal passed in relative silence until Yashira had eaten her fill then she began asking questions as Zenith instinctively cleared the dishes. Though naive Yashira proved herself to have a quick mind and sharp wit only partially blunted by her strict upbringing. For her part Zenith kept her answers as monosyllabic as she could most especially when, after the dishes were drying on a rack, Yashira's questions turned to her future husband's character.

“Powerful.” Zenith said after a pregnant pause. “Lord Comb is in his prime and the head of a highly successful mega corporation with business in all corners of the world.”

“Yes but what is he like as a person?”

“You'll have to decide for yourself.” Yashira winced at Zenith's harsh tone and she turned her eyes to the floor then the far wall. After several minutes of this during which Tomoe grew antsy at his master's obvious agitation she spoke again, staring hard at the table top as she did.

“Is he...experienced...” Seeing Zeniths' blank expression Yashira elaborated. “S-sexually I mean...”

“What!?”

*

Aiden mentally thanked the Source as he finally lowered the jet down from the overcast sky with gentle, expert, bursts of the VTOL thrusters. A final touch and slight bounce and the jet settled on its landing struts in the snow. Even before the engine's whine faded the sniper was popping the canopy. “We're here.”

“Where's here?” Codex replied immediately. “Y'never did bother to tell me where we're going. Usually that'd be a big no-no but you're paying enough I figured I could let it slide this once.”

“Where isn't important. Just do your job. Quietly.”

Codex opened his mouth then, seeing Aiden's expression, snapped it shut and dropped from the cockpit to the snow, drawing his pistols and charging towards the scraggly tree line that surrounded what Aiden knew to be the Shadow Laboratory of Sugi Corporation. The name, though dramatic, fit perfectly. Inside the secret lab a dedicated staff of exceptionally talented reploid designers, programmers, trainers, and several assorted weapon R&D sorts lived and worked; producing assassin-model reploids for those capable of affording the exorbitant fees.

It was Aiden's birthplace and his earliest memories were of its industrially gray hallways and hard-faced instructors.

Gritting his teeth against unpleasant memories the sniper unsheathed the Morrigan Rifle and set it in the Assault configuration before following his hired help into the trees. Just ahead of him Codex came to an abrupt stop and let out an appreciative whistle. “Gah-damn!” He muttered. Aiden fell in beside him and examined the portal ahead of him. The entrance to the Shadow Laboratory was hardly impressive to him but thanks to Codex he examined it for the first time as an outsider would see it. A duracrete hood covered in snow looming in the center of the small clearing and, facing them, a massive omnium irising door that gleamed amenacing black in the pre-morning light.

The security camera was right where it had always been. Aiden tapped Codex's shoulder and pointed at it. The infiltrator grinned and pushed a recessed button on his gauntlet. His form shimmered slightly then disappeared. Aiden canted his head to the side when a soft whirring sound started and began to move in the direction of the door. He smiled in grudging admiration as the realization of what it signified struck. Hover system. For all his flaws Codex was beginning to prove himself to be worthy of his reputation.

After a long moment of tense waiting Codex shimmered back into being and his hover system turned off dropping the slight reploid into the snow that reached his calf. He was holding a PC unit in his hand linked into the door's security pad. “S'okay! I've got the security camera on loop.” He called out before turning his attention back to the small PC and beginning to fiddle with it. “Ah. An elevator. Makes sense.” The words were perfectly clear to Aiden's unnaturally acute ears despite the hacker's distance.

The second wait proved much longer than the first, punctuated by the small reploid's occasional cursing but, as before, he succeeded. This time his success was heralded by the heavy thrum of big machinery under the earth activating. Aiden knew the platform, large enough for an APC to sit on comfortably was rising. He hunched lower in the snow. If there was a security squad on the platform he and his compatriot were well and truly screwed.

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