For King & Country
This is an erotic spy novella set loosely in the James Bond universe, and was originally written on commission back in the 1990s. For more background, please see the intro to chapter 1. It's re-presented here for posterity, despite being somewhat cheesy...
Chapter Two: Tsuruga, Fukui Pref., Japan... Red Fist of Justice Complex ("The House")...
It seemed that upon the breakup of the Aum Shinri Kyo in the late nineties, certain elements of that sect had gone into hiding in the mountainous North coast of Western Japan. There they hooked up with an active Japanese Red Army cell who were already harbouring sect refugees after the Shinjuku subway Sarin gas incident earlier that decade.
After the collapse of the Far East economic sphere in 2008, following the multiple nuclear accidents on mainland Japan through that period, the whole region around Fukui prefecture that centred around the enclave had become destabilised and lawless. The decommissioned generating facility at Tsuruga soon became the national headquarters for the faction, who had, by then, realigned themselves and been reborn as the Red Fist of Justice. At their head was the charismatic ex-JRA cell leader called Akaguchi, who had been in hiding in North Korea but had safely bought passage back to Honshu after the collapse had brought chaos to the region.
I thought about this and about a great many other things as I approached Tsuruga station in the silver and red local train that had been waiting for me at a sinister, deserted waystation somewhere up the line from Kyoto station. JR rail services to the Fukui region had been suspended since the Red Fist had made the area an independent enclave. Now a thriving local economy had sprung up, running everything from black medical practices to brothels, data laundering to pirate line local railways.
As the train meandered through picturesque Japanese countryside, I'd used the opportunity to scan the other three passengers in my carriage. A young couple, initially staring at the tall gaijin lady diagonally opposite them, had quickly returned to a subdued canoodling. Soon, the girl fell asleep, her long bleach-blonde hair spilling over her face and into her open mouth. The boy retrieved a breezeblock-sized manga rag out of his rucksack and began to flip listlessly through it, sucking at a tin of vending machine Oolong Tea; they must have been in their early twenties.
The other passenger looked more like an operative. A shabby Japanese man in his forties, he looked too much the nondescript sarariman to truly be so. He studiously avoided catching my attention, instead using the window glass to keep a furtive eye on me. Either he'd been sent by the Fist to monitor me or he fancied me. Probably both. I remembered that he had been with me ever since Kyoto. I'd seen him first smoking a Mild Seven on the Maglev platform as I left the express from Kansai Airport with my baggage. Later, he'd vanished, but reappeared with the passengers switching to the Fukui train as we alighted from the JR local service at the suburban waystation.
Now here we were on the outskirts of Tsuruga, a pretty coastal town a few kilometres up the coast from desolate Fukui City, where I'd been before as Pierce - a different kind of warrior. Dusk was falling as the train slid through still sidings dotted with bits of rolling stock. The orange streetlights and gaudy neon of the town looked welcomingly surreal to my tired, blank gaze. In the distance, the glint of the moon on the sea - sandy beaches, I recalled - and in the lee of the bay, atop a forested hillside, the giant shadow of the disused nuclear facility.
We pulled silently into the station. My companions were already on the move as the train squeaked to a halt. The two youngsters stretching and yawning, hoisting large backpacks off the overhead racks, the young, handsome boy with his spiky hair helping his pretty girlfriend but simultaneously casting a cheeky grin in my direction. I returned it. The shabby man had already debarked and was showing his papers to the guard, pulling another cigarette from his grey suit in the blue dusk.
I stood and stretched, taking my luggage and stepping out from the air conditioned train into the humid evening. I was wearing just a linen shirt and shorts, but the prickly heat I remembered so well immediately began to draw sweat from all over my aching body. I looked up and saw the station guard approaching. Beyond him was the shabby man, fiddling with a vending machine in the brightly illuminated ticket office. The young couple were already gone.
"Excuse me, your transit papers please," the guard said in Kansai-tinged Japanese.
Without replying, I retrieved the papers of authority marked with the logo of the Red Fist, chrome sunburst abstract, and presented them to him along with my passport and ticket. They'd already been examined twice either side of the border with the rest of Japan, but I was just too tired to try and explain.
While he examined them, I lit a Silk Cut and looked surreptitiously over his shoulder. I could no longer see the shabby man. Maybe I'd been mistaken. I knew that there was a maildrop in Tsuruga Town which I could use to make contact with a local operative. Perhaps this had been him - monitoring my arrival into his territory.
"Thank you," said the guard, handing back my papers. As he turned to leave, I said, "Can I get a taxi outside the station?"
"There is a driver waiting for you Miss Jane," he replied, "shall I help with your bags?"
I reached down for my two cases. "Thank you, no."
The operative had arrived in enemy territory.
I didn't need any distractions on this mission. Nevertheless, I found myself thinking a lot about sex recently.
The thing was, I felt completely void of any "normal" urges. The driver who had come for me was a beautiful American brunette called Lori, typical of the kind of talent that the Red Fist employed in its heartland to service its upper echelons. I felt no attraction for her at all - though I did think she was very attractive - and that was what was worrying me, especially as she was wearing a black shiny catsuit, which one might have described charitably as completely indecent.
Come to that, the blonde girl whose pretty reflection greeted me in the mirror every morning would certainly have stirred Pierce's attention when I had been him. In fact, Jane Masters was just the kind of girl that Pierce might have ended up bedding...
On the other hand, I couldn't stop thinking about Commander Bond. In fact, the events of my last evening in Britain had filled my thoughts on all the planes, trains and cars on the journey over; I'm ashamed to say that it got me quite... excited...
The weeks of acclimatisation in London had passed uneventfully. Essentially, I had to give the impression that I was Jane Masters. As my legend went, I had just returned from a short break and was temping as an Account Executive at a marketing agency on Buckingham Palace Road (Universal Digital, a legitimate company who were nonetheless one of the Department's many front organisations, of course). I dutifully went into work every morning and left at six-ish. I went out for drinks and meals with an artificial circle of friends. In public, I occasionally tried to spot the Fist operatives who were surely surveilling me but of course that was futile. I flirted with male colleagues and went to the women's room with my girlfriends. I went home, ate M&S dinners and watched telly or practiced my feminine Japanese, different as it was to the male form of the language I'd learned at Uni. But mainly, I was bored out of my skull.
I was due to depart on a Saturday afternoon, so that Friday was my last day at Universal. I was going through some oddments of paperwork when an email appeared on my terminal from Diane, my "boss":
Jane, the presentation to Vauxhall's been brought forward. I need you to finish the account plans this evening so I can fly out with them in the morning. I'll come and have a chat at eight to see how you're doing.
This was a coded message. It meant that someone from Vauxhall (MI6 HQ, just up the road) was coming over at eight to brief me on changes to my mission parameters. The sub basement of this building was linked by tunnel to Vauxhall meaning that operatives could come and go freely. I was to pretend to be working late until the briefing happened.
I went over to the teapoint and refilled my bottle of water. Ashia, one of my "friends", a pretty young black woman with whom I had become genuinely friendly, was there. She turned and smiled. "Not long now eh? When are you off?"
"I'm flying tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait!" I replied enthusiastically and automatically.
"Aw, I'm so jealous. Always wanted to see Japan. Sounds so cool. Listen girl, you still up for drinks tonight? We've gotta see you off properly, after all."
I frowned, "no I can't. Just got a mail from Di. She's got to jet off to the GM Vauxhall planning meeting a day early so I have to finish the account plans tonight. Typical, huh?"
Ashia rolled her eyes. "Well you make sure you come along later. Usual place. OK?"
"Promise," I smiled. "Though I have a feeling it might be a long night."
Around six, people started filtering out of the office. I got well wishes, cards, little girly gifts and kisses. By seven, the only two people left were Diane and myself. At seven thirty-five Di also left, wishing me luck. She paused at the doorway and gave me a strange look that I couldn't read. Of the twenty or so people in the building, only she and a couple of others knew of the arrangement their company had with the Secret Service. Perhaps she was curious about me and my history. She knew nothing about my mission parameters nor the fact that this attractive, modern-looking young blonde woman in a dark suit and pink top was, in fact, a man.
The building was empty. I sat and waited. I was a little breathless with anticipation and couldn't concentrate. There was no reason that it would be Bond who'd come and brief me, but he was my operator so there was perhaps hope. Hope for what? I shook my head, confused. There was little doubt that, sexually, I was now as attracted to men as to women. Mary Dwyer had told me that this might happen. I felt guilty, somehow weak, and felt I had to try and control it for the good of the mission.
But what was the problem? I was, in appearance at least (and possibly more) a young woman now. It was clear enough to me that these changes were less temporary the longer they lasted. I might be able to abandon the hormones and return to something approaching my original physical shape. I'd never have the same body again though - no body hair, faint masses in my chest, and those new kinks in my brain... I enjoyed dressing as a woman now. Smelling nice and having men admire and desire me. I did want to become Anthony Pierce again, but could I? Would my brain switch back? Would I be happy?
At five to eight, I got up to go and have a pee and touch up my face. In the harsh light of the toilet mirror, I appraised myself as I blotted my lips. Not bad. A little tired round the eyes, perhaps, but definitely very well put together. "Tidy", as my brother Tim would say. Ooh. That thought gave me a little weird jolt. I tucked a stray lock of blonde hair behind my ear, smoothed out my knee length pencil skirt and left, turning off the light.
He was sitting in the semi-gloom at my desk when I came out. He had switched the other lights of the office off, leaving only my desk lamp illuminated. As soon as I saw him in his perfect suit, my heart started pounding and a nervous heat rose through me, just like I remembered from Bicester, on that road, in that car. He smiled faintly and indicated that I should be at ease.
Bond rose and perched on the edge of my desk, beckoning me to sit down. He loomed over me as he spoke.
"We've got some fresh information, Masters."
He seemed huge as I looked up at him. Controlled power in a made to measure suit. It made me feel small and vulnerable. But I wanted to feel that way; to be enfolded in his big arms and made his. He was obviously looking down the cleavage of my lacy pink top as he spoke. I wriggled and smiled, giving him a better view. I felt trivial, a feminine concoction in frothy perfumed wrapper. I wanted it. I was lost. Consumed so quickly.
"According to our sources, it appears that Sato is in command of the complex where you will be working." He leaned down and kissed me on the nape of my neck. I flushed, and rose, standing to encircle his neck with my arms. "This gives us an opportunity," he stood himself, caressing my bottom with his large, warm hands.
I moaned, closing my eyes as he went on, "Our strategists project that within three years, Sato will become a larger threat than Akaguchi." I hitched up my skirt to free my legs and he lifted me up bodily. The crotch of my panties was soaked and sticky with precum from my stirring, semi-hard cock. I spread my legs and wrapped them around his waist. He turned, lowering me and roughly using my body to clear papers and objects off my desk, before placing me down on my back. My desk light clattered to the floor, casting crazy shadows from our entwined bodies on the ceiling. He leaned over me, smiling. "Masters, you are quite unbelievable".
I looked up at his cruel, handsome face. His grey eyes. The grey crew cut. The scar under his thin mouth. The cleft of his chin, stubble coming through. I smiled back up at him, passing my tongue slowly over my upper teeth.
"Shut up, sir, and kiss me." I said.
Later, I lay close to naked on the sofa by the office kitchen as he made us coffee. I looked at the clock above the kitchen door, which read 20:46.
Jesus.. I remember a jumble of recollections. Thinking, shit, a man's kissing me. With tongues. Mmm. Looking down at the bulge in his trousers as he unbuttoned my top, just wanting to hold it, unbelievably much. His rough thumbs tweaking my nipples. Electric, joy. Almost coming from that. Ohh. More, then his cock, and me naked except for my stockings, writhing on the table. So soft, the foreskin, like velvet. I tickle it, fingertips, then tongue.
Finally my small, very small, little hand was grasping the base and my mouth, very talented, was going up and down, up and down. Keeping the Commander under command. So full can't breathe. Then he comes. I swallow; nice. I expect I look quite depraved, lying back on the desk, my desk with my work scattered all round, naked except for laddered stockings and suspender belt. Smiling, so lovely with a string of his cum on my lips and chin and white neck. And a little cock, just there to confuse and beguile, there in the pale triangle between black lace garters... you like that, sir?
He sat by me, gave me the coffee and finished briefing me. Akaguchi had vanished and Sato was left, the heir apparent, ruling The Fist as regent from the Tsuruga house. Our sources suspected some sort of incipient coup, though Akaguchi's kids were still safe there in the house. My instructions had changed because of these developments. I still had to go for the data as planned, but there was more - find Akaguchi, or find out what had happened to him. Liquidate Sato.
I still had my license to kill, of course.
Bond left me after that. I got myself dressed, set the alarm system and left the office for good. Down Victoria Street, I looked in at the windows of the wine bar at Ashia and the others. Laughing and drinking. But somehow I didn't feel like joining in. So I went home to Jane Masters' flat, packed my cases and went to bed.
Hours later I was in the air, on my mission at last.
The black Mercedes had been cruising along the coast road, past kilometres of white sand beach. We were beginning to go uphill, and soon we were gliding through a set of steep switchbacks that took us deep into the forested hillside, forbidding in the bluish gloom.
"Almost there now," said Lori in her sweet voice, "I think you're gonna really love the house. It's so beautiful. And the chairman's boys are so cute. They can't wait till you finally arrive! Y'know, I think you're gonna be the first English girl there. It kinda reminds me of that movie, y'know that old one with the bald guy and his kids and the English teacher..."
She broke off, raising her perfect eyebrows in the mirror for help.
"I think you mean 'The King and I'?" I said, wishing I didn't sound so bloody posh.
"That's it. Boy, you're accent is just so..."
"So how many of us girls are up there?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Oh about thirty to forty at any one time. You'll meet some of 'em tonight in the dorm. Well, that's what we call it. They're apartments really. Real modern too. Yep, they sure do know how to look after us. Anyhoo. Here we go."
We pulled round another corner and then I saw it for the first time, at the end of a long clear path in the treeline. For a moment I was fooled. It looked tiny, then I realised that was because it was still quite a distance off. The hill road was interrupted by a pair of iron gates, beyond which was the continuation of the switchbacks, leading to the... house... It was cut into the side of the mountain and looked like a Japanese castle that had been suspended upside down by some miracle of gravity, then teleported half way into the rock face and left there. Tiny lights glimmered under its pagoda roofs and after a while I realised that these were windows. At several levels, terraces had been cut into the hillside to form grassy pastures and expanses of farmland that were big enough to contain several football pitches. One of the terraces looked to be some sort of airstrip. The view would be unbelievable. It would also be quite hard to escape - a far cry from the factory complex I had operated in before.
Lori had noted my silence. "Ain't it something?". I nodded dumbly as we pulled up to the gates, which parted smoothly to let us through. We negotiated the remaining switchbacks, the house getting bigger with every turn, until we were finally swallowed up underneath its grotesque mass...
In the carport, where Lori pulled the Merc up alongside a fleet of identical vehicles, I was scanned for weapons by a guard carrying a Uzi flechette launcher. Then Lori took me through to reception, where my papers were scrutinised once again by another beautiful Caucasian woman in another revealing catsuit. I was told that I should leave my luggage, and it would be taken to my room. I knew it'd be searched so hadn't bothered locking it.
In contrast to the multi-layered grandeur outside, the interior of the House was stark and minimalist, both in layout and decor. Lori kept up a bright stream of chatter as we strolled through a series of bland, white, over-illuminated corridors until I had totally lost my bearings. I mentally stopped and checked myself. In my tiredness, I was forgetting things like basic orientation. I walked on, taking more notice of my surroundings, but my Gucci loafers were beginning to hurt and the bright fluorescents were causing my head to spin. I'd noticed this in the last few weeks - as Jane, I had less stamina than Pierce.
Eventually, we came to an airlock at the end of another white corridor. Lori waved her arm in the direction of a reader panel next to the door. With a hiss, it opened and we went in, the door sealing behind us. Interesting. I wondered how that worked. There was another reader inside, which opened a second door, letting in a waft of flower-scented air. We were in the 'dorm'.
The living area was much less harshly decorated than the area we'd come from. The lighting was low and yellowish, and the walls and floors were wooden. The part we were walking through seemed to be full of leisure amenities. I noticed food machines on many corners. Bilingual signs pointed to facilities such as "Gymnasium", "Swimming Pool", "Onsen Baths", "Game Centre" and "Viewing Platform". Every now and then, we passed groups of young, smiling Western women, who greeted us with friendly little waves. They were all dressed in the catsuits of different colours, which I supposed indicated different functional roles.
Lori led me to a bank of lifts and called one. We travelled without any sensation of movement up six floors to "Habitation Level Four" which, as I'd anticipated, looked very much like a hotel corridor. The rooms were numbered; mine being room 404. Lori let me in with another vague wave of her arm, gave me a little smile and a hug (a bit unexpected), then told me I'd be paged soon, and that I'd find full instructions (for what?) in my personal data tablet. Then she was gone, with the ubiquitous little wave.
I was alone at last.
Aware that the room was almost certainly peppered with surveillance devices, I lay down on the bed and tried to behave unsuspiciously. Eyes half-closed as if tired, I swept the room, its features, exits and obstacles, committing them to memory. Not difficult in the box-like confines of the room. I stretched, rose and walked to the bathroom, again ostensibly just to freshen up. I made sure that I made a lot of steam with the shower before stripping down, just in case there was visual surveillance in there - didn't want any unexpected anatomical details to be captured.
The shower was excellent and I felt a lot better when I stepped out of the bathroom, feeling scrubbed, fragrant and hot in my black panties and bra. I walked over to the window and slid it open, walking out onto the small balcony which overlooked a sheer drop. High up on the mountainside in the gathering gloom, the heat was less oppressive and the freshening breeze ran cool fingers over my bare skin and hair.
Looking over the treetops to the glinting sea, I was again struck by the great beauty of the Japanese countryside. Quickly, I scanned for paths and escape routes. Apart from the main switchback road along which we had ascended to the House, I could see a narrow, steep, winding path cut into the forest, which seemed to lead directly down to the ocean side. Promising. Otherwise, the thick forest seemed impenetrable.
I heard a gentle chime from the room behind me. Back inside, a purple light was pulsing softly on my desktop tablet. I went over and touched the screen to read the message.
"Please report to Commissar Sato's office in your uniform, 20:00 hrs."
I dismissed the message and sat for a while. Things were about to get interesting.
The first thing to be clear about over Sato is that she is physically incredible. One of the most striking women I've ever encountered, in fact. Tall, statuesque even, for a Japanese, she just outstripped me by a couple of centimetres in her spike heels. A brutal face, yes, but porcelain perfect, as always with flawless, doll-like make up - beautiful in its cruelty. She had the poise of an athlete-hunter, of a creature who lived purely by instinct and sensual response, as she walked up to me in the softly-lit corridor outside her office, coolly appraising me with no expression on her face. She was dressed in a tailored leather skirt suit, flaunting her long, rangy body; her to-die-for legs encapsulated in sheer black stockings. A mannish white shirt and black tie completed the ensemble. The starched cuffs of the white shirt projected from the leather sleeves of the jacket and were fastened with an unusual and elegant pair of carved wooden cufflinks. She noticed me looking.
"You like them? They are from my hometown in Shikoku. Renowned local carving style. Hello. I am Commissar Sato, Miss Jane. Please come in."
She swept into her office, flicking her jet-black, die straight waist length hair behind her. She sat on a sofa and beckoned me to sit next to her as she offered me tea. The last time I had seen her she had just removed the eyes of a young deserter with her thumbs and laughed at his screams for a full minute before shooting him dead through the mouth. Nevertheless I sat, smiling pleasantly. I wanted to get close to this beguiling, murderous woman so that she would divulge her secrets to me before I ended her life.
As I sipped the tea, Sato explained the security arrangements, which, it turned out were built into my uniform. The uniform catsuits, into one of which I was now squeezed, were not only extremely snug fitting, but laced with some pretty sophisticated tech, which meant that none of "us girls" could step out of permitted areas of the House without setting off some rather lethal-sounding countermeasures. As I had been forced to submit all my own clothing to the care of House security, five catsuits was all I had to wear for the foreseeable future. Ergo I had some thinking to do if Jane Masters was to investigate the complex without ending up as steak tartare.
My suit was made out of some reflective, dark red material similar in look to latex but with a skin feel closer to neoprene. I have to confess that when I opened up the wardrobe and saw five of the bloody things hanging there, I swore. Did I really feel confident enough about this body to flaunt it so extravagantly? I was finding out now (as if I had much choice).
It was a one piece that you stepped into like a leotard, very tight on the thighs and bum. Above the waist it became a very skimpy halter that left my back completely bare and didn't leave much to the imagination in the chest department either. The split in the middle of the halter plunged down way past my boobs and finished well below the navel. A little chain link belt was stitched onto the hips, finishing the look. Before I had fastened it all up, I'd made bloody well sure that I was extremely well tucked. Didn't want any unexpected bulges spoiling the smooth, shiny front down there. Also in the wardrobe I'd found a very cute pair of pink trainers with a silver Converse star on either side and two-inch block heels. I'd slipped them on and taken a look in the full-length mirror.
Wow. Well, you could tell a man must have designed these things. It was made to please men's eyes. I'd had to look away because I was getting turned on and I didn't want to have to take it all off to retuck myself. I felt proud in a confused sort of way. Proud of my curves, which were outstanding (literally) in this outfit. Confused, and a bit ashamed for thinking that too. I felt very sexy though. I could definitely have fun with Bond in this getup.
I studied Sato as she went over some of the facilities at my disposal. I have to admit that I felt extremely attracted to her as well. I knew that she was a cold-hearted and sadistic killer. But there was just something dominant and powerful about her flawless beauty that made me go all gooey below. I shook my head and tried to stay calm, sipping more tea. Jesus, my mission would go west bloody quickly if I kept going all nympho at the slightest provocation. But what could I do - they'd dressed me like some filthy Barbie doll slut.
Sato lit a cigarette and offered me one. I took it and let her light it. Again, I'd completely stopped paying attention and had to try to focus again.
"-so you will be meeting Masakazu and Koichiro, the Director's twins tomorrow morning at breakfast. I will also expect to see an initial study plan which I can pass on to Akaguchi-san at that time."
"Will I get to meet the Director? It would be interesting from a teacher's point of view to get the parent's perspective - their hopes, aspirations?"
Sato shook her head. "Regrettably, not in the near future. Director Akaguchi is very busy on overseas business at the moment. But I," she tapped her chest with the tips of her red nails, "am fully authorised to act as the parental proxy."
"In that case," I said, "may I ask you what you think the objectives for the twins' education are?"
Sato nodded and paused before resuming. "One day, the Director's sons will inherit the organisation. At that time, we will be a global brand with leverage across many races and cultures. English is a language that is, I believe, widely used." Sato smiled, showing slightly pointed teeth behind her crimson lips. "The Director's sons must be fluent in the languages of our... customers. That is your task, starting tomorrow."
I had no reply to this and simply nodded, so Sato went on. "I'm sure that you will find the task rewarding, Miss Jane. The boys are extremely conscientious and diligent pupils. They will show respect to an educator who respects them." Sato smiled, blowing a cloud of smoke.
I was more convinced now than ever that Akaguchi had been deposed, probably murdered, by Sato, who had taken his place at the head of the Red Fist of Justice. But how did the children fit in?
Sato wasn't wrong about the boys. As I sat and listened to them sing the alphabet song in our beautiful classroom, high above the forest, I could tell that they were special. They were spooky in the way that identical twins often were, acting almost as though they were locked telepathically, but it was more than that. They both had a stillness about them. I think that, if I was being a cliched westerner, I'd say "Zen-like". It made you feel calm being around them, as though they were somehow charmed. I guess in conventional terms, they were unbelievably charismatic and beautiful. Big round heads and lovely long-lashed anime eyes. Unspoilt by age, uncorrupted by power, untouched by greed. It was outside my mission scope, but I felt a strong moral urge to protect them and stop them from growing up into powerful and ruthless killers, which they would surely do if left in this tainted environment.
On a more superficial level, I really enjoyed teaching them too. They were receptive, attentive, funny (as little Japanese kids often are), unbelievably bright and polite. I think they've taken to "Miss Jane" too. Yeah, we hit it off. Of the two, Koichiro, the first born was slightly the more assertive and extroverted. Masakazu tended to reflect longer and come up with more considered thoughts. They were seven years old. Eight next month.
I had been teaching them two hours a day now for a week. An hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon except Wednesdays which was my afternoon off (tough life, eh?). The rest of the time I spent putting on a convincing social front, swimming, tanning myself on the deck and exercising in the gym. For security reasons the girls were not allowed out individually, so I fell in with a group of South African and Australian women who seemed to hang out together and welcomed a "toffee-nosed pom" into their clique to use as the butt of their good humoured jokes.
We went down to the private beach at the end of the winding forest path and talked about boys, travel, home. A couple of times we drove down to the small town to look round the shops and markets and hang out. Of course, a group of loud, long-limbed, athletic Western women in a provincial Japanese town tends to attract attention in the same way that a carcass attracts hyenas. Ogled is not the word. Trish, a straightforward Aussie, who was one of the incredibly glamorous flight of all-female helicopter pilots employed at the House, put it nicely as we sashayed past a group of slack-jawed youths: "Jane, I'm contemplating the sound of one jaw dropping. And another one. And another one..." Of course Red Fist owned the town and the men of Tsuruga knew that the reprisals should they touch one of us Fist girls would be quick, decisive and terminal.
Look, but don't touch, boys. Poor things.
While in town, I noticed the boy from the train several times. He had obviously developed quite a thing for me and would smile shyly every time I made eye contact with him. I thought he was going to have a coronary the first time he saw me strut into town with my girlfriends in my red catsuit. He seemed to be one of a group of chimpira (wannabe mobsters) who'd hang around the bars in the dock area running little rackets or zooming around on scooters with the goal of trying to get noticed by Red Fist. I marked him out as a potential last resort ally if things got sticky. The other man from the train - the middle aged type who I'd had marked as an operative was nowhere to be seen. Could be I made a wrong call on him.
So the week had passed quickly. On the quiet, I was snooping round the network from the tablet in my room trying to get a feel for the sort of security in place. My hacking 'ware was well disguised as a set of commercially sold English teaching tools. To the observer I was conscientiously working on the boys' lessons while poking round the data reefs of the Red Fist of Justice. I was 100% certain that I could look round the public parts of the House network without leaving a trace, unless someone specifically knew that I was in there. Even then it would take an exceptionally good human operator to trace me back. The standard software wouldn't have a chance.
Over a couple of days, it became rapidly apparent that while non-sensitive information (laundry invoices, general personnel records, vehicle requisitions) was quite easy to acquire from my room deck, I would not be able to get near any of the good stuff from this terminal. That made my mission strategy clear:
- Disable security countermeasures in my uniform
- Locate and hack physical terminal within secure network
- Acquire data, encrypt and transmit back to Vauxhall
- Kill Sato
- Escape alive (tricky)
Tough, but doable...
I finished the day's afternoon class by going though the animal flash cards with the boys as usual. They would read in turn: "Lion, Zebra, Dog, Monkey (they always giggled at that one - don't ask me why), Goldfish, Cat, Rabbit (they'd mastered the "L" and "R" sounds amazingly quickly), Bird, Elephant, Snake, Panda, Frog, Mouse, Duck."
I smiled. "Very good boys. Tomorrow, we'll start a different set of cards. Please come back in the morning with five English words that begin with "C". Okay?" Then I switched to English. "Now what do we say?"
All together we shouted "Goodbye!!" waving our hands. They stood and bowed and walked to the door as I picked up my things. At the door, Koichiro paused and said in halting English. "Miss Jane. Thank you. We like very much." He blushed furiously and ran off after his brother.
I stood in the empty classroom for a while, unsettled by Koichiro's comment but not knowing why.
I bumped into Trish on the way back to my room. She was heading for the bar and invited me along for a game of pool. Probably because of her tomboyish nature, and my, er, boyish one, we had discovered a mutual love of the stick game.
It was 16:30 and the bar was empty. She got a can of Asahi from the vending machine and I got a small bottle of chilled Sancerre. Loud music was playing on the stereo. We played three games quickly and she beat me 2-1, on the last black. I made a joke about The Ashes and we sat down. I lit a cigarette. Trish doesn't smoke.
I got on so well with Trish because I found her unpretentious and honest. She was a great beauty, like most of the girls here. Tall, with beautiful, wavy auburn hair. Open, appealing face with pale blue eyes and a strong nose. In all, very aristocratic looking, but she carried herself as though she was on her uncle's farm in the outback in dungarees mucking about by the billabong with her brother Roy. We talked about our families for a while (I gave her the "Jane Masters Story", abridged edition). Turned out that Roy had died from an AIDS related illness in Sydney the year before. Trish had cut loose after that and gone travelling, finally ending up here where her pilot's license had come in useful.
"Can't complain, y'know mate," she said, "we live in the lap of luxury here. I get to fly every day and work on my commercial license. You can't turn a blind eye to what Red Fist does forever. I suppose. Look, I won't be here forever. Just till I get myself out of a money hole - and I guess you have to put up with the downside," she said, grimacing and twanging the strap of her navy blue catsuit's halter.
I looked down at my own shiny red attire. To be honest I was by now so used to wearing it that I'd forgotten how ridiculous it had seemed at the beginning. In fact, I was in a competition with some of the other girls to come down to breakfast looking as vampy and saucy as possible. I'd certainly had a couple of interesting hairstyles and faces on in the last couple of days.
"Yeah," I replied. "I guess so. To be honest, I don't even notice I have it on any more."
"Yeah, right," she laughed, "except at brekkie! Christ girl, what did you look like this morning? I didn't know whether to snog you or send you out onto the street to earn a living." She laughed raucously and I joined in as I recalled how I'd sauntered into the refectory with my hair curled and piled on top of my head, and the most outrageously salacious gothic makeup on my face. "I hope you wiped that muck off your face before you went in to 'educate' those poor boys," Trish went on.
"Course I did," I said, sipping my wine, "they're far too young for that horror movie." There was a lull in the conversation while the music changed tracks.
Trish leaned in conspiratorially as another loud track started thumping out of the speakers. "Course, we know that there's another reason apart from the eye-candy one as to why we have the uniforms. I heard once that a girl accidentally walked into a secure area - she was drunk and didn't see the warning signs." She shuddered.
I was suddenly interested. "What happened?"
"Laser mesh." She made a Zorro-like swooshing movement with her hands. "Diced receptionist. Apparently they were cleaning the corridor for days. Ugh." She finished her Asahi and made to get up. "Hey I'm gonna go to the steam room. Wanna come?"
I shook my head. "Got to plan my next week of lessons. Sato wants the plan on her desk tomorrow morning."
Trish made a "bitch" face, smiled and waved and was gone.
Laser mesh. Interesting. Meant that the countermeasures were not built into the clothing itself. Some sort of tracer with a personal ident? I passed my hands over the smooth, seamless contours of my costume but could feel nowhere where a smartchip might be concealed. Unless.
I unclipped the belt and looked at it. Looked perfectly normal. Too obvious, surely. A plan was beginning to form in my head.
Two hours later, I was walking in my robe from the solarium after spending half an hour under the sunbed. I was carrying my uniform and make up bag in the crook of my arm. I was taking a circuitous route via one of the observation decks, as I knew that it took me past one of the restricted areas.
I stopped for a moment at the entrance to the North Deck and went out to have a cigarette. Dusk was one of the most atmospheric times to be outside. The deck was deserted and I walked right to the guard-rail at the very edge. From here, the mountainside fell away quite sharply down to the sea. The drop was vertiginous. I looked down, imagining myself falling to be pulverised on the rocks jutting from the sea. That started the adrenalin flowing. I was about to do something risky and I needed to be sharp. I finished my cigarette and put it out in one of the ashtrays dotted about and walked back to the doorway stopping to bend down and loosen one of the straps on my while high-heeled slingbacks. Two girls (unknown to me) walked past me out onto the deck followed by three guards. They went to the rail and stated chatting. I rose and went inside.
I walked round the corner. At the end of this corridor was the red lit entrance to a restricted area. There was no door. Just red lighting and black and yellow warning stripes painted onto the floor where the line of demarcation was. I squinted and could now make out the fine mesh of holes in the walls and ceiling which must have been the laser countermeasure system.
As I walked up, I could feel the looseness of my right sandal. I had to calculate this precisely. Four feet away, I suddenly stumbled out of my loose shoe and fell with a small squeal, letting my uniform catsuit spill off my arm. As I hit the floor, I threw out my arm and my catsuit flew away from me into the red zone. It landed on the floor with one leg sticking out into the safe area.
I picked myself up, acting shaken, pulling the catsuit by its leg out of the red zone. By rights it should have been burnt to shreds by laser fire. I redid the strap on my sandal and turned the corner away from the restricted area back to my room, pulling the robe around me. I had some thinking to do.
Unless I was very much mistaken, my experiment had shown that the intrusion detection in the restricted zones was not intrinsic to the uniforms. Clearly the catsuits were a ruse. So how were the lasers triggered?
I lay on my bed, naked except for a pair of bikini briefs. The balcony door was open, letting the twilight and the cool breeze in; otherwise my room was dark. The only other explanation was that the tracer must somehow have been introduced to our bodies. But how? There had been no time when I'd been unconscious long enough for chip implantation to have occurred. Maybe it was something in the water. I smiled, then realised that maybe that wasn't such a foolish notion. After all, the reason why I was embroiled in this mess was because of nanotechnology. Perhaps there were nanites swimming round in my body right now broadcasting my identity and permission level to the intelligence that ran this grotesque building. I shuddered. In that case there was no way I could infiltrate the security systems unaided...
Coming to a decision, I quickly rose and shrugged myself into my catsuit. I looked at the clock. 19:56. Time to work on the kids' study plan, I thought. I padded over to the desk and surreptitiously reached behind the tablet, loosening the power connector slightly. Then I pressed the power stud. Nothing happened. I did it again, a couple of times.
I put the table lamp on and got on the phone to the IT desk. A man answered.
"Oh hello," I said breathlessly, "I'm Jane Masters in room 404. I'm afraid my tablet seems to have broken down.... Would you be able to send me someone? I really need to do some work for Cmr. Sato tonight.... Oh thank you.. Yes, yes, I'll be waiting."
I hung up and walked to the bathroom to beautify my hair and face and make myself smell nice. Might as well use the new tools the department had given me. Men were men, but techies were often desperate... Let me be the answer to their dreams. If it got me what I wanted.
I had fluffed up my newly curled hair and done an expert job of bedroom make-up. Smoky seductive eyes and deep red glossed lips; a dusting of dark blush and a spray of Cashmere Mist. I pushed my boobs up so that they were absurdly prominent and teased my nipples so that they stuck out under the restriction of the red fabric. Well, there was no point in being subtle. I had one chance to make an impression.
When the technician arrived, I immediately felt sorry for him. He was in his twenties, with thinning hair. I could have sworn his pebble-like specs steamed up when I answered the door with a breathy "Hi." He was short, about up to my chest and had bad teeth and was sweating. This was too easy.
He sidled past me and buried himself in his work. I slowly walked back into the room, my heels making pronounced clicking noises. I could see that he was aware of me even though he had his back to me. I sighed and sat on my bed, crossing my legs and pouring myself a glass of chilled Viognier. "It's such a lovely night," I said, in Japanese.
His shoulders stiffened. I sipped my wine but received no other reply.
After a while, I heard a chime and my tablet powered up. "It is power," he said in halting English, with his back still to me.
"It's OK, I speak very good Japanese," I said, "and you've fixed it. You're so clever!"
He finally turned. His face was red. "It was the power cable," he said, and giggled. "It's a technical support joke. And you did it!"
I smiled. "I'm just glad you fixed it." I indicated the bed. "I want to show my gratitude in some way. Would you like a glass of wine?"
"I shouldn't," he said, but he sat down. In a chair, not next to me on the bed. I poured him a glass and handed it to him, making sure that our fingers touched as he took it.
"My name is Jane. What's yours?"
He swigged his wine down on one go, "I know you are Miss Jane. Everyone is talking about you. That you are very good with the Director's children. My name is Takahashi."
It was obvious that he had been drinking already. I moved to pour him another and he accepted, offering to pour me one in return, the Japanese way. I let him pour a dribble into my glass. "What are they saying about me? If you don't mind me asking?"
"Oh, that you are a very good teacher. Commissar Sato has been saying good things about you. I'm sure that the Director will reward you personally. Also," he smiled mischievously, "my friends will be very envious that you called when I was on duty."
"Why's that?" I said, uncrossing and recrossing my legs. He couldn't take his eyes off that.
He downed the wine again, looking mortified. "We all think that you are the most beautiful of the women that we are fortunate to share our employment with."
That one actually penetrated my defences and I blushed. "Thank you Mr Takahashi." I said, "that is a great compliment and I'm sure you and your colleagues are being over generous to me." I'd slipped into formal Japanese - fake humility. I got back onto the point. "You know, Takahashi-san. I'd be fascinated to see where you work. As you know, we girls only get to see half of what goes on here. Do you think-?" I looked submissively up at him as I poured him another.
He immediately pulled away. "I can't allow that Miss Jane. It's strictly forbidden. If Cmr. Sato found out, she'd..." he trailed off, taking a swig of wine.
I sipped my glass. "It's just that.." I let my fingers trail down the bare flesh between my breasts, trying to hypnotise him. "I find technology so sexy... that's one of the reasons I came to work here. I'm sure I could make it-" I looked into his eyes, and reached to gently touch his arm, "you know, worth your while?" I drank the rest of my glass of wine quickly, licking my lips.
I looked down to his crotch. There was a definite bulge there. I had him.
Suddenly, his pager bleeped and he jumped. Shit, shit, shit! He looked at it and got up.
"I must go." He started moving towards the doorway. I had to make a move.
I stood and strode over to stand in his way, stopping him with a hand on his. He turned. Shit. I couldn't believe I was about to do this.
I bent down and brushed his lips with mine, closing my eyes and thinking of England.
Nothing happened for a couple of days. In fact it all got a bit pathetic and high school-ish. I tried to attract Takahashi's attention in the canteen and other public places. Smiling and waving, but he either blanked me if with his gang of spotty techies, or looked acutely embarrassed if alone or working. Trish thought I was insane. I tried to explain that I found ugly small men irresistible and that he was really sweet, when you got to know him.
I carried on teaching the kids and spoke a couple of times with Sato, who expressed satisfaction at my work.
Then, at 03:30 on the morning of the fourth day, there was a knock on my door. I got up from bed and opened it, rubbing my eyes. There was no one there. Then I noticed a note on the floor. I picked it up.
Meet me on the North Deck in twenty minutes - Taka
I quickly dressed, freshened up, put on my most glamorous shoes and tripped along to the observation deck. Takahashi was waiting for me, there. I took his hands. "Hello Mr Takahashi. You wanted me?"
He was trembling in the warm night. "I couldn't get that kiss out of my mind," he said. "If I show you the technology area, will you-?"
I nodded. Giving him another quick peck on the mouth. "Let's go," he said, leading me quickly off the deck. As we walked along the corridor, he handed me a vial of colourless fluid. "Drink it," he said.
I stopped, looking at the vial. "What is it?"
He grabbed my hand and made me carry on walking, whispering, "unless you have that substance in your system you won't be able to pass the security grid. Please drink it, then give the vial back to me."
Nanites. They must be. I quickly downed the contents of the vial and handed it back to him. Tasted just like water.
We turned the corner and the red zone approached. I held my breath as we walked through, but nothing happened. I was in.
We walked down a short, darkened corridor then emerged into a dark, low-ceilinged room full of computer terminals. Sadly, just a tech support IT room with the usual clutter of parts and cabling strewn across the floor, but hopefully I could access something a bit more useful through this area. The only illumination came from the red light spilling in from the corridor and the dim glow of the computer monitors. There was another door that led on somewhere.
I had to act turned on by this, though. "Ooh, hardware!" I said, breathlessly, feeling a little absurd, "come here." He was breathing very hard as I embraced him. I could feel his little hard-on poking into my thigh.
I gently jabbed my thumb into the nerve cluster above his collarbone, and he collapsed with a soft grunt. I found some cabling and bound and gagged him. I'd have to dispose of him later. But now I had work to do.
I sat down at one of the active terminals, reaching into my hip pocket for the disk from my English teaching kit that contained the incursion software. I stuck it in the Unidrive and watched it spin up.
The 'ware began by spoofing my room terminal so that it appeared to the network and anyone monitoring activity that I was working on lesson notes in my room at 4 AM. Very conscientious, Jane. Once the cloak was up, I started investigating the local subnet for weak spots. I did this by sending out a pack of sniffers who'd scamper away disguised as normal network processes and come back having aggregated a visualisation of the security systems in the local area.
While this was happening, I took off my shoes and padded to the door at the far end of the room. A diffuse red light spilled through the circular viewhole onto the ceiling. I looked through and saw a red-lit corridor, with a single door at the far end. The number 497 was printed on the door. A gentle blue light pulsed from the viewhole of the door to Room 497.
I was about to go through to investigate when a soft chime sounded from behind me. Torn between two courses of action, I decided to go back to analyse the results of the sniffer run. I padded quietly back to the terminal, sat down and pulled up the results window.
Suddenly, I felt a prickling sensation of nerves, became aware of a feeling of being watched. I looked round, but there was no one there. I looked behind me at Takahashi, prone on the floor. But he was still out cold.
I stood up and walked over to the corridor through which we had entered. Pressing myself against the wall, I looked round the corner. But the corridor was still, empty. Perhaps I was spooking myself unnecessarily. I hadn't been under this type of mission pressure for a while now. I went back to the terminal and sat down, studying the screen.
Once again, I felt like I was being observed. I shivered. My exposed arms and back were starting to goosebump in the air-con atmosphere. I looked around again, licking my lips, which suddenly felt horribly dry. I felt an irrational desire to fix my lipstick and wished I had brought one with me. The room was empty. But was it my imagination or had the light from the door at the far end of the room brightened? I tried to concentrate on the screen, but was suddenly gripped by fear. I tried to swallow to lubricate my dry throat and mouth.
I got up, looked round and sat down again, rubbing my hands together with anxiety. Suddenly, I wished I were far away from here, in a pub in Chelsea with some mates watching the match. Dressed in jeans and sweatshirt. Not in some species of hell, halfway across the world, freezing to death in a sleazy red rubber catsuit. Shit. I began to cry.
After a while, I collected myself and looked over at the door again. Taking a breath, I rose and made my way through the mess of computer parts and diacarded Jolt Cola cans to the door. I sat down with my naked back on the door and looked up. Something had changed. Before, only the red corridor light had spilt through the viewhole from beyond. Now, I could clearly see the faint blue pulsing light mixing with the red glow thrown onto the ceiling.
Trying to slow my breathing, I rose and peeked through the viewhole. I gasped. The blue light that had been pulsing gently in Room 497 was now throbbing bright and angry, casting crazy shadows into the dark corridor. I was mesmerised, unable to rid myself of the feeling that whatever was in Room 497 was alive. What's more, that I'd woken it and it was watching me, somehow.
I watched and waited, hardly daring to breathe, and slowly, the intensity of the light from Room 497 diminished till it was back at its original level. I wondered if I should go through. I told myself that it was more important to get at the data on the network. Actually, I was terrified by the malevolent presence of Room 497; had a terrible foreboding that I was to find something utterly vile and incomprehensible in there.
So I turned and went back to the terminal, faced what I knew, rather than what I didn't want to know. I began to study the schematics of the network's security system.
Then something moved in the periphery of my vision, from the direction of the door.
I swallowed and slowly forced myself to turn my head.
One of the twins was standing there, ten feet away in the semi-darkness, just looking at me, with a frighteningly blank look on his face.
As I watched, mouth agape, he slowly raised a hand to point at me.
Once my heart had returned to its normal place in my chest, I got up and walked over to him. As I did so, he pointed behind me. I turned. The other boy was behind me, the same look on his face. His hand raised to point as well.
I knelt down, trying to calm myself. I reached out my hands and they came and took them. I tried to smile reassuringly and whispered, "you shouldn't be here, you two. It's very late." I stood. "Come on. Let's get you to bed."
But they hung back, not coming with me.
"What is it?" I whispered urgently. "We have to go. It's terribly dangerous. You might get hurt."
"Oh no," said a voice from behind me.
I whirled. From the darkness of the corner of the room stepped a tall, black-clad fighure. "I rather think it's you who might be hurt, Miss Jane," said Sato, a dangerous smile on her face
She tilted her head, slightly. "Or should that be Lieutenant Commander Pierce?"
The end of CHAPTER TWO
Jane Masters will return in CHAPTER THREE
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