The Kyoto House Restaurant occupied the ground floor of a small, two-story standalone at the corner of 36th Avenue and Archer near the southern end of Little Tokyo.
We were led at a table in the back. I told the server we were expecting a few more people. He nodded, bowed, and left the table. We sat, back to the wall, facing the main entrance. Aside from us, there were three others: a smiling young couple and a harried-looking corpgeek. The couple shared a plate of sushi rolls and an energetic story punctuated by giggles and snorted laughter. The corpgeek ate from a bento box and hunched over a laptop.
"Look familiar?" I said to Mouse as we sat down.
"Last night," she said. "We were a block down."
"I don't like this."
"Five by five."
At exactly 15:30, a pair of corp muscle walked in. Broad shouldered. Dark suits. Blank expressions.
One took position at the door.
The other looked at us. Then he spoke briefly to the couple and the corpgeek. They got up and left the restaurant. He turned back to us, pulled a phone from his suit jacket pocket, and spoke into it.
A moment later, a bull-necked, barrel-chested Japanese man in a badly fitting suit waddled in. A shorter compact man with a closely shaved head wearing a dark suit and red tie came in just behind Big Man. They took a seat at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Big Man laced thick fingers on the table in front of him. Red Tie leaned back in his chair but he looked like a coiled spring.
The second muscle sat in a nearby booth, attention on us.
I got up, went to the table, and sat down across from Big Man and Red Tie.
Big Man looked me up and down with dark eyes. "You the one?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Good. Where is it?"
I frowned. "Where's what?"
"Come come. I'm not here to play games."
"No games. What are you talking about."
"Don't waste my time," said Big Man. "Hand it over."
My neck hairs saluted.
I looked at Big Man with narrowed eyes. "What's the job?"
Big Man gave a start. "Job? What job? You're supposed to give me a package--"
I yelled: "Em! Bounce!"
Then sprinted for the door.
Red Tie lunged for me. I clotheslined him and he crumpled into a nearby table.
From behind me came a pair of meaty thunks followed by strangled yelps.
Mouse loves her pointy toys.
I burst out the front door and was halfway across the street when light flashed at my back. The world roared. The concussion wave shoved me forward. I went sprawling over the hood of a parked sedan, landed on the opposite sidewalk amid a hail of burning debris and bits of glass.
I rolled to a crouch and peered over the car.
The sign hanging in front of the restaurant groaned, sprayed sparks, then fell off with a crash.
I turned and spotted Mouse nearby. We exchanged looks.
This was starting to get a little complicated.
* * *
Back at the car, I called Eddie.
"Good timing," he said. "Was just about to ring you."
"Need an info dump," I said.
"You always do. Who's the mark?"
"Give me ten. I'll call."
"We kinda need to lay low," I said. "We'll come over."
"Fine by me. I'll keep an eye peeled."
* * *
Fast Eddie's shop occupied an abandoned autobody shop off Edge Road on the northeastern tip of the Southside District, past Highway 401.
After we went in, Eddie dropped his wiry, lab coat-clad frame into a high-back leather chair and swiveled toward his workstation, a U-shaped configuration of tables that sat against the far wall of the converted repair bay. Assorted electronic equipment trailing wires and cables occupied the two side tables. Three flat-screens, two keyboards, and a cyberdeck dominated the middle table.
"I genned up on our young David," he said and typed commands on one of the keyboards. "Seems he's quite the little soldier."
"Soldier?" I said. "I thought he was working construction?"
"In his previous life, yeah. But look." Eddie pointed to the center flat-screen. A dossier. David's picture stared out at us, his hair shaved close to his head, military fashion.
"Joined the CFS Armed Forces seven years ago," said Eddie. "Served a three year tour, then joined Special Ops."
"Alpha Team," I said. Best of the best. And then some.
Eddie nodded. "Alpha Team."
Mouse gave a low whistle.
"But have a gander here." He pointed to an entry toward the bottom of the screen.
I read it.
Then read it again.
"Is that right?" I said.
"Far as the public's concerned."
Mouse looked up from reading and snorted. "He looks pretty good for a two-and-a-half-year old dead guy."
"But it's all public record, innit," said Eddie.
I nodded and smiled. "What's the private record?"
"That's where things got interesting."
I raised an eyebrow.
Eddie nodded. "Bloody right. But I got it. Well, part of it anyway."
Eddie typed again. Another window appeared on-screen. He tapped the display with his finger. "According to this, six months after joining Alpha Team, David became part of some hush program called 'Spartan.' Far as I can tell, it involved extensive mods. All top line. And bioware."
Mouse looked at me. "You called it."
I nodded. Bioware. Biologically tailored implants. No chrome. No chips. All vat-grown. Undetectable, unlike typical cyberware. Perfect for someone who doesn't want to look like a mass of flesh and machine.
I could think of one reason why the military would be doing this.
"Super soldier," I said.
"Wiz," Mouse said. "Alpha Team and super soldier."
"And two years dead." I turned to Eddie. "Army would notify next of kin at the time of death, right?"
"So why didn't Staci know?"
"Staci?" Eddie said.
"From the Red Dog."
"With the cat-eyes? David's her brother?"
I nodded. "She told us she hadn't heard from him in seven years."
"The notice never got to her," Mouse said.
"Go back to his file," I said to Eddie.
He keyed a command. The dossier appeared on the center screen.
I scanned it.
"Bingo," I said, and pointed to one of the entries.
"Bloody hell," said Eddie.
Mouse looked over his shoulder. "No next of kin."
I frowned. "Still doesn't explain what he's doing here..."
A thought struck.
"Another dump," I said.
Fifteen minutes later, Eddie finished his datarun and Mouse and I were back at his workstation.
Eddie upended a full can of Tsunami cola and lobbed it into the cardboard box full of empty cans then turned a frown toward us. "You're not going to like this."
"Why not?" I said.
"It's bad," said Eddie.
(to be continued...)