2. The Gentleman From Asahikawa

The team sat around an unassuming folding table, the curtains completely blacking out the windows, the furniture slightly beat up and uncoordinated even with the safe house’s spartan décor. Tenner looked briefly over the faces of his team, a quiet satisfaction and pride sparking inside of him for a moment.

Trigger, he thought with a mental smile, selected, shanghaied, and sheep-dipped out of the Teams. Best hand with a rifle or subgun I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

He glanced over to the scrawny young man sitting at the opposite end of the table. Harmon Buchner. Hyrax, our pet hacker. Has to be one of the best black hats in the world, and nobody even knows it. Vicious, too, letting those Filipinos take the fall for that worm a few years back.

Tenner’s gaze turned to the shapely woman sitting next to Hyrax. Annette Van Rijn. Nike, the driver. The Formula 1 League has no idea just how badly they screwed up keeping her from the circuit. Then again, that little incident with her and the race official didn’t exactly win her any friends.

Shifting his eyes over, he looked at the gaunt looking man next to Trigger’s elbow. St. John Merriweather. Okami. Infiltrator, gunman, all-around spooky son of a bitch. Good thing he grew up around here, even if he is a gaijin to the locals.

His eyes flicked only slightly to the slim Asian woman sitting next to Okami. Marlena Shimikura. Carillon, our seductress-in-residence. She drives drunk, she’ll talk a cop out of his gun. She needs access somewhere, she can sweet-talk even the most hard-headed security guard. Gal could probably talk a bomb out of detonating.

That thought brought him to the last member of the team. Ivan Maughm. Flick, our explosives man and scrounger. Guy knows his stuff where explosives are concerned, and he always manages to deliver the goods. Probably best not to ask how he gets them in the first place.

Tenner scanned over his team once more. He knew them all. Trusted them all, and knew they trusted each other, and him. They’d all had their share of close calls. Hairy moments where things looked like they were going to be going into the crapper. Instances of howling terror where everything had gone to hell at the speed of light and only their tight knit nature let them get out of it alive. A good team. Seasoned, experienced, and razor sharp.

“All right, boys and girls, I know we’re still a little stiff from our respective flights, but time waits for no spook. Let’s get down to it.”

Tenner opened up the intel package he’d picked up from the dead drop half an hour earlier, then began to lay out the contents, separating loose photos from dossiers, threat analysis sheets from schematics.

“Over the last several months, several members of the Japanese Parliament have been demonstrating a fundamentally discordant shift against current co-operative policies in place between the U.S. and Japan. Normally that wouldn’t bother us. MPs come and go, and every so often they get a wild hair that faintly echoes pre-WWII Japanese nationalism. It irritates China, it irritates North and South Korea, it irritates the Philippines. Usually, nothing comes of it other than some flap in the papers and on the nightly news.

“This time, there are indications that perhaps it’s not a passing thing. On their own, these MPs expressing these ideas are nothing new. However, a few of them are in very critical areas, politically speaking. One of them in particular is of interest to us.”

Tenner sorted through the photos quickly, then pulled a black-and-white 8x10” out from the sheaf. “This is Hideo Kanzawa. The prefecture he represents is not what you’d call critical in the day-to-day dealings of the country. Just after the last election, he was named to chair the appropriations committee for the Japanese Self-Defense Force. At the time, he was seen as a moderate, the sort of man who could keep the JSDF properly funded without encouraging it to get aggressive and nasty. Sources indicate there was a lot of horse trading involved to get him in the chair, none of which he actually participated in or even knew about. When he assumed the chair, he went on record as stating that he would make sure Japan was well defended, keeping the historical working relationship between the U.S. and Japan intact, without delving into fiscal or martial excesses.”

“In other words,” Trigger said laconically, “he wasn’t going to yank the rug out from under anybody, but he wasn’t going to be handing out raises, either.”

“More or less. For the first eight months of his tenure, keeping the status quo seemed not only like a no-brainer, but he was doing it and not pissing people off. His public statements, as well as private correspondances, seem to reflect that same attitude. He wasn’t going to be rocking the boat.”

Okami studied the photo carefully, committing the man’s features to memory. “I take it then that the gentleman from Asahikawa has discovered a new martial zeal all of a sudden.”

“So it appears. His stance has been more aggressive in the last several months. He seems to have become fond of the term ‘military self-sufficiency’ when describing long terms goals for the JSDF. I can understand wanting to make the JSDF self-sufficient. I can even understand giving them some serious offensive capability. If you’ll recall, there are still a couple of nasty customers out in this part of the world. But combined with the more vociferous rantings of less well placed MPs, junior and senior alike, and suddenly Kanzawa starts sounding unreasonably reasonable.”

“The analysts back home think that somebody’s pushing Kanzawa’s buttons?” asked Carillon quietly.

“That’s the working theory. Couple of possible angles that we can try to track down. Financially, he’s clean, so we can forget about that one right now. No unusually large deposits in his accounts. No new accounts opened. No unusual spending beyond his recorded means. The tell-tales of bribery just aren’t here. However, his social presence has been curtailed somewhat. Kanzawa was very friendly with several of the higher ups in the government, and played golf regularly with several modestly well off corporate bigwigs. He hasn’t played the links in a while, which is out of character for him.

“Another angle is Kanzawa’s daughter, Tsukiko. Records indicate that she was going to a private school in Sapporo up until about eight months ago, then was pulled out. No transfer papers, no explanation given. The few photo ops Kanzawa has been in have showed Tsukiko with him, but in between, there’s nothing to suggest where she is or what she’s doing.”

“Now that I have a hard time believing,” murmured Hyrax. “A Japanese politician’s daughter, probably with a nice little allowance if nothing else, who isn’t in easy reach of a cell phone? What’s our read on the girl, boss?”

“Sources indicate she was your normal student. Friends, parties, well liked, always approachable. And you’re right, Hyrax, never without her cell phone.”

Tenner looked at his crew. “I know that we’ve all been here before, at one time or another, in one capacity or another. You know how the game is played over here. This time, we have to be extra careful. The suits at Foggy Bottom are antsy as all hell, Langley is nervous for completely different reasons, and Control has impressed upon me the necessity of keeping things absolutely silent. We leave no easily traced footprints, we do nothing to jeopardize the current situation, and we make damned sure that there is not a single atom of evidence we were ever here when we finish the job. Clear?”

The team nodded in unison.

“Very good. Let’s get reacquainted with Tokyo, do a little legwork. Hyrax, Flick, check out Akihabara for anything useful, both in terms of information and toys. Window shopping only for now. Bring me a list of things that might actually be useful, I’ll see about prying some cash loose. Okami, Carillon, you’re with me. We’re going to be paying a visit to the local counterintelligence shop, meeting a contact there for a little chin wag. Trigger, Nike, I want you guys to get the lay of the land. This house is secure, along with the house the Agency provided, but I don’t want anybody getting lost. Three access and escape routes from each location. And pick up train schedules as well.”

The team smiled and got up from the table to prepare themselves for their initial movements.