The O'merta Order By Jacque Koh with Daniel Rush Beta Read by Lori McDonald Part 1 - Following the Shadow
<Guard duty! Again! How much more can we take of this, Sister?!>
Jun sighed as she took her eyes off the entourage to glance at her little brother.
<It's requisite of us, Jinpei. We don't question orders.>
She left unsaid the concern the ISO expressed on the rumor that UN Secretary General President Jintaro Cain was marked for death during this visit. Jun could understand her brother's restlessness. As infiltration and combat specialists, the Kagaku Ninjatai were not commonly called upon for guard duty. But Chief Anderson had personally asked for their involvement. And that sealed their 'doom'.
They had nothing against the President. The team would admit to being fond of the portly old man. It was the interminable waiting and observation which grated on their nerves. Joe had cursed a blue streak on the entire journey to join the entourage. Jun was surprised that Jinpei had held out as long as he had, so she was ready to deal with his whining.
Jinpei made a rude noise.
<Yeah, yeah... and since Anderson said 'please' and used the hang-dog-look on Ken, he couldn't say 'no'. Well, then why couldn't we be traveling in his company? We'd be in a better position to protect him.>
Jun quickly stifled her laugh at a mental image of Anderson actually using a hang-dog-look to issue his orders. <Not to mention 'comfortable' since his entourage is staying at the best hotels in the areas?>
<We're staying in dirt bag motels, eating god knows what and Ken expects us to be alert and fit for any attacks?>
Jinpei blew a raspberry as Jun turned her attention back to the gathering.
<We're here incognito. And *we* hardly look the sort to be included as bodyguards or even aides to the president. Now be quiet. We're suppose to be guarding them.>
Jinpei muttered under his breath as he took a position at another window and settled down for another boring evening of watch.
#It isn't fair,# he thought to himself.
The visit was through Normandy Beach, Cannes, before it rounded up in Marseilles and they did not have any free time to visit any of the local sights or even catch a glimpse of the famed French beauties.
It wasn't like they couldn't have afforded the time to do a bit of their own sight seeing. Ken didn't have to be such a tight ass about this guard duty.
As Jinpei continued to work himself up for a miserable watch, a flicker of movement caught the corner of his eye. He turned his attention away from the UN crowd to look towards a block of high rise apartments.
And there it was again. Jinpei shook his head for a moment, wondering if he only imagined seeing a shape darker than the shadows it was in.
<Sister, I'm going off for a moment. I thought I saw something.>
<Jinpei, we're suppose-->
<I can take care of myself, Sister. Look, what if it's an assassin?>
<Let me call-->
<Oh, come on! This guard duty thing is boorrrrinnnnggg, let me have a bit of fun. Please? Pleeeaaaassseee.> He pursed his lips and pouted.
<Just you remember to yell for help,> Jun hissed under her breath. <If you get yourself killed, I swear-->
<Hey, you're talking to the *Great* and *Mighty* Swallow Jinpei. Can't touch this!>
With those last words, Jinpei disappeared into the shadows.
Jinpei flew down the flights of stairs quickly, walked out of the side lobby door and into the street. Cautiously, he moved to the corner of the building and stopped to lean against the wall.
#Those dudes sure weren't regular security. No one's supposed to leave their post. But if they're assassins, why are they leaving? I'd hate to call a false alarm on this, everyone would want my head! On a silver platter... roasted... with pine nuts... and served with mint sauce... yuck.#
He decided to turn the corner and walk down the street, just to play it safe.
#They seem to be heading for those apartments two blocks down. I'll just act like a local kid and play my way to the front door.#
A rusty can in a gutter became a good distraction. Jinpei played with it between his feet until he neared the building he wanted to check out.
The can flew up and landed in his left hand. #Now let's see what trouble I can find or get myself into.# He edged into the alley of the building in front of his target and waited expectantly for the arrival of the figures he had observed.
He just caught himself from releasing a startled cry as a dark shape materialized in the alley beside the apartment. #Where did he--?#
The figure paused for a moment in the shadows of the building. There was a slight gleam in the shadows as he appeared to flash a smile, apparently laughing to himself at some private joke.
#Get real, Swallow. Haven't seen enough of 'the shadow' to guess if it's a girl or a guy.# Jinpei muttered to himself as the figure retreated back into the shadows. # 6' 2"... on the lean side, long hair... But that wasn't who I sa--hello? Well speak of the devil. Here come the three stooges.#
He hissed silently as they passed close enough for him to recognize their garb. #Red? It's the wrong color, but they're Galactor assassins! For sure! Wait a minute? I thought they'd be after Cain?#
Jinpeu chewed on his lower lip as the three maroon clad assassins faded into the alley after 'the shadow'. A war raged within him. Should he go after them or return to the delegation? Why weren't these assassins after Cain? Why abandon their original target to come after this 'shadow?' Who was 'the shadow' that he'd rate having the assassins drop their original target to come after him?
He was supposed to be guarding Cain. Any other activity would be a distraction. What if there were more than two teams of assassins? But... could he turn his back now? Wasn't it tantamount to abetting a murder, if he could have prevented it and he didn't?
#Awww, screw Cain, he has four ninjas and a battalion watching his back.# Jinpei left the alley and tracked after the four figures. #I'm all that this guy's got.#
He briefly contemplated activating his bird style, but decided against it. The Galactors weren't supposed to know that the Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman were about.
That thought made him stop in his tracks. If he continued after the strangers, he would soon be out of earshot of the team. His sister would begin to worry if he did not return soon.
He couldn't even call her. Ken ordered a strict radio silence to keep their presence undetected. Other then his brief daily conference with Nambu, which he took in the secured Phoenix, they weren't allowed to use their wrist-coms unless it was an emergency.
Jinpei was torn. If he continued after the strangers, he might endanger their mission. Jun was sure to fret about his absence and that would attract Ken's attention to his delinquen--
<Oh, to hell with it! It's not like Ken and Joe never disappeared on us when the mission called for it before.> #Right Swallow, but this is just boring guard duty. What *real* reason is there for you to leave your post? Your mission is to watch over Cain's safety, *not* look for Galactor bases--# <Damn! I'm going! And I *will* be back before they notice that I'm gone.>
With that last assurance to himself, Jinpei hurried to catch up with the shadows.
#Ol' 'shadow' must be an idiot.# He thought to himself as he easily followed the trail. #He has to know there's someone following, why not head for the lighted areas?#
"Salut! Mes ami, y' t'ink y' c'n collect on de contract, neh?" The clear tenor voice reached him from beyond the shadows.
Jinpei skidded to a halt, startled by how close that sounded to him. It took him a moment to realize that the words weren't directed at him. He strained his eyes to squint ahead of him. #Damn! Either these jokers have exceptional night vision, or they're wearing infrared goggles.#
"You should have stay in the lighted areas, Gambit. Or did you get lost in our fine alleys?"
"Please, I have a reputation and a standard t' uphold."
#Either this guy's suicidal or he must know his stuff.# A grin touched Jinpei's lips, which he was sure was probably mirrored on the stranger's lips as well. #Maybe I'll just hang back and watch a while.#
"That reputation ends here!"
A gentle chuckle greeted these words of bravado.
The alley opened into a small courtyard. Jinpei moved forward cautiously and went to ground behind a bunch of trashcans, near the mouth of the courtyard. From there, he'd have a good view of the proceedings and could choose to get involved if matters went south.
As his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, he got his first good look at the man the assassins had called Gambit. He stood in the middle of the courtyard, casually smoking a cigarette as the three assassins stalked him.
The light of the cigarette threw some illumination on his fine chiseled jaw line, which was covered with a five o'clock shadow. He wore a simple, utilitarian cut black body suit, with a midnight blue tunic, excellent for blending into the shadows. Jinpei guessed that they would also be reinforced with some sort of armor. But what grabbed his attention was the most disconcerting and out-of-place piece of his attire.
#What's he--He's wearing a trenchcoat?! How the hell do you fight in a bulky trenchcoat?# Jinpei's expression was incredulous. #Yeah right, some folks wonder how we fight with wings, but at least we can *control* them to keep out of the way. Unless he has a way to ditch it quick, how the hell is he going to fight wearing a trenchcoat?#
"Dis be y' last night, Gambit."
"Mon frere, if I had a penny f' every time I have heard dat, I would be a rich man." He threw them a shit-eating grin as the smoke from his cigarette curled and eddied around him.
"Then let this be the last time, Gambit." The assassin waved his hand in front of him as if to emphasize the point. "Go with God!"
Before the end of his words came out, a black throwing dagger launched from his wrist.
Jinpei held back his whistle of surprise as a Bo materialized in Gambit's hand. The telescoping spring assisted his back flip and carried him neatly beyond the target area. #Nice... an acrobat. But in a trenchcoat?#
The movement, however, did not end there as a fan of five ordinary playing cards seemingly appeared in his hand. Even as he landed with all the aplomb of a cat, they were thrown at the assassin leader with a flick of the wrist. The man screamed in a spray of vitreous humor and blood.
Although he was used to violence, Jinpei cringed as the assassin leader fell. Out of the fight from the shock of the injury, if not dead from the gash across the jugular. The violence was not lost on the two remaining assassins.
"Pup, y' should have been better trained. Y' never trust one trick alone, n'est-ce pas?" The man the assassins called Gambit settled into a combat crouch after a twirl of his Bo. "Now... your move, mes braves."
Jinpei stayed silent as they attack at once. The one to Gambit's left tried a direct attack, his long blade thrusting forward and straight for the heart. The one on the right whirled in for a flanking movement, hoping to catch him between them. They would have stood a better chance, if they had reached him simultaneously.
Gambit's Bo caught the first assassin's arm in a twist lock and snapped it before the knife could get inside his guard. Almost as an afterthought, his other arm chopped viciously on the other assassin's wrist, making him drop his knife. A sideswipe kick to the head finished him off. All this while Gambit's Bo was still locked around the first assassin's broken arm. That matter was not left unattended as the hapless assassin was thrown against the wall beside his unfortunate accomplice.
#Huff... What am I doing here? Looks like this guy can handle himself just fine!# Jinpei pouted, disappointed that he was just cheated of a chance to enter the mix. #Ahhh. If it's over, I may as well get back to guard duty. If I'm lucky, I could make it back before Ken notices I'm gone. If not... well, Ken would be interested to hear about this, so--#
Suddenly a glint of light caught his eye from a building across the way. A glint which did not go unnoticed by Gambit.
#Oh shit!# Jinpei hissed softly as the air came alive with flying steel darts and the soft sounds of falling bodies. He didn't have to worry about the shadow though, Gambit was moving before the rain of darts came anywhere near. The two assassins he had disabled, however, were not as lucky.
Thanks for reading. Jacque Koh with Daniel Rush, November 1998