Description: In Yokohama, rumblings of Shadaloo activity has drawn the attention of The Scarlet Dahlia. Under cover of darkness, at a quiet dockyard, Honoka Kawamoto confirms the still lingering presence of Shadaloo by way of Marz. Not the planet, but the Shadaoll Doll, active and operating and moving materiel. Honoka makes the first in roads to investigating just what is happening with these Shadaloo remnants and just what possible relationships will they have with the Akatsuki-gumi going forward.
As Southtown rose to prominence among the major cities of Japan, the city soon became a victim of its own success, inadequacies in its harbor facilities becoming perfectly obvious. Southtown's needs rapidly outpaced its shipping capacity.
The duties of supporting Southtown's growth fell to the surrounding ports. Yokohama rose to meet the need, as shipping magnates found its relatively spacious berths preferable to the crowded sea and air lanes of Southtown proper. A number of younger shipping magnates rose to meet the demand, establishing Yokohama as their primary headquarters, comparatively free of the controlling grasp of the Southtown Syndicate.
However, the recent weeks have seen a noticeable change in the currents. Those in the know would understand that the Akatsuki-gumi -- once a vital controlling force in the area -- have shrunk their footprint considerably in the past few weeks. The Syndicate's grasp has been expanding to fill the void, with smaller companies bought out entirely, and otherwise independent shippers pressured to join the fold. Not even former allies of the Syndicate have been immune from interference; it's difficult to tell whether foul play or recent changes in Japanese politics have been motivating the dramatic increase in unannounced customs inspections. Ships unaffiliated with the Syndicate have an enormously high chance of receiving a surprise inspection from Japanese customs authorities.
It's not especially good for business. And Dahlia is not one to let ecalating situations go unchecked. The Akatsuki-gumi have been paying attention to the changes in shipping patterns over the years, particularly with how... resilient organizations have been in response to the changes. And one company in particular seems to be exceptionally good at -avoiding- extended entanglements with the authorities.
"You're sure this is the one?" asks Dahlia of her subordinate, squinting thrugh the eyecups of a pair of night-vision binoculars at a ship just about to dock at the company's facility. Her leg is bound in a restrictive cast, as she reclines in the back seat of a black SUV, parked outside an abandoned warehouse three blocks away from the facility in question.
A subordinate gains the Dahlia's attention, directing her to look about six blocks away, where a Japan Customs van has been parked. And despite the late twilight hour, the vehicle's lights spring to life -- and the van begins to head towards the facility.
"... Good eye. Let's move closer..."
Perhaps they won't need the help. But Dahlia has never been content with leaving things to chance.
The winds of change continue to blow over Japan. The sudden rise to prominence of the NOL, the shake up of the Akatsuki-Gumi, the efforts of the Southtown Syndicate. The powers that be are struggling against themselves and against the newborn upstarts rising in the wake of near war.
These difficult and chaotic times means that even former powers have the potential to rise again. Dictator may be gone, at least, as far as the world knows are seems to realize, but his organization has lived on. Here and there, undertaking the steady forward momentum needed for the time-to-come.
For the loyal and obedient Doll known as Marz, her missions has been self-undertaken. She is data collecting. Posed as a German student abroad, she has watched and catalogued the uprising of the NOL as well as documented any sights and machinations related to the major underworld powers. On most occasions, her work has required a small amount of manipulation of agents, catspaws and patsies, but sometimes the actions involve the woman herself sticking her neck out.
Tonight is one of those nights. Marz, in uniform, in on hand to oversee the security of a shipment of materiel for the coming events put into motion. Ticking away at the laptop that hangs around her neck, she quickly and quietly alters schedules and creates conflict in the communications systems of the authorities nearby. Change the way people are being told to move, and they will move in ways force and charisma could never hope to accomplish. And for a time, it has been the cornerstone of how their cover organizations have been able to avoid the scrutiny of Japanese officials corrupt and otherwise.
Dahlia keeps her binoculars trained on the van as its brakes squeal to a halt. It's unclear to her whether the van has line-of-sight on the incoming ship, but it becomes clear that -something- just happened... as the van remains fixed, and idle. If the van doesn't start rolling again soon, they won't be able to get their forces in place to intercept the ship as it lands, leading to a rather glaring discrepancy from their standard inspection process...
"What is it?" she asks, pursing her lips.
The answer is given to her in the form of a burst of high-frequency chirps. Changes. Signals that something is deviating from the norm. The van's surveillance suite is a bit more sophisticated than that of the Customs officials, but... not impenetrable to attack. And certainly not immune from losing uplink to their distributed information network.
"We've been kicked off the grid, ma'am. What should we do?"
Dahlia grits her teeth, sweeping her binoculars over to the facility. And upon seeing a flurry of activity...
"... Get us closer."
Before long it becomes obvious that the inhabitants are -way- too reliant on their technology. As the Shadaloo ship pulls into dock, the van itself speeds off to a facility about two miles away, unaware that their crosshairs have been electronically rerouted elsewhere.
And the black SUV housing Scarlet Dahlia will park about a block away. Without any real delay, a black suited man will hop out of the SUV, carrying a thin briefcase incapable of holding much more than a couple legal pads. It's dark out, lit only by a half-moon, and yet he wears sunglasses. And he starts striding towards the entrance of the facility in about as formal a manner as can be expected for someone conducting business at such a late hour.
Knock, knock, knock. Politeness is indulged. And while he might look like just a run-of-the-mill guy in a black suit, those with psychic senses might be able to recognize that his signature is a bit... atypical.
Let the authorities chase ghosts and put out fires that don't exist. Emergency data and calls. Mix ups in the details. Simple mistakes and convenient errors that cause the routine to be disturbed. An interesting night, an annoying night, something that the governmental workers may remember, but for whom the details are neither remarkable nor out of the ordinary. Just a fluke of situations, poor management and communications.
Control the intelligence, and you can control the board state. And doing this makes Marz smile to herself. It's worth it all to miss out on some reading or an online game to hone her skills in the field. And all for the Glory of Dictator and Shadaloo.
She leans back and sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose and pushing her glasses up. There are gaps in her intelligence. She is under the assumption that most of the focus of both the Syndicate and the Akatsuki-Gumi will be on each other. Her primary focus on just manipulating the shipping. If anything, she felt, the attention given to Shadaloo shells would be presumption that they were simply new brands of Syndicate shells.
While the boat pulls toward the dock, she stands and closes up her laptop. Walking to the bow, she looks out over the edge, fingers drumming on the safety rail. She listens to the shouts of the crew and their radio chatter as the preperations to make landfall are well underway.
The first Akatsuki member's plaintive knocks are met with stony silence. Certainly not atypical for a 'closed' business to refuse to respond to a polite inquiry. He remains waiting in silence for a good few moments... And then, as the puppet's strings are cut, his shoulders droop fractionally, his stance faltering. And in a moment, his true awareness reasserts itself, eyes regaining focus behind those darkened lenses.
The SUV is on the move again. And this time, subtlety is removed from the agenda, as the vehicle parks itself so as to obstruct the main gate. It would still be several hours before a loaded truck would be able to depart the facility anyway, but that's not the point at all.
The hatch of the SUV opens up. And out of it flies a small quadrotor drone, the buzz of its rotors barely raising above a whisper as it lifts into the air. Ten feet, twenty feet, and it settles at thirty -- coasting just above the simple gate preventing access to the dock.
Two Akatsuki staff disembark from the SUV, and raise a ramp to the back of the vehicle. A few moments later, the tires of a wheelchair roll onto the ramp. Scarlet Dahlia wrinkles her nose at the salt air, a brief look of distaste soon replacing with a wry smirk as she gets her bearings.
She directs her motorized wheelchair towards the closed gate, favoring a tablet view of the overhead drone's camera with a glance. She lifts her left hand towards the gate, extending her first two fingers lazily.
The puppetmaster does not often advertise her psychokinetic abilities. But in this case, she's not above exploiting the fact that gates are generally easier to open from the inside. The gate opens for her, as easily as if she had an advance invitation. And she rolls right on inside, taking full advantage of the fact that few people will even expect someone to walk, or roll, right in.
Commanding the drone to fly upward and keep an eye on the incoming ship, the smugly smirking Dahlia has clearly decided that Marz needs a more personal greeting. Not even the bumping of her wheelchair along the barely-even slats of the dock will wipe the smirk from her face. She expects confrontation, but even then... well, she has doubts that -politeness- will get her far with this stealth op.
The boat finally comes to a halt. The mooring lines lashed by crew. A tall stairway driven to the edge of the dock. Marz has to wait this moment out, stuck as she is on the transport vessel. Her attention focused on her way down to solid ground.
It's as she's walking down the gangway she's approached by a stevedore with a distinctive bolt shaped insignia on his cap. Information passes and Marz steps onto the concrete dock with a look of dour concern. This was not quite the simple night that she was expecting.
Adjusting her glasses as a way to steel herself, Marz always did dread the social aspects of things. She would much rather just deal with the drone that's flying overhead rather than the person that has apparently parked a vehicle in front of the dockyard. But, at this moment, the Doll is the highest ranking official for the remnants of Shadaloo in the area. And so she has to take things upon herself to handle.
With a small group of "dockworkers" for security, she starts to make her way across the long flat plane of concrete dock toward the security gate.
Dahlia's leg may be immobilized in a fairly large cast, but that hasn't stopped her from dressing for her role. Her formal white dress is in pristine condition -- identical to the one seen in a video she'd had her men 'leak' to sources throughout the nation which Marz would no doubt have had the opportunity to obtain. Identical except for the fact that, in said video, the dress was ragged and torn, with the crime lord shown in a position of helplessness as Duke Burkoff utterly destroyed her femur. And this dress... isn't.
And yet, the.Dahlia of Akatsuki is smirking confidently, as two men walk along behind her. She spots the uniformed Doll striding across the concrete dock, and rolls forward to meet her.
"Tradition would have me bow in greeting. I hope you'll forgive me for this indiscretion." Her voice is loud enough to carry across the distance -- though this may have something to do with the formidable waves of nigh-invisible psycho power emanating from her. No great effort, for a master performer skilled at manipulating crowds of thousands.
"I apologize further for the intrusion. But your employer -- and indeed, your -organization- have proven most elusive. I am Scarlet Dahlia, of the Akatsuki-gumi -- and I come here tonight as a member of the Shadow Council. Might I have a few moments of your time?"
The smirk falls from her face, as she bows her head in acknowledgement. "It is a pleasure to meet you, in person."
... Damn if she has the faintest idea what the Doll's name is, though. It's not 'Satsuki', or 'Ginko Himura', or whatever other silly alias she was given. But it certainly wasn't her -first- run-in with Shadaloo's elite Dolls.
Marz simply doesn't bow. She does, however, take a quick moment to glance over and analyze the people that have come before her. Yes, the woman is familiar in the sense that she is someone worth knowing of. The men, guards, most likely do to the aforementioned video explaining why the woman in white is relegated to a wheelchair this evening. Marz is, in that moment, thankful she has brought support of her own with her.
Marz adjusts her glasses and nods. Her lips, pressed in a thin line, quirk downward in a mixture of annoyance and uncertainty. There is no reason to lie or use false covers. There is also little she wishes to openly divulge. Marz dislike social situations she cannot control and construct. And here and now is the least control she's had in a time.
"It is late," she says, statement of fact. Against she pushes her glasses up. Nervous tic. "You are impeding my departure. Most likely course of action is to allow you some time now in order to maximize time later." She drums her fingers on her laptop. "I can give you a moment of time, but I cannot promise you that I know the information that you seek."
She looks past the Dahlia and toward the gate and upward. She blinks at the drone before looking back to Honoka. "Please go on." she states with a rigid formality to her request.
Dahlia has -- at least for now -- dispensed with the need to appear that she needs glasses. Her blue-tinted eyes sparkle in the moonlight as she listens patiently to Marz, nodding along with the reasoning. Yes -- the obstructions were placed so that Marz would come to the exact same conclusion.
She doesn't need to belabor the point by calling attention to it, naturally -- simply flashing a brief smile and nodding her head in agreement. "Thank you! I will be as brief as possible." She rests her elbows on the armrests of her chair, leaning back -- indeed, it hardly seems as if the crime lord could be much of a threat if it were not for her formidable psychic presence.
"Duke Burkoff has shrugged off his responsibilities to the Shadow Council, and acted in blatant disregard of the formal agreement we set forth. That is, he would not attempt to expand his territory further into any of the other members of the Shadow Council. And -- as can be demonstrated from my inability to stand, he has taken direct action against me and the Akatsuki-gumi."
An eyebrow is arched, as Dahlia tilts her head slightly to one side. "Lord Vega assured me that an offense against any of the Shadow Council members would be treated as an offense against -all-."
Dahlia leans her head back towards the direction of the redirected Customs van. "As you've no doubt noticed, Burkoff seems to have no qualms about upending the comfortable relationship we've established. So, I am notifying Shadaloo -- and by proxy, Lord Vega and his representatives, of my intent to follow this through."
She laces her fingertips together, squaring her gaze up with Marz as she offers another faint smile.
"Any assistance Shadaloo can provide in righting the wrong would be most appreciated."
Information. Direct and blunt. And all of it already known. This was a pantomime and it was already wearing on Marz. This whole thing, she felt, could be settled via email or some other method that didn't involve a late night rendezvous. Still, she does understand that all of this pomp and circumstance necessitate something needed for this. At the least she could hopefully collect data.
She nods when Honoka continues to explain. A psychic presence may be there, in most cases, it may quail people. For Marz, she isn't quite thinking in the way she would or should have. The woman is one of Shadaloo's Dolls. Personal force of Lord Vega. Her mind has already been thoroughly massaged. A personality that is more or less that of the girl she was, but thoroughly warped and molded in the preference of her controller. It dulls the impact of others, somewhat, and has Marz once more falling back on her phyiscal tic to adjust her glasses or drum on her laptop.
"I understand, and it's appreciated that you would come to us. I will make certain that those who should hear the information hear it as well." She plays things diplomatically. She can't really offer much actual help or Shadaloo presence than what she has on board. And moreso, she cannot tip the Vega hand at all. So the only tactic she can see is answering things bluntly and non-answered as acceptable.
"I will also make certain to pass along that you appreciate the assistance."
Dahlia is paying close attention to each and every motion of the Shadaloo Doll, committing each feature and movement to memory. She'd seen only a handful before, and none of them made quite the same impression as the laptop-toting specimen before her. And -- as Satsuki may or may not have reported -- Marz will undoubtedly feel the pressure of Dahlia's personality crowding in upon her, an unrelenting force that, for better or worse, the seated psion is not able to switch off. An ever-present aura of compliance to which the Dolls are thankfully resistant.
As Marz responds in a level-headed, diplomatic fashion, Dahlia cannot help but feel a little put off by the clinical matter in which Marz responds, using diplomacy as a veil in much the same fashion as she has. And yet, she does not evidence her frustration -- as that would be quite undiplomatic itself, of course.
Dahlia flashes a warm smile. For she is not bound to act in any sort of robotic fashion. Her fingertips unlace, reaching at the lower right of her tablet, and withdrawing a slender stylus. As the tablet awakes from sleep mode, the device's light casts her scarred flesh into stark relief -- discolored, blistered skin creeping up about midway upon her cheeks. And yet, if it hurts at all, it's no longer obvious.
"It was... troubling, not hearing back from Lord Vega personally." Dahlia knows of the leader's fate on said island, or at least the rumors of such. There is little need for her to dance around the matter in that regard. Her prior encounters with Vega had proven most inconvenient to her. If he -were- still around, he'd hardly wait for -Dahlia's schedule to provide an opening. "And email... is so impersonal, wouldn't you say?"
Dahlia grins, exposing her pearlescent white teeth. "It would be so easy for someone to just farm out the task of responding off to an underling. There really is no replacement for meeting face-to-face." So sayeth those who can read minds, one would gather.
Looking back down at her tablet, she prods a section with her stylus, reading out, "Ah there it is. 'If any betrays this council, then their end will become our priority. Those that aided them will be consumed by our wrath, and all that remains shall be taken as spoils.'" She looks back up to Marz, spinning th stylus around her fingers as if it were an idle pastime of her own -- a tic, equivalent to Marz adjusting her glasses. "I certainly hope it doesn't come to -that- necessarily. But there will be fallout."
The stylus spins about as if it has no mass of its own, enslaved to dance helplessly around Dahlia's slender fingers. Until it stops -- perfectly in writing position. She taps on the screen, and a keyboard shows up. "I want to follow up with you again. How would -you- prefer I reach you, Miss...?"
Dahlia smiles with saccharine sweetness. She's already made her preference clear -- and yet, in the spirit of cooperation, she remains eager to hear what Marz thinks. Not to mention, what her name is.
Each and every motion is primarily taken up by feeling a combination of awkwardness, frustration, and discomfort. Marz shuffles her laptop from one shoulder to the other. She stands there, in her uniform and cap, in front of a pair of 'dockworkers' listening and watching. She has data on this woman, the Dahlia, but she hasn't accessed any recently and had been much more focused on other agents and organizations that seemed more pressing at the time.
And now she is here, talking, on a dock, and wanting verymuchso to not be talking.
"Yes, yes it is," Marz answers in regards to email, but her voice lifts with happiness, and she smiles, at the very thought of the impersonal email. "It's also very convenient," she adds.
Glasses adjustment, by the bow with a dainty touch. "I would not suggest that I am anything but a servant of Lord Vega, ma'am," the young girl points out that Dahlia has done the job of farming out the response to an underling all on her own. "I cannot make any claim to assist without full express consent from Lord Vega. I'm not so presumptuous."
She smiles and sets her laptop in front of her, in a cross-arm hold not unlike a schoolgirl. "Marz," she answers with a short bow. "I must inform you of a particular difficulty you may have with that. Understand that with the recent mobilization of the NOL's forces within much of Japan, there is a degree of hostility we much consider. It may impede future meetings without some form of direct action to prevent interruption of communications."
The sudden appearance of a smile... well. That was unexpected. In all of her meetings with 'Ginko Himura,' expressions of good cheer were not on the menu no matter how fake and shallow. But here, well... Dahlia tries not to turn her hand. And for the most part, she manages, nodding with the Doll as she affirms that even treacherous world-domineering organizations have some form of integrity.
But Dahlia -cannot- hide the effect that a cross-arm hold on a laptop has upon her. A shudder runs through her, covered only belatedly with a lopsided smile at the surprisingly -human- touch. Has the Dictator's mind control 'formula' been tweaked? Or was it only Dolls 005 through 007 that had portrayed an utter lack of charm?
"Marz, then," she answers with a more symmetrical smile. "Forgive my ignorance of such technical details, but time will likely be of the essence soon -- especially regarding the NOL."
The stylus twirls about her finger in a few more circuits, as she calmly taps a few more locations on her tablet with her other hand. Her smile fades, as she settles back into her chair.
"Is this 'direct action' something we can initiate now?"
Human. Marz is different in many ways from most of the other Dolls. She isn't an infiltrator. She isn't a gun to fire at an enemy or a knife in the dark. She isn't the weapon that Killer Bee, Decapre, and others are. She is an information compiler and data manager. She is a spider at a web of knowledge. And to interpret and disseminate that knowledge requires a deal more humanity than her sisters might have. At least, humanity on the surface. That is something Marz does not lack.
And it does very well at covering the fact that she is utterly loyal to the cause of Lord Vega.
"As to the initiation of direct action, this is something I cannot decide. Technically, there is nothing stopping your organization from acting. I can only suggest what has been shown is marked aggression on the part of the Librarium. As well as visual confirmation of military technology and the in action potential of some of their field operatives."
Marz clicks her heels to each other and adjusts her glasses before resuming the cross wrist laptop hold. "And it is not a great deal of strategic thought to realize that any difficulty Shadaloo has with the NOL variable will dampen our ability to comply with the dictum of the Shadow Board Agreement."
Expressions of humanity do not go unnoticed. And neither does the grand scheme behind -allowing- such an intelligent young woman to escape the same sort of suppression that seems to have been forced onto the other Dolls. For while it may be a vulnerability that Vega had overlooked -- one to be seized upon by a manipulator such as herself -- it could just as easily be a trap. Dahlia knows that, at last count, Vega is several orders of magnitude stronger than she -- and even with his very existence an unconfirmed eigenstate at the moment, the controls set in place are very much still present.
In the mind of the Ainu tusukur, how else could someone like Marz remain so adamant in her position?
"Ah, yes. Perhaps I misunderstood you on that regard, but suffice to say, action is -already- being taken with regard to Mr Burkoff's interests." The spinning stylus comes to a halt, as Dahlia clicks it back into the tablet. "I just thought it'd be nice to let you all know."
The tablet is folded up, and tucked away beside her in the wheelchair, as she rests her forearms upon the armrests. "Suffice to say, I've already come to an agreement of sorts with the Librarium. I don't foresee any particular complications on their front."
Dahlia arches an eyebrow, her lips pressing into a firm line as she breathes in the salt air. It's always been a reassuring scent to her -- a reminder that nature always finds a way. "I have an email address on file. And now that I have the pleasure of your name, I'll be certain to contact you if we have anything else to share." She nods towards the 'dockworkers' accompanying Marz, curling into a more readily apparent smile. With her hands curling around the armrests, she asks, "Is there anything you'd like from me, before I leave you to your affairs?"
Loyalty has many means of showing and maintaining. A flat deference toward a leader is one simple one. Marz is simply stating that her position is one of subordinate. She cannot and is not one to supercede or alter any course on her own. And something as sweeping as assisting another organization is beyond her means.
She bows once more, as is custom in Japan, and follows it with a nod. "And E-Mail will be sufficient in the future. It won't be necessary to trouble yourself when you are in an injured state." She can help, and she clearly has concern for Dahlia's well being and health. "Thank you for your trouble, I will do as I can to assure it moves to where it needs to."
No confirmations, no denials. Just diplomatic openness and flatness. Full of meaning and devoid of substance. But the Dahlia offering information on the potential of a deal already going on with open enemies of Shadaloo is certainly not going to go forgotten. It will be something to pass on to the other Dolls and to the current leadership.
Dahlia bows her head in concert with Marz -- old customs die hard, even when one's movement is constrained to a chair. "A state I certainly hope will -not- last long," she agrees with a sincere smile. Dahlia is pleased that the Doll is making a consideration for her physical state; the young operative is full of surprises.
Dahlia achieved at least two of her objectives for a face-to-face meeting. The first -- direct confirmation that Shadaloo, insofar as the Doll's day-to-day operations, is still a living and breathing organization. And two -- that the organization is apprised of her intent to take action. Anything else over and above that was just icing on the cake.
"That's all I can ask for, Marz." Her gaze lingers upon the Doll for a moment, artificial blue gaze falling into the depths of Marz's cerulean wells for a moment that could probably stand to be a bit shorter. But then, with crystal clarity, the Akatsuki-gumi leader reasserts herself, nodding crisply. "It certainly was a pleasure meeting you."
With a flick of the joystick on her armrest, her wheelchair motors whine to life, drawing her chair backwards. Her men remain at her side, waiting for her to roll past before moving.
In passing, the scarred Ainu notes with a hint of a smirk: "Do say hello to your 'sisters' for me. Always did enjoy spending time with you all."
And then she wheels about on her way, with her two men and the overhead drone obediently following behind.
Double-edged concern and dual meaning has been a very, very keen and helpful tool in Marz's arsenal whenever she needs to deal with speaking. Loathe as she is to not be able to control a social situation, she is always troubled to find that she is capable of doing it. Though to what degree it is her ability and what degree it is the ability developed in order to further the cause of Shadaloo is unknown. Or if there is even a difference in such notions nowadays.
But at least the woman was leaving now. And Marz felt the smallest twinge of comfort in the coming solitude. "I will be certain to let them know," she tells Dahlia.
While watching Dahlia leave, Marz's eyes go to the drone. So they enjoyed employing technology? This was something to consider. If they used drones, Marz was one network connection away from seeing whatever the Akatsuki-Gumi could with their little electronic panopticon. The joys of technology were something Marz was much, much more comfortable with working on. How happy she was that these gangsters were more modern these days. "The pleasure was mine, miss," she responds to the parting Dahlia.
Log created on 13:29:03 05/19/2018 by Marz, and last modified on 00:36:18 05/20/2018.