I. The Linchpin
Is changing sides as easy as flipping a switch?
For Oyama, it helps that she’s already switched once. It’s easy to remember how she felt then, uncovering those people’s filthy secrets.
She lets her fingers touch the CDs in her collection. Her naming system is a little obscure, but she remembers the contents of each one. The data on the sins and weaknesses of all those powerful people. Did she have an inkling even then that she would end up like this?
Kashii must be asking himself the same question, since he, too, has amassed a collection of bomb schematics in their time as a team. Oyama thinks of the trackers Kashii had designed for all of them. It was easy to make equipment disappear after their office was bombed.
She opens her laptop and checks on everyone’s location out of habit.
Yoshinaga-san is at a yakuza group’s office. He must be putting his management skills to use.
Kashii is at a complex which rents out offices to small businesses. He might need his help in the future. It’s a challenge, trying to anticipate his plans. But Oyama enjoys challenges.
Tamaru and Inami are together, at Inami’s apartment. Oyama smiles at that. She knows about them, of course, and has helped to cover up their meetings. That’s good. Inami needs to be with someone right now.
Of all of them, Inami was the most innocent, for all that he has blood on his hands. Tamaru would make sure he was okay.
She would miss her team. She would miss the way they build on each other’s skill sets. She would miss their sparring sessions, and their chess games.
She has a family, of course, but they had long ago ceased to deserve that name. Her team is her real family. She won’t let that family disappear like this.
She is the linchpin, she knows. Sooner or later, her skills will be needed to bring them together again. When that happens, she would be ready.
II. Agent of Chaos
The true secret of terrorism is how easy it is. One bomb in the right place can kill thousands of innocents, can disrupt entire systems, can bring the city to its knees.
Kashii isn’t like the others. He isn’t trying to atone for past sins, and he isn’t a failed idealist looking for a better way.
He just loves bombs.
He loves how they smell. He loves the challenge of disarming a bomb, and loves the excitement of being this close to death every time. He loves how bombs are designed, some crude and made of everyday chemicals, others masterpieces of engineering. They are agents of chaos, yet they usually require an ordered brain. He loves how bombs reveal a little of their maker’s mind and intentions.
He looks through bomb schematics, glad that he had thought to keep copies of them elsewhere. He traces the lines connecting power source to trigger. And he dreams.
But his time on the team has left its mark on him. He isn’t going to waste his skills on spreading death and destruction. He has a purpose now. It may be borrowed, cobbled together from the others’ code of ethics, but it will do.
There is no plan, not yet. But Kashii knows his skills will be needed soon. He is building a cover, as he waits to see how the others move their pieces on the board. He will follow the lines, eye on the timer, hand steady on the wire.
What will it look like, a bomb designed to save the country from itself? He can’t wait to find out.
III. The Man in the Middle
Yoshinaga is nobody’s idea of a hero. There’s strength in that, too. Among all of them, he’s the one least likely to be under suspicion, because he doesn’t have special skills like Oyama and Kashii, and he doesn’t catch the eye like Tamaru and Inami.
He accepts a transfer to Division 2 and goes undercover to work for the yakuza. And it’s an easy sell, because he is tired of the civil service. This way, he has one foot in either world.
He was the team’s de facto leader, but they were equals when it came to making decisions and accepting missions. Everyone contributed to operational plans.
In the beginning, he kept an eye on conflicts but unlike other squads he has been in, there was little in the way of posturing. On the team, there were no big egos to pander to. (Aside from their bosses.) Maybe it was because they recognized each other’s expertise.
Tamaru and Inami were the ones he had worried about at first. Tamaru was a solid agent, often going by the book but flexible enough to find alternative solutions to a problem. Inami was a lone wolf and a wild card, leading with his emotions more often than not. On the surface, they were complete opposites, and should have clashed. But Yoshinaga underestimated both of them.
Tamaru worked hard until Inami got used to having a team at his back. The two made good partners. And it was a joy watching the two of them fight side by side.
He knows they were sleeping with each other, of course. Tamaru has a good poker face, but that just made it easier to see how he has changed. And Inami is practically an open book compared to everyone else. He also knows both Oyama and Kashii knew. Oyama always kept an eye on everyone’s location, and Kashii has an almost preternatural nose for this sort of thing. Neither talked about it, to him or to each other.
And he had let it be, trusting that the two men would keep things professional. It wasn’t his business anyway, though he understood how difficult it was to find a confidant—someone you can trust with your whole self—in this job. Tamaru and Inami lucked out.
He feels a little sad now, knowing that everyone has gone on their separate ways. But he’s already focused on the next mission.
He looks at the young yakuza he would be in charge of training. They’ll make excellent weapons.
IV. The Spine
Tamaru had followed a straight path all his life. He had done his duty. But they kept asking for more from him, more sacrifice, more deception, more pandering to people in power. He felt like a statue crumbling to pieces, losing himself. So he quit Public Safety and joined a new team, ready for change.
He doesn’t remember when he fell for Inami. He just started smiling more when the other man joined the team. He could sense Inami’s hero worship when they did missions together and it felt refreshing compared to the competitive atmosphere of most teams he’s been in.
They didn’t bother to name it, whatever it was between them. It happened one night, and it happened again, but neither of them had the luxury to question what it meant. Not in the middle of their blood-and-death lives.
Even so, Inami’s presence unraveled something inside him. He found himself saying things he could never articulate before.
Now he holds the memory of that softness, and he hides it deep, behind a steel spine, cold, dead eyes, and hands steady on his weapon.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And he’ll watch it happen.
V. The Heart
The isolation is hardest on Inami. Alone, he tends to indulge the worst of his self-destructive behaviors. Something is happening, something will happen. But he’s always been bad at waiting in the sidelines.
So he falls back to his routine like he never left. The drinking, the women, the job. A throwaway position--it doesn’t matter what, as long as it gives him access to bad guys he can beat up, and the taste of blood and danger in his mouth.
It is both mask and truth.
Only Tamaru’s disapproving face—hovering like a ghost over his shoulder—keeps him alive some days. Keeps him from risking too damn much.
Everyone is gone, or at least that’s what it feels like. Everyone has left him behind. And the only thing he can do is stay in the same place, like a lost child waiting to be found.
He doesn’t do grand plans. He’s just a chess piece in someone else’s hands. He’s blatantly insolent to his superiors. Another truth-lie. He catches their attention, inspires their ire, throws the handbook out the window, gets things done his way.
He does his part, saves some lives. (It is never enough.)
He trusts that the others will use him. He is a weapon waiting to be aimed, waiting for a target to appear.