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Circling the Sphere
Takeo set his ivory chopsticks on the matching rest beside his plate, collecting his thoughts for a moment as he chewed his well-seasoned duck. You never knew what you'd get in the Rose Pagoda - the kitchen seemed to be complete with a revolving door in the back - so he appreciated the attempt at recreating an old familiar dish. Salty, but familiar. He didn't open his mouth until every grain of rice was swallowed, and then only after carefully wiping his mouth and cleansing his pallet with a fresh swig of water.

"Whether or not he told me anything,"
Takeo said, hands folding calmly in his lap, "You know I can't share any of it with you."

Across the table, at a span of about 7.5 thousand kilometers, Hara Ushijima sat virtually planted behind her end of the table. Though the holo was not high-def, it was easy enough to make out the seal of the Patron of Dominence IV imprinted in imperial red on every white porcelain plate, mug and bowl projected before her. A cleanly shaven head and a stern face - untouched by makeup, surgery or enhancement - declared her a staunch Fundamentalist. She wore every one of her sixty three years with pride and nobility, though a healthy diet and impossibly clean lifestyle would lead most to believe her far younger - even in her garishly outdated and overelaborate blazer and gold-piped v-neck. He had never seen her in anything less austere - in fact, for her, this was downright spartan.

"Of course not,"
the woman answered in an only barely discernibly feminine baritone; she was obviously once married to- and divorced from the military before donning this dubious duty. The Patron waved off his comments as she might a passing fly around her bowl, which she now neglected with perfect Japanese decorum, and trudged on. "I wouldn't expect you to answer on-air regardless."
A certain set to her eyebrow let him know what a waste of a breath she thought this conversation to be. "I need whatever intel you can give me, however, Privelege. You owe me that."
She stared. "The Americans have you on camera walking hand in hand with their darling explorer. Surely you talked about more than the Ballet and how you would braid each other's hair each night. You must know you look like a fucking baka, Tokeo, bowing and scraping for that, that… that..."

Quite the mouth on the new Queen of DIV.

"That celebrity?"

Takeo offered - one of her favorite obscenities - along with a slim smile. ""He'll be gone by morning, along with all the other stars," remember?"
Takeo quoted, and felt a pang of satisfaction as the older woman's lips pursed in obvious recognition. He shrugged it off. "Listen, Ushijima-san, Trano's supporters can spin whatever story they want. D-IV will only stand firmer behind us with every biting remark the Americans make. So let them squawk."

"That's not the point!"

"No, the point is this,"
Takeo said, and this time he was not smiling, "The Ascendancy has His eye on the gaijin, and the others scratching at his door. If He wants to give them a glimpse behind the curtain, that is His concern, and none of yours. Yours is not to ask questions - nor is it mine - but to follow orders."


Hara barked, and her projected self actually did laugh, if you could call it that. It was more of a dry-heave, abrupt and hardly audible. "Coming from you? The self-proclaimed Bastard of Tokyo. When did Tokeo learn to obey?"

How had this woman come so far in politics? If she was not the puppet, she played one well. "Tokyo is not Moscow,"

"No argument there,"
Hara uttered, waving away an apparition who had appeared on her end with a fresh teacup and saucer in hand. It floated away and vanished on the digital ether from whence it came. "We'll do it your way."
The Patron fished under the table and brought out a wallet, which she dropped with a comforting thud on the desk in front of her. As it sprang to life, several dimensional graphs and charts unfolded in the air between them. "If you can remember my last message, I have several concerns you can pass on to the Ascendancy on behalf of your Dominance, assuming that is not too much to ask of the Privelege …"

Takeo motioned for another sake - it was going to be a long night.

Edited by Takeo, Mar 26 2014, 01:15 AM.
Across the room, Kasumi stuck her thumb in the air, letting Takeo know the feed was cut off, and he instinctively looked to her left, to the Patron's primary liaison in Moscow, the diminutive but not incompetent Maiko Tanaka. For everything Hara went without, Maiko more than made up for in paint, silk, gloss and gold. Her aquamarine hair was kept short, though not nearly as short as that of her Patron, and in a severe left part that emulated the CCD's own militaristic cuts in vogue these days. Takeo's own clean part looked almost slovenly next to hers. "She does have concern for you, Privelege,"
the woman spoke, and an artificial voicebox made her sound and look like a ventriloquist's doll. Yet, somehow, it almost sounded concerned - at least her eyes made the effort to look the part. "We all do."

"I'm sure you do,"
Takeo replied, matching her monotone. He slowly rose to leave the table and the now vacant space above his quieted wallet, which he scooped up and tucked into his jacket's inner breast pocket – though not before a few rehearsed swipes of his fingertips turned on a simple recording app.

The little aristocrat surprisingly only nodded and started forward to follow him. The Rose was quiet this evening. Not the usual ex-pat Deefourens and their din of polite conversation. Not even the hometown crowd anxious for some Asian cuisine. His team no doubt had something to do with that; Jun would not leave such a high-level conversation to mere chance.

As if summoned from the shadows by his very thoughts - and probably literally as well - Junichi placed himself between Takeo and the small, blue-haired woman determined to catch him. His own false blue eyes stared, unblinking, unimpressed, but a look from Takeo and he took a step back, out of the liaison's way.

Maiko hesitated only a beat at the sight of the Privelege's right-hand man, before proceeding forward to Takeo's side. "You have an interesting team of supporters,"
she observed in that same robotic chime, looking back at his crew as they broke down the staged restaurant with efficient precision. "I could buy a few of them off your hands if you won't miss them…"

Takeo found himself laughing. This child was nothing at all like her Patron. "Well, maybe just Kasumi,"
he said, lowering his voice.

"Fuck off!" came a shout from behind a bank of computers that could only belong to his infamous hacker. She didn't bother standing to catch their eyes, but he could hear her muttering in his earpiece. Apparently he'd not lowered his voice near enough.


Takeo admitted, "I doubt you'd find her worth the trouble."
Another barked profanity came from Kasumi's direction, but Takeo had already started leading his guest off stage.

A few steps carried them down from the raised dais upon which stood the impromptu table, chairs and backdrop. Usually reserved for a quiet house band or the occasional entertainer, the space served his needs well, in privacy and publicity both - he could converse uninterrupted with Patron Ushijima, while also being center stage for anyone who happened to make it past Jun's screen, which apparently amounted to four couples and a skeleton crew for the Rose; he'd have to send Ken a healthy tip after this. All of them were watching him, and his brightly-coifed companion, as they made their way to the host stand. An immense slab of Japanese muscle met them there, where they were also joined by Junichi and two fellow Deefourens. The three fell in around Takeo and his guest, who took each in stride and struck into a quick clip to match Takeo's deliberate pace. "I have agreed to let you accompany me for the week, Tanaka-kun,"
Takeo said, quiet and quick, as he turned his thoughts back to his day's agenda. His dark eyes took one last look at his blue-haired shadow, then nodded for Jun to escort her from his sight. "I will see you at dinner."

To her credit, Maiko bowed politely - and silently - and slowed her steps, letting Takeo outpace her as Junichi redirected her toward another exit.

One of his men, a lanky young recruit by the name of Ren, walked her out, while Jun and the other, Ayumi, caught Takeo at the main entrance. "Keep an eye on her. I'm sure Ushijima put it in her head to have a walk around Moscow."
They all knew how quickly that could turn south. Maiko was smart, but Takeo wouldn't put it past her to slip out on a midnight walk and find herself some trouble - and Jun wasn't the only one known to cover his tracks.


The men looked up as Kasumi dashed down the stairs at them, waving frantically. "Back on stage! Brandon's calling."

"The Ascendancy,"
Takeo corrected her, but she ignored him as she plugged a cigarette in her mouth and fired up, moving over to a comfortable section of wall to lean against. "What is it about?"
he asked, and she shrugged, obviously done with her duties as messenger. "Thanks,"
he turned aside and reached in his jacket to tune in to his wallet, again. He realized about then that she only came out here to smoke - she obviously could have caught him with his wallet. A buddhist might appreciate how true to herself she was behaving. Takeo just gave her a glare.

Text was read to his earbud, from one of the Ascendancy's aids. An assembly of the Sphere was required. Now.

Without reaction - though he could have done otherwise - Takeo headed back inside. He made one stop. That is, he stopped long enough to pluck Kasumi's deathstick from her mouth, crush it on the doorframe, and give her a wink, before returning to his role as their leader. "Get me a secure connection. And clear the building."

Edited by Takeo, Mar 30 2014, 08:44 AM.
Stepping out of the conditioned air of the Rose Pagoda, for a second time, Takeo lingered on the last stone step to watch a pair of affluent moscovian ladies slink past. His hand rested on a snarling gargoyle at the end of the handrail, and with the left he gave them a roll of his fingers in wave. The taller of the two looked surprised, artful brows rising against an unnaturally wrinkleless forehead. The other wasn't paying attention, but looked once her conspirator leaned in to whisper her a few words of warning.

When she did look, Takeo noticed her lips shape a small, tight 'o', then proceed to lip his name to her friend. They knew him, then.

"You probably have time," Kasumi said from behind him on the stairs. He could hear the smirk she was undoubtedly wearing.

he replied, but he did look away from his current distraction to replace them with another. "Jun, the car?"

Junnichi didn't bother nodding, nor slowing down as he descended the stairs after Kasumi. He moved off around the corner of the Pagoda and disappeared into the night. Kasumi had another cigarette lit up already, the first puff billowing toward Takeo on a cool westerly wind. It was going to rain.

"Why did he bother calling?" Kasumi asked after a drag. She seemed to have adopted that particular square of wall to lean on. "Didn't sound like he was seeking much council."

"Obviously he values our insights."
She laughed, and he ignored her. He wasn't serious, but he also wasn't in the mood to spar with the girl. With the damage done
, Brandon obviously just needed a sounding board before making his decision. Takeo could only assume they'd hear about it on the news within the hour - either the complete destruction of Mecca, or the situation was under control. There are no alternatives in crisis management.

"What do you need me to do?" Kasumi had a mouth, but she was loyal. He could ask her to take a flight to Mecca to check things first hand, and, without question she would be on the next jet on the tarmac. It was a relief - a very unique sensation for Takeo.

"I missed a call with H-O. See what they need, and if you can provide it."
He had an idea what they wanted. Protege went public today - Takeo had followed its share peripherally. Mori would be biting at the bit, but Takeo didn't have time to hold her hand tonight. She'd have to hold to what loyalty she held, a fraction of that of Kasumi though it might be. Regardless, Kasumi couldn't help them. But it would be helpful to have someone chew her ear other than him for a change.

Jun's black Jag rolled quietly from the shadows and Takeo finally turned to look at his hacker. "Give the others the night off. I'll have my ear on."
She nodded, impatiently, and crushed her stick on the wall, again. "Goodnight, K-chan."
His door clicked behind him, and a mild wave of heat let him know Jun had opened the door for him.

"Goodnight, Onoda-san," Kasumi said, punctuated with a bow.

Takeo smiled and fell into the car. He wasted no time in stripping off his suit as Jun walked around to his side. They were off, leaving the Pagoda and its finery well behind them.

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