Chapter 35: When The Time Came
The night before…
Yoshiyuki Kojima heaved a sigh as he sat back in his office in Abstergo Japan, stretching his arms before he got back to his laptop to continue his work.
It had happened just a few days ago, when he was given the offer to lead work on yet another special project, so soon after Project Nephilim had been completed. Actually, thought Kojima, 'asked' wasn't exactly an accurate way to put it, either. From the words and the tone of voice they used, it was clear that their 'asking' him had been little more than a formality.
It wasn't that Kojima had been forced into it, not exactly; Abstergo was known to treat its employees quite well, and they did give him a suite at their office building's lowest level to serve as his living quarters for the project's duration, and the accommodations were comparable to a room at a five-star hotel. Indeed, it wasn't hard to see why Abstergo had such a good rep among the general public.
However, there were certain details that seemed… off, somehow. For one thing, his superiors decided to implement some additional security measures for this particular project, some of which didn't seem to make sense in light of his status within the organization.
For one thing, Kojima had specifically been ordered to use only Abstergo-owned hardware, persocoms included. And he knew for a fact that it had nothing to do with the specifications of his persocoms, given that this was the first time they'd specifically prohibited him from bringing them in to expedite his work. They of all people would have known what his persocoms were capable of, given that it was his expertise in that area that drew them to him in the first place.
Taken in that light, Abstergo's sudden reluctance to let him make use of his persocoms was fishy, to say the least. As far as Kojima was concerned, though, there was another condition that he found much more disquieting.
For the first time ever in his career at Abstergo, Kojima had been prohibited by his superiors from bringing Kotoko to the office, despite them knowing that she was his most favoured persocom, and therefore his most powerful. Even as a laptop unit, her capabilities had exceeded all the rest of his units, and that gap had only been reinforced by her recent upgrade. That his other persocoms had been banned from the office could at least be rationalized as constituting additional security measures, but…
He couldn't help but feel that there was something wrong with his current working conditions. Unfortunately for him, though, he also knew there wasn't much he could do about the current situation, except to bear with it until it was all over. He'd just have to tell Kotoko to take care of the house in the meantime-
Speaking of which…
Kojima clicked on the web browser on his desktop, before going to his email to begin typing up a message to Kotoko. Given that he wasn't going to be home for a while longer, he figured that this was the least he could do.
Take care in the meantime, won't you, Kotoko?
Yoshiyuki Kojima knew Kotoko probably wouldn't be too pleased with him when he got home, whenever that was.
For now, though, it was all he could do to hope and pray that he made it home at all.
Kotoko looked up from Kojima's laptop with a look of puzzlement on her face, putting her work on hold for a moment so she could read the new message that arrived in her mailbox.
Date/Time: 11/02/31 1:49 AM
I might not be home at all for this entire week. Take care of the house, alright? Tell M I'm sorry I haven't been able to butt heads with him lately. Regards to everyone else, too –Dragonfly
It was brief, and rather innocuous as far as messages went, but Kotoko couldn't help but worry. For one thing, he'd never been asked to work overtime like this before, and the way the letter was worded did nothing to reassure her. And that reference to 'M'…?
Had she a heart, it would have been racing by now.
Kotoko wasted no time putting on one of the many dresses she'd asked her dear Koji-kun for on her birthdays, sending orders to the rest of her fellow persocoms as she bounded down the stairs to head for the Kokubunji mansion. There was a reason Kojima had mentioned him by name, after all, and Kotoko herself had nothing but the highest degree of trust and respect for him.
And for that matter, Kojima too regarded the child prodigy as a friend of sorts, however frequently they might argue and disagree on the BBS they frequented. If her worst fears turned out to be correct, Minoru Kokubunji would definitely be able to help.
That being said, though, Kotoko continued to hope against hope that her intuition would turn out to be wrong.
"…And that's the story so far," said Reina into her cellphone, stifling a yawn as she laid back down in her bed at the Chateau.
Aside from her unusual abilities, which set her head and shoulders above even the deadliest and most formidable of Abstergo's agents, Reina Carmine differed from her peers in one other respect. Generally, the agents who both aced the Animi Training Program and had the best success rates in field assignments were placed at the direct command of the Inner Sanctum, and would carry out missions for them. For instance, Daniel Cross had an entire team of subordinates that answered to him, though their numbers had been whittled down recently.
And in turn, Daniel himself had been bound to serve as Warren Vidic's personal enforcer. And, to the latter's credit, he at least did what he could to treat Daniel well, even if the sanity problems that had hounded Daniel for most of his life had mostly been Vidic's doing.
Reina, however, was different. Unlike the rest of her brethren, she answered exclusively to her mistress, even as she had also been ordered to recognize and carry out orders from Vidic and the Inner Sanctum as well. And there was a good reason for that, too. After all, not only was it she who had taught Reina everything she knew, she had also raised Reina from childhood as well. For all intents and purposes, she was her mother.
Reina's mistress for that matter was regarded as the Inner Sanctum's equal in rank, authority and stature, which afforded her quite a bit of freedom of action even they didn't have - all despite not even being an actual member of the organization.
"I see," said the woman on the other end, after a long pause; Reina could almost feel her satisfaction and anticipation. "And the boy?"
"He continues to impress, mistress," Reina answered truthfully, seeing no reason to disguise her interest in the boy. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, not particularly. Do with him as you wish, Reina; I won't question your judgment."
"Yes, my mistress," Reina's face cracked into an evil grin as she acknowledged the order, before finally hanging up.
Indeed, thought Reina; Rei Mikage was an interesting child, and in more ways than one, too. Of all the people she had ever met, he was the only one who'd ever become aware of the gift she possessed. That he had been avoiding her was of little consequence, as was his constant closeness to Daniel and his trusted subordinates. She had the drones keeping tabs on him, and when the mood struck, she could command Triple-Zero herself to bring him in.
And there would be nothing either Daniel or his goons could do about it.
It was only fair, really. In the short time she'd known him, Rei had surpassed all of Reina's expectations, and damn if she wasn't going to give him his just reward.
As for the reward she planned to give herself, Reina Carmine had already decided.
You'll do nicely, Rei Mikage…
"Agent Reina Carmine, one of Abstergo's top agents."
The timing of it all seemed suspect, Daniel noted, brow furrowed as he sipped his soda. His was the most vocal dissent to Project Nephilim, which was completed shortly before Reina Carmine had been assigned to his team. And while he himself had originally intended to utilize her as a means of getting Rei to forget about Freya – in the process allowing him to dispatch Freya in good conscience – her mere presence couldn't but raise all kinds of alarm bells in his head.
He couldn't help it, he thought as he keyed in the passcode to access her personnel file. He knew exactly who and what she was.
"Currently assigned to the command of Daniel Cross, Abstergo Operations Division."
Of course, that statement was a lie. Officially, Reina was indeed his subordinate, but he knew for a fact that there was someone else pulling her strings - someone from the Inner Sanctum, or otherwise with close affiliations with them. Indeed, for all that he was one of the heads of the Operations Division – for all that he had his own team to command – he had no illusions that he had always been little more than a symbol to Abstergo.
They called him a hero, but their treatment didn't always make this apparent. For one thing, Daniel highly doubted that that other guy from Operations – Otto, if he recalled correctly – had ever been strapped to an operating table and subjected to what amounted to mind rape.
"Reina Carmine, 31 years old. Born December 26, 2000 in the laboratory of Abstergo Japan, Carmine is Subject 00 of the Einherjar Project, an attempt to artificially create a true human-First Civilization hybrid."
Daniel knew they regarded Reina as a sort of female counterpart to him, but it wasn't until now that he'd realized exactly how far the parallels between them went. Where Vidic had tampered with him as a child, Reina had actually been born and created in an Abstergo lab. As the higher-ups probably saw it, her entire purpose was to serve as an instrument of Abstergo's will.
"Due to certain flaws and side effects of the process used to create her, Carmine's body remains frozen at approximately 20 years of age, despite her chronological age of 31 years. Additional defects also necessitated the removal of her uterus and ovaries, rendering her unable to bear children in any way."
Daniel closed his eyes and bowed his head at what he'd just read, right after taking another drink of his soda.
It seemed that, like him, Reina too had had her life ruined from the outset by Abstergo. At first, it seemed to Daniel that the removal of her reproductive organs wasn't quite as debilitating as having been cursed with the bleeding effect – something he'd suffered with until the synch nexus helped him distinguish himself from his ancestor once and for all. In some ways it might even have been a blessing, given how it surely meant Reina never had to worry about having those days.
But, he, Daniel, had eventually overcome the bleeding effect.
Reina, on the other hand, would have to live the rest of her life dealing with the loss of that something.
"Despite this rather unfortunate development, however, Carmine has since come to view it as but a small price to pay for the unique talents bestowed upon her. Most notable among these is the sixth sense more commonly referred to by the Assassins as Eagle Sense, which has been invaluable in the pursuit of the objectives not only of Abstergo, but of the greater Templar Order."
"Indeed, Carmine has demonstrated consistent commitment to the Templar cause today, and has become one of Abstergo's most valuable assets. In every sense of the word, Reina Carmine can truly be considered a child of Abstergo – a child of the Templars."
Daniel, having read enough, slammed down the cover of his laptop in disgust.
So Reina, too, was little more than a tool to be utilized at the whim of the likes of Warren Vidic, and the saddest part was that she didn't even seem to care. She dedicated her entire life to Abstergo and to the Templar Order, not that she even had a choice to begin with. It was, quite literally, what she was born and bred to do.
As if to calm himself, Daniel drained what remained of his soda in three gulps, crushing the can and literally dumping it into the trash bin under his desk.
…You'll have your chance, soon enough.
His patience and tolerance of Abstergo, already thin to begin with, had been strained even further by what he saw as the needless deaths of his subordinates. It was only thanks to them that he, Daniel, continued to work for the organization. As his own way of atoning for his betrayal of the Assassins, he chose to repay the loyalty of his subordinates tenfold.
But with the way things were…
Daniel Cross would continue to work for and with Abstergo, if only to avenge himself upon the one who had singlehandedly wiped out half his team. At the same time, however, he hoped for Abstergo's sake that they weren't dumb enough to sacrifice any more of his men – Rei Mikage included. Whatever his objectives had been in taking the boy on as a protégé, the fact remained that he'd genuinely come to regard him as one of his own.
And if there was anything about him that nobody could deny, it was that he took care of his own.
I'm not sure I can take much more of their bullshit, myself.
All things considered, Daniel's one hope was that the suits at Abstergo weren't dumb enough to try anything. Otherwise, they'd have him on their hands, and he wasn't exactly sure he felt like showing them mercy when the time came.