Chapter 30: Russia
Meanwhile, Makoto sat in class with a bleak expression, the message in her lap, burning into her skin. It wasn’t definitely written by a child.
They could be reading too much into handwriting.
There was always that possibility.
She longed for a microscope so she could inspect every single particle of the paper and derive exactly what it had come from.
As she was stuffing the page into her pocket, Tadashi slunk in silently. He sat in the chair next to her and dropped his bag on the table.
The professor gave Tadashi a disapproving glare but continued his lecture.
Makoto stiffened in disgust as Tadashi leaned into her personal space.
“I’m sorry. I never meant what I said.” He whispered.
Makoto’s eyes were sharp. Her hand slid across the table, losing the fight to restrain herself.
And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
Makoto groaned, her fingers falling slack. No punching, then. Instead, she nodded briskly. It seemed like eternity before he got out of her private bubble.
When they left class, he followed her attentively.
It was unnerving.
How a man could go from a man-eater shark to an abrasive but attention-hungry kitten was beyond her admittedly intelligent comprehension.
She glanced suspiciously at him over her shoulder but did not change course. His eyes were downcast, his shoulders were stiff, and his steps were restless.
He needed to confess some heavy secret.
Makoto parked herself at the closet microscope.
“I need to talk to you.” He admitted, sitting uncomfortably close.
She hid a smirk and shifted away from him.
And he thought she was a worthless detective.
“If you must.” She muttered, sliding the note under the lens and frowning down through the smoke.
“The note was sent from a man named Varlaam. He’s the director of the Russian division of Foxtail’s syndicate.” Tadashi explained quickly.
Makoto leaned back on her stool, staring at him.
It didn’t surprise her that he had intel for her.
It surprised her that he was telling her out of his disguise.
“Varlaam.” She repeated blankly. “How do you know that?”
That’s what a normal person would ask, right?
That’s what someone who didn’t know his secret identity would ask.
“He’s made contact with me.” Tadashi admitted, pulling up a stool next to her.
His voice lowered to keep any other students from overhearing.
Confused and disturbed by his close, somewhat friendly proximity, Makoto leaned on the counter and tried to ignore the crippling guilt in his expression.
It was like he was an entirely different person all of a sudden.
She didn’t understand it.
“What do you mean he’s made contact with you?” She demanded, meeting his gaze with a hard, guarded expression.
“He’s watching. Right now. He has eyes everywhere. He told me to push you away.” Tadashi looked grim.
A poor attempt at a sympathetic grimace followed her response: “You didn’t have to go through all that effort, Kido. We couldn’t be farther apart if you were dead.” She should know what she was talking about – she’d considered the option at length.
Tadashi’s eyes narrowed. “I realize this.” He gritted out through clenched teeth. “I am trying to explain myself and apologize.”
The only explaining he needed to do was to tell her that he was leaving the country.
Makoto sealed her lips to keep the mean words locked inside before she got herself in a tabloid.
“Look, there’s a lot I gotta tell you, and not enough time, so—”
“Akari, Kido.” Savannah Anderson’s voice permeated the senseless rambling of Tadashi and the judgmental silence of Makoto.
They both looked up, seeing the president staring into the lab. “We picked up a lead. You’re going to Russia.” She crooked a finger in signal for them to follow, and then ducked out of the doorway.
Makoto glanced at Tadashi. “Russia?”
He blinked, shrugging. The gesture was uncharacteristically human. “Sounds about right.”
Makoto rolled her eyes, grabbed the note, and exited the lab.
The next morning, after a rousing discussion about truth, honor, and patriotism with her father that ended with him telling her that he’d go ahead and purchase a plot for her next to her mother and Takeo, Makoto found that she was excused from all of her classes that day on account of the assignment from Anderson.
So much for time to comes to terms with being partners...
Which meant that when she found herself walking with Tadashi to Anderson’s office, again without Aikido, she had to ask – “So I noticed that my file said one of my contributing factors in this partnership is undercover experience. Is that a reflection on you?”
It was quiet for a second.
Makoto paused in front of Anderson’s door, waiting expectantly.
“My undercover skills are somewhat...lacking.” He admitted bitterly.
Makoto pushed the door open. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll keep an eye on you.”
The lead, as it turned out, had zero concrete ties to the note.
It had to do with Akari.
Chatter had come through some of Anderson’s search filters, implicating Akari in the purchase of a shipment of black marker arms.
They both entered the room stiffly and sat before the president, respectful silence following until Anderson settled down in her chair and looked away from her computer. “I believe you both have been made aware that Christina’s followers span the globe. A colony of her henchmen in Russia have taken from Christina information about my school and replicated this institution, with various differences.”
She turned her computer screen around so they could see it. A series of maps and blueprints of a college campus filled the screen. “They have assassins rather than students. Young people between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five years old who go to school to learn how to kill people. More specifically, how to kill Christians. They’re taught well. Everything you’ve been taught and more.”
She clicked her mouse twice and the screen changed to show two mug shots. There was a man and a woman, both of them roughly the same age, both of them Russian. “Sashenka Federova and Vitaly Sokolov. Also known as Anne Baker and Michael Drivers. They’re spies, obviously. Recognize them?”
“No.” Tadashi said curtly, not long after the question was posed.
Makoto, however, noticed a moon-shaped birth mark above Sashenka’s left eyebrow that she’d definitely seen before. “Bookstore cashier, disappeared last month. I assumed she’d been laid off.” She narrowed her eyes at Vitaly. Initially she didn’t recognize him, but then her gaze fell to his shoulders – the right one slightly lower than the left. “I’ve seen him around, but he’s on the janitorial staff part-time, isn’t he?”
Tadashi leaned forward to look more closely at the picture.
“Why do you say that?” Savannah inquired, an amused smile marking her face.
“His left shoulder.” Tadashi answered simply. “It’s slightly more muscular than the right. He’s not in body building or sports – no good coach works only one side of the body. That shoulder was most likely developed by carrying a heavy object in his dominant hand. Considering no smart student consistently carries all of his text books in a hand bag, he was probably accustomed to carrying a five-gallon bucket of cleaner and a mop. Janitorial staff?”
Makoto smiled to herself, her own line of thinking being spoken from his mouth.
Savannah nodded. “Part time janitor.”
“They were both students with jobs on campus – gave them full-time access to the college, inside classrooms, and doors marked ‘employees only’. So what did they get sent over here to spy on?” Makoto asked.
“Sashenka and Vitaly were stationed here to get basic information – course studies and cases – know your enemy and all that. Additionally they were assigned to getting into my files and finding everything they could about Trinity, ENIGMA, DGI, and VALOR.”
“Did they get it?” Tadashi asked.
“They were called back home before they could get very far.” Anderson responded.
“You seem very inside the loop.” Makoto commented.
Anderson raised an eyebrow. “I’m a detective, Miss Akari, it’s my job to read between the lines. I know when I accept spies into my college.”
“You fed them information.” Tadashi guessed.
The president smiled. “They know only what I have allowed them to. Your assignment is this: two ENIGMA agents are going to Russia to set up surveillance. They want two people on the inside.” She folded her arms carefully. “And by ‘people’ I mean students who have already been in the classes being taught. And by ‘inside’ I mean ‘abducted by the enemy and forced to enlist via brainwashing and life-scarring training.’”
Tadashi leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms.
“I didn’t expect you to balk at this, Mr. Kido.” Anderson commented.
“I’m not balking for my own sake.” He said pointedly.
Makoto rolled her eyes. “He’s not balking for my sake either. He’s got a cat. We’ll take the case. Duration?”
“I haven’t even told you what you’re spying for.” Anderson argued.
“We’re not spies. We’re detectives. This isn’t your assignment. This is ENIGMA’s. The only reason they’d specifically request civilians is because they need us. We’re taking the case because it’d be selfish not to. Have you anymore information for us?” Tadashi wondered casually.
Anderson looked proud. “Only your mission briefing. You have no false identity – there’s not much preparation in being kidnapped. You’re being sent to Russia to spy on their institution. They capture you during some sloppy recon, and you play along, just short of being brainwashed. Don’t get brainwashed. Don’t get blown. Don’t get killed. We did find mention of your father’s name, Akari. He’s implicated in the purchase of black market arms in Russia tomorrow. You head out immediately. Your grades won’t decrease during your absence. I hope you’re happy with where they are now, because they won’t increase, either.”
Tadashi accepted the mission briefing.
“You are excused.” Anderson said, nodding them toward the door.
They weren’t supposed to be spies.
They weren’t supposed to be called in by the department of defense to spy in a foreign nation.
She shouldn’t have accepted. If word got out, Japan would be in big trouble with Russia.
As they left the office, Makoto turned to Tadashi. “I can’t go.”
He stared. “Why not?”
“My father is a foreign relations ambassador. We could be inciting WWIII.” It wasn’t likely, even as she considered it. If he was implicated in the black market arms deal, he wouldn’t exactly be quick to turn her in if he discovered her.
He rolled his eyes. “We’re talking about a private school. Not the Kremlin.”
“The difference isn’t much.” Makoto argued.
He shuffled his feet briefly before fixing her with an unbelieving stare. “I don’t know much about top secret agencies. But in my experience with field missions that might compromise foreign relations, they generally tie up all the loose ends before some nasty war has the chance to break out.”
ENIGMA had a jet on the way, giving Makoto enough time to stare at her phone indecisively. She was investigating her own family.
She had to tell her father to get eyes on Sakuza pronto.
But what if her father was the one she needed to stop?
She’d just be tipping him off.
She could tell him nothing.
Bags packed and consciences somewhat at ease, Makoto and Tadashi met the ENIGMA jet in parking lot seven an hour later. Expecting to see Uriel and Tobias, Makoto was moderately surprised to find Jered and Christina instead.
Tadashi ignored them and stowed his bag, promptly sitting and buckling his seat belt.
Jared intercepted Makoto on her way to her seat. “Uriel and Tobias are occupied with another assignment, but Uriel sent this for you.” He held out a folded slip of paper.
She nodded a quiet thank you and took it from him, moving to sit in the closest empty seat, across from Christina. She shoved her duffel bag beneath her feet and buckled her seatbelt.
Before she could open the note, Christina’s voice reached her ears: “Do you speak Russian?”
Upon discovering that the ENIGMA agent was, indeed, addressing her, Makoto shook her head.
Christina’s eyes snapped to Jered. “What kind of spies go to Russia but can’t speak Russian?”
Jered pointed at Tadashi. “He speaks Russian.”
Makoto glanced at him. Neither of them had taken any language courses that semester, so she wouldn’t have known that about him had Savannah not told her. One of them knowing Russian certainly made her feel slightly at ease about the mission.
The assignment had been inspired by a mission that the Shadow operated back in 2018 – she let herself get kidnapped and then counter-interrogated. Granted her medical report analyses had to be speculated because of her advanced healing, but the conjecture was crippling.
Makoto unfolded the note.
I’ve been informed about your mission. I’ve also been told that it would be better if I didn’t give you more information than you’re comfortable with. I’m ignoring this suggestion because your survival may depend on it.
I don’t know how much detail they went into with your mission briefing. I assume all you know is that you’re going to Russia under the pretense of assisting agents Springfield and Redding with surveillance, and that at some point you’ll willingly walk into a trap and get caught.
Here’s what you need to know: assume you’re being watched and bugged at all times. Even behind closed doors. Once you step off the jet, you are your cover. There’s no alias, no real identity, no real mission – just the cover.
When the Russians take you, they’ll knock you out.
When you wake up, your comms devices and weapons will be gone. This is where your communication with Jered and Christina stops. The rest of your mission is radio silent. Based on previous reports, the first thing they’ll do is restrain you and tell you exactly what they plan to do to you.
Don’t worry about being tortured – if you play your cards right, it won’t be necessary. They are going to erase your long term memory, enroll you in their school, and make you kill people.
Once you’ve reached your quota of about a thousand Christians, they’ll kill you.
Read this next part very carefully:
They should keep you awake for the memory inhibiting procedure. They’ve developed a drug that will do it in fifteen minutes flat.
This is where your ability comes into play. When they prick you with the needle, create the smallest portal you possibly can. The needle needs to go through the portal and inject the formula somewhere else, preferably the drain of a sink. Make your muscles stiff and then fake a faint after thirty-seven seconds.
Do the same for Tadashi.
Act your way through the rest. Pretend you can’t remember anything. You have allowances for walking, talking, eating – anything you classify as muscle memory. I recommend you revert back to Japanese, if you can think of it in the moment.
Do what they want within your moral ramifications.
Find out how they work, how to bring them down, and what their end goal is. The only reason we haven’t sent a team in to wipe them out yet is because the federal government hasn’t given us permission yet.
Stay alive and do this for as long as you can. ENIGMA won’t let you stay any longer than twenty-four months. By then we’ll be able to operate a rescue mission. I’ll find a way to check in on you.
Burn this note.
Rock’n’roll, Akari Makoto.
Makoto stared at the note for a long time. The smallest portal she’d ever created. She’d have to practice. She’d have to be calm.
She stood and pulled a lighter out of her pocket and stuffed the note into a tiny mug that she found in a cabinet in the back of the jet. A second later, flames were engulfing the page, leaving black flakes of ash in their wake.
When it burned itself out, Makoto dumped the ashes in the sink and washed them all down the drain.