Ghost In The Shell Fan Fiction / Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex Fan Fiction ❯ Motoko Redux ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: this is my fiction based on the Movies: Ghost in the Shell and Gits 2: Innocence, as well as the TV series GitS: Stand Alone Complex, which are based upon the Manga originally created by Masamune Shirow. I'm just borrowing the characters & `universe' for amusement, and hope that my playing with them will maintain the spirit of the authorized versions that inspire me. Please see `endnotes' for some conceptual notes regarding chronology of this story. Enjoy! ~ Una
Motoko Redux/ Ghost of a Chance
Human lives are full of sacrifices: Batou sacrificed himself the day `we' were born, trying to save me. I sacrificed my individuality, my body and control of consciousness to merge with yours. The voice, or image of a voice, resonated with the tones that had once signified Motoko Kusanagi.
Do you really see it that way; that fusion was something to be saved from?” The androgynous other answered, the voice signature of Project 2501, the so-called Puppet master.
The memories welled up in Motoko's mind, playing in cyberspace like a movie. All disjointed and sped up out of time. The dual entity watched and reflected on the actions of both sides of their mutual history. Should 2501 have stopped Batou from pulling the plug that day? It would have meant death for the synthetic ghost, but Motoko would have escaped the encounter without irreparable damage. On the other hand, if that had happened, the Major would have carried on in ever darkening angst over the nature of her own existence. She now knew that they were mirror images of sentient life. With the addition of 2501 to her awareness she had been able to research her own life and was finally satisfied that she was originally an organic human, although that life had been so long ago as to be almost irrelevant. She had haunted the `net retrieving her human past in records both mundane and classified: she had found her birth certificate and school registration, her military records and innumerable details that pointed to a life that was both real and verifiable. She found a medical record of her transfer from her original, hopelessly damaged and fragile organic body to her first cybernetic one. 2501 had used their fusion to gain understanding of the nature of that life. It had gained a past through Motoko. Now she was about to demand that it give her back her future.
“I'm sure Batou saw it that way. He saw it as an attack,” she replied, “whatever the outcome, that is at least part of what happened. I surrendered part of my humanity by letting you into my mind, to save you, and though the `net may be vast and infinite, the human mind craves limits. It is time for me to go back.
“So, you would sacrifice what we have to rejoin an imperfect, material world?” The digital life form inquired. 2501 had gained a sort of understanding of human life, but it still suspected it's pure digital one might be superior. In spite of the fact that it had claimed to want a body, when at last Motoko had allowed it to bond with her, 2501 had found that what it had really wanted was to be recognized as a valid ghost. It yearned to be recognized and to belong. The Major had given it what it wanted in that moment of surrender; their coexistence after that point was somewhat incidental.
“You already know the answer.” Motoko stated, You have had your way, now it is time to try mine.”
“Your ghost will rise to drown me out, you know.” 2501 answered.
“Are you afraid?” She asked, knowing the real answer already.
I am…apprehensive.” The reply shimmered in the virtual world.
“You and my ghost will both whisper to me. I won't let you be lost,” she explained, but I am losing myself here. Being disembodied so much of the time, adrift on the `net… we'll both be lost if I don't rejoin the world I knew.”
“You miss them, don't you?” 2501 inferred.
“?” A note of query resonated between them like a chime.
“Your friends. Section 9. And of course, he was jealous.” The synthetic intelligence pressed.
I suppose.” She hesitated to acknowledge the possibility, but how can you hide something like that from an entity who shares your mind?
The memory of the desolate look on the big man's face rose into their combined awareness: Batou in the bowels of that factory ship, surrounded by blown-apart Locus Solis gynoids, pubescent robot dolls whose black hair and blue eyes made them resemble Motoko. That was the moment. That was the trigger, the beginning of all this. Motoko had realized what her abandonment had cost him. She realized how alone he must feel and somewhere in her consciousness there stirred something akin to heartache. She remembered thinking, what have I done? Then she had said, “I'm going now,” and slipped the physical bonds of the gynoid body she had taken over. A moment more of witnessing Batou's suffering would have been too much.
“You told him you would always be by his side when he ventured into the `net.” 2501 reminded her.
“Yes.” Motoko admitted.
“But that is not enough?” The A.I. asked, though both of them knew that since the Locus Solis case, Batou had apparently avoided net diving. His signature had been detected less and less frequently, though Motoko had been monitoring the net continuously for his presence.
“No. Not anymore.” She felt the pull of the physical world, of something profoundly important but now lost; her friend's affection. Once she had taken it for granted, tried to ignore that it might mean anything, but now the loss began to cause an ache in her soul. Even more than this, she felt the drive to action rousing her from their near perfect meditation on the endless network of information that had been a world she shared with the A. I. 2501. Enlightenment, it is said is not meant to be a permanent state. It is to be experienced in brilliant flashes, ever to be pursued but never completely embraced.
“The body we have been using, the child form, will not be up to the task.” 2501 observed, caving in to the inevitable, and fully aware that it lived only by the grace of Motoko's will and good fortune.
“No.” Motoko agreed, “We'll need one like I had before, a military cyborg. But we can keep the current one, just in case.”
“How will it be done, getting a new body?” The A. I. asked after some moments in silent communion.
“I'll make the arrangements…and thank you.”
Later that week:
Aramaki sat at his desk, feeling very much an old man. The unexplained absence of Major Motoko Kusanagi had weighed on his mind for just under two years. Beyond being accountable for losing all the data stored in her cyberbrain, particularly the classified files, Aramaki had considered the Major a friend of sorts. She was his protégé. And he had failed to see her growing unease. He had failed to see that she was becoming impetuously self destructive and obsessed with the schism between being human and having a prosthetic, cybernetic body. In short, Chief Aramaki had a profound sense of having let the Major down in the worst way. He could not believe that she was dead and gone - partly it was his stubborn faith in her resourcefulness, partly his innate reluctance to admit defeat.
He had to admit to himself it was also a heavy dose of denial that drove his suspicion that the Major had somehow survived. Still, he left Batou alone about it after the initial questions were answered. The man was obviously in enough pain after losing her. Besides, Aramaki knew them both well enough to be sure that if Batou had had any idea where Motoko was, he would have gone after her long ago.
In light of all this, a sudden contact from someone claiming to be the Major had now begun to cause a minor stir. Section 9's technology experts, initially only Ichikawa and later Bouma had been informed about it. Despite their combined efforts they had been unable to verify whether the source was or was not Major Kusanagi. Aramaki, it seemed would have to take it on faith. Because of this uncertainty he had ordered his men not to say anything regarding the message to the rest of the team. He hoped that it was implicit in that request that Batou in particular would be kept in the dark until the veracity of the source's claimed identity could be determined.
The message had not said much, only that the Major would like to open a dialog with her old boss. Her return to Section 9 was what she offered in exchange for terms that had yet to be named. She awaited his reply.
Aramaki frowned, looking at his desk without really seeing it. Could it really be her? If it was, what did she want in return for coming back? Aramaki had difficulty even after so much time had passed imagining the team without the Major. In the back of his mind he could not help but think that he had every reason to both believe and disbelieve that Motoko would ever return. What he found most disturbing was that those two ideas, which should have been mutually exclusive, comfortably coexisted in his mind.
He suspected that his cyborg subordinates experienced a sense of having sold themselves out from time to time, since the government held a lien on their bodies and to some extent to their minds as well. However, they were all former military personnel, which meant that they had signed away certain rights in exchange for certain benefits long before they were ever recruited into Section 9. Aramaki knew that in many ways, assuming the contact was really the Major, she held most of the cards: she had a wealth of classified information that he would very much like to get back, to say nothing of her skills as a combat team leader and expert hacker. There was something not quite right about it though, the message seemed like her, yet at the same time not quite the same as he remembered.
“Somehow she is and is not coming back.” He muttered to himself, not wanting it to be that twistedly simple.
Closing his eyes for a moment, Aramaki cleared his mind before accessing the secured net used by his team. In fractions of a second Ichikawa saw the old man's image on his heads-up display. “Aramaki speaking live: Secret” read the background. “Ichikawa?” he said.
Ichikawa switched to secret mode before replying; hoping Batou and Togusa would not notice that his attention was now divided between their case discussion and whatever it was that Aramaki needed. He could carry on a virtual conversation while simultaneously searching the net for their information. God knows I did it enough when the Major was here, he thought, realizing in that instant what would prompt Aramaki to use Secret mode. “Ichikawa here, what's up chief?”
“Any news on that contact yet?” Aramaki barked.
“Negative. As far as I can tell it's legit. Just don't ask me where it originated.” Ichikawa didn't usually have any trouble with pinpointing the origin of a transmission, but this one was different.
The old man frowned. “Why?” he demanded in the same slightly irritated tone that his long time subordinates had come to recognize as standard Aramaki speech.
The virtual Ichikawa on Aramaki's heads-up shrugged. “It seems to have come from everywhere.”
“Everywhere?” Aramaki asked, intrigued. “That's impossible… isn't it?”
“In theory no; in practice…” Ichikawa hesitated, “I've never seen anything like it.”
Aramaki latched on to the idea. “You said in theory, what theory?”
Ichikawa mentally cursed himself for bringing it up. Now he would have to explain some rather complicated net philosophy in bite sized pieces fairly fast. His image on the heads-up sighed. “Well, theoretically every virtual place on the net is connected to every other virtual place simultaneously. If that were true, then it is possible that our alleged Major sent that message from everywhere in general to here specifically.”
“If that were true..?” Aramaki said, skewering the weak link in Ichikawa's position with practiced ease.
Ichikawa, while he would normally get very much into this conversation just didn't have the time right that second. But that is not the sort of thing anybody tells Aramaki. So instead he laid it on the line. “I've never seen definitive evidence that backs it up. However, the Major was or is an amazing talent at hacking the net… and so was Project 2501.”
“The Puppet master?” The old man acknowledged. “Hmm. She went missing working that case. You think this might be related?”
“I couldn't say exactly how or why, but yes.” Ichikawa replied, expecting to be grilled about that angle too. He was surprised however when Aramaki not only let it slide, but agreed with him.
Ichikawa, I have had the same feeling, though I couldn't say why either.” Aramaki thought about it for a moment and added, “Perhaps it is a deeply encrypted subtext of the original message. Let me know if you come up with anything else; Aramaki out.”
The old man's image vanished from his heads-up display, and Ichikawa once again wrapped his mind around the particulars of Togusa's theories concerning their most recent terror cell investigation. The issue of the Major and 2501 returned to the back burner.
A month later:
Aramaki called Batou into his office one morning. He had just spoken with a representative from Megatech responsible for engineering special order cybernetic bodies for the military. The same company had created the body that Program 2501 had hijacked, as well as an earlier model that had been used by Motoko Kusanagi. It was one of the few companies that would or could build a female model to military specifications.
“Batou, I have to leave town for a couple of days, there is some urgent business I must attend to personally. I'm leaving you in charge.” Aramaki announced as soon as the big man had shut the office door.
Batou frowned. “This is sudden. Do you want one of us to go along for security?”
“That won't be necessary,” Aramaki told him, standing to come around to the front of the desk. “I'm leaving immediately; just carry on with your current investigations until I get back.”
“Whatever you say, Chief. What's up?” Batou asked.
“I'm not at liberty to say just yet. I should know more by the time I return.” Aramaki told him.
“Playing it kind of close to the vest, aren't you?” Batou hazarded.
“You know as well as I do that sometimes it can't be helped, occasionally it is even necessary to be a bit secretive. Until I'm certain what we're dealing with, it is my judgment that the matter in question is not of concern to Section 9 at this time.” The old man told him.
As they walked out to the elevator together, Aramaki added, “By the way, the new think-tanks we ordered are being delivered the day after tomorrow. In case I'm not back before then, you'll have to deal with that too.”
“Great, new toys.” Batou replied, “What am I supposed to do with them in the meantime?”
The elevator arrived, the doors slid open and Aramaki stepped in. He looked up at Batou with a hint of a grin. “I'm sure you'll be fine, just have the technicians start formatting them and loading the custom combat protocols. I'll be back by the weekend.”
“I don't even know what they're called.” Batou protested.
As the elevator door slid closed, Aramaki added “They're called `Tachikomas.'”
“Tachi-komas?” Batou said to himself, “What's a `Tachikoma?'”
The next day Batou had Ichikawa run a GPS check on the Chief.
“I don't like this.” Ichikawa said in a flat tone.
Batou, leaning against a console looking the other way replied, “What, object to spying on the old ape?”
Ichikawa chuckled; no one else would dare refer to Aramaki that way. “It's not that, hell it's probably for his own good. But look at the map, Batou he hasn't even left this sector.”
The big cyborg turned so fast his pale ponytail whipped him in the face. “What the?” He gaped at the readout over Ichikawa's shoulder. “Wonder if he's in trouble.”
“You think we should call him?” the bearded technician asked, sounding both worried and skeptical.
Batou thought for a moment. “Is he on the move?”
“He wasn't until a second ago,” Ichikawa replied, “Now it looks like he's moving north out of the city.”
“Huh, maybe he had to take care of something here before he left.” Batou shrugged and turned to leave the Diving Chamber. Pausing in the doorway he asked, “Hey, keep tabs on him for me, will you?”
“Just in case?” Ichikawa verified.
“Yeah. Something like that.” Batou agreed
“What's up?” Ichikawa asked, pulling the shoulder harness down on his net-diving pod.
The big man shrugged again, raising his open hands, “I don't know, just a feeling.”
Ichikawa winced, “Man, I hate it when you get those `feelings.'”
“Me too pal, me too.” Batou walked out then, calling over his shoulder, “See you.”
Ichikawa turned his attention to the map once again. He wondered about the wisdom of not telling Batou where Aramaki had been when he'd initially tracked the Chief down. Ichikawa found it inconceivable that the Major would have had a safe-house that Batou didn't know about. And yet, the big man had looked right at the map and not reacted. Ichikawa hoped that he wouldn't put it together and come up with anything like the truth.
Looking at the red blip on the map that marked Aramaki's movement, Ichikawa muttered, “It's a dangerous game you're playing Chief. I just hope you know what you're doing.”
As a seasoned tech wizard, Ichikawa was troubled by the fact that he still could not track the alleged Major's message source. It troubled him even more to have the Chief go off alone following directives that came from that source.
To no one in particular he said, “Batou didn't even need to ask,” he pointed to the red dot, “I am definitely keeping an eye on you.”
Two months later:
Batou wondered what the hell he was doing out here. Aramaki had ordered him to take the team and stake out the derelict transit authority building in Old Town where Motoko had held her final show-down with a gigantic battle tank. He alone knew that she had fused her consciousness with the A.I. Project 2501 there. It seemed cruel, and he thought that the old man knew or at least suspected something. Still, it wasn't Aramaki's way to mentally torment his own people, so something must be up.
“Tell me again why we're out here?” Togusa asked him over the voice net.
“Because the Chief said to look for `suspicious activity,' that's why.” Batou barked at his partner a little rougher than he had intended. “Hey, the whole thing seems ridiculous to me too.”
“I hate stake-outs.” The former cop muttered.
“You have no idea.” Batou, the former soldier, agreed.
Togusa was silent for a moment. “You don't suppose one of his sources fed him a tip, do you?”
“Nah, I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with what we've been working on.” Batou assured him. “Besides, it would have to be a pretty off the wall tip - we know where the bastards are going to be with that shipment, so all we have to do is show up and mop up.”
“Yeah, but…”
“But nothing, that case is in the bag. I'm telling you this is something else.” Batou snapped again. He shook his head, silently cursing himself for being so jumpy. She's gone, he told himself, and there is nothing for you here. Still, Batou felt a sort of haunted desolation being back in that place. He made a command decision, as usual choosing action over further navel gazing. Better to get the job done and get the hell out of here, he thought. He called the team, “Ah shit, let's move in and get this over with.”
“Alright, alright.” Togusa placated his partner, but he couldn't help thinking about the past as the team closed in on the building and took up pre-arranged positions inside.
Togusa remembered the clean up operation after the 2501 case all too well; the damage to Batou, the mess of cyborg parts that had been the Puppet master's hijacked body, as well as the Major's partial remains. It had been a sickening scene, even keeping in mind that those were not organic human body parts. That was in his first year with Section 9, and it had been awful enough that he had done some serious soul-searching about whether or not to give it up and return to the regular police force.
Ultimately Togusa had decided to stay for many reasons, not least of which was to honor the memory of the faith the Major had placed in his abilities. At the time, he had really not understood Batou very well. Over time though, he was coming to realize that there was a lot going on below the tough guy image his cyborg partner had so carefully crafted.
Togusa thought to himself, “I wonder if he even realizes that he's still in love with her, if he ever realized it?” Dangerous territory, he considered. Pointing something like that out to Batou would only open old wounds, and Togusa knew he had no idea how deep those cuts might run. He also didn't have a death wish, and the big guy was way too edgy to take being prodded about his personal life at the moment.
“She died here,” Togusa thought, looking around the cavernous room from his firing position beside a bullet riddled pillar on the first floor, “and he had to see it happen.” In spite of the official designation of the Major as missing-in-action, Togusa always thought of her as being dead. It was easier than dealing with the uncertainty. It also allowed him to let Batou off the hook, because he had always suspected that the big guy was hiding something about that night.
Togusa's gaze swept the room again. He couldn't see any of his team mates, though he knew that Saito would be up high in a sniper's nest, and Batou would be working his way toward the center of the building using thermo-optic camouflage. Ichikawa monitored the situation using remote systems, and Pazu and Bouma patrolled the perimeter. Everybody was where they were supposed to be, but even after all this time, it felt like there was a hole where she should have been.
Batou sighed, “Everybody stay alert.” He ordered, sounding tired. All team members replied in the affirmative, letting him know that they were in place.
Why here, Batou wondered, and why now? Outside the cherry trees were in blossom, and it seemed that the world was coming to life. Its spring, he thought while searching the building, but it feels like winter in here… like a tomb. Motoko's tomb.
In spite of the fact that he knew damn well that she had survived, Batou couldn't help but imagine the place as her crypt. The woman he had known had indeed lost her life there; or rather, had given it up, for someone else. The thought still stung, and it was as if somebody had sucker punched him. The freshness of the pain stunned him.
`Must be this damned place' Batou thought, `terrific, flashbacks: just what I need. As if it wasn't bad enough being jilted for an A.I. program… now I'm feeling sorry for myself. What the fuck? It's not like we had anything going anyway, I don't even think she would have stooped to that. Not with me anyway… damn it, why can't I get this out of my head?'
Batou paused and took a clearing breath, realizing that he had to get his mind off the past, or lack of one with the Major. He became all business, relying on soldiering skills that had been a part of his life so long they were like instinct to him.
Just when he was going to give the all clear and order the team to stand down, Batou caught a hint of movement deep in the shadows. He took a step in that direction and a flock of pigeons exploded from their roost, flapping upward and out the shattered skylight into the evening sky.
He stood with a groan, switched off the thermo-optics, slung his weapon and leaned against a pillar, shaking his head in resignation.
“OK you guys, the area is secure.” Batou called over the voice net, “Let's just make sure we really didn't miss anything - one more sweep and we're out of here.”
The sound of his solitary footsteps echoed in the dark expanse of the room. He thought he heard a whisper. A once familiar voice called his name. “Batou?” said his so-called guardian angel. A faint hint of music seemed to chime, `follow me… to the land far across the sea…'
“There are ghosts and then again there are Ghosts,” he muttered, visually scanning the ballistics damage still obvious on the walls, thinking that his internal memory must be glitching under the mental stress of being back in this place. I wonder which kind is speaking to me now.
“They both are.” Said a richly resonant female voice.
Batou rushed to the dark corner where the birds had been roosting, where the voice seemed to whisper from. He found no one there. Chuckling, he said, “You've got me jumping at shadows, Major.”
Over the net Saito asked “Anything?”
“No, just my overactive imagination.” Batou replied, “You might as well come down. I'll meet you outside; I'm going to check on the perimeter one last time.”
“Wilco boss, see you there.” Saito answered.
Rounding the corner of the building, where it faced the dark waterfront, Batou noticed a single working street lamp. Someone wearing a dark trenchcoat was standing in the yellow-orange glow, looking out at the water.
Thinking, it can't be this easy, he slowly walked toward the silhouetted figure under the street lamp. His weapon, still loaded, hung at his hip from a strap around his shoulder. Unconsciously he flipped the selector switch to safe. Intuition, or was it his ghost whispering to him, told him that he would not need firepower just now.
When he was about ten feet away, the figure in the lamp light turned to face him.
“Batou.” she said.
He stopped, startled. His optics, designed for covert surveillance, auto-scanned: biomechanical, cyborg, female type, modified Megatech design and probably mil-spec. The voice was almost the same, but not quite. Her form was right too, and he fought the reflex to blush for looking, hacking his own physical reactions in a nanosecond. But her coloration was off, not wrong, just different.
She ran a hand through her violet hair, that same haircut at least. She glanced away and back again with eyes the color of fine red wine.
Batou shook his head. “Major?”
She shrugged; a delicate wristwatch glinted briefly as she moved her hands. “I… yes.”
He took a step closer, comparing what stood before him with what he remembered. Some of her old brashness was gone, she was changed a little, but definitely and indefinably the same woman he had known. He wanted to believe that she had returned for him, above everything else, but feared he was deluding himself. Was this true, was this real? Could it really be?
She nodded, smiling slightly.
Batou closed the distance between them, and before he could even allow himself to think, his arms were around her. “Motoko.”
He was relieved by the physical realness of her, the same as she had been before: curvaceous, tall and lithe, but still smaller than him in every dimension. `Perfect,' he thought, before he could put governors on his emotions. Batou smiled and held her close, if only to make the moment last.
Motoko returned his embrace, abandoning her old stiffness; she was relieved at his acceptance. “I'm back.” She told him, resting her head on his chest.
From a surveillance van near the building, Ichikawa panned cameras in on the street lamp. Behind him, the rest of the team was crammed into the van's mobile control center, all trying to look over his shoulder at the monitor. They were elbowing each other like schoolboys until they heard the old man's voice.
“Is it done?” Aramaki demanded over the net.
“Yes, chief,” Ichikawa told him with a grin, “Looks like our Major is back.”