In the echoing darkness, urgent whispers: “You can’t gouge or hack at this. You have to slice. One clean cut!” A rattle of metal on rails in the background. “Otherwise? Everything goes bad.”
Only a single, lost drone heard the voice, deep within the lower tracks of Tokyo Station. Low on charge, its camera powered down, its location system boggled by the depths of the tunnel it had wandered into, but its audio continued tracking, and the drone picked up the words woven among the screech and whistle of an oncoming train on the night-lit tracks.
“I don’t want—”
The train’s roar and shudder against the bones of the station covered most of the sound of a blade being drawn from its sheath.
A crackle of electricity camouflaged a shout of great effort.
The blade cut through the air, echoing silence, and then a scream, long and high, rang out clearly over every other sound.
When it ended, a deeper quiet settled, until the train dinged as it pulled away.
The lost drone bobbed and tried to keep level, but its power was well in the lower red. It couldn’t send the recording back to base, not from so deep in the station. It ran into a wall, tried to reorient, and slowly sputtered to the ground.
The elderly woman who cleaned out the expired lockers near the New South Gate sat in the stairwell. Her hands cradled her elbows, wrinkling the pink sleeves of her uniform as she rocked back and forth.
As Emma Higashi—American peacekeeper and now Tokyo police officer—approached the crime scene, her nose wrinkled at the distinctly sweet smell of decomposing flesh. Putrescine, Emma guessed, but all she could think of was rot and dirty gym socks.
She tried to breathe through her mouth. A few steps ahead of Emma, her Tokyo-born partner, Miyako Koreda, seemed to be doing the same.
The locker in question, a graying, eggshell-colored metal door, size medium, looked identical to all the other nine-hundred-yen-per-day storage units. Inspectors carefully stepped around hazard tape. Beyond their orbit, the morning crush of passengers, tucking ekiben from nearby shops into briefcases and readjusting shoulder bags, slowed to staring-speed to try to see what was the matter before pressing on.
“The rental was paid in coin, not card,” one of the mobile-unit inspectors told Miyako after they murmured greetings. “No way to track the payee.”
A wadded plastic bag remained in the locker, stuck to the metal base with dried blood. Forensic Investigator Sato, gloves up to his elbows and a protective smock over his uniform and data sleeve, moved a mottled object out of the locker and, quickly, into an evidence bag. It looked a little like a shoulder of pork or a leg of venison. At least, Emma hoped that the passing crowds thought it was something like that. It was large, that was obvious.
Miyako and Emma already knew the contents of the evidence bag were human. Emma peered at the bag as the inspector used a pencil to hold open the clear plastic outer stay-seal. The inner layer of plastic was closing airtight around an arm, sheared clean off at the shoulder.
“This isn’t something you’d leave behind on purpose,” Miyako murmured. She opened the bag wider and shifted her posture to let the station’s lighting show more details. The hand was ringless, nails smooth and conservative, the palm calloused and small. Blue and turquoise tattoo patterns rippled like waves from fingertip to wrist, and then to shoulder, with several distinct circles in purple and silver at each joint. They looked like dropped pebbles in the midst of the blue. Almost like bruises.
“The cut is nearly cauterized—only that last bit bled. If they lived through the shock, and someone had put it on ice, the owner could have had it reattached, maybe,” said the medical tech.
“But they didn’t,” Emma said. “Put it on ice.” The arm had resided, without the rest of its body, in Tokyo Station for at least four days.
Miyako shook her head slowly, still looking at the fingers. “They sure didn’t.” She bent close, taking a detailed scan of the fingertips and then the tattoos with her sleeve. The fingers had been seared printless. “They cauterized the owner’s identity, too. Best chance we’ll have is finding who did the ink work.”
Emma wondered at the tattoos on the arm. They weren’t beautiful, or in a traditional style—no flowers, no tentacles, no fish. The patterns looked modern, almost utilitarian. “The ink work seems . . . unusual.”
“And very expensive.” Sato pointed at the wrist and elbow. “That silver is connective ink. There’s a processor in there. It can crunch small amounts of data using the skin’s own electrochemical currents, and interface with a data sleeve.”
Emma smoothed her hand over...