Announcer: Prime Minister Kayabuki has just greeted Secretary of State Schrader with a warm handshake. Imperial America has flexed its military muscles since the last world war. But with the decline in national power resulting in the collapse of their economy, they seem willing to swallow their pride. This appears evident in their emergency dispatching of Schrader for discussions on the Security Treaty Renegotiation Bill proposed by Japan. However, if our government were to look within its own borders, it would see a vast number of topics to address, such as economic instability, the delay in a refugee policy, and the Article 9 issue. It seems inevitable that protests and marches on all fronts will intensify.

Minimi: Keep that crap turned off, we're on our break!

Azuma: Hey, don't take it out on those two just because you're losing.

Minimi: You're not doing so hot yourself, bucko. Hm, hm. I'm gonna clean up this time.

Saito: I wouldn't be so sure.

DI: Beware the Left Eye; POKER FACE

Tachikoma: Hmm. So tell me, why do we have to bother with mutual security guarantees these days? I mean Japan's got a military, doesn't it?

Tachikoma: Yes, and the current administration is ultra-hawkish, but with Imperial America's economy in the toilet now, they wanna negotiate a new Security Treaty while we're in a position to hold the upper hand. They probably wanna get back at them from losing face last century.

Tachikoma: Huh? What lost a face last century?

Tachikoma: To put it simply, I guess the memories of losing the war built up some resentment. And because the Article 9 wild card of our constitution is still in effect, the Self-Defense Army can't operate outside the country in any official capacity. We can't own nuclear weapons, either. The 20th century's Security Treaty was signed at the expense of our pride. However, the two worked pretty well as an implicitly indivisible team, America was the spear and Japan's the shield. But our country's now at the point where they face a different kind of threat: namely, economic issues, I bet this new agreement stems from the desire to protect each other's vulnerable spots. There you go!

Tachikoma: Gosh, you're just a boggling wealth of knowledge. Synchronize that last data with me, okay?

Tachikoma: Well, of course.

Minimi: Geez, would you both pipe down!?

Azuma: I agree with him. We've got a life-or-death struggle here. Will you two shut your traps for a while?

Tachikoma: Not you, too, Azuma. For a rookie, you're being awfully pushy, don't ya think?

Saito: Nah, don't take it out on those two just because you're losing.

Minimi: Let's see how you laugh when I turn the tables on you. I raise.

Saito: I'll see it. And raise.

Minimi: Now we got ourselves a poker game.

Tachikoma: This "poker game" as they call it is all about probabilities, so how come Mr. Saito is consistently winning?

Tachikoma: I've been trying to process that question, too. It's bugging me. The rules they play are especially confounding, everybody memorizes the other players' cards. Then you're supposed to predict your opponent's hand based on the first and last cards that are dealt. Mr. Saito shouldn't be winning every hand, but for some reason, he kept taking a whole pile of chips.

Minimi: He's damn good at bluffing, that's all. Just you wait, I'll see through your mask soon enough.

Azuma: The man's right. You're no card shark; you just have a poker face. Remember that.

Saito: You jokers are out of your league. Compared with the real life-or-death stakes I'm used in my line of work, poker's nothing more than child's play.

Minimi: Aw, what do you know about the game? Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first to admit you're a top-rate sniper. But comparing it to poker? Sorry, I don't buy for a minute.

Saito: There was one time, I was up against a world-class sniper in a duel. This person terrified me down to the very soles of my boots. I've never been as afraid of anyone in a battle of wits as I was of this individual. That experience left me with something. Ever since then, I've been able to accurately guess what most people are thinking with just a brief look at 'em.

Minimi: You know what I think of that? You're full of crap.

Tachikoma: So, Mr. Saito, what was this person like?

Saito: Wanna hear the story?

Tachikomas: Yeah, tell us, tell us!

Saito: I'll tell that if the rest of you will see my raise.

Minimi: It ain't like I wanna hear this fairy tale or anything, you know. I just wanna play.

Saito: It was back in the summer of 2020. Eurasia found itself mired in a pointless war of attrition, and I'd become fed up with the vindictive isolationist policy that Japan enjoyed while it sat in the middle of the precarious balance, and safely watched from afar, so I went and hired on as a mercenary with the "Red Bianco." It was a volunteer army that was formed to support Mexico's provisional government. Back down I was a different man, and my left eye was still tucked in its socket, safe and sound. Middle-Eastern oil and Central-American drugs. There's always conflict in places where there's profit to be made. Imperial America was divided and exhausted from the recent nuclear World War. It began to seriously entertain the notion of eradicating the drug markets of the new world in order to stem the drain it caused on their country's national budget. Using the overthrown of Mexico's corrupt government as its cover story, Imperial America whipped up the UN, then sent UN forces made up of British and Japanese troops into South America. They initiated relentless carpet-bombing attacks, citing "speedy capture of the capital" as a reason. Then they resorted to strong-arm tactics like sending mechanized divisions into Monterey to mop up any armed resistance. With my squad wiped out by the UN's armored units after the bombing, I was biding my time, hoping to stay alive long enough to find a chance to surrender. That's when it happened. The terminal I was using to monitor enemy communications reported contact with the special forces unit that had a tactical nuke. I hadn't been able to rack up a lot of kills up 'til that point, so I figured what the hell, I'll earn my pay in exchange for getting a few kicks as a bonus. Those filthy bastards had the balls to bring in a damn tactical nuke. That gave me determination. I was planning to put a fear of God into 'em from on high.

Ishikawa: Something wrong?

Motoko: Forget it. It's nothing.

Saito: That's them.

Sgt. Rod: They're always worrying about catching flak for taking hospitals, churches and whatever. They left too many places for guerillas to hole up in.

Cpl. Mother: True enough. But if it's any comfort, we got two platoons assigned cleaning out the nests.

Snow: I hope so. You Yanks carry the standard for being a fundamentally sloppy lot.

Cpl. Mother: Yeah? Well, I you Limeys put too much faith in that oh-so-legendary SAS of yours, gov'nor?

Snow: Hm, thinks he's bloody Rambo.

Saito: Any moment now. 3.., 4.., 5.

Cpl. Mother: Uggh!

Motoko: A sniper! Take cover!

Sgt. Rod: Huh!?

Motoko: Ishikawa, figure the sniper's using a satellite downlink. Hack the satellite and pinpoint his location.

Ishikawa: Understood.

Cpl. Mother: Why... me...? Son of a bitch......!

Ginger: Corporal, freeze. Just don't move.

Ishikawa: He isn't using a satellite. There's a wide-area jammer running with a one click radius.

Motoko: Can you try using the source of the jamming signal to determine his exact position?

Ishikawa: Already on it.

Batou: Man, you two are good. You've been doing this a while?

Ishikawa: If you've got time to chat, you've got time to do some recon, stupid rookie.

Sgt. Rod: Which way did the fire come from!? Were you able to get a fix!? The sniper's gonna hear us! Switch over to cybercomm!

Snow: Try it, tough guy. That static will give you a mean bite.

Sgt. Rod: Shit!

Snow: Sorry, I slipped up. I didn't get a fix on the shooter's location.

Ginger: We've gotta help him soon, or...

Snow: Hey, Sergeant, what's the plan!

Sgt. Rod: Ginger! You are gonna rescue Mother! Pull out him quick! We all cover you! Snow, you help him. Now, get moving!!

Snow: The bigoted son of a bitch.

Sgt. Rod: Hey, Japs! You guys target the buildings to the west! The rest of you, take the buildings to the east! Let's do it!

Ginger: You're gonna be okay. We'll get out of here out.

Snow: Can you handle him?

Ginger: Yeah.

Snow: Bloody hell, it's from the west!

Saito: I'd better keep you clowns wondering where I am for a little while longer. Now, let's see ya sweat.

Sgt. Rod: Ughh! A 20 millimeter!?

Motoko: Wait a minute. Hold your fire, men! Stop shooting! Snow, which direction was Ginger shot from?

Snow: From the west.

Sgt. Rod: Uh?! What're you blind? That car got blown to hell just now! The enemy's to the east! No, maybe there's a damn good chance that we're surrounded!

Motoko: Where could the jamming signal be coming from?

Ishikawa: I've only got a rough guess, but I'd say there are three possible spots. The building to the east, the church and the hospital.

Motoko: Could the east one be a decoy?

Ishikawa: Probably. Right before the 20mm fire, the signal cut out for a second. And warfare 101 says to keep the sun at your back.

Motoko: Sergeant! We think the east one is an unmanned decoy. If we were surrounded, we'd be taking more fire than this. We might only be up against a single sniper.

Sgt. Rod: How in the hell could you be so sure!

Motoko: That's what the situation tells me! Just hear me out. I'm gonna circle around the buildings to the east and make my way over to you. If it does turn out to be unmanned, I'll give you a signal. When I do, have everyone open fire on the church and hospital. Take advantage of that cover to retreat the corporal and the tactical nuke. Without that, we're stuck here.

Sgt. Rod: OK, try it. But take Snow with you.

Saito: Detouring to regroup, huh? I guess they'll soon find out that the east building is deserted. Before that, I'll pick off another one of 'em.

Motoko: I thought so.

Cpl. Mother: Ah... Ah...

Sgt. Rod: Mother, stop moving.

Motoko: As I suspected, the place was empty. This guy is a pro. He was smart enough to load only one round. I think we're only up against one man, and we have superior numbers. We need to pin him.

Sgt. Rod: All right, if the sniper's in the church, we'll bring the whole damn building down.

Motoko: What if he's holed up in the hospital? That jamming signal cut out for a split second, so even excluding the ruins we don't find a transmitter, the hospital can't be ruled out yet.

Sgt. Rod: Just how many meters do you think there were between here and that structure, uh? It's the church!

Motoko: Willing to bet your life on it? This guy's disabled our GPS, and now he's watching every move we make for sniping us. If he's a veteran who's well-versed in guerrilla warfare, then we can all kiss our asses goodbye!

Sgt. Rod: ...

Batou: Does it matter? Geez, what a pain in the ass.

Ishikawa: Cool your jets. The key to survival on the battlefield isn't courage or weapons, it's caution. Take a good look at Queen Kong over there. When they talk about professionals, they're talking about people like her.

Batou: Queen Kong?

Saito: A woman, huh? Hm?

Snow: Pickles!

Motoko: Got him! The sniper's in the hospital. Now, Ishikawa!

Snow: Bastard!

Motoko: We recovered the pod, at least. It's too late for the Corporal, though.

Sgt. Rod: Let's return to base for now then. We can't sit around here and wait for him to take us all out.

Snow: That's stupid. I'm not running! He took Pickles' life. It's payback time. He's meat.

Sgt. Rod: You're gonna follow orders! We're returning to base to regroup!

Motoko: You can go back if you want, but we'll need to take out that sniper no matter what, Sergeant. With our comm gear not working, we can't call for backup.

Snow: She's right 'bout that. And for whatever it's worth, we still outnumber him. What's it gonna be? A couple of your own mates were killed, too, you know.

Sgt. Rod: All right. We'll do it your way

Saito: That's strange. They should be panicking, but they're regrouping. They must have a good commanding officer. I suddenly realized that the big showdown was rapidly approaching. The tension shot up, and I experienced an adrenaline rush right down to the cellular level.

Saito: When people kill each other in the confusion of battle, you're never sure who killed whom. But as with most rules, there's an exception to this one. It applies to snipers. When you sharpshoot for a living, the very act itself automatically leaves your calling card. That's the reason us snipers are never taken prisoner. It's our fate to be killed on the spot by the enemy because we're the people who shoot someone's buddies or commanding officer.

Sgt. Rod: Pound the building with the recoilless rifle, then cut loose with the smoke grenades! We'll advance under smoke cover! All right, let's...!

Snow: Wha...!?

Batou: You shithead!

Motoko: Cover us! Snow and I will storm the building!

Batou: So, what am I, her backup?

Ishikawa: Look on the bright side, pal. This means you've earned her trust now.

Saito: Hmm!

Batou: Hm! Ugh!?

Ishikawa: That's enough. Leave the rest up to the Major. She thinks quickly. She'll improvise.

Batou: The Major? I though you were calling her Queen Kong. Just who is that woman, huh?

Ishikawa: Hell if I know. But there's no mystery about the fact that she's a wiz at combat. And that everyone who serves alongside the lady refers to her as the Major.

Batou: Huh?

Saito: Ah!? In that fleeting moment when I was facing off against the Major, I envisioned the outcome of our exchange of fire, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. After assessing the situation and taking all the factors into account, my experience as a sniper led me to one conclusion. I was about to die. From her stance, and the way she was solidly holding that rifle on her hip without so much as blinking, I knew instantly what I was dealing with. Her body was completely cyborg, and that rifle she was aiming at me was a full-sensing semiautomatic. Of course, she also had full installs of long-, mid-, and short-range firing control software. I ran a trial scenario in my head to see what would happen if I fired a single round at the Major.

Saito: Ah... Aaawgh!

Saito: She'd have shot down my first bullet, and I, with my bolt-action rifle, would've gotten hit with a second round as I tried to get back behind the pillar. I simulated it again and again and got the same conclusion.

Tachikoma: But if you just sat there and did nothing, you'd...

Saito: Correct. I'd been taken out sooner or later. I desperately racked my brain to come up with the way I could turn the tables in a situation like that. And then I noticed something strange. I saw the jamming gear, which was the first thing the Major shot. I started wondering, why did she use three whole rounds to destroy it? Wait a minute. Is it possible that she doesn't have mid-range fire control software? Yes, that's the only explanation. She knew the sniper's position, but she used her full-sensing rifle as a short-barrel. That's because she's falling back on the idea that it can be used as a submachinegun while at medium range. In which case, she needs control software to snipe me at this distance. She must be in the middle of downloading that software via satellite at this moment. Get there first!

Motoko: You're good with that rifle, you son of a bitch. From now on, you're mine.

Saito: You had... the software all along...!

Saito: That's right. The Major's poker face had me fooled from the very beginning. So by that point, how could I refuse her? I didn't have any right to. Besides, that was the first order that the Major ever gave me.

Tachikomas: Oh...

Saito: So, deal the last cards.

Minimi: That was very interesting story, but it has nothing to do with this game. Okay, I raise you. I'm all in.

Saito: And I guess I'm all in, too.

Minimi: Don't try to bluff. I'm on to you now and this is one hand you won't be able to fake your way out of. I know you're trying for: a royal flush in spades, am I right? But you've got squat. I know that because I've got the ace of spades. Read 'em and weep. You can't possibly win this one. And that story was a load of bull, wasn't it? It was entertaining for sure, but as I recall I saw an old movie once that had an awfully similar plot.

Saito: Hm. No fooling you. You're right, I made up the whole story.

Tachikoma: Really? You did?

Saito: I'm gonna let you guys off easy today. Azuma, do me a favor and cash me out.

Minimi: Hm, feeling ashamed of yourself? All right, rookie. Pay up what the man owes.

Azuma: Hm, what an ego. Some role model.

Tachikoma: I wonder if Mr. Saito really didn't have anything... Whoa! Look, everybody! Look! Look! His last card was the 9 of spades! Mr. Saito won! He got a straight flush!

Minimi: He's got what?

Azuma: You're kidding!? I'll be damned...

Tachikoma: So does this mean that maybe his story... was true, too?

Tachikoma: Could be...

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