Batou: ......MOTOKOOOOO!!!!

Aoi: You mean to tell me that even if the flesh is lost, a person's thoughts can wander the net and continue to exist as a unique individual?

Motoko: I'm not so sure. It's hard to imagine that a will which is free of its shell could maintain its individuality in the sea of the net.

Aoi: Then, for someone that continuously loses their individuality as they live on, this is a world of despair.

Motoko: I guess that depends on your definition of despair. Besides, there's always the option of giving death a try, right?

Aoi: I suppose that's an ever available choice. Anyway, I'm in your debt. Thank you. The way you kept your promise was extremely charming.

C: Public Security Section 9, Once Again; STAND ALONE COMPLEX

Togusa: "You know what needs to be done," he said, "Every Section 9 member has a unique ability. And you work best on your own. But individual success is a reflection of strong team work." Hm. That was the first nugget of wisdom the Old Man offered us back in the early glory days of Section 9. When all that crap went down, did the Chief really throw us to the wolves? I was subjected to the pointless interrogation, unable to contact my team members, or even access any data from the outside. And then, 15 days later, I was suddenly released. Two things were written in the orders I was handed then. A statement that Public Security Section 9 had already been disbanded, and my instructions from the security company I worked for as a cover saying that I was on indefinite home leave. But if I was supposed to wait for someone to contact me, who would that be? I ran around, trying to find out anything I could about what had happened while I was locked up in police custody.

Togusa: "Armed Coup Plot by Certain Radical Public Security Members Uncovered." That was how the whole event was summed up and reported to the general public. Even the use of deadly force by the Self Defense Army to foil the alleged plot was not only justified, but given a positive spin by nearly all the media. The members of Section 9 made out to be the plan's masterminds were charged with high treason. They were then captured by the military, arrested, and sent before the public prosecutors. Next a summary trial and quick verdict. Their whereabouts after that, though, were put under a press blackout, claiming it was classified. Having been stripped of all special privileges and demoted to a private citizen, there was nothing I could do to access any additional information on the subject.

Togusa: But there were two things that I just wasn't able to swallow. One was the fact that the Chief, the heart and soul of Section 9, had completely vanished from the public arena without a trace. It was as if he'd stopped existing. His name isn't mentioned once in any of the press reports, and he doesn't show up on the list of ringleaders, either. Did the Chief truly abandon us, then? And the second thing was the fate of the Major, the only one of us in the group whose status after the attack was spelled out loud and clear. Is it true? Did the Major really die? That was three months ago. Sometimes, carrying out your Public Security duties is just an exercise in mastering will power to tough it out through cases that seem like they're gonna go on forever. Yet, I never once suffered because of it. But for the past three months, in this time that never stops moving forward, why am I the only one who was set free, as if nothing had happened? These days, my family sees me playing the role of unemployed husband. It breaks my heart and my spirit to watch them carry this unbearable load they've been burdened with. I think it's time to start looking for a new line of work...

Reporter: And we've been informed that the public prosecutor will be arriving shortly. Throngs of reporters are gathered here in front of ruling party headquarters, and the atmosphere is tense. Making the tabloid rounds, before the Lower House elections, the MHLW scandal involving Serano Genomics implicated Secretary General Yakushima. Now, a week after the forming of a new Cabinet, it has put into a full-scale investigation by the Public Prosecutors Office.

Reporter: Prosecutor, a full-scale investigation has...

Reporter: It's the D.A.! It's the D.A.!

Reporter: So, things are just getting started. But before the day is out, will Yakushima be arrested?

Reporter: What about the Serano stocks rumored to be here at ruling party headquarters?

Kusunoki: We have reliable information. The Secretary General will likely be asked to come with us for questioning.

Reporter: Any chance that the cash in consecutively numbered bills referred to in Mr. Serano's testimony is being kept here?

Kusunoki: Everything will be made clear very shortly. My staff and I have labored long and hard to prepare for this day in anticipation of arresting Mr. Yakushima. This full-scale investigation is backed by confidence gained from that hard work. You have every right to have high hopes.

Togusa: Long and hard, he says. I don't know how the Public Prosecutors Office got their hands on this data, but the information circulating in the tabloids and personal sites was obviously the intel that the Major and the rest of us uncovered. Even the probe into the money trail leading to Serano originated from the footwork we did at Section 9. It's true that if Yakushima is arrested, we'll have accomplished what we set out to. It's not important who actually collars the guy as long as he's caught. But in spite of that, why do I feel this way? Is it that smug, triumphant attitude of the public prosecutors? Even the whiteness of the shirts pisses me off. Is this how things should be? Don't these facts which Section 9 pieced together show the truth about the Laughing Man incident from six years ago? And even if the prosecutor succeeds in uncovering the whole scandal, Yakushima still might not resign from the assembly. Exactly how does this make the world a better place?

Togusa: It's not like I had aspirations to be a hero or anything. However, I'm positive we followed a code of justice that all of us believed in without condition or compromise. Laughing Man, you were the one who first tried to shed some light into the black abyss of this case and bring it to the world's attention. Is it possible that at this moment, you're feeling the same as I am? Nah, you wouldn't. You're not the type to go in for that stuff. You must've had a revelation about something, and you're watching this with eyes that see the big picture. Isn't that right? I can tell. Major... If this all plays out the way I think it will...

Batou: Hold it! Put your hands up nice 'n slow, and turn around! As lousy as you are, you'd be caught before you could even see Yakushima.

Togusa: Big...Guy...?

Batou: You're a dummy, you know that? Let's go.

Borma: And the star arrives.

Saito: What took you so long?

Ishikawa: So, where'd you end up tailing him?

Batou: Just like we figured, he went to the ruling party HQ.

Ishikawa: Are you serious?

Batou: Hm? What's wrong? Hey, are you crying?

Togusa: Yeah, sure. Get real!

Batou: Well, how did everything go on your end?

Ishikawa: It seems like Yakushima's given in. He's cooperating with them. That's a typical ex-military fellow for you. I'll bet the prosecution's gonna get the hero treatment for a while because of this.

Borma: You got that right.

Togusa: And you're all okay with this? I mean don't you think the credit for tracking him down...

Batou: "Should go to us here at Section 9," that's what you wanna say? Hm-hm. Well, it ain't like we don't feel the same way. However, this is the way that old ape had it set up the whole time, so we're rolling with it.

Togusa: Setup?

Batou: Yeah. When it dawned on the old ape that the Prime Minister was going to avoid a Secretary General shakeup before the elections took place, he made a hell of a bold decision to make Section 9 out as the bad guys. Right when the Major was disguised as the Laughing Man finagling the truth out of Serano, Section 9's existence was leaked to the media. That made it impossible for us to do our thing secretly like before. So the Chief cooked up a scheme. He'd make a deal with the PM, and forced the Public Prosecutors Office to take action. He pretended to sacrifice Section 9.

Togusa: Sacrificing Section 9... Even if that's the case, have you any idea what it was like for me these past three months? I had no way of knowing what had happened to you guys.

Saito: Hey, don't take it so hard. Think of it as an extended vacation.

Paz: It's not as we were filled in on details of this little op beforehand, either.

Borma: The Chief was confident that we would survive, then find one another and regroup. That's why he made the tough decision to go ahead with his plan.

Ishikawa: Hell, your arrest and confinement was a way to protect you. The Chief kept you alive and safe by getting you clear of the Section 9 mop-up operation. For one thing, your body is totally natural and you'd just gotten out of the hospital. Not to mention, you're a married man, so fudging data would be hard. He kept you out 'til his prep was complete. Don't be too offended. Huh! According to the records, I'm a convict living out my life up the river.

Batou: More profit, less honor. Meaning that we're once again an offensive organization which doesn't officially exist, of course.

Togusa: It was all about this? Uh, but, hey guys, the Major, what happened to her?

Batou: Who cares? I don't give a rat's ass about that bitch.

Borma: Batou, that reminds me, weren't you bawling your eyes out a few months ago?

Batou: Aw, screw you.

Ishikawa: Oh, really? In that case, what's say I grab the satellite footage from the scene?

Saito: Yeah, and you ought to send it to the Major, too.

Batou: All right, cut it out!

Ishikawa: 'Motoko!!' Right?

Batou: You bastard! I told you to stop, damn it. Give up already?

Minister of Justice Official: It's all over, I see.

Aramaki: Hm. The rest can be left to the attorney general. My work is done here.

Official: The Public Prosecutors Office will be able to hold their heads high thanks to this. But now that it's all behind us, what remains for you?

Aramaki: I'm gratified that I was able to see justice served in my own way, and that's enough for me.

Official: Hmm. So, what are your current plans? You can't keep on playing war with tanks and weapons forever, you know. Why not join up with us? I've always thought you were better suited for the judicial world.

Aramaki: Um, I'm not so sure. Section 9 wasn't finished by this trivial matter. I intend to rebuild my unit. In fact, I'm on my way to scout a perspective new member.

Official: Uh-huh.

Motoko: Now I get it. You really aren't the Laughing Man, that's for sure.

Aoi: Welcome. You took longer than I expected.

Motoko: Don't give me that. You didn't even send me an invitation.

Aoi: "If you stay right where you are, then people will eventually come to you."

Motoko: I believe it was Doisneau who said that?

Aoi: Yes.

Motoko: I had a lot of time to think about what should be done with you. There wasn't much else to do while I was floating around.

Aoi: Speaking of which, I thought you'd maybe decided to keep on floating like that. I was worried that you were going to die.

Motoko: I'm not ready to bid life farewell just yet. Though I did have an interesting little near-death experience during this recent business when my fully-remote cyberbrain was blown off.

Aoi: Your brand-new body was destroyed, but you still haven't done a prosthetic swap out.

Motoko: You've got a sharp eye.

Aoi: Well, peeking is my hobby.

Motoko: So, what's the deal? Meaning, what is this? A kind of information graveyard? Did you seriously think you could somehow change the world from here?

Aoi: Yeah. Sort of, at first.

Motoko: And? How do you feel about it now?

Aoi: I'm not blazing with satisfaction or anything. But the truth is, it all ended for me the instant I shared my memories with you. At that point, my work was done. I figured that you would probably be able to run with it from there.

Motoko: Of all the... You're a hell of a liar, kid. I clearly recall you didn't want me involved.

Aoi: I'm sorry. But the minute you share and synchronize all your information, you lose your uniqueness and become absorbed into the unconscious maliciousness of a third party that has no motive, or perhaps into the will of someone who does have one.

Motoko: Are those your words based on what you've gained from hard-earned experience?

Aoi: Yes. And the fact is, you yourself played the role of a Laughing Man copycat as well.

Motoko: Well, I have to admit that it was a fascinating phenomenon. At any rate, what was your underlying reason for triggering such a huge event in the first place?

Aoi: "To you, everything that's happening in the world appears phoney, to be something other than what it is, right?"

Motoko: Is that J. D. Salinger?

Aoi: Yes. When it comes to cyberization I'm pretty much the shining example of a poster boy, so you'd think at the very least, I would have terrified at the thought of contracting cyberbrain sclerosis. I'll tell you, it was a simple piece of mail I stumbled across in the net that began this whole thing. What I'd found was a blackmail document that had probably been sent to Serano Genomics. It was armed with a thesis that was a comparative study of the inadequacy of Serano micromachines versus the effectiveness of the Murai Vaccine.

Motoko: Then the original Laughing Man was the person who authored it?

Aoi: You can put it like that, I suppose. "I am the machine that reveals the world to you as only I alone am able to see it."

Motoko: Dziga Vertov. He was a Russian film maker, wasn't he?

Aoi: Yes. I was kidding myself by thinking it was my personal mission to prove and circulate that information, vital data I alone had happened upon.

Motoko: Failing spectacularly. The pure, innocent mediator grew dejected at the base nature of the social system, and he turned mute.

Aoi: Yes. It was because of that I became the vanishing mediator. Just like an author whose existence is emphasized by the fact that he rarely puts out any new works for publication. In other words, by disappearing, it acts as a regulating medium for the dynamism of the social system. Per sociological theory, it ultimately vanishes, leaving no traces of its presence inside or outside the system.

Motoko: Fredric Jameson, I believe.

Aoi: Yes. And no. Masachi Oosawa, too. Even though I was familiar with the words, I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. Who knew that copies could still be produced despite the absence of an original? If you had to give a name to this phenomenon, what would you label it?

Motoko: It would be Stand Alone Complex.

Aoi: Yes. It's the Stand Alone Complex. From the start, the very nature of our current social system has contained the mechanisms to trigger such an amazing occurrence. Personally, however, I feel this marks the beginning of new era of despair. What's your opinion?

Motoko: I don't know. It's impossible for me to say. Although I have found one thing capable of restoring your individuality after all your information has been synchronized.

Aoi: Oh, really? And what's that?

Motoko: Everyday human curiosity.

Aoi: You're right. You know that's something that never occurred to me. I think my brain has already started to harden. Okay, what's going to happen to me now? Will I be arrested for kidnapping? Or for inciting multiple, simultaneous terrorist acts?

Motoko: Hey, it beats me. That little matter is completely at his discretion. Why not ask him directly?

Aramaki: I've been listening in for a while now, but without an external memory device, I couldn't keep up with your conversation. Have you read every single book in here, young man?

Aoi: Not every book.

Motoko: I'll introduce you. This is Daisuke Aramaki. He's my boss, the Chief of Section 9.

Aoi: It's nice to meet you.

Aramaki: Do you actually plan to continue with this futureless occupation of preserving obsolete printed material that nowadays are only published by force of habit?

Aoi: Yes. If I'm allowed to, then I will.

Aramaki: As far as this case is concerned, it will probably be concluded that the original Laughing Man never legally existed. So I have an offer to make. It's this. Do you wanna put your hacker skills to good use and join up with Section 9 as our 9th regular team player?

Aoi: Wow, I'm surprised. You're trying to recruit me?

Aramaki: That's right.

Aoi: Man, I'm speechless. It does sound like it would be interesting. But I'm gonna have to pass. 'Cause, as much as I hate to say it, I'm not a team player.

Motoko: Well, the kid shot you down. Now, what?

Aramaki: Not a thing. Section 9 will resume work as an anti-crime unit. It'll remain that way as long as you and I want it to. That's all, Major.

Man: The first day of the trial is here at last, Mr. Serano.

Serano: Yes. It's been a long time, but I can keep my promise to him finally. I'll get it. That's quite all right.

Fukami: You have to adapt in order to survive. Bend your morals or you'll break eventually.

Aramaki: Major, assemble the team with an A2 loudout.

Motoko: Batou, you copy that?

Batou: You need a lift?

Motoko: Togusa.

Togusa: I'm already on my way.

Motoko: Ishikawa. Saito.

Saito: I'll go separately and meet up with you.

Ishikawa: Ready on this end.

Motoko: Paz. Borma.

Paz: Just give the word.

Borma: We gotta get lucky sometime.

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