Motoko: That static in the routine checks was a modular delayed-action virus!

Batou: ...Agh?

Nanao: Ahahaha! I was never there in the first place!

Batou: He's been peering through the SIU's eyes all along. I'll trace the source from here!

C: The Copycat Will Dance; MEME

Nanao: The job is finished. That was it. Until the SIU detectives find this place, what shall I do in order to pass the time?

SP voice: Radio signal violation of Cyberbrain Code of Ethics detected! Possible contamination. All personnel, check cyberbrain activity, and keep a sharp eye on people around you.

Motoko: Chief, I have confirmation of a modular virus. I doubt we can identify the specific type until the symptoms appear. In light of the static of their routine check signals, the target must be someone in the security police. There's no remote signal. It's probably an autonomous program. I wonder who's gonna show symptoms. What kind of farce would it be without something like this?

Batou: He's really close by!

Agent: Hey, what do you people...!

Agent: Hey! Hey, wait!

Batou: Go!

Nanao: It went down just the way you said it would. If I'd sent out the virus from my place, the detectives would've jumped on me before the virus had a chance to assemble itself. If that happened, I would've been a failure as the Laughing Man. But you've come...just a bit earlier than we had arranged, haven't you? The plan was for the detectives to track me here using the forwarding records that left on the terminals at my place, then as I try to escape they arrest me, right? ...Ah?

Fukami: Not quite. Just as planned.

Nanao: Huh! You're kidding me? Hey, let's mull this over for a minute. If you kill me, how will they arrest the Laughing Man?

Fukami: It's all right. It's hardly an issue whether you're alive or not. It's enough for the police to think you're the one who they're really hunting. You shouldn't worry about it. 'Cause your name will go down in history now.

Nanao: Huh!?

Daido: Hm? So, it's begun...

SP1: Excuse me, there's a possibility of cyberbrain contamination, sir. We'll run a check on the cyberbrain activity of everyone in the place, including the security unit. Please sir, postpone your speech.

Daido: Mm-hmm.

SP1: Until we identify those infected, all personnel will stand ready on F2 alert.

SP2: Hey! Who are you? Hold it! State your name and rank!

Motoko: Now listen up. You people on the security detail are the ones who are most likely to exhibit any symptoms.

SP2: Uh...!

Motoko: And considering the fact that your routine check transmissions carried a delayed-action virus, there are two possibilities. It's either a command-class with an encryption conversion key, or everyone else.

SP1: Go!

Motoko: That's him?

SP1: Stop them! Don't let them near the Superintendent-General! Everyone else form a... Now the purge will begin!!

SP3: Ah!?

SP1: Gwhaagh!

Motoko: Awgh!

Paz: Auh! Ugh!

Motoko: This is an excellent training exercise for you and your men! If you don't wanna live out your golden years in an intensive care unit, then I suggest you stay put!

Daido: Mmgh.....

Motoko: Fnwaaaaagh! SP1: Gwogh! Uh!...

Motoko: Now, that's a reality show. Oh, no. Someone's trying to copy the virus online...! Attack barrier...!?

Paz: Major!

Motoko: That was close... Going in through a dummy barrier was a fortunate move.

Paz: Was it a booby trapped virus?

Motoko: Not sure. Who the hell was snooping around inside this man's brain?

Batou: Huh? It's open.

Togusa: He got away!?

Batou: Pointblank, one bullet. Our guy uses a silencer, too.

Togusa: What the hell's going on? Wasn't the whole idea to have the SIU collar this guy, so they could drop the curtain on the Laughing Man case?

Batou: Hey, don't ask me. Sort cutting the tail off of a lizard. A new perp appears.

Togusa: I know, but his face...

Batou: Yeah, the son of a bitch is smiling.

Aramaki: Nanao's been killed?!

Aramaki: They got the drop on us... Scope out as much of the crime scene as you can, then clear out before the SIU gets over there. Dead men tell no tales.

Batou: Roger.

Motoko: Chief, I'm sending a copy of the virus that we believe Nanao planted. It's only shown up in a commander with an encryption conversion key, so I doubt anyone else will exhibit symptoms, but better make a vaccine just to be safe.

Aramaki: All right. I'll have it made up at once. ...Darn, Nanao's been killed.

Motoko: Yeah, I heard.

Aramaki: One complicated detective story.

Motoko: Amen. And as far as farces go, this was pretty convincing. I'm bothered by just one thing though. When I tried to patch in to copy the virus, somebody else was already...

Aramaki: What's wrong?

Motoko: Hold on a second.

Policeman: Close door! Don't push! Don't push!

Motoko: Get that vaccine ASAP. I'm getting a bad vibe here. Paz, tail the Superintendent-General again.

Paz: Roger.

Motoko: Saito, watch the perimeter.

Saito: Roger.

SP: Back off!

Brown Haired Guy: I am the Laughing Man! I will kill the Superintendent...!

Guest: Ghwaahh!! leg...!

Motoko: The virus is beginning to manifest already?

Reporter: What's going on in there?

Reporter: Sir! Can you tell what's happening!

Reporter: Superintendent-General, did you know that man?

Reporter: We need a statement, sir!

Policeman: Just back off!!

Policeman: Mr. Daido! Tell everyone the truth! Do it or die!

Daido: W-What are you doing!?

Policeman: Daidohhhh!!!

SP voice: Requesting immediate backup! A mob has invaded the hall! They seem to be accomplices of the Laughing Man!

Motoko: Looks like nothing vital was hit.

Paz: This thing might've infected more people. Careful.

SP voice: I repeat, numerous accomplices of the Laughing Man have infiltrated the hall! Requesting immediate backup!

SP: Damn it. What's happening here?

Motoko: Have an ambulance standing by in the underground parking lot. Chief, vaccine?

Aramaki: Just a while more. What's going on over there?

Motoko: I can't spare the time to send you any visuals. Just put a rush on that vaccine! Saito, anything fishy along the perimeter?

Saito: Scanning.

Aramaki: Ishikawa, what about the Tachikomas the Major brought with her?

Ishikawa: Aside from Saito's, 2 of them are free.

Aramaki: All right, they can give the Major some backup. Hurry it up with the vaccine!

Boma: Roger.

Reporter: A police officer just shot the Superintendent-General!

Motoko: Okay, this is a little much for a farce...!

Saito: Major, I took care of one out here.

Motoko: There may be more around. Stay sharp, Saito. Don't let your guard down!

Saito: Hmm... Will do, Major.

Boma: Major, I finished the vaccine in record time, and your guess was correct. The virus only seems to infect the security police's encryption conversion key. It doesn't look like this virus is what's causing the situation.

Motoko: Then what the hell is?

Daido: Uh, huh...

Motoko: Huh!?

Bulk: Eradicate!!

Motoko: Gwooh!

Daido: Ahh...

Bulk: Yheaah! Uhow!

Tachikoma: Major, the cavalry's arrived!

Motoko: Finally! You keep this guy held down!

Tachikoma: Yes, ma'am.

Emergency Staff: Hm?

Long Haired Guy: You're dead, Daido!!

Motoko: Dammit, just how many can there be?

Biker: Hm? Hmm?... Aagh!? Uh! Uh!...

Tachikoma: Laughing Man! You're under arrest for attempted assassination! Major, I caught the Laughing Man!

Old Man: Excuse me? Uh, hello? You see, how do you get to the hotel where the Superintendent-General is gonna be assassinated?

Policeman: Huh?

Old Man: He-heheeeegh...

Paz: Major, are you holding up okay?

Motoko: I'm fine, now start gathering information so that we can find out what the hell just happened. Go!

Saito and Paz: Yes, ma'am! ...Mm.

Brown Haired Guy: Oh, come on now, officer! Why bother to ask that question when you already have the answer? I'm the Laughing Man. Laughing Man, the one and only. The rest of those people are impostors! I'm the genuine article, pal.

Policeman 3: I heard the message, it was sent to me from the Laughing Man. In that threat of the assassination, it told me that I was to become the Laughing Man.

Interrogator: But I don't recall there being any mention of assassinating the Superintendent-General.

Bulk: ..........

Interrogator: Huh... You can start by opening your damn mouth!?

Batou: Geez, what is it with all these people?

Motoko: Beats me. But they're not your typical fanatics.

Togusa: Well, it sure throws everything into a fog of confusion.

Batou: That guy with the security unit was the first person the virus infected, now everybody and his brother claims that each one of them voluntarily tried to kill Daido when they were triggered by that death threat on TV.

Motoko: And some of those men say they're the infamous Laughing Man himself.

Batou: When you consider everything, they might as well be.

Motoko: True.

Batou: Hm?

Agent: As we expected, zero. There was no trace of brainwashing or viral cyberbrain contamination. We can't give a definitive answer without a more detailed examination, however, if we run further tests, I doubt we'll find any external cause.

Motoko: I see. Thanks. I'll let you take it from here. Have fun.

Togusa: Where are you off to?

Motoko: To run an errand with the Chief.

Batou: Hot date?

Old Man: It's a lie. Hehehe...

Aramaki: So Major, how's our HQ coffee?

Motoko: To be honest, I don't care for it. You're going to the hospital, right?

Aramaki: So, you know about it. Because of this whole affair, it looks like Superintendent-General Daido is going to resign while he's in the hospital instead of serving out his term.

Motoko: So tell me, what will be the official police statement on the incident?

Aramaki: Multiple concurrent cyberbrain contamination by a virus created by Nanao Ei, believed to be the Laughing Man. That's probably how the department will spin it to the media.

Motoko: And what about Nanao's death?

Aramaki: The crime in this case was committed by numerous individuals. Nanao was killed over some sort of trouble or conflict that arose within the group. And even though the rhyme or reason behind this threat is still unclear, I hear that Special Investigations HQ was determined to get to the bottom of it and they will continue to deek. They're motivated because of these recent developments in the Laughing Man case.

Motoko: It's a far better ending than I expected from some farce.

Aramaki: Spare me the irony.

Motoko: I meant it as a compliment, actually.

Motoko: Anyway, putting aside the police statements for the moment, what about the people who were -- you could refer to them as copycats I assume -- who or what do you think they were? Three called themselves the Laughing Man. Two confessed committing the crime out of admiration for him. Three other said the death threat was intended as a revelation. In addition to those people, we rounded up another 39 Laughing Man copycats, if you include the number who were arrested along the perimeter for suspicious behavior. Plus, none of them acted together, and there's no religious connection, either. All of these upstanding people who couldn't possibly be linked to the Laughing Man crimes with no trace of external manipulation by a virus or a brainwashing device, committed an act of terrorism simply because they saw a warning on TV insinuating that the Superintendent-General would be assassinated. Can you tell me how anyone would begin to explain that?

Aramaki: Explain? Well, in a play, even the audience is part of the performance.

Motoko: Sorry, but that's not much of an answer. Like you said once before, and I do agree with you now that there was a police cover-up using Nanao Ei as an unwitting decoy, but intuition tells me that there's entirely different story behind the madness brought on by the imitators. And a totally separate reality was then set into motion.

Daido: Yes, I was surprised, also. Well, we have to be prepared for such occurrences. I did take measures just in case, but things didn't go as I imagined this time. Yes. Yes, you're right. I'll come to regret having to retire without being able to serve out my term, but I believe it's best for me to distance myself from everything associated with this. Yes, right. Well then, about my arrangements after retirement... Yes... Uh, thank you very much. Right. Oh, no, no, no, I'm the one looking forward to working with you.

Aramaki: Pardon us. Mr. Daido, I'm so glad to find you in such high spirits in spite of all the bad luck you've had.

Daido: What do you want? Can't you see I'm recuperating? That's why there's a "No Visitors" sign on the door.

Aramaki: I thought you want to express your thanks to my team for saving your life, but that's all right. You know, I'm told that the summers in Amsterdam are much more pleasant than ours.

Daido: ...Huh!?

Aramaki: Owing to the recent event, I'm now finally able to reach a decision.

Daido: Hmph. Don't tell me that you're retiring as well.

Aramaki: Public Security Section 9 will conduct an independent investigation to find out the truth in the Laughing Man case. I came here today to inform you of this, Superintendent-General. Once investigation begins, there'd be many items we want to ask you about, such as the flow of money between you and Serano, so perhaps it would be a good idea to get plenty of rest while you can.

Daido: Uh...!

Aramaki: What's wrong?

Motoko: Everything is tinted the same shade.

Aramaki: About your question earlier, it's simply speculation so take it for what it's worth, but I believe there may never have been an actual criminal at work in the Laughing Man affair. What happened this time around might have just been caused by a seed of some kind that was planted six years ago. The threat was what made it sprout. As for the copycats, they're a stand-alone complex resulting from this phenomenon. Nothing but copies without an original. But like I said, it's all speculation.

Motoko: You don't believe there was an original Laughing Man, huh? Then who was watching us when I dove into that security cop's brain?

Aramaki: Major, for now, let's not waste our time and energy worrying about the pieces that don't fit. Starting tomorrow, we'll piece together an even bigger puzzle from scratch.

Motoko: You're right.

Aramaki: Oh, Major. Can you pass something along to Togusa for me? Have him place flowers on Yamaguchi's grave on my behalf. He was the one who shined light upon this case, and because of it, somebody had him killed.

Motoko: Roger.

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