But it wasn’t William Stryker’s face in front of his when he opened his eyes – eye, as one was swelling, painful and non-cooperative. The red, black and white mask swam into his blurry vision, hovering like a disembodied evil spirit. The spirit had hands, gloved, also white. One drew back to renew the attack and Shinobi jerked away, now aware of the cacophony in the room.
The man was screaming at him in Japanese, so quickly he could only catch a few words. He tried to shake his head, started to speak, and received another backhand – this time across the mouth - for his effort.
There was another man now. He was small, mousy, Caucasian. Clad in a white lab coat, he looked familiar. In stilted, overly-formal Japanese, he told the masked man that simply being louder would do him no good.
“I told you he doesn't understand,” the man repeated, this time in more conversational English. “You don’t speak Japanese, do you?” Swiss. Somehow, he knew this man was Swiss.
Shinobi shook his head again and felt blood trickle from the corner of his mouth. Helpless to wipe it away, he touched his tongue to the damage.
“That’s a strange oversight for Nathan to make in his programming…” The man’s tone was thoughtful, and not directed to Shinobi.
The masked man snorted and responded in Japanese, then continued in English, moving in close to ensure Shinobi understood his muffled, lightly accented voice this time. “Essex made many oversights. Disgusting.”
Swirling away theatrically, the masked man paced the room and returned to rapid Japanese, clearly reviewing instructions with the other man. It was too fast for Shinobi to understand much, but someone was coming. Someone was coming, and they were already behind schedule.
The European man nodded and hummed and commiserated, obviously undisturbed by the masked madman’s ranting. Shinobi took the opportunity to test his bonds, but they held fast and his muscles were already protesting. What had they hit him with at the Club? The inhibitor collar made it difficult to swallow, since unlike the SHIELD models there was clearly no thought given to humane treatment in its design.
He halted his feeble attempts to escape. Something was wrong. His link with Hope was gone – simply absent. Hope? There was no answer.
Where was she? Surely she got away. She found David, and he got her away. But they never found David... He shook his head, his memories hazy.
A squeak drew his attention back to the room and his own plight. The small man was wheeling a shining metal cart to the side of the restraint chair.
“Do not resist,” he said, meeting Shinobi’s eyes and attempting a slight smile as he organized a tray of items just out of view. The metallic clinking made him shiver and the man made a soothing noise. “It will be easier for both of us, ja? Viel glück.”
The next time Shinobi resurfaced, it was again to voices speaking in rapid and angry Japanese. His eye rolled open and he was staring at a concrete ceiling, with heating ducts and conduits bare, as if no one had bothered to finish the building.
He ached. The small man had been as thorough as he was clinical in collecting Shinobi’s DNA from every available source, all while chattering away in a mixture of English and Swiss German. A complete array of specimens were required, he’d said, and it was as much shame as pain that made him close his eyes again. Still, the tears leaked from beneath his lids and tracked slowly down his cheeks.
The foreign conversation in the room washed over him and he no longer tried to understand, drifting back to Hope. He could almost see her soft smile, feel a gentle touch. Her absence in his mind was telling, and it ached as well. Hope?
There was no response, which was a vast relief, yet he felt empty without her. She has to be free. She has to be safe. Please. Please. He couldn’t contemplate the alternative.
“He’s awake.” Those words, from the scientist, he understood. All other conversation ceased until the only sounds he heard were his own harsh breaths and the buzz of the fluorescent lights.
“I know you are awake.” This was a different voice, also familiar, also in English, though accented and rough. He forced himself to look up. The old man’s hideously scarred face was unmistakable and confirmed his fears. He’d been taken by Oyama Kenji.
Still, he managed to put on a smirk and drew himself upright as best he could with the restraints. “You will die for this,” Shinobi said, his voice rusty. “You will die by my hand,” he coughed, producing a gob of clotted blood to launch at the bastard. Though it fell short, the move was highly satisfying and made the man in the mask twitch. “And if I die before I succeed, my father will still kill you.”
The masked man let fly with another angry barrage of Japanese, reaching into his coat and stepping forward.
Oyama raised a hand and the man’s motion ceased. Tap, tap. The clicking of his cane against the floor marked his slow progress to Shinobi’s chair, his trajectory pointedly around the mess. He took his time to settle, folding both hands atop his cane’s handle to inspect his prize. When Shinobi looked away, rolling his eyes, a hand shot out with surprising speed and caught his chin, forcing his head up.
“You look too much like him,” the old man said, his bony fingertips digging into his skin. “You sound like him,” he continued, mouth twisting as he spat: “Sebastian Shaw.” His gaze turned more speculative and he turned his face this way and that. “But… I can see Yuriko’s mark upon you as well…”
Yuriko. “M-my mother?” Unable to stop himself, the question was already on his lips. “Where is she-” The old man let go long enough to strike him across the cheekbone with the tooled handle of his cane, then caught his chin again with a shake.
“Did I say you could speak?” The old man’s gaze slid sideways to another occupant of the room. “Or perhaps he’s yours, Yusei … Insolent, to a fault.”
Shinobi knew that name – the man he’d been mistaken for in London. Surely not? That was impossible… Head spinning, Shinobi rolled his one good eye in an attempt to see to whom the old man was speaking, but the gnarled fingers held firm.
“Essex was a fool, and you, Purojekuto Shinobi, are a mistake,” he spat. “An error we will now correct. You serve no further purpose, and Dr. Zola has harvested all he needs to learn how to continue, properly.”
With his ears still ringing from the blow, there was little else he could do but glare at the man in angry confusion. Picking up on this, Oyama smiled, face puckering into a thousand wrinkles and pocked scars. “So full of pride, and for what cause?”
Oyama leaned in. “You don't know what you are, do you?”