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Abstract shadows evaporate like smoke. Congeal like liquid tar. My own movements define the dimensions of this nebulous, twilit realm. The configuration of my thighs, the dark nexus of their various intersections, illustrates the transient alignments of its fluid geometry. The gun in my hand is a dull weight. Its static charge of death suggests lethal potentialities. I move through a fluctuating matrix of warped angles and mismatched planes: an abstract kaleidoscope of unfolding space, inverted time. Reflections in an obsidian eye. I watch myself and Kyoko, our bodies straining in the throes of passion, glistening limbs deliciously entwined.

Hir jewelled flesh is golden, radiant. The sleek glamour of hir gilded scales scintillates with the fatal allure of some dazzling, irresistible siren. The corresponding vanes and clefts of our tumescent glands fuse seamlessly, the synergistic elements of an erotic theorem.

Identical shafts of chitinous, erectile tissue simulate the courtship ritual of priapic vipers. Dilated vestibules of fragrant flesh are ravenously engorged with hot, eager blood. The scalding juices of our sterile coupling erupt simultaneously like ropes of burning solder, flooding the vaginal caverns of our flushed groins. At the climactic moment of criticality our bodies melt together, the brilliant liquidity of sensual dissolution.

A fluctuating aureole of spectral gold shimmers briefly, diffracted by the prismatic lens of a dark, crystalline eye. Deadly orgone stench of ritual murder. Heavy energy cancers. Psychic fallout. Pheronapalm death. Black celebrations of nameless obscenity. The warped geometry of the distorted continuum expresses the optimum profile of sacrificial mutilation. Atavistic energies disrupt the symbiotic alignment of cosmic subtle bodies. They penetrate the fragile membrane that separates space from what lies beyond it.

I can see the bodies. Smell them. And the things that feed. I look down at my hand. The blanched flesh — the vivid crimson of its bloody stump — nestles firmly in my grip…. I wake up with a start, tasting metal. In the bed beside me, hir naked body barely covered by the crumpled sheets, Kyoko hardly stirs.

Hir deep, aquamarine hair with its spiky, gold-tipped fronds — sagging limply on the pillow now — frames the elegant geometry of her delicate features, the crowning glory of an Atlantean priestess. Idly, I run the tip of my right index finger along the curves and recesses of hir body, hir sublime, frictionless skin. I circle the purple bud of hir slightly rigid left nipple, exploring the shallow cleavage of hir breasts. My hand moves lower, lingering briefly at hir groin, massaging the supple flesh of hir smooth inner thigh.

An electric tremor of carnal arousal surges through the nerves and sinews of my hand, prompting a reciprocal rush of excitement between my thighs. Kyoko shifts fitfully. Kyoko reminds me of a changeling child — an elemental cuckoo — usurping the place of a mortal infant, innocently swathed in the ethereal matrix of magical, alien dreams. I inhale the strange perfumes of hir body, savouring them. Whilst I, on the other hand, continue my descent down the treacherous slope of narcotic fuelled paranoia.

Strobing phantoms flit behind my eyelids. Liquid prisms warp the convexities of my retinal implants, efflorescing like the incandescent after-images of a chemical kaleidoscope. This lingering fugue state is symptomatic of the Kelp-E hangover. Kyoko and I have been doing vast amounts of the stuff recently, fusing the primal atavisms of our squid consciousness with the archetypal, cosmic ocean of elevated, amorphibian perception.

Of course, the Kelp-E trip does have its darker side: involuntary recall of the Janwar massacre, for instance, the grotesque dimensions of the act suddenly comprehensible. I wait for the residual mists to disperse. The mundane squalor of the place coalesces before my eyes with the bleak inevitability of a recurring nightmare.

Leaving Kyoko to the languid tranquillity of hir untroubled dreams, I rise from the bed. Automatically I take a cigarette from the bedside table. I light it and walk, naked, to the window. It reduces the grimy canvas of the sky to the dull, leaden haze of relentless twilight. The grim, undisciplined sprawl of Harbortown greets my tired scrutiny: a desolate spectacle of leprous dereliction. Bustling quays ring the wide harbour, which industrial pollution has transformed into an eerie, toxic lagoon.

Beneath its calm, poisonous surface sick sharks patrol the murky depths, congested gills retching heavy metal isotopes. The vivid stigmatisms that mottle their psoriatic skins scintillate like the flamboyant liveries of heraldic beasts. Leviathan class tanker-submersibles remain stoically moored at their berths, ready to depart for the deep waters of the open sea. Their course will take them past the sunken cities of the submerged Western Seaboard.

Reclaimed by the ocean, the decaying necropolii of crumbling concrete and rusting steel have been utterly transformed. Colonies of mutant coral encrust the skeletal remains of drowned stratoscrapers, a labyrinthine jungle of fossil reefs. The baroque majesty of its cavernous vaults and galleries evokes the cyclopean geometry of lost Atlantis. Most normals consider the sight of this submarine Eden, abandoned to the primal tranquillity of the emerald sea, an ominous, depressing sight.

Beyond the liquid mirage of the transfigured cities lies the harsh reality of the vrill plantations — countless acres of verdant, protein-rich marine pastures — where gangs of squid labourers toil for a pittance in conditions little better than slavery. Close to the shoreline giant processing rigs wallow in dry-dock like beached megaliths.

Stained hulls gnarled with crustacean parasites, they constantly pump tons of sludge and noxious bilge from their cavernous holds. I think of Venturis briefly, focussing on the mission. Somehow it seems irrelevant now. I could lose myself here. Leave the country. Malthusian and his followers are still out there, peddling their lethal brand of millenarian redemption, the hallucinogenic ecstasies of Kelp-E. I draw long and hard on my cigarette, pondering the question.

Turning on hir side, Kyoko mutters to hirself once more, apparently in thrall to some delicious, sensual reverie, the spellbinding lorelei of the Kelp-E hit. Kyoko had been my first contact with the Kelp-E traffickers. It was via this route I hoped to track down Malthusian and his group, the murderous cabal of the Heilige Kraken. And now Kelp-E. Where does mine lie? With Kyoko — a squid — one of my own kind? Or with Hayden Venturis and the Cadre? The Generic Stability Decrees have seen to that. Venturis has his own agenda, and I have mine.

Perhaps Malthusian holds the key. He is at once my quarry and… something else. The boundaries have become blurred. Grinding the butt of my cigarette into the brimming ashtray, I look down into the large, plastic tank containing the two cephalopod simulacra. Their writhing tentacles stir the crystal liquid, their natural element.

The snorkelling valves of their tubercular gill-arrays pump regular, silver spheres of carbon dioxide. Their suckered limbs coil and uncoil languidly. I look into the inscrutable disks of their remote, octopus eyes, the elliptical dilation of vertical black pupils. The Legion of Light who run a slum mission to the east of Silver Quay have been violently proslethysing in Harbortown recently; evangelical stormtroopers using strong-arm tactics to 'purify' the ghetto.

Kyoko has had a couple of close calls hirself. He used strips of hir skin to wallpaper his apartment. But, even now, Kyoko seems impervious to the dangers, untroubled by them. I only wish I shared hir confidence. I walk from the window to the cramped, closet-sized bathroom. I fill the tub with hot, sterile, desalinated sea water, and climb in, almost insensitive to the heat.

Pale clouds of semi-opaque steam fill the tiny bathroom, billowing out into the rest of the apartment like the dank vapours of a marine fog bank. I listlessly soap and rinse my tired limbs and body. Amorphibian I may well be, but the moist heat of the water — my natural element in so many ways — scarcely comforts or revives me. The clear, soapy water darkens suddenly. A dense sepia cloud blossoms thickly between my thighs. The smell of it is overwhelming: a heady, pheromone musk underscored with the rank suggestion of putrefying fish carcasses.

There is a dull ache in my lower abdomen. Spasmodic cramps churn my intestines. Though wearily accustomed to this distasteful, cyclical process since early adolescence, I still half-expect to a see a nursery shoal of freshly hatched cuttlefish propelling their way blindly through the briny soup. The Kelp-E hex continues to bend my consciousness into unfamiliar shapes. Yes, that must be it.

My limbs still heavy, I practically slither from the tub. A moist film of condensation frosts the glass. It renders my reflection a hazy, liquid blur. I crouch down and begin to sort through the unruly tangle of clothes lying on the floor. My movements are still slow. I try to tell myself that my lethargy is simply the after-effect of the potent cocktail of tundra, narcocil and Kelp-E I consumed the previous night.

Rummaging idly through the pockets of a neoplastic-Kevlar jacket, I retrieve a cylindrical, black phial. It contains a handful of silvery, oblong-shaped capsules. I flip the lid and drop a couple of the pills into the palm of my right hand. Eagerly I pop the capsules into my mouth. My throat is dry. A viscous layer of slime furs my palate and tongue. I swallow hard, gagging slightly. After a few moments I feel the old, familiar, psychrome rush sweep over me like a cool, metal wave, greeting it with a sense of welcome relief.

The hard knot of fatigue and anxiety clenched in my guts seems to evaporate and disperse in a glacial high of chemical euphoria. The liquid mercury smooth meniscus of the psychrome hit engulfs the lingering pain and fatigue. At last I feel ready to face the world. To face myself. I survey my reflection critically. The remote, elevated fugue state of the psychrome fix helps me to put things in their proper perspective. My build is slim, typically androgynous, practically waif-like, with delicate bone structure, elegant long limbs and gaunt facial features. My shoulder-length hair is black, poker straight.

It scintillates with natural highlights of anemone blue and ultramarine. My large, narrow eyes are set far apart above high, angular cheekbones and a wide mouth whose lips are naturally coloured a subtle shade of mauve. I blink away the last vestiges of narcocil-tainted sleep and return the uninhibited scrutiny of my own reflected gaze. The fragile membrane of the cornea remains translucent. The irises themselves retain a startling clarity: incandescent emerald-green gilded with minute flecks of burnished gold. The acute symmetries of my hollow features — the aquatic intensity of my cold, green eyes — are imbued with an elusive, feral quality: the remote deportment of a nervous predator, constantly alert.

My ivory white skin is infused with the radiant lustre of glacial turquoise. Like all squids my entire body is covered in a layer of translucent scales. It glistens like a gossamer mesh of liquid chain mail. Perhaps not. I slip into a pair of sleek, black, polycarbon-satin briefs, pulling them between my thighs into the tight nexus of my groin.

The biochemically engineered synthetic fabric fits like a second skin. Beneath the smooth ridge of my pubic bone the protuberant layers of the outer labia are clearly visible. The articulated shaft of the pseudo phallus protrudes slightly from a corolla of erectile petals, like the semi-tumescent stamen of a carnivorous orchid. The triangular nub of the glans-clitoris remains wedged in the moist furrow of the vulval cleft.

The impression this strange organ creates beneath the clinging black fabric of the briefs resembles an abstract bas-relief sculpture. Or the fossilised remains of a prehistoric crustacean transfixed at the moment of extinction by the metamorphic vulcanism of crystallising obsidian. How appropriate. The slint — a fully functioning, hermaphroditic sex organ — symbolises all of the repulsion, fear, contempt and secret fascination with which we squids are regarded by the so-called normals.

Briefly I continue the frank appraisal of my naked body. I lazily trace my fingers along the silky smooth scales of my inner thigh. My palm brushes softly against my groin. The erectile tissues of the chitinous, phallic shaft are semi-tumescent. It slides moistly against the walls of its fleshy grotto, swelling beneath the elastic material that confines it. My hand moves slowly upwards, flat against the hollow concave of my abdomen. The hardening organ slackens and retreats to the fragrant darkness like a hibernating snake settling back into its lair.

Almost in a dream I explore the shallow depression of my belly between the bony promontories of my narrow hips. The slim trunk of my thorax is mottled with a regular pattern of what appear to be metallic scars. In size and shape they resemble the impression of antique silver coins embossed upon my scaly flesh, the stigmatic legacy of a transfigurative plague. Closer examination reveals these lesions to be occluded orifices similar to arthropod spinnerets: a glittering bodice that corsets my slender torso all the way up to my small, high breasts.

The true purpose of these curious features remains a mystery. Occasionally they ooze an oily discharge of sticky, opalescent gel. Aside from this, they appear to serve no useful function. The same, however, cannot be said of the deep grooves, lined with a fine mesh of cartilaginous fibre, that score the flesh of my elongated neck just below the jawline under my ears. Rudimentary gills are a typical amorphibian trait. They are as essential to our nature as the dual-sexed slint. I finish dressing quickly, sliding nimbly into a pair of tight, black, polycarbon-latex pants; a simulated snakeskin top; and knee-length boots with lethally sharp pointed toes.

Black fingerless gloves; ceramic bracelets; and an articulated metal belt slung at a jaunty angle around my slim hips, complete the ensemble. My long, thin, pointed black tongue flickers across my lips as I deliberately mimic a lizard tasting the air. The psychrome coursing through my system accentuates the pathological intensity of my cold-blooded metabolism, the icy aloofness of my true, amorphibian nature.

I slip on the neoplastic-Kevlar jacket. Fashionably cut, the garment is completely impervious to hi-velocity fragmentation shells; hollow points; Teflon rounds — even flechettes. It would take a cluster shell or armour-piercing slug to penetrate the tough, lightweight fabric. Which reminds me. Crouching down, I open a hidden compartment beneath the waste-disposal unit. There are three handguns and a lightweight automatic rifle fitted with a silencer, infrared, telescope and laser sighting. Considering my options for a few moments, I select the German-made Farben-Fassbinder Mach ceramic handgun, my favourite Geschaft Festung Europa export.

There is a wide variety of ammunition to chose from: heat-seekers, soft-points, incendiaries — the whole toy store. I slide eight 9mm cluster shells into the secondary chamber of the breach. Properly dispersed they can stop an armoured car in its tracks. The first of the twin magazines I fill with steel-jacketed, armour-piercing rounds. I load the second clip with a dozen hi-velocity hollow points: a 12 gauge shot suspended in liquid Teflon impregnated with an isotopic serum of tetradotoxin derived from pufferfish venom.

The poison induces paralysis in half a second, death in less than three. Professionally speaking, they have become my trademark, as personal to me as my own signature. Metal Sushi , I call them. And now so does everyone else in the business: all the icemen, hitters and voidboys. I flip one of the lethal shells between my agile fingers with the skilful ease of a stage illusionist.

When I slot the last one into place it slides in smoothly with a satisfying, metallic click. Metal Sushi. Cute , huh? Before leaving I walk back to the mirror again. I try a few practise draws with the gun. In a strange way — practising with the weapon, my mood buoyant on the crest of a slow-rolling psychrome wave — everything seems to snap into cold, hard focus.

I enter the bedroom. Immediately I find myself confronted with a group of black-garbed figures. The narrow lapels of their uniform jackets are emblazoned with the silver insignia of the mystic sigrunen. Automatically, my right hand leaps to the weapon holstered under my jacket. The jarring incongruity of this image — Kyoko poised on the tip-toes of hir stiletto heeled boots; petite and coquettish in designer fetish wear; the erect hackles of hir rigid, marine-blue coiffure framing hir innocent expression with a crown of fearsome spikes — momentarily confuses me.

I notice the open bedroom window, the rope ladder used to gain access from the roof. Everything is moving in slow motion. I free my gun from its holster, staring down the dark muzzles of the four weapons directed at me. Kyoko continues to play with the octopoid simulacra, stirring the water with an extended index finger, apparently oblivious to the danger. I release the safety catch, feeling the subtle vibration as the first slug slides into the breach. My eyes search feverishly for cover, finding none. Too late I notice the fleeting, silver flash at the periphery of my vision.

I feel the cold bite of metal sinking into the back of my hand, breaking my grip. The gun clatters to the ground. A single shot is discharged. One of the goons goes down. His left leg is obliterated below the knee. The exploding debris of atomised blood, charred flesh and powdered bone reconstitutes itself in abstract forms on the walls, floor and furniture.

The radical amputee is dead before he hits the floor. Metal Sushi toxins are coursing through his system. My vision blurs. The room swims before my eyes. The smell of cordite fills my nostrils, burning my tongue. I look down at my right hand. A glinting, silver shuriken is embedded deep in the muscle, which absorbs the fast-acting neural suppressant impregnating the projectile.

Kyoko is watching me from the corner of the room. A wan smile plays about hir lips. There is a strange, apologetic expression on hir face. A pool of liquid darkness opens at my feet. It swallows me whole. The tape loop of involuntary recall rewinds itself. Here was something new and filled with energy and dazzling originality. And there was something so uncompromisingly misanthropic about it; here was writing which held the 'human condition' in contempt, which treated the 'human condition', in fact, as something not too far removed from eczema.

Here was a voice that demanded nothing less than the complete and ultimate overthrow of humanity and all its works. Here was a blazing, demented demand for a new, transcendental biology and a new language with which to describe it. Manta Red, like all of Conway's work, comes in hard on a narcotic rush of subconscious imagery; obsessive fetishistic descriptions of technology and flesh in constant copulation, souls burning and flowering in the appalling light of quantum armageddons, men and women transfigured in episodes of dread-inspiring cosmic grandeur.

There was horror there, no doubt, and there were also elements of science fiction and comic book bravado, but the story seemed to me to defy genre and aspire instead towards the visionary ecstasies of Coleridge or Artaud or Lautreamont. I was hooked. The hologram shimmers momentarily and then materialises like a high-resolution mirage. An intangible sculpture moulded in light, the illusion of depth — of palpable reality — is deceptively compelling.

And yet, for all its digitally enhanced definition, the life-size tableau retains an ethereal quality: an eerie remoteness reinforced by the prevailing silence. Dr Yoshida hovers close by, hypnotically drawn, like a perverse incarnation of acherontia styx — the enigmatic, nocturnal species that feasts on tears — powerless to resist the fatal allure of an incandescent flame.

The glacial euphoria of realised ambition illuminates his bland, androgynous features: the transcendent rapture of a dreaming insect anticipating the beatific miracle of an immanent metamorphosis. A single thought. She is here. At last, she is here. Holographically conveyed from a distant chamber in the estate's east wing, the woman lies — silent and immobile — on a bed of shiny black metacarbon-latex, the gleaming fabric seductively moulded to the enticing contours of her lithe figure.

A skin-tight catsuit made from the same glistening material encases her entire body. It clings snugly to every line and curve — her slim thighs and small breasts; the slender nexus of her waist; the smooth convexities of her hips. Not a single centimetre of naked flesh is exposed. A tight-fitting mask envelops her head, concealing her face, eyes, nose and mouth.

The versatile plasticity of the basic metacarbon molecule can be manipulated to satisfy an infinite spectrum of practical applications. Metacarbon heat shields protect the hulls of space craft and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles from the hellish temperatures generated during atmospheric re-entry. Synthetic transplant organs — no less delicate and sophisticated than their natural counterparts — derive exclusively from a variety of metacarbon products.

T he sleek black fabric — the seamless mask and catsuit concealing the identity of Dr Yoshida's mysterious female guest beneath a glamorous carapace of ominous eroticism —incorporates subtle organic properties. Its porous quality permits both pulmonary and epidermal respiration, negating the risk of asphyxia. The tableau creates the compelling impression that the woman's body has freshly coalesced from an icy reservoir of thick black oil. She resembles a sublime, unknowable siren — an obsidian Venus — spawned from the subterranean cauldron of aeonic extinction and fossilised decay that has fuelled the invincible rise of technology's bleak, irresistible tyranny.

A beguiling icon, she remains aloof and strangely alluring: the embodiment of ritual fetishism, impersonal sensuality. And this bizarre arbour provides her with the perfect setting. The cool empty silence. The scalpel-clean sterility of pure white light. The atmosphere is strictly controlled.

Nothing survives here by accident. Nothing thrives that has not been designed to thrive. Immense tiles of transparent aluminium panel the walls. They house a species of radiant plankton — countless billions of microscopic organisms —glowing with the coruscating brilliance of a hostile, nocturnal ocean. Dr Yoshida engineered these genetic mutations — vastly increasing their natural phosphorous content, boosting their voracious sexual appetites and instinctive cannibalism —with the sole purpose of illuminating this place: his jealously guarded sanctum sanctorum. The walls exude the decadent iridescence of sex and death: a harsh, implacable cycle.

Yoshida has furnished the room with a Spartan simplicity that harks back to the transcendental virtues of Zen. A low table laid out with the requisite accoutrements of the sado , the traditional tea ceremony. A katana and tanto — the full-length samurai sword and short dagger associated with the seppuku ritual — stand sheathed and mounted lengthways on an ornamental, teak display rack. These ancient weapons remain every inch as lethal and exquisite as when they left the master craftsman's forge centuries before the accession of the first shogun.

The flayed hides of twelve yakuza gangsters upholster a brace of traditional ornamental screens. Dr Yoshida acquired five quite legally at auction in NeOsaka. The other seven represent the by-products of his more unorthodox enterprises. The skins are remarkable — flamboyantly embellished with the most spectacular examples of the tattooist's craft, executed in the strict irezumi style. Fabulous dragons and other monstrous chimeras rendered with breathtaking precision.

Cranes and birds of paradise — the subtle variations in the colours and textures of their luminous plumage — flawlessly executed. Elaborate tableaux depict epic scenes from myth and legend. The artists' skill completely subverts even the slightest hint of the macabre implied by the sight of tanned human hides displayed like barbaric trophies. One of the screens remains partially denuded. It would accommodate two more skins perfectly. A second holographic image enters the insubstantial frieze; a young girl materialises silently from the projection field's invisible periphery.

Resplendent in the traditional kimono, symbolic make-up and rigid coiffure of the geisha, her dignified appearance evokes the archaic conventions of a sublime culture lost to the nebulous mists of time. Occult motifs embroidered in shimmering brocade — turquoise, silver and gold — adorn the pristine white silk of her formal gown. The geisha's gilded ensemble contrasts starkly with her companion's glossy black costume. She glides across the floor to the bed, standing over its motionless occupant: a voluptuous fetish sculpted in radiant latex.

Gentle and graceful as a dove, the geisha extends a slender white hand. She plucks a perfect circle of the paper-thin black fabric from the inert woman's featureless mask, revealing her right eye. It remains open — the opaque gaze of a cemetery angel serene in funereal repose. As a professional, Dr Yoshida cannot fail to acknowledge the quality of the workmanship. The emerald green of the iris suggests a lush evocation of long-extinct, equatorial rainforests.

The pupil's elliptical dilation exhibits a startling feline aspect. She peels the woman like a fruit. One by one her sublime treasures are slowly — tantalisingly — revealed. Within a very short time she is completely naked. Her flawless pale flesh assumes a spectral radiance. It contrasts luminously with the mattress's shimmering black surface. The deep lustre of her long black hair is shot through with metallic blue.

It scintillates with the cold brilliance of burnished chrome. The emerald iridescence of her large green eyes glitters hypnotically: jewelled runes filled with strange enchantments. Like a dreaming naiad she seems to peer blankly from the depths of some mysterious alien sea. Her coral pink lips remain slightly parted to reveal the scalloped ridges of her teeth like neat rows of pearls — perfectly formed, hard and white. He draws his clammy sweet breath through a persuasive fugue of arousal.

Beneath his skin the messy miracles of biochemical transmutation initiate a series of chain reactions. The process accelerates subtly — inexorably — towards the apex of critical mass. It will be soon. The estate's sophisticated communications and surveillance systems carry his voice to the chamber where the ritual disrobement of his sleeping guest has been performed.

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Aiko, the silent geisha , turns her impassive face to the source, recognising her master's voice. Aiko bows deeply, indicating her compliance. Dr Yoshida allows the hologram to linger for several more moments. And then, at his unspoken mental command, it wavers and abruptly de-materializes. In its place, almost simultaneously, two more holographic tableaux coalesce with the deceptive illusion of solidity. Nothing happens within the walls of the estate — or anywhere on the island itself — that escapes Dr Yoshida's attention.

His elaborate security systems afford him a level of omniscience once the alleged prerogative of the gods. He watches, intrigued, as a group of five young men make their way with caution and stealth along the corridor which links the estate's eastern wing with the central core of the complex: the Conservatory. They are all comprehensively armed with the most lethal and sophisticated weaponry currently available to the modern assassin. Dressed in chameleonic metacarbon combat fatigues; flexible lightweight body armour; and featureless visored masks, they resemble a platoon of belligerent ants: a single mass-mind obsessed with the insect imperative of murder.

These faceless killers are members of the mercenary elite known as Termination Executives. Under the auspices of the Free Trade Charter, observed by all the Pan-Pacific conglomerates, they are legitimately licensed to commit contract murder. Discorporation — the term enshrined in the legislation's bland lexicon of euphemistic jargon — is a recognised tool of commercial enterprise. In the context of corporate and contract law it falls into the same category as a hostile take-over.

This group is led by Ishiru Okida. One of the most highly paid Termination Executives operating out of NeOsaka, he has accepted a 15 million yen-dollar bounty from the Hakashi Corporation, sanctioning Dr Yoshida's discorporation. Stories have been circulating among the upper echelons of NeOsaka's business and scientific communities, concerning Dr Yoshida's secretive — and allegedly fruitful — research into the fields of bio-intelligence, molecular transmutation and — most tantalising of all — nanotechnology. Dr Yoshida observes the mercenaries' progress with cold disdain.

In his thoughts he remains as remote from their cruel materialism as from the maggots that feast on the ripe ooze of death and decay. These murderous philistines have laid siege to his island retreat for precisely seventeen minutes. From the moment their boots hit the sandy beach they have been closely monitored. It is time to dispose of them. Dr Yoshida issues a series of mental commands, initiating the estate's defensive measures. The resulting carnage is brief but colourful. Nanomats — microscopic machines produced by the biological manipulation of viral mitochondria and synthetically modified protozoa, genetically programmed and consciously directed via direct cybernetic interface — are activated.

Comparable in size to the virulent molecules of a thriving bacillus, the nanomats represent the cutting edge of exotic weapons technology.

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They proliferate at bewildering speed, precipitating a razor-ribbon maelstrom of shrapnel hail. Diamond grapeshot condenses out of empty air like fatal ice. The coruscating vortex effortlessly shreds the Termination Executives' body armour and sturdy fatigues. Cybernetic cancer spores materialize on their naked bodies. These voracious tumours propagate with a hideous efficiency that far surpasses the insidious progress of the most aggressive, naturally-occurring carcinoma.

Fragments of flayed skin swirl on buzz-saw eddies of the brilliant whirlwind. A delicate red mist of atomised blood suffuses the sterile air of the blue-white corridor. The would-be assassins writhe like moulting serpents, shrieking in wordless agony. Observing calmly, Dr Yoshida relishes the excruciating music of their screams — a hellish cacophony orchestrated by a fastidious sadist.

But this is no mindless, indiscriminate slaughter. Dr Yoshida is far too astute for that. There must be at least one survivor for him to interrogate later. He remains determined to learn who was ultimately responsible for this invasion — and to exact appropriate retribution. Bleeding from countless wounds, his protective outfit in useless tatters, Ishiru Okida staggers through the swirling red fog.

He is deaf to the screams of his comrades. At the end of the corridor an electronic door slides silently — solicitously — open. Through a searing haze of blinding pain, Ishiru manages to reach and stumble through the door. It opens directly onto his original objective: Dr Yoshida's Conservatory. The door glides shut behind him. Meanwhile, in the corridor, the nanomats continue their work. It has taken seconds for the mercenaries' bodies to be reduced to a state scarcely recognisable as human.

A synthesised dew of molecular acid renders bone to steaming gelatinous ooze. Vertebrae melt into an undifferentiated mire of pulped gristle and molten fat. Seeping viscera spiral wildly from their pelvic cradles like nests of frenzied snakes. Bulbous malignancies, the size and shape of bloody cauliflowers, cling in unendurable clusters to the men's disintegrating bodies.

They howl for death. Somehow it remains callously reticent. Four dark shapes emerge from a vat of raw metacarbon base that resembles a treacherous, prehistoric tar pit, its cloying black depths teeming with nanomats. Glistening black humanoid forms coalesce rapidly, assuming a familiar configuration — a deliberate simulation of the traditional ninja assassin, the historical antecedent of the modern Termination Executive whose homicidal skills are so highly valued and lucratively rewarded.

The ninjas are armed with orgone disrupters. They move silently through the fading red mist. Not a single droplet of blood adheres to their smooth obsidian skins. They dispose of their victims with passionless efficiency. Writhing bolts of blue-green energy destabilise the holistic principles essential to the cohesion of all living organisms. In theory and in practise the process has been described as a form of genetic fission. For a second the mercenaries' bodies glow an eerie green, tissues incandescent with the fatal radiance of nuclear transmutation. And then they erupt.

The result is not simply one of decay — of accelerated putrefaction, even. The orgone disruptors initiate chain-reactions of internalised temporal distortion. Metabolic time travel. Molecular bonds shatter. Complex protein chains unravel, swamped by the quantum catastrophe of chromosomal chaos. In moments the Termination Executives are no more than four indistinguishable pools of bubbling, protoplasmic slime.

The putrid ooze swarms with the primitive mitochondria that once fuelled the species' evolutionary ascent from the fertile depths of the primal ocean. These, too, are quickly devoured by the tireless hive of proliferate nanomats. They scour the walls, floor and ceiling of the corridor.

Not a fragment of skin — a single iota of blood — remains. The metacarbon automatons return to the vat that spawned them, melting back into the cold black morass. An icy calm pervades the sterile air, the blue-white radiance of the corridor. Less than two minutes have passed.

Dr Yoshida's attention shifts to the second holographic frieze. Two young men are slouching casually on a large sofa. The bamboo forest is just a little way up from the station in the Arashiyama district. If you have time, embark into an exploration of the lushest landscape and greenery in the heart of Kansai. Pro Tip — Get there as early as possible to enjoy the grove without the crowds.

December is also a great time to be here.

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When the paths are illuminated for the Hanatouro festival, making the place look magical at night. A lesser known spectacle of the Arashiyama district is the Kimono Forest. Famed second only to the popular bamboo forest, Monkey Park is another tourist favourite. A herd of Japanese macaque monkeys reside here.

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The whole area is a mild and picturesque. Arashiyama has a number of temples and shrines, and Gio-Ji Temple is one of the most scenic. A thatch-roofed hall backs onto an enchanting moss-covered garden. More than statues make up the quirky temple garden, each with a uniquely sculptured face carved forever in laughter, or meditating serenely.

The range of expressions is quite impressive. W ho would expect to see a drunken Buddha laughing jovially or a merry fellow holding up a pet cat? Gion hanamachi is one of the only remaining Geisha districts in the whole of Japan, along with Pontocho and Asakusa in Tokyo. The secretive history of Geisha is rich, and they were once thriving communities, who for centuries passed down their traditions, respected lineage and incredibly beautiful collection of kimono. Geisha essentially means Artist, and they are accomplished in a number of practices such as dance, tea ceremony, and the traditional Japanese shamisen; which is a sort of hand-plucked violin.

Maiko apprentices and full Geisha can be easily distinguished by the colour of the collar under their kimono and painted white lines on the nape of the neck. A geisha can be recognised by a white collar, and two lines painted down her neck, whereas a maiko don a red colour and three lines. Miako also wear more elaborate hair ornaments and kanzashi and their kimono is more colourful and expressive. The best time to spot a glance of one of these ethereal women is at dusk when they begin to travel to their evening engagements in a tea house or a private entertainment ceremony.

Some even dress up as a geisha for the day and will be happy to stand for a snapshot. The owners are an absolute delight and will show you to fold your kimono the right way and help you tie your obi. Kyotemari —. Possibly the most famous festival of all is the Gion Matsuri that bursts onto the scene in Kyoto every for the entire month of July. Donned in traditional yukata light cotton kimono they run through the streets of Kyoto pulling the colourful and elaborately decorated floats to roaring crowds and delighted spectators.

Little stalls pop up selling street food and souvenirs to honour the occasion. Japanese Festivals are the celebration of life. Everyone flocks to the streets to join crazy, loud and colourful events that are as much traditional as entertaining. The Miyako Odori is one of the most highly celebrated geisha performances in Japan, and every spring people gather to see the stunning cherry blossoms and the ethereal Geisha showcase their talents. Inside the theatre, Geisha and Maiko perform elaborate dances, usually in an ode to the changing season and the divine beauty of nature.

You can purchase a ticket that involves a special tea ceremony before the performance. Where an apprentice geisha in full kimono will serve you traditional macha and sakura wagashi, a little cherry blossom flavoured cake. Book tickets HERE. A fun HOTspot that serves its ramen with a side of flames. The owners are extremely welcoming and the experience is fantastic, how often can you say you enjoyed a meal that was on fire? Tonkatsu is a breaded pork cutlet. There are a few places that offer this delicious dish with all you can eat shredded cabbage and yuzu sauce.

Kyoto is like the Italy of Japan when it comes to gelato. There are a ton of places offering soft serve in many flavors. The texture and flavours are a little different from traditional ice cream but it is definitely delicious and a true example of Kyoto style desert. Kyoto is one of the top spots for cherry blossom viewing in the spring as the blossoms tend to stick a little longer than in Osaka. The traditional landscape also makes the perfect backdrop to enjoy the most charming season of the year. Philosophers path is a picturesque walkway that follows a canal with hundreds of cherry trees.

In spring, these burst forth with delicate pink flowers, making it one of the prettiest walks in Japan. It takes about 30 minutes to traverse the pleasant track which includes temples that you will see along the way. It will definitely be crowded, but everyone will be full of joy. If you missed out on the peak blooming season, Ninnaji Temple is the place to be.


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The temple has a variety of trees known as Omuro cherry that bloom a week later than the regular ones, and there are hundreds of them around the temple. The giant Torii floating in the centre of the lake is a majestic sight to behold during any season. Time — — A short journey out of the city will lead you into an area of valleys and mountainous terrain.

Take a short hike through a trail of humble little mountain shrines and cosy groves of sugi trees. At the back of the temple, a track leads off towards the mountain summit of Kurama-Yama. Nestled in the foothills is Kurama onsen, one of the few natural hot springs within easy reach of Kyoto. No trip to Japan is complete without an experience at an onsen. These famed hot springs are literally a way of life in Japan, and communal bathing in the natural hot spring water created from the deep recesses in the mountains is a regular practice and bonding ritual.

A free shuttle bus runs between Kurama station and the onsen every 30 minutes. The winter is an enchanting time to visit this glorious region as the snow falls on the mountain. The indoor bath includes a sauna and relaxing areas.

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Purchase tickets from the vending machine outside of the building. Onsen Etiquette. Tackle any bath house in Japan with a few simple rules:. No swimsuits, or actual suits, just Birthday suits. All bathing in Japan is enjoyed in the nude. The Japanese are not self-conscious in the onsen and no one will bat an eyelid at your weird mole. Always wash before bathing, use the showers and basins provided before entering the onsen baths.

Most onsen offer shampoos and luxurious bath products. The large towel is for drying only and should be left in the changing room with your belongings and not taken into the baths. The small towel can be used as a modesty covering as you enter, or worn on the head like a peculiar hat. A lot of Japanese women like to tie them in cute little knots like hair buns. As autumn erupts into radiant colour around the hills of Arashiyama, The Japanese begin the celebrations for the Momiji festival. Boats parade along the river close to the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, where elaborately dressed characters perform and play traditional instruments from the water.

Cost: Free! Just pick a good spot on the river bank, grab an ice cream and watch the show. Kurama Fire festival. The hills around the temples are set ablaze in the shape of giant kanji characters as a sign of cleansing and rebirth. When — August Time — 8pm. For more information on the festival and locations check HERE. Kyoto is a little pricier than other cities. There are hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, but Kyoto is a quintessential location to experience a traditional Japanese Ryokan.

Many ryokan offer kaiseki multi-course dining and yukata a light cotton kimono to wear whilst on the premises. Ryokan —. A delightful little ryokan inside Maruyama Park. Surrounded by maple trees makes this an incredible site in autumn. Staying inside a park is always special in Japan. Kyoto offers alternative housing options called machiya, which are basically traditional style townhouses. Enjoy all the perks of a ryokan with tatami mat floors and usually a relaxing zen garden at the back, whilst having the entire place to yourself.