Welcome to Flavortown - Kotose, the Silent Spider

Jubilee Finnegan • October 19, 2022

Kotose, the Silent Spider | Illustrated by Marta Nael, Design by Luminarch

The Spider of Otawara

Pulling off a heist wasn't the hard part of being a Futurist. It was escaping the heist that got tricky. Kotose scrambled down the alleyways of Towashi's rain-slick streets. Her boots magnetized to the ground with each step. Small thuds signaled her safety. The pathways that connected the undercity were familiar to her. Take a left next to the ramen shop, vault the fence south of the cybersmith, scale the-

So that wasn't there last time thought Kotose. She looked up at the sheer steel wall that stood in front of her. Where she expected to be a fire escape up to the hoverpads, there was instead an Imperial propaganda mural. The Emperor's faceless visage stretched nearly ten lengths of Kotose's body. Even her boots wouldn't let her scale this. Her heads-up display ran dozens of calculations. Material was too strong to break through. No dumpsters to hide in. Nothing to use as a weapon other than her everyday carry weapons. "Boss, I'm gonna need an airlift, now!" she said into her wrist. The bangle blinked in code. Red, green, blue, green. Kotose hadn't memorized what these meant, so the most she could do now was imagine it was code for We'll be there in time for you to not get gunned down.

Cornered in the backstreets, the thief saw three Reckoners begin to saunter down the alley. Two oni and a nezumi man eyed her. The two oni wielded massive clubs, waiting for the command from their leader to strike. The nezumi man signaled for his lackeys to fan out, blocking the last exit she had.

"Futurist. Listen. We don't want to make a fuss," he shook his head, "but you did take something important from us. Give it back, and we'll send you back to your leaders in one piece. Mangled, but one."

Kotose knew she was tricksy, but she also knew that she was not well-suited for this type of combat. She spoke into her wrist again, a delicate whisper. "Listen boss, you need to get here now or none of us are getting what we want." Another pause. She felt the tech she'd nabbed from the Reckoner transport heavy in her bag. Whatever it was, Futurists were willing to pay her the big bucks for it, and the Reckoners would kill her for it.

Her bangle lit up. A deep voice spoke in robotic tones."Kotose, you have clearance to use the technology you procured for us." Data streamed into her implants, files on how to use this esoteric technology she'd stolen. Concepts like chronostasis, clockworking, the very nature of time fell into woven strands of thought before her. She could use this. And she was making it out of here alive. The clockwork system hummed in her hand.

The Futurist felt her body become untethered from time. The nezumi shouted something, a signal to fire magic upon her. Her body weaved through the seconds, around whirring blades and blistering heat. In the same moment they saw her first move, she was behind them. Her knife met artery, ankle, and hand. One motion of lethality. The Reckoners were dead. 

Panting from usage of the tech, she looked into the sky and saw the floating city of Otawara above her, a rope ladder landing nearby. She smiled. "Right on time."

Back on the hovercity, an oddly robust escort squad led her to her handler's office. The technomancers of the Futurists roamed about the campus. Great works never meant to touch the soiled earth littered the land about her. One moonfolk harnessed sickening ichor and clear water into a single stone. Another young pilot worked on a mecha made of five discrete kami. The eggheads here were strange, but they were on to something.

Kotose had spent the last decade ferrying herself between her two lives. Research assistant in Otawara during the day, thief in Towashi at night. Despite this, there was always a sense of discontinuity with her life in both places. The people of Otawara were notoriously suspicious of any perceived interlopers. No matter how many pieces of tech she stole, she was always just a contractor. Towashi was no better. As she was always there on some sort of clandestine business, people there barely knew her name. She was the Silent Spider, the woman you called when you needed someone hurt, financially or physically. But she lived comfortably, safely. That's better than most on Kamigawa could say.

Kotose had been requested to meet on the balcony of the Futurist Benefactor Plaza. Katsumasa stood in front of a clear skyline. Beckoning her over, the moonfolk fiddled with the various technoblades, likely for some cybernetic creature he was workshopping. She knew the machinations of this man's mind. He'd plucked her from the streets and raised her to be the thief she was. Now, she was his right-hand. Not an official member, but contracted for his shadowy purposes. The crawling fingers that descended onto the Futurist's enemies.

"Do you have the sieve with you?" asked Katsumasa. His voice seemed to shake. Uncertain, unknowing. Something was off.

"Yes, sir." She handed him the device, two bonded spheres connected by a string of time. 

"This is excellent, Kotose. You have no idea what a great boon this will be for the Futurists. The ability to peer back in time, harness the power of the great kami of old." Katsumasa smiled as he handed the device to a whirring thopter. "It shall change the course of Kamigawa's history."

The ninja nodded. "About that. See, if the Futurists are going to make a power play, well, since I was the one who made that happen, I'd like to join you. Officially." Kotose stuck out her hand. "Seem fair?"

Katsumasa gritted his teeth and clicked his tongue. "Kotose. It is precisely because the Futurists are growing in power we cannot have you with us any longer." He approached her, his hand whizzing past her own. A burning heat filled her chest, as if something had burrowed itself into her body. She saw Katsumasa's knife stabbed into her abdomen. Blood spurted from her mouth. Her modifications fell from her body, deactivated by Futurist systems. "I'm sorry, Kotose. It's just for the future." She felt his boot kick her chest, her body sliding off the knife as she fell over the balcony.

Down, down, down she went. Past the branches of Boseju and into the ribbons of neon light that adorned the skyscrapers of Towashi. It was fate, she figured. Was there some sort of karmic, cyclical nature to dying in the place you were born? Being murdered by the one who saved you? No time for philosophical ponderings, she thought. Not much time for anything, as a matter of fact. Unless-

Her body whipped past an Imperial tower, the perfect material to cling to. From her wrists she launched two metal cables. With two plinks, the wires hooked themselves to the tower. As the material unspooled, she spread out her arms, winding picking up beneath her. She gradually slowed the release of the cables until they found themselves taut. Her body cracked to a halt midair, her arms breaking, body slamming against the side of the skyscraper. White hot agony boiled its way into her throat. As her mind began to slip away, she felt her body fall slowly to the earth, crashing into a roaring mechanized vehicle. It scooped Kotose into its arms and continued down the streets. She fell into a deep slumber, unsure if she would awake.

But she did. Perhaps as some divine punishment from Kyodai, Kotose awoke in a dismal basement, screens humming around her. People buzzed about, a clamor of dissonant voices ringing around her. More Reckoners, no doubt about it. Was she a prisoner? No, she wasn't restrained. But why couldn't she move? Her arms and chest were rigid, as if they were welded to the spot. At her bedside she heard the clicking of switches and gears. Her vision cleared and she saw the same mechanized being that had plucked her from the street above her now, a hulking metal colossus.

"Are you-" She coughed up more blood. Right. She'd been stabbed.

"You're still getting used to your new parts. Relax. It'll take some time." The panels of the mecha slid open, revealing a human woman. "Name's Nari. Me and my buddy D-3 picked you up. You know there's a big bounty on your head?"

Kotose watched the woman closely. Nari smirked and stifled a laugh. "So, you planning on selling me to the Imperials? You think they'd do business with you?"

"It's not them who want you. It's the Futurists. And by our records, you were working with them until recently. You even hit our place. Not cool, friend." Nari said. "Which is why it shocked me to learn you used to work with Reckoners."

"I put that life behind me. I don't work with scum anymore." Kotose had run with Mukotai before and robbed nearly every store in the lower districts. Done so many bad things to make her unworthy of a second chance. Despite this, Katsumasa had given her a chance at amnesty by working with the Futurists. With them, she wasn't fighting for each meal, each night in some dingy apartment. Instead, all she had to do was take out the criminals and she would live a comfortable life. A life she was good at.

"You had a great life, Kotose. But it was a life of putting the people on the streets out of commission." Nari gestured to the room around her. "This is a hospital, Kotose. All of these people, victims of the Futurist's ploys. They're trying to conjure the old kami, and they'll stomp out any resistance to them." 

Kotose looked down at her body. She now saw her arms and chest had been replaced with cybernetic approximations. Her wounds had been inoperable. The same mechanics she saw on the Reckoners she had grown so accustomed to stomping out now filled her. The symbol of the Mukotai now burnt into her own steely arms.

"You know the Futurists better than we do. We're launching an attack on Otawara tonight, before they can activate the sieve. But if you join us, it'll be a diversion. You destroy the sieve. Keep the people of Kamigawa free to grow and do as they please. There's no future for any of us with them at the helm."

She felt her slender, metal fingers flex for the first time. The Futurists had taken her body from her. Stolen her chance at a better life and crushed these people beneath their heel. They were never going to do that again.

Five fleets of shinobi on the western towers. A handful of bankbusters positioned to strike at the engines. A flock of mechanized runners ready to dispatch any deployed soldiers. And at the center of it all, the newly mechanized Kotose. The Silent Spider stood atop one of the Reckoner airships, ready to dive into Katsumasa's building. Each person taking part in this attack had agreed to fight to the death. If they failed here, Kamigawa would be forever ruled by the Futurists and whatever kami they wished to commune with. Each one agreed that Kotose was the only one who could complete this mission. Nari assured her they would arm her with the greatest weapons the Reckoners had, which was why Kotose was so confused when they supplied her with her one. A simple thing, made of a plain metal. Nothing shocking, so basic in construction its simplicity bordered on mundanity. A jitte, bursting with power.

"Now!" shouted Nari over the communication headset. The forces moved into position. Kotose watched nezumi road gangs leap onto the campus plaza of the city, slashing at various defense turrets. The ninja pushed off with her metal arms, sending her soaring towards the building. Hooking across small structures, she felt the weapon guide her movements, fully in tune with the flow of the kami around her. Not fighting against them like the Futurists did. She saw Reckoners fall under the creations of the Futurists, a battle of immense proportions waging around her. These people were dying for a free Kamigawa, and she would see to it they didn't die in vain.

Across the cityscape, Nari was fighting a battle of her own. The woman cleaved heads from constructs and limbs from soldiers. As a ball of temporal energy flung itself at her soldiers, she fired a resonator blast at the substance, creating a massive mid-air explosion, while D-3 unloaded blasts into the automatic defense systems. In his distraction, a blade pierced D-3's armor, and his lights went out. Nari let out a panicked scream before another flock of thopters descended upon her. As much as she wanted to, she had no time to mourn. She had to make sure Kotose could achieve their mission.

Kotose burst through the windows of the building, her metal arms taking the brunt forces of the crash. Rolling into the research building, she saw the time sieve spinning in midair, blue and black energy waves humming around it. Katsumasa shielded his eyes as a portal began to rip open in spacetime. 

"Kotose! You're here just in time to watch the founding of a new age!" he shouted over the roars of technology.

"I'm here to kill you, traitor. Once you're gone, the people of Towashi will live free. Free to do as they must," she said as she leveled the jitte at him. The man shook his head as the portal tore itself into being. A passage to a Kamigawa from centuries ago. From within it a horrifying creature skulked on its countless legs. Taloned hands hovered around it, grabbing at the ethereal space of the portal and attempting to pull itself into the modern age. A myojin. Was he insane?

"The Reckoners, the Jukai, the Asari. They're a vile madness on Kamigawa. We offer a new, simple future. A Futurist vision of what can be."

"One ruled by you. You'll crush them, like you did me."

"What if it didn't have to be that way?" Katsumasa said. "You've shown that you're valuable, after all. Survived being murdered and everything. Why don't you join us, rule with the Futurists. What can be more free than being the one making the rules?"

She thought for a moment on what it was like to fight for the Futurists. To live a life of safety. If she could rule as they did, would she not be able to make it better? If she was the one in power, things would be better, she could make change. Katsumasa was mad, but she would take his place.

Then, she saw the myjoin once more. A sickening beast crawling towards her. Katsumasa watched transfixed. In the vision of devastation, there was where he saw the future.

"Even if I'm the one ruling, that's not freedom." Kotose lunged at Katsumasa, slashing at his arms. The artificer sent flocks of drones to fire upon her. She weaved out of the way, the jitte guiding her movements and stitching her wounds together. The bullets whirred past Kotose and struck Katsumasa, riddling him with flak and metal. He screamed in pain and Kotose saw her opening. Grabbing his body, she flung him through the portal and into the arms of the myojin. The spirit was distracted and picked up the moonfolk, eyeing him carefully. Slowly, its multi-faced maw opened wide. 

Kotose stabbed the jitte into the time sieve, and the portal closed. Katsumasa would forever be banished to Old Kamigawa.

The machinery around her began to die off. Otawara had begun its emergency landing procedure. As the ninja tended to her wounds, she watched Futurist and Reckoner alike scramble outside. With their plans foiled, both were left directionless. The moonfolk had no technology to laud over Kamigawa and the Reckoners had no corpos to fight. It looked as though violence may break out again. A scramble for the remnants of the floating city. A voice rang out over Kotose's headset.

"Nari here. What are we going to do?" she said. "Chaos on every floor. Mukotai and Okiba are fighting. Futurist insurrection cells are bubbling up."

"I don't know what we can do," said Kotose. "But we'll do it as a free Kamigawa. No matter what."

Kotose, the Silent Spider

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In the far-flung past of Kamigawa...

Brain and body in tatters. Katsumasa crawled away from the myojin. The being had torn away at the very material that made up his soul, feasting upon his fears and loves alike. His mind and body alike has been torn to shreds, yet he remained. In the bubbling mire of Takenuma, the artificer saw a chaotic, formless world around him. One untouched by minds such as his. The world of Old Kamigawa was at war, kami without artificers to control them. He would bring control to it. Glory to it. He'd bring the future to it.

Jubilee Finnegan (they/them) is a writer based out of Southern California and student of Chapman University. They've been playing Magic since Throne of Eldraine and haven't stopped since. Their work has been published in Chapman Calliope, The B'K', and Beestung Quarterly. You can find them on Twitter @FinneyFlame or Instagram @JWFinnegan.