Goo's Notes- For those of you who thought the Hand of God was the next story in the trilogy, sorry if I disappointed you or if the teaser had you intrigued. Where is Hand of God? Well, to be honest...it's been scrapped. I didn't like it, I dreaded writing it, and it had nothing important to the Trilogy that couldn't have been moved on to The Commitee. Which means yes, there will be a different third fic.

Disclaimer- None of the characters belong to Goo except for the ones that...you know...do. *Nervous laughter* So OCs = mine. CCs (Canon Characters) = Not mine.

Timeline: Wilhelm's Manuscript was set after the Venus de Milo Arc in the anime. This story is set in November (except for the first scene, which starts in October) of the same year, so a while after the end of the anime series.

The Committee

Chapter One: The Pawns

By A Girl Named Goo

Beta'd by Mars

The room had been purposely darkened. No moonlight escaped through the clouds to illuminate the large hall, with its rows of chairs running up each side. It was an hour where most civilized people should be asleep, but Himiko was wide awake. The people around her- eight strangers, two former enemies, and a colleague by her count- were either sitting still or examining their respective weapons.

Himiko was seperated by only one seat from a particularly vicious woman clad entirely in a tight black body suit, the bottom of her face concealed in a manner that made Himiko think of ninjas. Her long black hair was plaited neatly, a silver hairclip containing many different colored jewels accenting the left side of her head just above her ear. When she moved her head there was a glassy sound, almost like windchimes, from her many dangling jewled earrings colliding with each other. Her dark blue eyes met Himiko's gaze and she stopped cleaning the knife in her hand. Without her mouth visible Himiko couldn't be entirely sure if she was smiling or not, but the look in her eyes made Himiko immediately look in the other direction.

Sitting next to Himiko on her left was a young man. He probably wasn't much younger than Himiko herself, although the combination of his very dark skin and the black cowboy hat that obscured his face made it difficult to tell. He was also wearing a black leather jacket. It was almost like a trenchcoat except that it was knee length, zipped up, and had four very large pockets on the front of it. His long legs, covered by black jeans, were crossed at the ankle, making his black cowboy boots creak slightly as they rubbed together. Between his dark hands he was playing with a strange looking weapon: three large metal balls, about the size of oranges, connected to each other by at least two feet of thin silver chain so that they were all in a straight line. The boy looked up at Himiko suddenly and smiled, his white teeth startling her as they seemed to radiate like a beacon in the otherwise dark room. His eyes were also very bright pale blue. He tipped his hat, then continued to play with the weapon.

Across from her Akabane was sitting still in his seat, legs crossed knee over knee, eyes obscured by his hat and smile firmly in place. His patience was inhuman, as he hadn't moved from that same spot in the hour and a half they had all been sitting there in the dark, with a single dim light above them. But then, he wasn't the only one who was sitting still. At the left end of the row across from Himiko and the right end of the row she was sitting in were either of the Tanshoku twins, possibly engaged in some silent conversation, although it seemed unlikely. Kokuhaku had his legs crossed as well and was moving his foot side to side in an impatient manner, his arms crossed over his chest. Kokubyaku had his hands folded in his lap and was staring at them with his usual sad expression, occasionally sighing silently.

A door at the end of the hall opened, and an older man with short salt-and-pepper hair made a lavish motion toward the interiour of the room. Everyone stopped what they were doing as they turned to face the man. There was an awkward moment of silence before the dozen people in the hall filed into the room obediently.

The room was only slightly brighter than the hall. A line of twelve chairs was arranged in the center, in front of a long desk. The dim light in the room came from the six desk lamps at equal intervals on the long desk, each one throwing shadows on the face of a different man or woman and the white shirts of their identical black-and-white business suits. Himiko found herself growing more anxious as she took her seat, once again between the young woman with the concealed face and the dark boy.

The doors closed behind them and locked with an audible click. The man that had shown them in was nowhere to be seen when Himiko looked behind her. Swallowing, she turned to face the people sitting at the high desk.

"We apologize for keeping you waiting," an older woman with graying black hair said, standing up from her place on the very end. "We had important private matters to discuss before we could receive you."

An elderly, mustached man with white hair and a medium skin tone stood and spoke with a thick Spanish accent. As he spoke, the woman took her seat. "As you all know, you were summoned here for being what we believe to be the best representatives of your respective fields. As such, we would like to offer you a very lucrative business proposition."

Another woman stood and spoke, her pale green eyes fixed on the table as her long white-blonde hair spilled over her shoulders. She seemed to be the youngest of the group, but her voice sounded old and worn. The man sat down as she spoke, her voice holding the faintest hint of a British accent. "We have been participating in a challenge as handed down to us by the Committee, a group of people who mediate many of the world's most well-known businesses. We were given a list of items to retrieve. We are allowed to use whatever means we choose to find them, and whoever has the most when all have been found will get a seat on the Committee."

"You mean you guys ain't the Committee?" the dark boy asked, his voice thickly accented in the manner that was normal for the southen United States.

The green eyes fixed on him. "Questions can wait until after we finish speaking."

The boy just whistled lowly as the woman sat down again, and in her place a man that was either in his late twenties or early thirties stood. He had short, wavy black hair and wore glasses over his gray eyes, which locked on Himiko as he stood. She glared back, vowing not to let any of these people know she was nervous.

"The Committee hand picked you all. Some of you are already wondering why your specific talents are needed in what could be considered a retieval mission by some and theft by others." The man sounded like he was American, although he lacked the accent of the boy next to Himiko. "Well, we can't tell you why the Committee thought your talents would be useful. Maybe that's their little way of handicapping us."

The last woman stood, causing the man to quickly sit down. She had a long, pointed nose on her otherwise thin face, her greying red hair pulled in a tight bun and her beady dark eyes making Himiko think of a bird of prey. "Regardless of whether your talents will be useful to us or not, you were all chosen as the most gifted in your fields. You should feel honored." She had an Italian accent when she spoke, her voice as cold and harsh as her gaze. "We have reached the end of the game. The 'lightning round', so to speak. Which is where you come in. You will be payed handsomely for your services to us, as well as supplied room and board for the duration of your employment. You are allowed to use any means neccessary. And I do mean any." The bird-like woman glared at Akabane and the young woman sitting next to him, who was wearing a Chinese-style green coat with a silver butterfly stitched over the left breast. Her waist-length, straight royal blue hair was accented on the left side by a silver butterfly barrette with two emeralds for the tops of the wings, and two sapphires as the bottoms. Her green eyes were pointed directly at the people speaking. While Akabane smiled, knowing what the woman speaking meant, the other girl continued to stare with a dazed look in her emerald gaze.

The bird woman sat down, and the last man stood and straightened his tie. His hair was black with lines of silver, and his eyes were very dark. A fairly unremarkable Japanese business man.

"If any of you doesn't plan to accept our offer, leave now," he announced. He waited for several moments. Everyone began to look around at each other, but no one stood. The man nodded curtly at them all. "Splendid. Then when I say your name, please stand. I will give a brief introduction based on what is written in my file. I have no idea what your weapons or abilities may be, and you are not allowed to say what they are until you are all paired off to a different Player." He picked up a paper from the table in front of him.

"Cricket Smith and Bertrand D'Aubign," he announced. The dark boy stood up, as did an even younger boy that Himiko hadn't even noticed out in the hall. His brown hair barely brushed his neck, coming down over his pale face and partially obscuring his brown eyes. He was wearing a black windbreaker with silver piping and a pair of grey shorts, which made the fact that his right leg was prosthetic from the knee down obvious. He also looked like he couldn't have been older than ten or eleven.

"Cricket Smith from Dallas, Texas, United States. Notorious thief credited for his ability to steal valuable items in plain sight. He has made a name for himself as a jewel thief." The dark boy removed his hat and gave an exaggerated bow. His hair was the same light blue as his eyes, and very short, in tight curls. He replaced his hat and remained standing as the man continued speaking.

"Bertrand D'Aubign from Marseilles, France. An escape from a secret facility in the basement of the Institut International de Recherche Gntique. Also a famous thief, Bertrand is known to steal small but priceless items from the most famous museums in the world, simply for the challenge. He immediately returns them with a note-"

"Il n'y a rien qui ne peut pas tre pris," Betrand finished. In response to the confused stares he recieved, he quickly translated: "there is nothing that cannot be taken."

The man motioned for both boys to sit down before consulting his paper once more. "Carolos Lakiotis and Singer McCullough."

This time a very large and muscular man stood, his black hair a fine stubble on his head and his bronze skin catching the light...although not as much as the very sharp spikes on the gold rings that adorned his fingers. He was wearing a zipped up brown vest with nothing under it, and a pair of black slacks. A little further down the row a woman stood. Her hair was cherry-red and cut into a neat bob, her eyes cold and green. She was very attractive, wearing an open black trenchcoat with a very tight white top that she could just as easilly have stolen from Hevn's closet, even if she didn't fill it out quite as much. However, it was hard to look away from her cleavage, as there was a gold cross hanging in it by a thin chain. She was also wearing tight black leather pants, and carried herself like she knew everyone was watching her and she thought she was above them.

"Carolos Lakiotis from Karpathos, Greece. A ruthless mercenary, supposedly descended from pirates. He is known for his willingness to do anything for money, and will do it quickly." Carolos smiled broadly, revealing that his left incisor was apparently replaced with gold. This didn't impress Himiko one bit.

"Glenys 'Singer' McCullough from Dublin, Ireland. Orphaned as a small child and raised in a convent by nuns, she became a mercenary to raise money for her convent. She is still a devout Catholic and will refuse jobs that involve killing."

Himiko looked at the woman skeptically as she and Carolos sat down. She never would have pegged her as the type of person who had been raised by nuns...

"Yudin," the man continued, and two people who had been sitting next to each other stood up. One was a man with short, messy blond hair and dark blue eyes, wearing a black waist-length, fur-collared coat with his hands buried deep in the pockets, his blue jeans looking rather worn. Standing next to him was a woman with black hair, short with tendrils that curled on her pale cheeks. Her eyes were as dark as her hair, and on top of her head was a flat, round fur hat. Her coat was similar to the man's, only it extended down to her knees and had fur at the cuffs and lining the bottom.

"The bounty hunter team Yudin from Astrakhan, Russia. Actually husband and wife Aleksei and Yevgeniya Yudin. Both are children of parents who were part of experiments conducted by the Communists back in the days of the USSR, and their careers as bounty hunters originally began when they decided to hunt down war criminals."

The two people sat back down, and the man continued reading from the list. "Huet Sk Tau and Xian Hu Die."

The woman with the covered face stood, as did the woman with the dazed look who was sitting next to Akabane.

"Huet Sk Tau, actually half-Japanese and half-Chinese, from Guangzhou, China. A vicious assassin, she has actually been arrested and institutionalized several times in the past for her deadly and erratic behaviour." Sk Tau was clearly smiling now behind the cloth covering her face, her midnight blue eyes reflecting a sadistic glint. Himiko would have given anything to trade seats with anyone just then.

"Xian Hu Die of the Kwai Tsing district of Hong Kong, son of famous entomologist Xian Shaiming, who specialized in butterflies. His son was named after his greatest discovery, the Xian hu die, or Xian butterfly. Also a brutal assassin, his first confirmed kill was actually his father. In Japan he was given the nickname 'Butterfly-san'."

The assassins sat down as the next names were read. "The Tanshoku Twins from right here in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Protection agents from the Mamoriya, nothing is written here about them except that they are stronger when apart, but usually work together."

The twins sat down in unison, and Himiko suddenly became aware of Akabane standing. She quickly stood up, smoothing the front of her gold-trimmed, burgundy long-sleeved Chinese style shirt she had adopted for winter.

"And last but certainly not least the two transportation agents from the Hakobiya right here in Shinjuku. Akabane Kuroudo, also with very little information in my files. One of the most ruthless and cunning in his trade, and also one of the most reliable." The man gave Himiko a look that almost made her shudder, had all eyes not been on her. She almost thought all of the people at the front of the room were watching her...hungrily.

"And Kudou Himiko, another transporter with an excellent reputation. Formerlly a member of a retrieval service, she is quick and professional in all of her endeavors."

Himiko quickly sat down as the man shuffled his papers, noticing Akabane had done the same.

"You may go back into the hall. We will be out to make our choices in a moment," the woman with the faraway voice said.

Everyone looked at each other for a moment before standing and doing as they were told.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Do you have to do that?" Singer snapped. Cricket was in the middle of the hall, playing with his weapon once again. He seemed to like trying to keep it spinning in a triangular pattern using only one hand at a time. "That is not a toy, you know..."

"How do you know? Do you even know what it is?" Cricket shot back, not stopping his little game.

"No, I don't," Singer conceded. "But it doesn't make it any less annoying."

Aleksei shrugged. "It looks pretty lethal to me. If it is not a weapon, what is it?"

Cricket finally stopped playing with it, letting it fall limp in his hand. He let it fall a bit so he was grasping one of the balls on the end in his hand. "It's called a bola, and it is pretty lethal, 'specially if you don't have a clue as to what you're doing." He raised it above his head and began to swing it in a helicopter fashion. Several people ducked. "You just swing it around like so, and see that vase over there?" He released the weapon, and the vase smashed into bits. "Not anymore. These were used by gouchous in Argentina to hunt. They broke the limbs and necks of animals. Imagine what they do to people. Most of theirs weren't made of solid steel, either."

"You're a moron! Are you trying to get us all killed?!" Sk Tau shouted.

"Ah, so we know at least one of the little boys is good for something," Carolos said, his voice deep and thickly accented. "What about you over there?"

Bertrand shrugged, idly rolling a ball from hand to hand. "I prefer to use different kinds of bombs. Smoke bombs, sleep bombs, power disabling bombs...I disguise them in these special balls." He held up the ball he was playing with. Kokubyaku, who was sitting on one side of him, gave him a strange look. Yevgeniya, who was sitting on his other side, tried to slide away a little, closer to her husband.

Cricket apparently missed the danger, as he was busy retrieving his bola and muttering about not being a little boy. He threw himself down into the seat next to Himiko, tipping his hat in a silent greeting, then pocketed the weapon, crossing his legs and pulling his hat over his eyes. With his face (including his bright eyes) hidden and his arms crossed to hide his hands, he looked like a solid black mass in the dim room.

The door opened, and the older Spanish man stepped into the room, his eyes sweeping the room. A smile tugged at his lips and he pointed at Bertrand. "You'll be on my team. As will you." He pointed at Cricket next, although he never would have known if Himiko hadn't elbowed him hard in the side, causing him to sit up and lift his hat up.

"Huh? Me? Oh, okay." Cricket stretched his lanky frame and followed the man and Betrand through the door at the opposite side of the hall, the exit of the building.

Himiko noted that the man seemed to have intentionally picked both of the thieves. Well, when they had a task to complete and only some job descriptions to work off of, she couldn't say she blamed him.

When the door was closed, the door to the office opened again. The British woman with the pale eyes and old voice stepped out, closing it carefully behind her, eyes sweeping the room. She seemed to be measuring and calculating. She finally walked over to Hu Die, taking graceful, dainty steps. Himiko might have thought her a ghost had she not seen her with the other Players not more than twenty minutes ago.

"I would like him on my team," she announced, putting her hand on his shoulder. He stood obediently, empty eyes pointed down at the floor. Himiko found herself wondering for the first time what was wrong with him. When she thought of someone without a soul, people like Akabane and Huet Sk Tau and Wilhelm Grimm came to mind. But she had the sudden, horrifying notion that they did have souls. Black, twisted souls and equally twisted minds that warped their pleasure centers and destroyed their sense of moral decency. Xian Hu Die was the only one without a soul. How else could one explain that emptiness that was reflected in his eyes? His distant, almost robotic voice?

"I also choose him," the woman said, pointing at Akabane as she walked by him. He smiled his same cold grin and took his place next to Hu Die. Whoever this particular Player was, from her choices Himiko had to guess she wasn't as harmless as she seemed. She had chosen two of the three most unstable people in the room. The two most unstable men in the room. Men who would probably dismember her if she didn't keep all of her promises to them. She had to have known what she was doing, just like the other man had to have known what he was doing when he had chosen both of the thieves.

The trio left the room through the exit, quickly, quietly. And the door opened again. The American man stepped out, a grin on his face that Himiko didn't like one bit. She liked his hungry grey eyes even less, especially since they immediately locked on her, without even glancing at anyone else. She began to silently pray to anyone who may have been listening for him to not pick her...

"How about you?" he said, looking right at Himiko.

She wanted to say "how about no?", but she had no choice. She was a professional, and letting these people choose her like children choosing teams for some game was a part of her contract. She stood and walked over to him, and he sized her up the entire time.

"Yeah, you'll be perfect. And I guess I'll take you," he said in the same breath, pointing at Carolos. Himiko cursed her luck. She knew the American was a lech, and she was willing to bet Carolos was as well.

He lead them out into the cold night air, out of the small building that Himiko guessed had once been some sort of servants' quarters, heading toward the huge mansion that they had all originally believed they were supposed to meet at. She already knew that while they were working they'd all be staying there as part of the contract.

She looked behind her as the door opened again. The bird-like woman was leading out Yevgeniya and one of the twins- she couldn't tell who from this far away. So both the twins and the married couple would be separated. She couldn't help but feel a morbid sense of interest, but she crushed that realization down and looked over at Carolos, who smiled broadly. The lights of the mansion made his gold tooth shine.

A sudden, horrible realization washed over Himiko: she knew the American had chosen her because she was young and female. Carolos was easily the biggest person in the room. He was the most intimidating to look at from a physical standpoint, and to most people who knew nothing of the assorted powers the Pawns might possess he probably looked to be the strongest and most powerful. Which meant the American man was underestimating her. That thought filled her with a combination of anger and dread.

"My name is Samuel Rogers," the American piped up. "You'll be on my team while you're working for the Players. That means you'll give anything you may retrieve to me. Like we agreed, you can use any means you want. We'll provide you with everything. You just have to do everything we say. And I do mean everything."

Himiko shook her head. "If that means what I think it means, then I will not work for you. That wasn't part of the contract."

"Means what it...?" Rogers started to parrot. Then he began to laugh heartily. Himiko looked behind her. A fifth group consisting of Aleksei and Singer had just left with the plain-looking Japanese man. The group that had left before them didn't seem to notice the laughter.

"Miss Kudou, I can assure you that wasn't what I was talking about. You were asked to be here for your excellent professional prowess. Trust me: if I were looking for a bedmate for the evening, I wouldn't use the pool of exceptional talent the Committee graciously supplied us with. You aren't even of age yet, for goodness sake." He stopped laughing and shook his head. "But I can see where you might think that. A young girl surrounded by big, powerful men...you have to keep on your guard, right?"

Himiko grit her teeth to keep from completely losing her temper. "No, that's not it!" Well, that wasn't just it, but half truths didn't count as whole lies.

Rogers shrugged. "Fine, fine, I believe you. If you really want to know why I chose you, it's because you came to us highly recommended. We were discussing you all and drawing lots to see who got to choose first, and I knew from the moment I saw your file I wanted you to work with me. The Committee, a few members in particular, seem to think very highly of you. You should feel honored. I asked Mr. Lakiotis here to be on this team because although I don't doubt your abilities, you aren't the most intimidating figure, no disrespect intended. He looks intimidating. If you get in a confrontation, between his looks and your abilities, you'll have the opposition running for the hills."

Himiko didn't quite believe him. She didn't quite believe anyone here. Why would the Committee take notice of her personally? She knew she was strong, but she wouldn't bet that she was the strongest one there. Just from experience she knew she'd rather be Akabane's ally than his enemy, and the Tanshoku Twins were nothing to scoff at, especially when they were separated.

The entered the mansion at last, after what seemed like the longest walk of Himiko's life. It had felt like she was being lead to her execution.

And she found herself wondering if there really was any difference.

End of Chapter One

*Cue Goo's Stupidity*

Ginji: Ban-chan, we have more work than we know what to do with!

Ban: Yes, our luck is finally starting to change!

Ginji: But who are all these people? There are so many of them. And is that...Himiko-chan?

Ban: Yeah, this is kinda weird...well, if it's part of our job the Invicible Retrieval Service with the 100% Success Rate will get to the bottom of it!

Next Chapter of Get Backers: Too Much Work! The Pawns Strike

Look forward to it!