Motoko enters into an online chat room devoted to the Laughing Man to see if she can find any new information on him. What she discovers is a spirited debate among the self-proclaimed "fans" of the Laughing Man, but very little hard evidence.
The Major has become worried about the Tachikomas. It appears that their AIs have developed much more quickly and in ways that were not anticipated; they have begun speaking about their "individuality". Worried, the Major calls Batou to a meeting; the Tachikomas, having suspicions of their own, attempt to eavesdrop on their conversation. What will be the fate of Section 9's Tachikomas?
Batou goes undercover on a military base to shadow one of his former heroes, a man named Zaitsev who was an Olympic silver medalist. Now, however, he's under suspicion of espionage. Batou befriends him easily, and the two really seem to get along--which is unusual for Batou. But when Batou learns the truth behind his hero, he must make a very difficult decision.
While at an international police conference in London, Aramaki drops by to visit an old flame who's now in the wine brokering business. She asks him to help her put a stop to the corruption in her company, but he tells her that it's out of his jurisdiction. Just then, however, two thieves break into the building and take them hostage. With a corrupt police official on the outside, it's up to Aramaki to keep them alive and buy enough time for the Major to figure out what's going on.
Aramaki attends the funeral of an old war buddy, and is greeted by his departed friend's daughter. She tells him that her brother is acting very strangely, and she fears that he may be up to something illegal. Aramaki sympathizes, but says there's nothing he can do legally. Later, Section 9 is assigned the task of protecting the Chinese Foreign Minister from being assassinated. And when they start searching for suspects, the son of Aramaki's friend is at the top of the list!
Section 9's next case is a rash of mass-kidnappings. Rumor has it that a crime syndicate is harvesting organs and selling them on the black market. As they research the case, they realize that time is running out. If they don't find the kidnapped girls soon, it will be too late. And to make matters worse, there's a Russian cyborg operative who has gone rogue and is now working for the syndicate.
After tracking down the designer of Kuze's face, it is discovered that he was already killed... by Paz.
Saito recounts his first run-in with the Major, and how he became part of the group that would eventually become Section 9.
The Prime Minister is alerted to the existence of "hub cyberbrains," while Ishikawa returns from the peninsula to report on what he found out about Kuze's past.
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