Chad Okere : The Reflection EngineAma Hatori stood in the shadows. She was a beautiful woman, Asian, and tall for a Japanese, with shoulder length hair as dark as the night. She was dressed in black, illuminated by the stark blue lights of Tokyo at night, far below her. The gun pointed to the ceiling now, held at her chest waiting as silently as her. And to some the power that it held was as beautiful as it's user. It had an Industrial design, a dull silver finish, and a short square muzzle that was extended about six inches by a cylindrical silencer. She had been there for a long time, waiting, though she showed no signs of fatigue, or boredom, she stood with the inhuman patients of a machine. At 11:58, she heard them coming down the hallway. As they came through the door, it obscured their view of her, and when they cleared it, she closed it with her foot. There were two men, one a short Japanese man, old. He looked to be in his 50s or 60s, with silver strands in his black hair. Is face was wide, with thin lines of agedness. His black eyes looked at the tip of the silencer in terror. The other man did not. Nor did he show any other signs of fear. His eyes were as calm as Hatori's, they were looking at each other, but it seemed as if he was looking into her, his green eyes piercing her, studying her. And although she didn’t show it, it unnerved her. “Hatori” He said, his voice was smooth and calculated. “You know why I’m here, westerner” she responded, in perfect English. “Not so happy to see me again so soon, are you?” And Her lips bent into the smile of a murder, but his eyes had robbed her of her calm, and he didn't seem unhappy with the situation. But she was She was too nervous to change the speech on the fly. “I knew that I would see you again, Hatori. Although, I had hoped it would be under more pleasant circumstances”. He spoke came slowly. There was an absolute composure to his words, and his eyes. Hatori had not anticipated this in anyway, this coolness, this stare. This wasn’t the way that things were supposed to be going. The Japanese man, clearly shaken spoke up. “We can pay you, anything,” his voice, in broken English, was trembling, fearful. Hatori never moved her eyes, or her gun from the westerner, but he smiled upon hearing this. “She cannot be bought, of course.” He responded in Japanese, though voice held the hint of an American accent. He never broke eye contact with Hatori. “To dissuade someone Koshi, you must first, understand why they are doing what they are doing.” “She is doing this because she is a slave” again in English. Emphasizing the word ‘slave’ “Annabelle, You must listen to me.” Upon hearing that name, Hatori lost any pretence of composure. Her eyes widened, and her mouth opened, sucking in air. “How did you know that name?!” She demanded in Japanese. “I know more about you then you could imagine, Annabelle” “How did you know that fucking name!” She asked in English, The urgency was overwhelming. There was involuntary movement in her arm, a threatening motion with the gun. “Anything!” the Japanese man cried. “We can give you anything you want” “Koshi, Shut up”, the westerner said, the calmness gone. He broke his eye contact with Hatori. Hatori pointed her gun at the Japanese man. There was a soft thunk, as she shot him. His head cracked open. The westerner grabbed the silencer, and forced the aim away from himself, He pushed his body into hers, pinning her against the wall. He wasn't supposed to be this strong, no one was “Listen to me, Ama” he said. Hatori jerked her hand in a 90-degree motion, the gun followed but not the silencer. And with a click the two became separate. And the westerner was no longer holding anything of value. Before he could react, she shot him in the abdomen. It was a lot louder this time. His eyes widened in shock, and he fell back, onto the soft, tan carpet. His hands griped the wound, clutching in desperation. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that her cover had been blown, that she was no longer covert. The shots had been too loud without the silencer. She knew she had to run, that time was all she had now. But she didn't. She walked over to the man, and knelt down, and again they look into each other's eyes. He was still alive. And again she felt as if he was looking into her mind. “Annabelle” he whispered. She gazed back into his eyes, those eyes. “Finish the job Annabelle,” she said to her self. She had only ever used that name, the only place she had ever heard it was in her own mind. But he knew it to, and he was calling her by it. “Annabelle, listen” he whispered again, his breath was leaving him. Hatori could feel tears welling up in her eyes. How did he know that fucking name? “Finish the job,” she said again, in her mind, and she pointed the gun at the westerners face, at those eyes. For the first time he showed fear. “Ama?” He said it in a rising tone, with rising volume and rising fear. She pulled the trigger. And then again, And again until the gun would fire no more, until those piercing eyes were gone. “Fuck” she muttered. Her face was covered with a mixture of blood and tears. “FUCK!!” She screamed for what seemed like forever, and then that over and over again at a volume and energy constant because it was at the maximum. There was no reason to hide now, they knew where she was, they were coming, and she could hear their footsteps. Running. She heard... seven maybe five minutes away. She didn’t know what kind of security mega-tek had, but she who she was; she was the deadly Ama Hatori! And they would be no matches for her! Of course not! “Come on Annabelle” and then that name again, she had never wondered why she called herself that… no one ever had, but then, this man. “Move Hatori, move!” she whispered. And then she was running. The face was illuminated with the dull silver sunlight of a cloudy day, reflected erratically off the surface of the sea. It was of an Asian woman, Japanese or perhaps Korean. She was beautiful, with large black eyes, and smooth black hair that gently swayed in the cool summer breeze. Her features were small and sharp, with a little chin, and a slender face. There was a certain hardness to her, Hatori thought, a power. Perhaps it was just her perception though, since she knew the woman well. Hatori reached out to her, to her face. And when her hand touched the cool, dark water, the image deteriorated into an infinite sea of shapes and colors, each an incomprehensible abstraction of reality. Hatori saw only her hand now, and felt the cool ocean water washing over it. It pulled on her, as if the sea it self wanted suck her down into its depths, where she would never see the light of day again. She wondered what it would be like, to live down there, with the fish and the whales and the dark violet light. Of course she never could, and she knew that. There was no air for her down there, and with out it she would die. She was what she was, and nothing could ever change that. To think so was a child’s dream, and she pushed it out of her mind. She pulled her hand out of the water, and turned away. “Hashi!” her voice was loud, as she called to her lover. “Yeh?” he replied as he came out from behind the cabin. He was a beautiful man, she thought, strong, Japanese, like herself. And like her own, His body was hard, and muscular. His hair was short, and slick. He put something in it. What it was Hatori didn’t know, but she liked the way it looked. His face was wider then hers, larger. his chin was stronger to. But what she really loved were his eyes, his soft, brown eyes. There was a kind freeness in them, Hatori thought. He lived his life as if each day would be his last, but that he would never die. And in some ways, it was as if he had already given up, already accepted defeat, and in others, it was as if the travails of live were to minute to be concerned with. Hatori had never known him to show fear, or regret. He had said to her, once, that what has already happened, has already happened, and what will happen, will happen. Fear and doubt, regret and remorse, these things were meaningless. There was no point in sadness. “What do you think makes us who we are?” She asked in Japanese. “What do you mean?” “Why are we here, doing what we do?” “You mean, why do we work for Kuriyma Industry’s security department?” “No,” she paused, “well sort of, actually” “Ama, what have you been smoking?” He asked, jokingly. “What?” her tone was defensive “Don’t you ever think about things like this?” “Of course not! That’s what religion is for! It has all the answers, to all the hard questions. Right there, in easy to swallow packages!” “One could hardly call you a religious man Hashimoto,” “No, I’m not, and that’s why I don’t worry about things like that. I figured out a long time ago what the secret of life was Hatori, and it’s simple: Money, get as much as you can, and have as much fun in your life as you can. Screw everyone else. Have the fast cars, and fuck the beautiful women.” Hatori let out an audible breath of air at his last remark; she looked away, feigning shock. “Is that all I am to you?” she asked smiling. “Of course!” he said, sarcastically. “I don’t think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen! I don’t think about you all the time! You don’t make me feel like a giggly little school girl at all!” Hatori laughed, a soft airy laugh. “Forgive me Ama, I’m a ‘tough guy’, I have trouble expressing my ‘feelings’” “I see,” “Come on hatori, every one dies. You’ve ended enough lives to realize that yourself. You might as well have fun while you’re not dead” “I guess.” She said, as she composed herself, looking out across the ocean, letting her eyes voyage to the horizon, to the distant skyline of Tokyo. “Hashi, why did you decide to work for Kuriyama?” “I couldn’t really turn down their offer,” He said, as he jumped down to the lower level where she was. “Kuriyama cleaned my record, they gave me a new life. I was pretty fucked before they came around, Ama.” He sat next to her and put his arm around her. “Plus the money was pretty damn good. $200k a year will buy a lot of beer,” He said in English, rhyming ‘year’ and ‘beer’. Hatori laughed again, “really,” “Oh, Yeh,” he smiled “what about…” he cut himself off. “What else would you like to know?” “Everything” she said turning to him and smiling, “but not right now” “Mmm, does that mean were done talking?” he said reaching over to her with his other hand. “I guess it does” she raised her eyebrows for a split second. “I see” Hashimoto said as wrapped his arms around her. The sunset was beautiful that evening when they came back to the Tokyo marina, The clouds had mostly dissolved during the day, and those that were left reflected the orange light of the sun against the deep purple sky. To the east stars had begun to come out. The marina had been built a few years after the beginning of the millennium, to help attract tourists, or something. It was a huge place, more like Venice then Japan, and the waterways were filled with boats, small and large traveling between the buildings, witch were lined with boardwalks and connected via skyways to each other and the land. The lights were on in the buildings now, as the darkness of night crept upon them. Hatori looked up into the windows, and watched the Tourists going about their business, The Americans, and Indians, looking for that little bauble to bring back home, to prove that they had immersed themselves in Asian culture. The Taiwanese and Koreans, looking for a good deal on Jpop clothing. And the Japanese themselves, looking around for something to buy in this beautiful place. And again, she saw the face, in the food court of some nameless department store. She was sitting next to the window. The woman did not look exactly like her, her hair was different, died with streaks of a dim shade of red. She was warring a ruby dress, and her arms were soft, and weak. But the face, the face was the same. She was talking with some people; some Japanese, some American, and she glanced out to the waterway below her. She saw Hatori, and when she did she paused and looked into her eyes, for just an instant. Then she got up and left the table, leaving Hatori’s line of sight. The ringing was coming from her pocket. “Hello?” She spoke authoritatively, with curtness, into the small silver phone. “Shit.” “What is it?” Hashimoto asked. “Our little hacker is back” she replied “Patch me through to the main computer, Yukio” She spoke into the phone as her hands dug through her pack. “Computer, log me in as Hatori, and connect the display to the PDA I have with me” she said, pulling a small black keyboardless computer out of the bag. “You’re voiceprint has been recognized, Hatori” The emotionless voice of the computer replied. Getting computers to simulate emotions was trivial, but for most people it was disconcerting. So computers spoke, in general, with the calm female voice that those in the latter half of 20th century had imagined for them. “Run my trace though program.” The black screen of screen of the PDA lit up with DNS names, one after the other. Home-af5b6c.Tokyo.ntt.co.jp Home-53a7b2.Tokyo.ntt.co.jp Home-10001a.Tokyo.ntt.co.jp Home-165f8a.Tokyo.ntt.co.jp Home-6a6f64.Tokyo.ntt.co.jp Error 0: home-6a6f64 has no open input connections. Trace through failed at home-6a6f64… “Fuck” Hatori muttered. She turned toward Hashimoto. “Who ever they are, they’re using an automated script. In and out, in just a few seconds” “27.2345 seconds” the computer said over the phone. “Thank you computer, scan the systems reported by my trace program, tell me what Operating system there running” “Home-af5b6c, and Home-10001a are both running Nintendo-Xenion v4 patch level 3, the rest are Sony-PlayStations running PSXos 7” “Log me off.” She said, quickly, and snapped the phone shut. The PDA’s screen went blank. “What’s going on?” Hashimoto asked. “He’s Mario jumping,” she said. “He’s connecting though a video game system, and he’s connection to that video game system though another one, and so on.” She leaned back against the railing of the boat, looking back at the empty window where she had seen the woman. It was far away now, as the boat drifted under its own forethought to the docs. “There is practically no security on these boxes,” she said, “but they don’t need it. The users probably don’t even realize that they own a real computer. There files are stored on a central server, so the most a hacker would be able to do would be to crash the computer. “Uh, huh” “My trace through program actually works by hacking each box in series, and looking for connections to other computers on each one, but the problem is that it takes about second or two to hack each box, the more you chain up, the longer it takes to trace though. And if you’re fast enough, you cant be traced back at all” Hashimoto, nodded, “Ok.” “The lack of security, makes it easy for the game companies,” she said sighing, “they can enter the system whenever they want, and upgrade the OS, connect the systems for multiplayer games, use them for distributed processing, whatever. But it’s a boon for any decent cracker as well.” She said putting the phone and the computer back into her bag. “GOD! Fuck Nintendo!” She yelled. “Hey, don’t diss Nintendo! They made pokemon!” “What?” “Pokemon! That little yellow dude!” Like anyone who grew up in America Or Japan in the 1990s, Hashimoto Yakama had grown up saturated with Nintendo’s cash cow. “Don’t you remember?” “No, Hashi, what the hell are you talking about?” she said laughing. “Never mind. Why do you even let him into our systems anyway?” he said, returning the subject to the hacker. She sighed, “Well, we can’t catch him if he never comes around. Most of the important computers have been removed from the external network, but the thing is, we don’t know what he’s already managed to get. He does know we’re on to him, and he’s being very cautious. What we need to find out is who he’s working for, if he’s working for anyone, and what he already knows.” “Then what?” “Then, if he’s working for someone, we kill him. If he’s not we find out what he knows, and try to hire him” “What?” Hashimoto was shocked. “I know, its ridiculous, but I think Mr. Kuriyama grew up reading to many William Gibson novels, he’s got this romantic notion of hacking. If it were up to me, I’d just shoot the punk in the face.” There was a loud clunk as the boat locked into place in the dock. “Do you think you’ll ever be able to catch him?” Hashimoto asked. “Yeh, I’m working on something now that I think will do it. This guy is really brilliant, but I think we can catch him. If I didn’t I’d just close off the part of the network that he’s penetrated.” Hashimoto did have a fast car, a black Toyota Supra, It was a few years old, but it worked as well as the day he purchased it, better in some ways. Hashimoto would spend hours at a time working on his car, always striving for the perfect machine. He loved it. The car’s body was black with gold trim. It was a hybrid. Part gasoline burning, and part electric. He had replaced the battery driver with a custom job that could provide over 500hp of power when he needed it. He didn’t need it now, though. Hatori watched him as he drove. His hands never left the wheel, (He had set the computer to change gears for him) and his eyes never left the road. It was as if the car had become a part of him, an extension his body, his beautiful body. She put her hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know why I started working for Kuriyama” she said, gently rubbing it with her finger. “Huh?” he glanced over at her. “On the boat this afternoon, you were going to ask me why I started working for Kuriyama industries, but you stopped yourself. He laughed a little. “No I didn’t” “Yes you did, after you told why you joined, you were going to ask me ‘what about you?’ but you stopped yourself.” “What are you talking about?” “You don’t remember?” “I don’t, think so, I just asked you if you wanted to know anything else about me.” “Yeh, well never mind then, but I don’t know why I started working for Kuriyama, just so you know” she said smiling at him. “Whatever. Have you ever read a William Gibson book?” “No, why do you ask?” “You said that Kuriyama-san let hackers go because he had read to many of his books, and they gave him a romanticized view of hacking. Well, I don’t know, maybe you should read one, since that’s what you do.” Hatori laughed, “I’m not a ‘hacker’, I’m ‘computer security expert’ besides I think Stephenson writes more about literal hacking anyway, Gibson, he’s just associated with it, or something” she trailed off. There was a pause in the conversation, and Hatori tried to liven it up “So,” she said, “How’s your car going?” changing the subject to something that Hashi could discuss. “I know you don’t Care about my car, Ama” he said, chuckling a little. “But, I do!” she protested. “No, you don’t.” “Oh, you’ve seen right though me Hashi,” giving up the ruse rather easily, she really didn’t want to talk about his car. “Whatever shall I do?” “Wow… Its like I’ve hacked you’re brain!” he said sarcastically, his eyes growing wide as he looked at her. Hatori burst out laughing. “I’ve been ghost hacked!” she said, giggling. "Dude, does that mean I'm 133t" Hatori just kept on laughing. The car stopped in front of her apartment building, it was old, almost 60 years so, built during a time unfettered real estate speculation. It was built for money. Esthetic ideals were secondary, if given any thought at all. It was excessive only in its absolute uninspiredness. The structure was cool gray, cement. Outcroppings Of red brick, rising from the ground to the roof defined columns of apartments inside, and the black metal rails cut rows. There were 12 stories. Kuriyama had put her up there, soon after they gave her a job. She didn’t think about it often, but she was certain that she would not have chosen to live there on her own. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Hatori said as she got out of the car. “Bye, Ama” Hashimoto said, smiling. Then he drove off. There was a small gray camera above the main entrance. Hatori looked into it, and the doors swung open. There was no pretence of grandiosity in the main hall, a simple white lobby, with faded, orange-red carpeting, crushed under decades of activity. A few of the tenants had tried organize a movement to get it replaced a year or so ago, but nothing had ever come of it. No one cared. There were a few potted plants scattered about, and the brown wood paneled security desk. Hatori didn’t know how old the man behind it was, but she suspected that he had worked here since the beginning. His face was aged, cracked, broken hatori thought. His job was redundant, easily replaceable by a cheap computer. And while most of the tenants liked the human touch, she resented it. He was fallible, and clearly he could provide no physical security. But really, she resented that he was human, that she needed to thank him for opening the door. That she needed to talk to him when he struck up a conversation. It was an irritating inconvenience. His uniform was blue, smooth and creaseless, with shiny brass buttons. He took pride in his job, that much was obvious. He was a happy man, always smiling, welcoming the tenants, and calling the elevator for them. When she walked by him, he bowed. “Hello Hatori-chan.” He said returning to his erected position. Smiling, as always, this man. “Hello Kurio-san.” She replied, “how are you today?” “Good, good. I have called the elevator, it will be here shortly” “Thank you,” she smiled. There was a soft ping, as the elevator arrived. She was glad that it came quickly. “See you later, Kurio-san,” she said, giving him a warm smile. As she road the elevator to the 12th floor, where she lived, she began to think again of the woman she saw in the window that evening. She was so similar to her, her face… “It’s nothing Annabelle, forget about it” She thought to herself “There are millions of people in Tokyo, surely there must be a few who look the same.” It was strange though, almost as if she left because she saw hatori. It was dim in the hallway, when the elevator opened. Halogen lights illuminated each door, each address from above. The numbers were a visual cliche. The same as every address in every apartment building Hatori had ever seen. They were plastic, thought fashioned to look like hammered brass, reflecting the warm yellow light off their metallic surface, mass-produced somewhere for every apartment door in the world. Her residence was at the end of the hall, a corner apartment. 1221. She looked into the peephole, and for a split second light filled her eye. A moment later the door unlocked, and she pushed it open. She had rigged that up herself, the iris scanner. The key to this door was the only one she had, and though she kept it with her, it was easier for her to simply look though the lenses for an instant. Her apartment was large, especially for Tokyo. Dim halogen lights along the walls illuminated the room; they gave the apartment a softer sort of glow. The room had a simple style to it, comfortable. There was modern furniture, alongside traditional Japanese trappings. The apartment had two balconies, one on the east, facing the sea, and one on the north, facing the heart of the city. It was a beautiful view, and she could see the Kuriyama Industries tower from there. It was a large apartment, shaped like an ‘L’, and open, with the doorway at it’s vertex. Hatori gazed out to the sea, where she had been hours ago. To her left were the bedrooms, and the kitchenette, behind her, to the west was the living aria. A single, chair, with reflective blue fabric, served as a sofa, enough for her anyway, she hardly ever had visitors. Beside it was a small silver box, her computer. The south wall before the door was a huge graphic display, holographic. The west wall was bare save for two kitana blades, very deadly. They were each about a meter long, covered in black wooden sheaths; the handles were wooden, etched with gold. The craftsmanship was excellent. Hatori sat in the chair, it was pretty comfortable, and she lay back, and put her feet up on the pillow in front of it. “Stars.” She whispered. The display lit up with a billion points of light, Flying at her. The resolution was amazing. It was as if the apartment was a starship, traveling though the universe, into the vast emptiness of space. Away from the world and all its little concerns. “Music.” The room filled with the soft chords of stringed instruments. Classical, Hatori didn’t know anything about classical music, but she listened anyway, when she wanted to relax. “Forget about her, Annabelle.” Her mind whispered. “Forget.” But, she couldn’t forget. “Stop.” The stars disappeared, and the music faded out. Maybe there was something to this woman, Hatori thought. Why did she leave after she saw her? She decided to see what she could find out. “Computer, connect to Kuriyama. Log me on as Ama Hatori” The display turned a dim shade of red, it appeared as though a light source was shining from the upper right corner. In the center was Kuriyama’s corporate logo, floating a few inches from the wall. “Show me my logon history for the past 9 hours” A square appeared, with a black and white picture of Hatori, next to that, another box with green text. Also floating away from the wall. 7:45:53pm - 7:46:46pm. IO on phone56 Visual display on palm8527.cell.ntt.co.jp. 9:56:32pm - ?????????. IO on hatori.res.kuriyama.co.jp Visual display on g1.hatori.res.kuriyama.co.jp “Clear the screen, and display a map of the Tokyo marina.” The wall was filled with a stock satellite photo of the marina. “Superimpose my path, from 7 o’clock, until 8. Don’t change the map dimensions.” A green line, weaving from the sea to the docks, and then up and out of the map appeared on the screen. “Mark my position at the time I first logged on.” An X appeared on the line. “Give me a line map.” A green map, of the aria was superimposed on the satellite image. “Zoom in to the aria 500 meters around my login time.” The image flickered, and was replaced with another; four or five buildings were present. “Trace my position back, 30 seconds. Keep it in the center.” The map scrolled a few meters to the east; to the south of her position was the Yoshihoura Department store. “Connect to the Yoshihoura’s computers, see if there is a model publicly available.” Hatori said. There was a sharpness in her voice, emotionless The satellite image faded out, and the green rectangle representing the department store came out of the wall, and began to rotate. It became a cube, with the with lines along the side representing the different floors, the sections of the store were clearly labeled for potential customers. “Can you show me the location of the security cameras?” Red dots appeared throughout the building. “Computer, can I get video out of those cameras?” “I’m sorry Hatori, that information doesn’t appear to be publicly available” The computers cool, emotionless voice said. Hatori didn’t expect to be able to get that information from the public site; still it would have been nicer. “Computer, run Yukio’s auto-hack program against the Yoshihoura, see if you can get into any of the local systems on their network.” The auto-hack program was a brute force hacker, throwing every known exploit against a system until it broke. It was easy to detect, and easy to stop, and probably wouldn’t work on any system with a halfway decent security team, but hatori didn’t really care at this point. It would be unlikely that someone would monitor the systems that closely at the Yoshihoura, and she would be able to get in. “OK.” There was a slight pause. “Auto-hack has been initialized as a batch process. Its ID number is 3” “Show me the output” The screen filled with green text, showing the progress of auto-hack, each system it connected to. It scanned every port on the system, looking for the traces of a hole, ether known to the world or just a few people inside Kuriyama. It was elegant in its inelegance, if there was a hole, auto-hack would find it. It could also take several minutes. “Computer, when the task completes…” She stopped. The green lines had stopped scrolling. The last line was red. Security hole on system tokyo5.Yoshihoura.com (exploit 534: arbitrary code on user account) Hatori smiled, they were stupider then she thought. “Computer, can we access video data now?” “Let me check.” The computer replied, it looked through the new hole, examining structure on the other side, looking for familiarity… “Yes”. “Scan the videos for a woman in a red dress, in the 5 minutes prior to my logon.” “That will probably take some time, you would probably be able to do it yourself faster” “You’re right.” Hatori said. Computer’s visual capabilities were far behind there aural ones, any attempt to look for something as subjective as a ‘woman in a red dress’ could take hours. “Show me static images from the cameras on the 3rd floor, 1 minute prior to my logon.” The screen split into 36 separate images, each showing an image from a camera. The computer had numbered each image, so that hatori would be able to make selections between them. There, in image 19 was the woman. The resolution on each camera was amazing, but the shot was from behind. Hatori could not see her face. “Zoom in on image 19.” The 19th image expanded to fill the entire wall. “Play the video backwards, at triple speed.” Hatori watched the people eating, backwards. Food coming out of their mouths on spoons, waving there hands about comically. She kept her eye on the timer; they had gotten to the table 7 minutes before the static image. “Skip back to the static image.” The still shot reappeared. “Play forwards, single speed” Hatori watched the woman, eating, talking. 37 seconds after the still shot, the woman brushed her hair on the left side, and turned toward the window. “Half speed.” The video slowed down. Hatori watched the woman carefully; she could see only the very edge of her face. For 5 seconds, she stood, silent and still. Then, without so much as a word to her colleagues, left the table. As she turned Hatori saw her face, For 14 seconds, hatori gazed upon that face, her face, as she moved, in half speed out of the view of the camera “Stop.” She said. The image froze. “Superimpose the model of the store again, with the cameras highlighted.” The map appeared again, this time with the cameras numbered. The computer had anticipated what she was planning on doing. “Switch to camera 15.” She said, coolly, and again the woman was in frame. “Play at normal speed” Hatori watched her, this mirror image. She followed her, from camera to camera. She went to the 4th floor and got off on skywalk 143, to the west. She was going back to land, but following her all the way would take forever. For each store that the woman entered, Hatori would need to repeat the process. That was even if she could get into each of the systems, at each of the stores. “It doesn’t matter.” She thought. The data would still be there tomorrow, somewhere. “Computer, save the data from this session, and disconnect from Kuriyama.” The screen went blank. Hatori looked at her watch, 10:47:32. She had spent nearly an hour following the woman around the Yoshihoura, and learned nothing. She had no idea how long it would take to trace her back to her home, if she would even be able to do it at all. Hatori got up from the chair, and made herself a bowl of ramen noodles. Monday, Tomorrow, she would need to be at work by 8. She was tired. Before she went to bed, she stopped in the living room. “Computer, show me my own face.” Her image appeared. She was looking strait ahead, emotionless. “Calculate a facial features profile, and scan any database you can find for pictures that are close to it, record any information you find about the people listed.” She paused. "Concentrate on information local to Tokyo first. Start branching to other locations based on their informational proximity to the data already gathered." “This may take several hours, or even days” her silver computer spoke though the speakers on her walls, she was no longer using Kuriyama’s computers, but it didn’t matter, most image databases would have the facial metrics stored with the image, making a comparison a simple task. Of course, there would be millions of faces to look through. “Suppress output, and store the results.” “Starting process.” “Thank you, turn off lights, please” The room went dark. It was one of the largest man made structures in the world, black, or dark at least, against the blue morning sky. The windows were smooth, near perfect mirrors that reflected dim images of the sky, and of the thin wispy clouds. The lobby of The Kuriyama Industries building was huge, its decor a mixture of obsidian marble, and tendrils of delicate chrome. The lobby stretched from one side of the building to the other, and hanging across its vaulted ceiling was a crystal statue. Arrays of prisms, hung stretching and twisted, like the fossil of some ancient sea serpent, a dragon of light. In the center of the ceiling, there was circular hole that cut the entire building. On each floor, there was a window down, and in the ceiling. Though the glass was perfectly flat, they were lenses, and each floor appeared to be as close as the one below it. Every Sunday, the windows were cleaned, and on Mondays one could see the sky. By Friday, the windows had become smudged, and while the light still reached the lobby, the image did not. Today was a Monday. On the left hand side, there was an array of elevators; their doors were pseudo copper, finely brushed. Hatori walked into one. There was a camera inside, above the door. “Welcome back Ms Hatori, what is your destination?” “83rd floor, information technology.” There was real security here, unlike her apartment. The machines had recognized her face; the algorithm used was near perfect, matching patterns of blood vessels, the structure of bone under skin. Even identical twins could be differentiated. Despite this… “Enter access code.” She still needed an access code. “Eye-kay-gee yu-yen” She pronounced each letter carefully, thee American, and two Chinese. The chances of someone faking the machine were almost zero; even so each employee was given a unique access code. If one were leaked, the source would be immediately known. Users were only asked when they were alone on the elevator (The cargo weight could be no more then 30 pounds over the weight in Kuriyama’s database). “Thank you.” Hatori rested against the back railing. The ride was short. The building was partitioned; lower management, middle management, and whomever it was they managed were on the lower 35 floors. Content creation: music, movies, video games, resided on the 45 above them. Research and development was on the next 30. Upper management: the board, those that ran the company took the remaining 10 floors. Kuriyama-san’s office was on the 116th. Kuriyama Industries was an old company. It had existed, in different forms, and under different names, for hundreds of years. Even its latest form was over a century old. It had been a military contractor for the Japanese government in world war two; the plains that bombed Pearl Harbor were built in its factories, the solder’s swords fashioned in its furnaces. Of course there wasn’t much of a market for military technology in Japan after the war, and again the company evolved, in all directions. Diversification. It produced cars and plains, and microwaves and power plants. Kuriyama made stuff, through their many brand names, and sub companies, Kuriyama had moved product into every home in the world. At the end of the 20th century, the world changed again, and so did Kuriyama. The physical world gave way to the virtual world. Information, information was the key now, the currency. Information was where the money was; in fact information was what money was. Kuriyama-san, the son of the Kuriyama-san before him, had moved the behemoth company into the new world. Building the tower, a shrine to knowledge, not business. The company spent ? of its total income on research and development, more then any other Japanese company. The 30 floors near the top of the Kuriyama Industries building produced more knowledge then a major university. Knowledge, witch at Kuriyama’s discretion, could be sold; or used. Research and development: Materials science, electrical engineering, Information technology, Neurology, Biology and Genetics. Each disciple, overlapped in practice, and in the building. On those 30 floors resided some of the greatest minds in the world. And Hatori worked among them. There was a soft ping as the elevator doors opened. The space was open, like the lobby, both vertically and horizontally. Hatori loved working here, the people the technology. On these floors, the future was 20 years closer. Her office was in the information technology department, in the security/reverse engineering section. Her job, officially at least, was to protect that knowledge. To keep the future in the hands of those who created it, or, at least, paid for it. She was a guardian of information, not just in the computer realm, but also in the real world. She was a liaison, of sorts, an intermediary between information security on the 83rd floor, and physical security on the 105th. Her unofficial position was nearly opposite, similar only in the skills needed. She was a hacker. She broke down the security of Kuriyama’s competitors. To create knowledge by simply stealing it, ether by unlocking the secrets of products by pain staking reverse engineering, or by simply breaking into computer systems, and copying it. In her department, there were 30 people, though she was the only one that worked with the physical security department. Her and Yukio reported directly to Kuriyama himself. Hatori walked across a square opening, leading down 3 floors. There were two walkways and they formed an X, meeting in the center of the building. As Hatori walked across the glass lenses, she looked up; she could always see the sky from this floor, the clouds. And, over half a mile below her feet was the lobby. Yukio would probably be there, in fact, Hatori figured that he had probably even slept there. She worked in Lab83-17. When she entered, it looked as it always did. With computers strewn about, in various states of disassembly. Networking wires scattered about, a few monitors. The remains of competitor’s products, in various stages of reverse engineering. The room was often location of all night frag-fests (video game competitions) amongst the hackers, and other programmers. Originally, the lab had two window walls, on the east, and north, but the east side had been partitioned off, and offices made facing the sea. Hatori’s office was among them. Yukio was in the corner, sleeping, as he often was on Monday mornings. Hatori walked over to him, and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Yukio, you can wake up now.” Yukio let out a low grumble. His arms were folded under his head on the desk. A black cable was plugged into his neck, a direct neural interface. The technology had been developed right here, just a few years ago. It let the mind interact with the computer as if it were an appendage, a natural part of the body. By using “left over”, or unconnected nerves, it was able to operate without any adverse effects on the user. It relied on the flexibility of the human mind more then anything else, the ability to adapt and change. Within a few weeks, a user would become so skilled that they would be able to control five or more virtual bodies, along with their own. In front of him was a glass tube monitor displaying scores from a finished game of BattleCraft, a strategy game. From the display Hatori was able to see that he had been playing for hours last night. Yukio had won, barely, destroying much of his enemy’s buildings and forces. “Up all night playing Battlecraft on company time, again?” Hatori asked, with a slight sarcastic bent. They got along well, like two old friends, though they had only known each other for only a few years. For some, her arrival would have been upsetting. Yukio had been the best information security agent at Kuriyama before she showed up, and she had taken over many of his responsibilities. She was smarter then him, and he knew it. It didn’t bother him though, because he didn’t let it bother him. For Yukio, finding the best solution was paramount, and whether that solution came from him, or someone else didn’t really matter. At least, that was what he kept telling himself. “Uhhh. What time is it?” He asked -- his voice muffled by his arms. “8:45:21” Hatori replied, “What did you think.” “Earlier,” He said his voice still muffled “I was hoping it was earlier. I hate the passage of time.” Yukio sat straight up, and stared forward. He was unbelievably tired, having gotten only a few hours of sleep in between Battlecraft games. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second or two, and then opened them. “Hatori,” he paused “What were you doing last night?” He asked, turning towards her. “What do you mean?” “Well.” He laughed, “you were doing some weird-ass shit last night. To start with, you hacked into a Yoshihoura, what was up with that?” “Oh, I was just bored, I guess… what were you doing watching me anyway?” she asked, growing a little apprehensive. “Some guy called me, saying that he was getting a lot of activity from hatori res kuriyama.” He said, not verbalizing the ‘dot’s in the domain name. He thought we might have had a hacker, or something. “Really? I didn’t think they’d have anyone watching.” “Well, you made quite a bit of noise, but the guy didn’t seem to really know what he was talking about, I doubt he even really knew you got in.” Yukio paused. “By the way, what were you doing in there so long?” Hatori had always trusted Yukio; she had to. And yet for some reason she didn’t want to tell him what she had been doing last night. The whole thing had been somewhat unsettling for her, and she didn’t want Yukio to know. “I was trying to lower the price of Tampons.” She said, with a half grin, raising her eyebrows Yukio started laughing “Oh, god, Ama” “What?” “Well, that was a little unnecessary” “Me doing it, or telling you about it?” “Well, both. Don’t you make like $300k a year?” “Yes, but others don’t.” She paused. “And like I said, I was bored.” “I see,” he said shaking his head. “Then you started this massive process, it’s been sucking down tons of CPU since you started it, and a lot of bandwidth. Making network connections all over the place. What are you doing?” She thought for a moment. “I’m downloading pictures, of people. Everyone” “Why?” “Well think about it, and this just hit me last night.” She said, acting as if she were excited by her own discovery. “If we need to find someone, and all we have is an image, how do we do it?” “I don’t know, are you saying you’re creating a cache of image data for our own use?” “Yeh, that’s the idea, I guess. Right now I’m just gathering a lot of sample data, I suppose I’ll analyze it when it gets done. For the real thing, I think we’d want to be a bit more methodical, or something” “That is a pretty good idea Ama.” “I guess, but enough about my exploits, tell me what we’ve got on our little Mario?” Yukio sighed, “I don’t know, were still waiting for the results of the wire trace, he did go through emie, though.” He broke eye contact with Hatori and stared off into space, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, that’s the only way he could get in.” she smiled when she said it, hoping her enthusiasm cheer Yukio up. It didn’t. “I guess,” He said, “I suppose that’s better then nothing.” Hatori smiled, “Exactly. So, what do we have so far?” Yukio said nothing, but turned his head toward the glass tube monitor in front of him. The image of the BattleCraft score screen appeared to flip like a playing card, leaving a black surface in its wake. A green rectangle with the words “emie.kuriyama.co.jp” appeared on in the upper left hand corner. Below it, four red boxes appeared, with lines leading from emie, to them. “Sequel.personnel.kuriyama.co.jp, io2.kuriyama.co.jp, hakashi.bio.kuriyama.co.jp and r1.kuriyama.co.jp.” “Not much of anything, really.” He said, “going after some main IO systems, io2 and r1. Probably to use as jumping off points to get deeper into the network.” Hatori sat down in a char next to him and leaned back. “Io2 is one of the proxy systems, he probably used it to send info back into the ‘net.” Hatori stared into empty space, as if perplexed. “But why would he attack his output server in one of the first steps? Simple arrogance?” “No,” Yukio said, “this guy’s smarter then that. That’s why I said io2 was probably just a jumping off point.” “Two jump off points?” “Well, we’ll know everything when we get the wire trace data back from the genfires.” Hatori shrugged “I guess so, that still doesn’t explain sequel-personnel, or Hakashi.” “Well, sequel is the main database server for personnel, maybe he wanted to find out what certain people were working on.” “I guess… he’s hit that box before, hasn’t he.” Hatori’s disposition changed, she looked directly at Yukio. “You think maybe he hasn’t been able to get in?” “Actually, that’s pretty likely, sequel is running a b2 level box.” Hatori got out of her chair and grabbed a small computer, an Abit 4420 PC; it looked more like a flat-panel TV then a computer. It was in the lab to be hacked apart, the graphics chipset used was of amazing quality for its price. Only costing a few hundred dollars, it could produce a near photo realistic image in real time. She walked back over and plugged it in to a power supply, and a fiber optic link. “Computer, turn on.” She could see herself in the dark glass of the monitor. “What are you doing?” Yukio asked. “Yukio, can you pull up sequel’s database log for the time of the attack?” Yukio’s monitor was cleared again; two lines of text replaced the map. User pub-infoserv: “get “bio” where name “Peter Huang”” User pub-infoserv: “get “bio” where name “Chibi Huang”” “Nothing substantial, the public web server looked up biographies of two people.” “He wouldn’t he probably wouldn’t be able remove the logs off sequel, but did emie make any SQL queries?” “No.” “So he didn’t get in then.” Hatori said. The computer in front of her was still blank. “Computer! Turn on.” “Most likely no, but I don’t see what that really has to do with.” “Well, why don’t we let him in?” “What!” Yukio yelled. “Read only.” She said, “Set it up to allow anyone from emie to access whatever they want.” She put her hands on the side of the computer. “Commpuuuuteeerrr” she said in a sing-songy voice. “Hatori, that’s insane!” She turned back to Yukio, with a puzzled look on her face. “What?” “Your talking about opening our entire personnel database to some hacker who we have no idea who it is!” Yukio was yelling now. “They would be able to tell what every single employee was doing in this company, Hatori!” “I know, but it wouldn’t really be that much worse then letting him into the entire network.” “I know it wouldn’t be that much worse. This whole situation with emie, and the wire tracing is borderline retarded, we’re letting this guy walk all over us.” Yukio stood up. “Its what Mr. Kuriyama wanted.” “Kuriyama wanted us to catch the hacker, not let him fuck us up the ass. Every idea you have lets him deeper into our system Ama.” Yukio was yelling now. “This guys not a hacker; he’s the greatest social engineer out there! All he has to is touch a system, and you open it up for him the next time he comes around! How do you know he isn’t selling the data he’s already gotten? How do you even know this wasn’t his last attack?” Hatori became agitated. “Look Yukio I know this bothers you, but it’s the only way were going to be able to catch this guy! Do you think I like this?” she was on the brink of yelling. “Turn the fuck on!” she hit the computer, almost knocking it over. “You fucking love it, every minute of it Hatori. Your sacrificing Kuriyama Industries so you can play your stupid hacker games.” Hatori stood up, “This is what he wanted” She was yelling now. “Kuriyama-san told us to track this guy down. How the fuck else are we supposed to do it? Huh?” she walked toward Yukio, getting in his face. “I don’t like this, and I would never ever do something that I thought would bring harm to Kuriyama. Kuriyama is the most important thing in the world to me, Yukio. I would sacrifice my life for us, for him.” Hatori glared at him, 9 inches away from his face. “And I know that’s something you would never do.” The anger on Yukio’s face melted into fear. He had never seen Hatori this angry, he had never heard the word ‘you uttered with so much contempt. He knew how strong she was, how dangerous. If she could loose this much composure…? “I -- I’m sorry.” He stammered. Hatori’s anger seemed to fade into shock at her own actions. Hatori looked into his eyes, there was real fear in them. She backed away, and sat back in her chair. She sighed. Yukio stood still, stricken. “That’s ok.” Hatori finally spoke. She put her hand over her eyes, and rubbed her brow. She moved her hand over her mouth, and looked back at the PC. It was an elegant design. It consisted mostly of a glass panel about a foot and a half high and two feet wide, on witch was stuck a small control bar with a few buttons. The panel was silver-gray molded plastic. There were a few lights and a few buttons, including silver one with a power switch symbol – a circle with a vertical line through it – embossed. Hatori used her other hand to push the button. “Maybe it would help if I pushed the button.” She said, with the hint of a forced smile. Yukio smiled, “Yeh.” American Megatrends PC BIOS 24.3 Ip address 432f:29ab:5be2:45:0:0:0:14 (retro1358.infosec.cs.kuriyama.co.jp) HDD 0 detected: [Airgate highFiber 8853a 88gpx] GFX: [Abit iMagiea 220] The words appeared in the upper left hand corner of the screen, in the same font PC that had been used since the 1970s. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the Ip address, the display would have been indistinguishable from what might have shown up in 1980. Yukio sighed, and sat back down. “Hatori, I’m sorry.” “That’s ok.” She said, with out removing her eyes from the PC’s display screen, witch was rapidly scrolling messages as the computer booted. “Yeh.” Hatori trailed off. “Look, Yukio, lets just forget about sequel, ok?” “Good.” “I mean… if he got everything he needed, chances are he would never reenter. If we were unable to trace him then, it would become impossible.” Yukio Paused. “Hatori look, we can’t trace him.” He struggled to maintain calm as he said it. “We are never going to be able to.” Hatori shut her eyes for a second. “Of course we will.” “Hatori, its impossible.” “No, there is a way, there has to be.” “How?” Yukio asked, rhetorically, “How are we going to do it?” “I don’t know, I don’t know.” “Hatori, this isn’t working. You know it.” “He needs to make a solid connection, Yukyo, there has to be a way to follow that back.” “Of course there’s a way, and we’ve been trying that. But he’s in and out two quick.” “If we could tighten the code we use on the game systems…” “Even if we could do that, it doesn’t mean anything. He could be chaining hundreds of these. The most we’ve ever been able to trace through has been eight.” “I know, I know.” Hatori got out of her chair and began to pace around. “But there’s something else, think about the algorithm.” “What algorithm? There isn’t much inherent complexity here, Ama. How could we change the algorithm?” Hatori ignored him. “These boxes off in space somewhere, connected. One to another.” “Uh… yes…” Yukio voice was sarcastic. “We’ve been over this before.” “Like a linked list.” Hatori said, referring to a method of storing information on a computer. A linked list was a collection of Nodes – data structures that contained a pieces of information, and a link to another node – the nodes were connected together, making adding more information to the list simple, but in order to get any piece of info out, you had to go through every node before it. “Okay…” Yukio’s voice was laced with a combination of sarcasm and patronizing tones. Again Hatori ignored it. “We need to search faster, we need another data structure.” “Hatori, what the hell are you talking about, this isn’t anything like searching for information in a computer program. We’re talking about a network here, not a memory space; there is nothing but links. I mean that analogy might sound nice, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. We don’t define the link structure the hacker does.” “Well, there’s the address space.” Hatori acknowledged Yukyo this time. “What! You’re talking about 2128 addresses, we can’t index that.” “Of course not, no. I would never suggest something like that.” “Then what the hell are you suggesting, hatori?” “I think your thinking about this in the wrong manner.” Yukio’s eyes shut, as he sighed. “This is bullshit, Hatori.” he shook his head. “You aren’t getting us anywhere.” Hatori stopped pacing and looked at him. He was wearing a tee shirt from a computer security conference in Las-Vegas years ago, the same one he had been wearing Friday; and the same faded, dirty jeans he always did. She sat down in the chair again, and rested her head in her left hand. “The answer is right there.” She was talking more to herself then Yukio now, “The data is the same, and the systems are only repeaters, relays.” “Hatori, I think we need to end this, we’ve lost.” “That isn’t our decision, Yukyo.” “Hatori, it’s the solder who decides if he’s dead or not.” “Were are not dead.” “But we can’t win.” Hatori was silent. “Look,” Yukio said “I think we need to talk to Kuriyama-san about this.” “What?” Hatori looked up at Yukio. “We need to tell him what’s going on, Hatori. He needs to know that we can’t find this guy.” “We can find him.” Yukio shook his head. He stood up again. His hand reached up to the back of his neck, to his spine, to the DNI cable. “Come on Hatori.” Hatori drew in a breath of air. “I don’t want to tell him that we’ve failed, Yukyo, please.” She looked up at him. There was an edge of fear in her voice. Her eyes were pleading with him. For a moment, Yukio wanted to give her what she wanted. She was a beautiful woman that much was certain. And It might be possible that she was right after all. No, she was wrong. He knew that. Every moment this project continued Kuriyama was leaving itself open, defenseless in hope of trapping someone who could not be trapped. “Hatori, we have failed.” He pulled on the DNI plug. His body jerked as it was removed, His arms, his eyelids. Every muscle in his body was sent a random signal. The plug itself was wide and flat, about an inch and a half wide, and a few millimeters thick. It was a flat silver square, with the thin glass fiber optic cable coming out of one of the corners. On the front was an array of needles, 15 pins, each about 2.5 millimeters apart. The ones in the center were shorter, just a few millimeters. The two outside pins were about 30mm long. Yukio set the plug on the table “Come on hatori, give up.” Hatori’s eyes drifted to the window. It was a beautiful day in Tokyo today. Not a day for bad news. “You want to talk to Kuriyama?” she asked rhetorically. “Then lets talk to him.” Hatori said. Slapping her knees before she stood up. “Everything will be OK Annabelle” The words were English in her mind. “Kuriyama will agree with you, we just need more time. He will understand. Don’t worry.” She followed Yukio across the lens, and back through the copper colored elevator doors. “What is your destination?” The metallic female voice of the elevator systems computer asked. “Operator.” Yukio’s voice was as emotionless as the machine's. Hatori wrapped her arms around her chest. Telling herself not to worry wasn’t helping. There was a pause, as the operator came online. “Yukio-san, what is your request?” The modulation of the voice, the waveform was the same as the elevator-computer. The pitch was a little different though, not really more human, just different. “Me and Ama here would like to head up to the 105th,” You couldn’t go directly to the one-sixteenth, not in these elevators. You had to go through physical. “We want to see Kuriyama.” He might as well give them time to prepare. She could feel her body shivering. “Ok, let me get authorization for the two of you.” Less computer like now, her word patterns. They would have to wait, Her and Yukio, in the elevator. Yukio looked up into the small gray camera. Hatori did not. She looked down. Her body was shaking now. “Shit” she whispered to herself, She couldn’t let Kuriyama down, fail him. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Without a word the elevator started moving. Up to the 105th floor. It was as far as the elevators went, these ones anyway. The final 11 floors had a real operator, an agent. Yukio didn’t pay much attention to her; he didn’t give a fuck what she had to say. The little bitch, let her wine and moan in front of Kuriyama, see where that gets her. He looked at her again her body was shaking now. He could see the tears, running down her cheek. God damn it. He had certainly never seen hatori like this before. “What’s wrong?” he asked, trying to sound like he cared. Hatori just started crying. The circle was as old as the organization. A dragon, twisting and writhing in the sky. Vomiting fire, its eyes wide with anger, with vengeance. Frozen in a disk of gold that reached from the floor to the ceiling. It was the doorway now, to Kuriyama-san’s office. Cut ever so slightly down the middle, Kuriyama Industries was a hierarchy. There were ten below Kuriyama, each with equal power. They ten rarely met, in fact most barely even knew the others (the exception being heads of departments that coordinated quite a bit). There was no second in command here, nor had there ever been. Kuriyama-san was the top, unquestioned power. Between the ten and Kuriyama, information was transferred only here and in the conference room, at the top of the building. Face to face. It was all about information control, he said, and information control inside Kuriyama was tight. E-mail, video, if it was on the network, then by definition, there would be at least one other person that could see it. Yukio, Hatori, one of the system administrators. It wasn’t that Kuriyama didn’t trust encryption, he did, but what he didn’t trust were the abilities of the others to keep there private keys private. Hatori and Yukio were left alone, now. They were some of the few non-members who had access to Kuriyama. She had managed to stop crying, now but the emotions were still there. Fear, dread. Never during her time here had she failed, and while she didn’t know exactly why this hacker was so important, she knew that he was. But really she hadn’t failed, at least, that was what she kept telling herself. The answer was right there, just beyond the fingertips of her mind. It had to be, there was a way to trace and she knew it. This guy, this hacker was making a solid connection. Information from his computer was coming directly from his computers to Kuriyama’s. Yukio was not upset. In fact, he was happy. He wasn't failing, she was. And as petty and unproductive as he knew that was, he couldn’t help himself, and he didn’t try. It was her project, her thing. Yukio couldn’t stop her by himself, he knew but Kuriyama could, He was the final arbiter. The golden doors swung open. The office was huge. Empty almost. It’s texturing raw, industrial. The ceiling was untilled, a web of scaffolding and frame. The corners of the space were partitioned off, into two separate rooms. His desk was facing them, his back to the wall of windows Shinzuko Kuriyama. An ancient man, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Actually you wouldn’t know much at all from looking at him; (if you noticed him at all) he was conspicuously unremarkable, at least in appearance. A short man, stout, with fine leads of gray in his evenly combed black hair. There were two displays on his desk. One was a window unto the net. History, he said, was not the linear record of events, but of people’s emotions. Events, over time, became only the embodiment of there own reactions, hardened to reality. And as the set of living people changed, so to did history itself. The display let him see how people felt, around the world an inside Kuriyama itself. The companies intelligence operations were better at uncovering the truth in the world then the sensationalist commercial media (or at least presenting it). It was the History of now that Kuriyama needed. Not the truth, but the mass delusion of the people. And as that great mass moved forward in time, marching single mindedly on with there self-determined destinies, interacting and weaving together on the network, the story of not only the past and the present were known, but the history of the future. The other was as a game board. He was a master of the Japanese game Go, one of the best in the world. He had programmed the game implementation himself, the logic. Quantifying Go, in the strictest sense, was impossible. There were more possible games then there were atoms in the universe, and yet it was based on one simple rule. (A group of pieces must be connected with at least one open space). It was a game of emergent patterns. And it was those patterns that made the game infinitely complex He had told Hatori how it worked one day, soon after she had just started here. She had never lost to a computer before. Originally, it was only aware of the one fundamental rule. But, as you played it, it learned. As the patterns emerged, they, or rather their general case, became the new rules. It was at this display, laid flat on his desk, that Kuriyama-san was looking. His hand was in the air above it, waiting for his mind to make itself, as Hatori and Yukio approached. Hatori had regained her composure, or most of it anyway (though the signs of her distraught were still visible) "Yes?" he asked, his eyes fixed on the board. Nether spoke, and then he looked up from the table. "What is the problem?" Hatori had her arms across her chest, she was looking down. Her mouth opened to speak, though she didn't know what she was going to say, in the end it didn't matter. Yukio spoke first. "We are having problems," he paused, "catching the intruder." "What kind of problems?" he asked. "We have been unable to trace him," and again he paused. "We don't believe that we ever will." Kuriyama hit the go-board, the image of a black stone appeared under his finger, holographic. He hit the board with more force then he might have needed to. "You've lost the game." Hatori finally spoke. The board was only half full; there were hundreds of empty spaces open, dozens of moves. "If my opponent makes no mistakes, perhaps" (He must have been playing another human online) Kuriyama said "I can't see that far." He sat back in his chair and looked at Yukio "What kind of difficulty are you having." Yukio explained about the trace back, about the Mario-hopping. The technicalities of their failure. Hatori stood silent, on the verge of tears. "Hatori." Kuriyama spoke. "What is your opinion?" She took a breath, broken by the tears she was holding back. "I think," She started, "I know." She said looking up and Kuriyama "that it can be done." "Why?" "We know there is a solid connection, there is a way to trace it back." Yukio spoke up. "We have been over this before, a trace back would be possible but we don't have enough time, and with the current technology…" "We can make new technology." Hatori spoke. "A technology that is unconceived is of no use to us." Yukio said. There was sharpness in his voice again. There was no reason to fear her now, not in front of Kuriyama. "Its there Yukio, just…" Hatori said. "Enough!" Kuriyama said. He stood up. "Have you two figured out what he was after, what his goal was?" Yukio spoke. "We are not sure, and the wire trace results from last nights attack have not been analyzed by the genetic pattern matching computers" Kuriyama-san turned around, staring out the window. "We already know the target." "What!?" Hatori and Yukio both looked up, shocked. "Why were we not told, we could have protected that part of the network, we could have…" Yukio asked. "That part of the system has been Air-gapped." Kuriyama said, meaning that the part of the network that contained the information was not connected to the rest of the Internet, literally that not a single wired (or radio) link to the outside world existed. "I don't understand, if the information is secure then why are we doing this, why are we letting them in, what do we need?" Yukio asked. "The fact that the hacker wants this information means some of it has gotten out. Specifically, the fact that it exists." Hatori stood silent, listening. "Then why are we doing this? When He comes in…" Yukio paused, collecting his thoughts. "The rest of the network, everything we're working, is wide open. We can't…" Kuriyama interrupted. "Are you familiar with the English word 'paradigm'?" Yukio sighed, and Hatori looked up at him (Her arms were still crossed) "Its American biz speak," He said, "what people say when they don't really know what they're talking about. They mean it as a way of doing things, but it really it means something closer to 'a way of thinking'." He looked at Hatori, and said her name. "Hatori," Kuriyama asked "What am I talking about?" She took another staggered breath. "The information on the air-gaped network represents a change in things, the future is on that network. That the protection of that information is worth more then anything else here." Kuriyama smiled when she said it. Yukio broke in "This Company is worth trillions of dollars! Our R&D, or intellectual property, the information that sits on the networks here is worth hundreds of billions. What do you think the stockholders…" Kuriyama turned around "The stockholders don't need to know anything about this Yukio-san. They are petty, this is beyond them." Yukio sighed. "What could be so important? What is going on! How could this be worth everything else in the company?" Kuriyama leaned back on the window. "Whoever it is, whoever knows, they would know how much this knowledge is worth. For them it would be like…" he paused, and then quietly said, "stealing copper cables from a diamond mine." He turned to Hatori. "This technology. How long is it going to take, do you think? " Hatori was at a loss for words, she had no idea, other then the idea itself. "I don't know, I just need…" "There is no technology, there isn't going to be any, we can't win, Kuriyama san." Kuriyama turned back to the window. "The operation continues. Hatori, This technology, were talking about software, right?" "Yes, sir!" "I want it developed immediately, before the next attack." "Yes," She nodded her head forward. "That is all, Hatori. Yukio?" "Yes sir?" He replied. I'd like it if you would stay. There is something we need to discuss. "Of course." He replied. Hatori looked at him, and started to back away. She turned and walked toward the golden door. When she got there she turned back, facing them. She bowed, low. And before she closed the door she watched Kuriyama walk towards Yukyo, their bodies silhouetted by the brilliant morning light, shining through the window. The table was Formica. Formica, She knew had been made the same way for decades, heralded once as revolutionary. It was made to look like wood, and it did if you didn't look close. If you did you could see artifacts of the mechanical printing process, the little dots of ink. Her arm lay on it, and her head on that. And she wondered why she couldn't see the little dots on her skin, and it confused her. She blinked, and realized it was dream logic. She was not a manufactured product. Hatori was tired; she was lying on her desk in her office and she didn't really need to sleep; it seemed like she never did, actually. But her emotions drove her head to the desk now, the fight with Yukyo, and the idea of failure. The sleep was an escape. She was angry and she was sad and she was frightened. But the anger and the fear didn't make the ideas come any faster. Instead she sat, frustrated. It was 12:28 now, lunchtime. She sat up and walked out of her office. Yukio wasn't in the lab, and she supposed he had gone to lunch already. She heard him walking around earlier, through the walls, he hadn't been doing much either. She had heard a few rounds of BattleCraft, maybe some other games. She let her mind wander, unfocused. Thinking about inconsequential things, where she should eat. She decided to leave the building. She thought about how much it would cost, she thought about the warm spicy taste of the General Tso's Chicken she was going to have at That One Chinese Place. She walked through the empty lab and she thought about the way the rice stuck together. They didn't use enough oil when they made it. She thought about seeing if Yume, a friend of hers wanted to go with her, but she would probably have left already. So she rode down the elevator alone, back to the ground floor. She looked up at the statue, the crystal dragon. It was beautiful now, the sun's light reflected by a mirror on the roof through the lenses. Refracted then by the crystals in the structure, the colors separated. The floor of the lobby was covered by focused points of light, of color. And her body filled with adrenaline, for in that moment the Idea came, the technology was made manifest. Her apathy and boredom disappeared and in their place excitement built. Fear was replaced by happiness. She knew then that she wouldn't fail, that she couldn't. It was ecstasy. And when the warm, sweet, spicy General Tso's Chicken rolled around in her mouth the idea and its children rolled around her head. She made some phone calls at That One Chinese Place (that's what it was really called, the English words emblazoned in golden Romanji), checked some websites. She learned from Nippon Telephone and Telegraph's public propaganda that they, in order to provide a smooth, uninterrupted service for voice and data used redundant arrays containing thousands of Cisco 9932 optical switches in each of its locations across Japan. Cisco's site talked about the switch, about how each supported up to 1076 nodes, and about how they could be connected in parallel, allowing homogeneous networks of hundreds of thousands, or millions of network connections. She called them (Cisco), eventually, and ordered one be sent via emergency intra-day delivery to the Kuriyama industries building, suite 83-17. It would probably be there before Hatori got back from lunch. The information age hadn't solved the problem of physically transporting large objects in obscenely short amounts of time, but it had figured out an interesting way around it. Shipping a stock 9932 from Cisco's east-Asian production facility in Harbin, China would still take about 3 days, most of those stuck in customs. But a long time ago, a fat kid in San Francisco realized that one of any mass produced object was pretty much just as good as any other of the same class, and that most industrial consumers usually had a few extra laying around in case one went bad. Rather then sending packages from a central distribution center to the consumer, you could send them to the person who had a few spares. And the person, who had a few spares, usually a lot closer to the customer, would ship one of them. That Fat Kid had a lot of other ideas to. WorlEx Transport was one of the first so-called virtual corporations founded soon after the dawn of the new millennium. Before that time, companies passed through a long start-up process, usually this would involve writing a business plan, and shopping it around to venture capitalists, who would invest large amounts of money. The companies would spend this money to build 'infrastructure', or the groundwork that their companies would rest on. A software company might spend that money on programmers, an Internet company on hardware and connections, and so on. Eventually, if everything went right (witch rarely happened) the company would go IPO, and the founders would get rich. This process could take anywhere from 2 to 10 years. In contrast, WorlEx was built in only three days. By one person. The 1990s had seen the rise of subcontracting. Rather then do everything themselves, companies would hire other companies to do tasks tangential to their own business. What the fat kid realized was that at some unknown point it time, it became possible to contract out everything a company might ever need to do. Certainly, everything WorlEx needed could be: Shipping, programming, data processing, advertising, finance, accounting. Everything the company needed was already being done. And all the fat kid had to do was arrange the pieces to do what he wanted. WorlEx made enough money to pay its expenses in the first month, and since that day it has existed only as a PC in the basement of a San-Francisco townhouse that does little more then count money. The idea Hatori had conceived was in and of itself simple. The hacker's connections were all coming from game machines in Tokyo, it was likely that all of the nodes used would be in the city, and all connected through a single NTT switch station, though a single network of 9932s. The problem with the trace -backs had been time; the hacker's visits lasted only a few seconds, clearly automated. For each game machine the hacker used the amount of time required to trace the signal to the source increased by a linear amount. The hacker could string up as many nodes as he wanted (although he would sacrifice responsiveness of the connection). It was a tradeoff between speed and security and the amount of time he connected, but it was the hacker who made the tradeoff, the hacker who decided. And as long as the hacker chose well, there was nothing that Hatori or Yukio could do. But the idea changed things. It made things easy, because it changed the representation, the pattern. In the hacker's world, in the world of Internet protocol (version 6), the machines appeared as a long line in the fog, a thick fog from witch only the closet nodes could be seen. But the Idea didn't exist in that world, it lived in the world of the glass wires that lead from house to house, the glass wires that connected the game machines to the system, to the 9932s. And in that world there was no fog, but rather the brilliant light of a million machines, communicating. The problem wasn't finding the information blind in the dark, but rather blinded by the light. The problem was sifting through the data, of finding the right information in a sea of it. The other problem was a bit more of the practical kind, the fact that a Cisco optical switch the size of a refrigerator and costing more then some houses would be a lot more secure then an average video game system. It could be done though. It could always be done. It was there when it she got back, an industrial obelisk, about the size and shape of a large home refrigerator. Actually, it had more cooling power then an average fridge, to keep the circuits from overheating. The repair manual, power cord, and other loose ends sat on a table near by. She picked up the repair manual, began looking at the schematics. In her mind she saw a huge room at NTT filled with thousands of copies of these manuals, identical, just sitting there. She read the book, memorized it. And when she had finished, she picked up a screwdriver. The front of the thing was simple. Metal panels, a few LCD displays. The back was covered with a thousand little nubs, points for connecting fiber cable. Hatori ran her fingers over them. The screws were where they were supposed to be, and the front panels came off easily. The first thing she saw was the switch fabric, an infinitely complex latticework. It looked like a block of ice, other then that the light was also split into colors at some points. It was almost as wide and deep as the structure itself, but only about 10 inches thick. The rest of the case was filled with support electronics. The glass fabric itself was electronic as well as optical, using leads of special conductive glass. They had gotten it down to a point now where the electronic structure of the glass could be completely independent of the optical structure, except for the places they needed to interact. Yukio still wasn't there, but a few techs had begun milling around. Two had been talking excitedly about a trinket one of them had the responsibility for analyzing. But when Hatori returned, their attention turned to her and her newest acquisition. It was one of the newer ones, Goto Imamura, who finally asked her about it. "What did you get that thing for? The stuff we've got cooking is going to kick the shit out of this Cisco Optical Matrix stuff." His dismissive attitude betrayed his awe of the machine. Kuriyama was only just beginning to get into high performance networking, their technology was based on the quantum interaction between photons and electrons, but progress had been slow, limited to simple experiments routing a few bytes though a few a few glass tubes. "This is infosec research, Goto." Hatori replied. "And concerns are a bit more immediate then yours." Then she looked at him and smiled. "I need to know how to hack this thing." "Ama," Another tech spoke up, "You're shitting me." "You really think you'll be able to break the security on that thing? I doubt they'd make that kind of mistake." "Yes." She said it quickly, looking up and smiling. "They Probably wouldn't have, but their computers might have. I'm going to focus my attack on genetic cruft." Finally the third tech spoke up. "Why exactly do you want to be able to hack one of those things anyway? I mean there'll never be any important data stored on one, and in transit any critical data would be encrypted. What's the point?" Hatori turned to the man, whose name was Sanjima Yokinara, and began to explain her idea. "This isn't about the data, it's about the metadata the data generates as it's going though the system. We might not know what the data is, but we will be able to find out who is sending it. And based on that information, we'll be able to figure out why. In a way," She paused, as if taking in what she was about to say, "You can find out more about what's going on by knowing who people are talking to rather then what they are saying." Then her words became a stream, a speech uninhibited. The idea and its children began to flow from her mouth. "We know how these things work, or at least the basic principles. Subscribers each use a different frequency of light, from deep in the infrared to far in the ultraviolet, divided into about 2000 different frequencies. That way, they can all share a fiber. The data streams sent from each user are divided into packets. When the packets hit the switch fabric the IP address is analyzed, and converted into a lightpath optical address. The light path consists of three numbers. These numbers represent frequencies of light. The data from the original frequency of light is converted into the first frequency value, the other two lightpath address values are digitally encoded and then pulse modulated at a frequency very close to the frequency of the data." "Hatori we know all of this, get to the point." Goto said. "Hang on," Hatori took a breath. "Ok, the frequency of the data and the frequency of the address are two close to be differentiated by normal routing prisms, only by special processing prisms. Data that already has the lightpath address will not have its IP address analyzed, but rather have its frequency converted into the next frequency value in the lightpath address. Eventually, the data will hit the big routing prisms, and get sent to a port on the side of the machine that corresponds to a certain frequency, and be sent along to the next router, along with the lightpath information." She tapped one of the nubs on the back of the machine where the cables would normally be plugged in. "Right…" Goto interjected, sounding a bit impatient. "Now, these routers have IP-broadcast capabilities as well as switch capability, witch means that computers can 'subscribe' to a certain IP address, and all information sent to that address will be forwarded to them. This is used for things like video broadcasts. It works by associating several different lightpath addresses to a single IP. When the packet comes in, it's transformed into several frequencies, each with different lightpath information." The second tech made a short "Hm!" noise, indicating his interest. "These splits are based on the IP address of the packet, but there is no physical difference between the data storing the destination address and the actual payload data." Ok… "Well, and here's the really cool thing…" she became visibly excited "If the data and IP address are encoded by the same method, then in theory packets could be routed based on the payload rather then just the destination address." "And," Sanjima interjected, "because the routers can multicast based IP, they should be able to multicast based on data to." "That's right. If we can break into the network, we could subscribe to any block of data. If any packet contains it, we'd get sent a copy. And we'd know where it was going and where it was coming from to." "Ha!" The second tech laughed out loud. "That's amazing." Goto was not as amazed as the others, or at least he didn't seem to be. "Genetic cruft or not, I still don't believe that these machines could be reprogrammed so easily. And you would need to modify every single router in order to get a complete picture. "I didn't say it would be easy, Goto, all that matters is that it's possible." The first computers had been machines of war. It was legend that one of first ones operated so fast the paper tape used for input would literally burn as it passed through the system. When people thought about that, later, they would think of it as a harbinger of the end of non-machine information. They would understand the uselessness of the paper, imagining it as it turned to ash. But the people who made the machine and used it never thought about it. Similarly, no profound thoughts crossed Hatori's mind as she watched the glass cube dissolve in the pool of nano-scanners. The Sci-fi dream of building things from their very atoms was still that, but the people working on this stuff had gotten very good at tearing things apart. When the process was done she would have a perfect computer model of the switching fabric. It would be in this process that she would discover its secrets. The genetic algorithms in its creation wouldn't have been perfect, wouldn't have been optimal. There would be more then what was needed. But the solution was taken, because it would take twenty thousand years to achieve perfection. It was in this cruft that Hatori was interested. The room she was in was cold and dark, and it was quiet. It had been built exclusively for this machine. The temperature was 28? f, it always was, and when Hatori breathed in the cold dry air her throat would catch on it. She was warring mirrored glasses to protect her eyes from the ultraviolet light the disassemblers used for power. It would be only 40 minutes more. The phone in her pocket started shacking, emitting quiet beeps, the tone it gave out indicated that it wasn't a person trying to reach her, but a computer. She took it out and looked at the screen. The wire trace was done. Yukio still wasn't back, when she got to lab 83-17. So she went into her office. "Computer." She said, before she even sat down. Show me a map of the hacker's path through our systems. And, like before, a map appeared on the screen, leading from emie.kuriyama.co.jp, to io2, and r1 and hakashi.bio. But from there, the lines spindled out, reaching across a breadth of systems that extended deep inside the company. Once through the hard shell, the inside of kuriyama was as soft as silk for the hacker. Or, at least, the hackers AI. Hatori read the web work of the attack; she knew the names of these machines intimately, the arrangement of the network, of the thousands of machines here. And though it took her a while, a pattern began to emerge from inside the seeming chaos of the attack, Hakashi.bio and from there Amber.bio, and kailin.bio, and ziferegot.neuro, and other machines, Genfires and PCs. The target was in biotech, and neurology. And from there, the hacker had moved data back into io2 and r1. Pumping out gigs of data. To hundreds of game machines out there in the sea of light that was Tokyo's telephone network. There were red lines on the web work, indicating failed attempts to connect to machines that didn't exist. Klens.cs, awong.old.bio, and, she laughed when she saw it, a machine that was supposed to be called ama.neuro. The hacker had even tried to connect to Her home computer, Hatori.res. But her security had been a little better then that. "Computer." She said, "Who registered Hakashi.bio with the local DNS sever?" "Karl Lens." "Show me a list of all the machines he's registered." The list popped up on the screen, along with the dates he'd registered them. Hatori was amazed. Not only had he setup most of the *.bio boxes that had been contacted setup by him, he'd also setup several of the machines that the hacker hadn't been even able to contact. Witch meant not that the hacker had bad information about the structure of the network, but those machines had been taken off. That was what had been air-gapped. Hatori thought she knew what most of the projects were around her, but she had no idea what Lens was doing in the biotech division; he was a CS guy. And as far as she knew he'd been working on User interface. She knew that he had done something to help build the first comprehension engines, long ago. But as far as she knew he had done nothing in the field of biology. All this data at her fingertips, Hatori knew now what the hacker had done, everything, regardless of how many logs he'd tried to destroy. She sighed. But it was worthless, now. Kuriyama had known all along what he was after, he just hadn't felt the need to tell them. Hatori drew marquee boxes aimlessly on the screen with the mouse. She was surprised Yukio hadn't gotten back yet. She figured he would have hurried back when the wire trace returned. She looked at her watch, another 33 minutes before the nano-disassembly of the Glass Cube. She was excited though, she could feel the hacker who had so far eluded them close within her grasp. 33 minutes and she could start on the technology witch would give them unimagined power over the network. But now, now there was nothing to do. She figured she might as well see what Lens was up to. His office was close, only two floors away. It wouldn't take her more then three or four minutes to get there. And he was her friend, and she hadn't seen him for a while. She drew some more empty boxes on the screen, before her curiosity got the better of her. As she was walking out of the lab, she came across Yukio, walking towards her. He wasn't running really, but he wasn't walking either. "Yukio!" she called out. But he didn't respond, he just looked at her, into her eyes. He had a look in his that Hatori had never seen before, in anyone. 5:34:17. The afternoon. And gray rain clouds boiled overhead. She wished the rain would wash away the filth, but she knew that that wouldn't happen. It was ingrained in the place, to the core. And over the years that it had embedded itself it became vital to the place. The new structures were built on top of it, and the people had become like the rats that hid in the shadows, and they feed off it to. She was eating a small package of the ambiguously trademarked 'Ice-cream, isn't it' (it was, technically). It was peach flavored, and as they rode she would dig into it with a small pink plastic spoon, and then place the spoon in her mouth. When the spoon was away from her, in the package, she could smell the decay here, the filth. The sweat and urine and shit and sex, and the forgotten rotting food in the brown brick apartment buildings, built long ago to maximize the population density. And when the spoon was under her nose she could only smell peaches. She thought that peaches came from Georgia, but she wasn't quite sure (The one in North America, not Eastern Europe.). And she could see the rows and rows of green trees in green fields with yellow/orange peaches backdropped by the yellow/orange setting sun. She wasn't really sure that peaches even grew on trees though, and there probably weren’t really any peaches in the Ice-cream, isn't it anyway. Hashimoto was driving, and another agent, Myoki was in the back. "So, why are we doing this during the day anyway?" Myoki asked, directing the question to Hashimoto. "This place doesn’t sleep." Hatori answered. And then added "It might even be more alive at night." She took another bite of Ice-cream, isn't it. "But the rain will keep them inside. That's why we waited until today." "Plus, if he's like any computer-geek I've ever met he's probably going be awake most of the night anyway," Hashimoto said. Hatori smiled when she heard this and took another bite of Ice-cream isn't it. "Your certain that you can handle this on your own, Hatori?" Myoki again, "there is a possibility that he might have a weapon." His words were metered and cool. "I'll be fine. If he gets an early warning, he'll probably run. That’s what you guys are for. He won't be able to fight me off, but if he gets away, you'll need to stop him." She took a bite of Ice-cream isn't it. "Remember, shoot for the legs, we need him al… SHIT!" She twisted her body to get a better view outside the passenger window. "Stop the car." Hashimoto pulled to the curb, "what?" "We missed it, building 2235, right?" she knew she was right. "Yeh." "Uh…" This was close enough "whatever, this is close enough." She paused "I'll get him inside, if he comes out the fire escape in back, you guys shoot him in the legs, we need him alive." The numbers on the doors were the same as the numbers on the doors in her building, or the same font anyway. The material was different, though, it was black plastic. And the numbers were misaligned. As she walked over the brown, stained carpet in the hallway on the fourth floor the smell of the place was even stronger. When she got to his apartment, she put her nose to the crack of the door and took a deep breath through her nose. She could smell him, in there, his sweat. And she could smell the harsh electrical scent of burning silicon, of computers. She was dressed as a student, in light brown kakis and a black silk shirt. She had a new black leather backpack slung over her shoulder, and walking shoes of worn out sued. She tossed the empty carton of Ice-cream isn't it to the side and put her hand on the doorknob. The door was unlocked, but she didn't need to open it herself. And there was the face of the hacker, of Reagan Jaeksen. He was definitely American, of European decent. With curly red hair, his face was sharp, with chiseled features. He had a gun pointed at hers, and he had a look in his eyes like he might pull the trigger. "Anata no namae wa nan desuka?" He asked, "your name is what?" in broken Japanese. Hatori was surprised, but she would never believe that she had been afraid. She let herself gasp though, and flicker her eyes, and take a step back. She began to calculate. "I is Ama," She replied, in a high pitched English only a little less broken then his Japanese. "I friend of Miyuki." She let her fear show through. Miyuki was the name she had found in his system, the name of a girl he had been keeping in contact with over the network. A girlfriend, maybe. The hardness left his body with a sigh, and then he smiled. Still pointing the gun at her. "Ok. Uh… Sorry, sorry." He paused "Someone broke into my lan, uh, my computer network, the other night," He took A deep breath "whoever they were they were amazingly good. I was barely even able to tell they were there." Hatori wasn't happy to hear this; she wondered how the fuck he was able to tell she was in there at all. "OkOk," she paused, as if translating what she was going to say "You not shoot me in hallway, ok?" she smiled at him. "Yeh, come in," he dropped his gun, "Ama." "Super Thank you!" He opened the door, and lowered the gun. When he did, Ama noticed that there was no clip in the gun, that it wasn't loaded. When she was inside, she closed the door behind her. "How you know someone break in your computer?" "Oh, It was weird man," he said. "And its got me all freaked out to. Whoever did it was damn good. I mean, they had some serious mad skills." (Hatori almost burst out laughing at the term 'mad skills') "The computer didn't say anything was happening, you know. There was no indication, from it, that anything was happening at all. But, see that switch over there?" He pointed to a small network device, "The little indicator lights were going off, so some data was being transferred, I could hear the hard drive spinning too. "heh..." Hatori let out a little half laugh, Returning to her normal pitch. "I suppose there really wasn't really much I could have done about that." Her words were accent free. "Fuck!" The Hacker yelled, and aimed the gun at hatori again. "Who are you? You broke into my system last night?" "I work for Kuriyama Industries, and yes I 'haxored' your box with my 'mad leet skills'. And as you can see, I managed to get past your physical security measures as well." She smiled, nodding towards the gun. There was no hardness in Jaeksen's eyes this time, only fear. He held the gun about a third of meter away from her face. "For such a skilled cracker, I have to say I was surprised by your lack security sense, Reagan. Or maybe…" She said, as she put her fingertips on his forearm, and gently moved them up his hand, toward the gun. "You just have a weakness for pretty Japanese girls." She put her finger in the empty socket of the gun, where clip should have been, and looked into his eyes. "No clip." Jaeksen took a step back. "There's one in the chamber." He said. Hatori stopped smiling. She didn't really believe him, but she wasn't sure ether way. And then it happened; it was like breathing to her almost. Just a quick motion of the wrist, and she grabbed the trigger from behind, wedging her finger in so that he couldn't pull it. With her other arm she pushed him against the wall, hard. Then threw him to the ground, pulling the gun from his hand. "Shit, shit" He said, thrashing around on the floor. The place was a mess, empty pop cans and pizza boxes, clothes, and a few computer components littered the floor. There was a desk against the wall, or rather several heterogeneous tables stuck end to end. On them, were dozens of computers. PC's mostly, as far as Hatori could see, their cases lay open, exposing the motherboards, and cards, and tangles of wires. There were several monitors, mostly the glass tube kind. Hatori checked the gun. There was no bullet in the chamber. She set it on a dresser near the door. "You’re an excellent hacker, mister Jaeksin. And, under normal circumstances, we'd offer you a job." She took off her backpack, and laid it on the dresser. "Unfortunately, for you, these aren’t normal circumstances." She removed a small gray box from the bag. She walked over to him holding it. And knelt beside him. "What the hell's that?" he asked. "A chemical agent," she replied, and pushed a button. A needle extended from the end she held toward him. A small squirt of the stuff came out (to avoid having air bubbles get into the blood stream). He tried to get away, but she grabbed him by the leg. You couldn't really call it a struggle; he really didn’t have much of a chance. Hatori easily pinned him to the ground, holding his arms together behind him with her right hand. The device was in her left. The hacker was clearly distraught. "Is something the matter?" Hatori asked. "What does it, what does it do?" He asked. "It’s a hypnotic," She replied. "You tell us whatever we want. Then we kill you. Mr. Kuriyama's taken a personal interest in this Reagan. I don't know why, but something in those systems you broke into was pretty damn important." She moved the needle to his skin. "Wait," He said, there was a slight vibration in the floorboards, a soft rumble. "You said you didn't know, what this stuff was?" "No." "Hatori." She looked up, in to his eyes. "What?" "That’s why you don't know, because you're Ama Hatori." "What the are you talking about?" It wouldn't have been too hard for him to get the names of those trying to catch him. And for most hackers, the first information sought after would be who was trying to keep them from it. "Think about it." He took a breath. "Why would someone in your position be kept from this info? Why wouldn't you be told what's going on?" "I don't know." She said. "You don't know what these files are, Ama, because they're about you." "What?" "The stuff they're talking about, mind wipes, Enhanced strength through chemical agents. The find someone, and then they turn them into a brainwashed assassin. Until they chemicals kill them. They found you, you're the first and… I have the documentation." "Where?" He pointed to his computer. She released the grip on his hands. "Show me." but as he began to sit at his computer, she stopped him, and pulled a fiber line from the wall. "I'll sit at the computer, you tell me what to do." Physically, he wasn't much of a threat, and, with just one line pulled from the wall, it still wasn't certain what he could do in the virtual world. She sat at the computer. "Ok, what?" "OK" he said, looking at the screen, she was sitting at a standard Unix console "The file is on an encrypted network drive, you'll need to mount the drive before you can access it. Telnet into colon-colon 7" She typed the commands to remotely access the computer with a relative IPv6 address of seven "Now what." From outside she heard the moan of a train whistle, coming closer. "The username and password are both 'root'," he said. Hatori raised her eyebrows when she heard the weak password choice. "Well, you can't get to it from the outside," "Yeh, but still." She paused, "What now?" She looked back at him, but when she did, he wasn't looking back at her; he was looking at an empty bottle across from her. He was staring at it. "What?" she asked again. "Type," he said, and paused, staring intently at the bottle. His voice changed to a sarcastic tone. "Your mom." Hatori glanced first back at the bottle. Then she turned her head back to the hacker. But what she saw was the blue surface of an unused UPS that had been sitting at the desk, flying at her. The Hacker had hit her in the head with it, basically a giant battery, massive enough to run a turn of the century computer system for half an hour. He managed to knock her body out of the char, and for a moment after impact Hatori could hardly tell what was going on. Then She could tell that she was out of the chair. And then she could tell that he was running away. She shook her head, and managed to get back up. He ran into the bedroom, facing the back of the building, with a window to the fire escape. "Run Program D, 1F" The hacker yelled. Hatori looked around, what the hell was d1f? "Freeze, bitch! We have you trapped." She heard someone yell. "Get DOWN, NOW" Another man said from somewhere else. There was no one. It was coming from the audio system. Hatori Screamed in anger. She ran to the bedroom door, it was locked. "Drop to the floor or we'll shoot." She tried to kick it in, but the soft plywood broke under her foot, nearly tripping her. "I'm not fucking kidding, bitch get down!" She rammed her whole body through the door. The window was open, and she heard gunshots from the other room. She ran to the window, and climbed through the opening. The hacker was climbing the stairs to another level. And she could hear the clatter of the approaching train. She jumped onto the fire escape, but when the hacker reached the 3rd floor cage he pulled a pin locking the ladder down. It was spring loaded, and locked into place when it reached the top. Sealing the opening that he had used to climb down. Hatori couldn't follow. "I've got two guys back down there, you won't be able to get out of here." She said, yelling only so that he could here her." She could see Myoki and Hashimoto, waiting. He looked back up, saying nothing. He continued climbing. Hatori could see the train now, the yellow painted engine. And with a bang, the ladder to the second level closed. "Fuck." Hatori climbed over the railing, and put her feet on the outer side. But it was strange, something, her balance maybe, it was weakened. And she couldn't just get to the lower level as easily as she should. She gripped the outer rail hard. "Damn it", she muttered. "I've got two guys down there Jaeksen, you're not fucking going to get away." He didn't say anything. Hashimoto and Myoki calmly approached into the view of the hacker, Myoki had a cigarette in his mouth. They looked at him, silently. "You hear me?!" she yelled as she slipped down the outside of the fourth level, she had let go of the top railing, and was reaching for the rail below her. She could see the end of the train, coming closer. She wondered if maybe he couldn't hear her, over the thunder-clatter of the train. But she decided that he could. She struggled to keep her grip on rot-iron bars. The hacker climbed up on the railing leading from the building, two stories below her. What the fuck was he doing? She could see Hashimoto and Myoki waiting patently beneath him. He was just running scared, trapped in a corner. Hatori felt a few drops of rain hit her forehead. She let go of the railing. The third floor fire escape was in her hand. She was closer to him now, just a little bit farther, and then he would be hers. They would drug him up and take him back to Kuriyama, this time, and then it would be over. She would have succeeded. The hacker was running, and then the hacker was flying. He jumped off the rail, seven feet onto the moving train from the second floor fire escape. By the time he had jumped there were only two cars left. "FUCK!" Hatori screamed. She didn't remember making the decision; it was all a part of the flow of it, she decided later. Natural. She was flying through the air too, after pushing herself of the fire escape Her body hit the cool metal of train car roof, the last car. When her feet hit it, they were pulled forward, she fell landing on her side. A raised section of the train smashed against her and the final car slid out from under her. Her body was hanging there, in the air. She reached for the train, And for a moment she felt as if she was falling away from it, and not towards the tracks. Until her knees smashed against the metal of the rails. She put her hands under her body, and she tried to push up, but she couldn't. She could see Hashimoto and Myoki running towards her, she could see the train leaving, the hacker looking back at her. And she wanted to be running, she wanted to chase the train, she could run fast enough, but her body wasn't doing it. And it made her furious. She was so close, and yet. She was angry with herself, she was angry with the hacker. Her mind filled with rage. Her arms worked again, and they made her body rise, but her anger turned to fear when she realized she was breathing blood. The ghosts fell from the sky, one after another. She fought them, but they were unrelenting. Human bodies swathed in black fabric. Hatori could see their suspension when she looked up, the giant machine hands that held them. She was barefoot, and she could feel the ragged familiar texture of the tatami mats under her feet. She was holding them off, but she could feel herself being trapped, being closed in. Although she would deny it later she was afraid. Then for the first time they hit her. And then they hit her again. And then they grabbed her; they were grabbing her, the demons, and they were holding her down. And then she was screaming in anger. And then she was screaming in fear. And then, they left. Their bodies once so deadly, so full of power were lifeless now. Their heads and arms and feet hanging like bones of a broken puppet. The machine's hand's marionettes. Their bodies floated silently into the sky, the hands retracted. Hatori lay on the ragged familiar texture, watching them. Kuriyama was looking down at her now; she could see his face and his cool black eyes. For just a second she was afraid, because she knew that he was pulling the strings. But when that second was gone she knew that that she was safe because he was in control, because he would never hurt her. She loved him. She loved him and she knew that he loved her and that nothing would ever hurt them. She heard his voice, saying something, and she could hear the voices of others in the background. Hashimoto, and Lens, it seemed. Maybe one other. "You've recovered well, Hatori. We are all happy for you" He was smiling, and he reached out a hand to help her up. They were standing in a room in Kuriyama's house built for purpose of fighting the puppets, and as they talked now the once-fierce warriors slid into their space in the high domed ceiling. The door that they had come in after the fight was open, and she could see a window through it, leading to the fields and the forests and the cities beyond. She heard Lens's voice now, his words in English "We were a little worried hatori, but you seem to have recovered from your fall pretty well, no serious damage to that noggin of yours. Your motor and cognitive abilities are as sharp as ever" Hatori took Kuriyama's hand. "But I failed," she let Kuriyama pull her up. "I failed all of you." "Oh come on Ama, that guys on the run now, it won't be long before we find him. And whoever hired him is just as likely to kill him now as we are." Hashimoto said. Then his words turned soft. "Ama, no one is saying that you failed, you did everything you could. No one can win all the time." He paused. "Look, its only a matter of time, its just a matter of waiting now. He's on the run and he has nowhere to go. Yukio here killed his identity set, his money is worthless, and he can't take a shit without us knowing about it. Don't worry." She looked at Yukio, but he wasn't looking back. "You're skills are incomparable Hatori, loosing you would have really sucked." Then he did look at her, and he was smiling to. Hatori was happy that night, as they sat and talked and laughed sitting on the soft cushions by the big windows in Kuriyama's home. Hashimoto's arms were around her then, and she leaned against him. Kuriyama's beautiful wife had brought them food and drinks. And she joined them. And they were all happy and smiling and celebrating Hatori's recovery. It was raining, as it had been the day she'd met the hacker. But not as hard. The sky was gray and blue, and the sun's light pierced the pregnant billows of cool steam so far above her, illuminating the rain in sweeping golden rays. And around her the drops fell on the smooth marble of the steps that lead to the Mirrored obelisk of The Kuriyama Tower. There were other people there, walking in the rain with her. Most of them felt like she did, like there was somewhere important for them to be, and like they weren't there now. And while some worked futility with their black plastic umbrellas, others had given in to nature, as she had. Given in to the relentless passage of the tiny oblong-spheroids from the sky to the earth. And Karl was there, she noticed, walking towards her. Leaving the building, with raindrops on his face and silver hair, and black leather coat. He had a bright old yellow bag in his hand, polymer, a bag they might give you when you buy something worthless. The picture it bore was cracked and peeling off, a superhero in black ink. The bag was full of rectangular objects. "Hey." She called out to him, with warmth in her voice. And when she got nearer. "What have you got in the bag?" "Just some random crap," He smiled. "My life's work." "Oh, is that all." He smiled "I'm glad to see you Hatori, I was worried, I, that the last time was the last time that I would ever see you." "Oh, I'm sorry I don't come around that much anymore, I..." "That's not what I meant. Ama, I'm leaving the company, I'm finally…" He trailed off. "What?! How can you..." then quickly "Why don't we go inside and talk about it more fully." Lens looked back at the tower, for a while and then again at her. "No, the rain is nice, it's cool." He tilted his head up, facing the sky. "You just have to be in the right mindset, you know? You just have to realize that it isn't uncomfortable, that it isn't bad." He looked back at her. "I want to be free of the place, I'm sick of it." "How, what..." Hatori let a rasped voice, a whisper of a nervous laugh, "Why didn't you tell me? I thought we were close," another nervous laugh "I, I had no idea." Lens laughed. "I am not as close to you as the company." He paused, and added in another tone of voice. "I didn't want to discourage you here, poison your mind with my bitterness. I thought you could go far." "Thought?" repeating the word inquisitively, "You used the past tense." "There is nowhere left to go Hatori. Things are falling apart, the things that bind you here" "What?" "I hope I see you again, and I believe I will, and when we do you will understand. You are going to feel uneasy soon, and I'm sorry, I'm sorry for that." "Okay," Hatori said, "now you make even less sense." "The Rubicon is very close to us now, I can feel it, I can feel things coming together, and we may have already crossed it. They will be desperate for you to turn back, Hatori, because you are so much more then what they wanted. And you are a danger to them, you are a danger to all of the uselessness in the world." The smile on her face had been washed away "You just said things were falling apart. Karl, what the fuck are you talking about." Her words were pointed. "Nothing, nothing, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I..." He shook his head. "I'm just a crazy old man," He smiled. "Don't listen to me." "Karl," She spoke with same angry quickness as before "What's in the bag?" "Nothing, Just some computer stuff." "Would you mind letting me see?" "Now, if I opened the bag, the rain would get in," He looked at her and smiled. "And all the stuff would be ruined." "Karl, you know I can't..." "Come on Ama, cut an old friend some slack." "Fine fine. And Karl, don't worry, we can still hang out together, just because you don't work here anymore" "You'll be surprised, at the animosity you'll feel for me soon." "Look, just drop me an email, ok?" "Everyone always say's they'll email, they promise. No one ever does." He started to walk past her. "I'll email." He said, as his head turned away, walking into the distance "I promise". Adrenaline was still flowing through her body; it had been 10 minutes since the encounter, since the flight. But she didn't feel thrilled like she usually did; it didn't feel good this time. The man, Lens, he had been her friend. And she had killed him. She pulled the trigger herself and she killed him. And he had called her Annabelle, something she had never heard outside of her own mind. "Damnit!" she whispered, why couldn't she have stayed, why couldn't she have asked him what the fuck he was talking about? But he was a betrayer, he had turned on Kuriyama, and he was going to give away the information that her and Yukio had tried so hard to protect. And the woman, the one who looked like her, and the shit that the Hacker told her, and the things, things, just weren't making sense to her anymore. No, No, it was just some random woman with the same face, the same face. And the hackers words were just distraction, meaningless fantasy from a wanabe Gibson. She was standing in an alleyway, a few blocks away from the MegaTek building. The stark lights of Tokyo at night were above her now, but she had hidden herself behind a dumpster. The alleyway was empty, as it was supposed to be and she waited. Waiting now was easy, her escape path had been pre-cleared, security footage had been relooped. She had left no visual record. She would have a half an hour before she had to worry. At least, about being caught. And it was just then that she started to hear the tires move roll across the pavement, towards her. They were of a smooth black sports car. There was no driver, however, it was empty. The driver's side door opened, but Hatori, still covered with blood, decided she couldn't risk being seen. So she popped the trunk, and got inside. Hashimoto opened it. The car was parked in an underground parking garage, there was an unmarked van next to it. "Jesus. Ama are you hurt?" "No, No I'm fine." Her voice was soft, almost tired. Hashimoto laughed, "That's good, Christ you look like hell! You must have seen some pretty major complications." Hatori groaned and sat up. "Yeh, you could say that." "Well, I'm glad I brought the van, I got the change of clothes you asked for." "Good." Hatori changed in the back of the van, into blue jeans and a tee shirt. She wiped the blood off her face and hair as best she could, and sat next to Hashimoto in the passenger seat. "You seem a little down, Hatori, normally after these things you're pretty excited." He gave her a suggestive grin. She smiled a little. "Things have just," she stopped and for a moment she didn't trust him, and she didn't know why. But the moment passed. "They've been weird lately. Hashimoto took her to his apartment, and she took a shower there. She didn't bother to put her clothes back on when she was done, though; she just got into bed with him. And she just kind of lay there while he fucked her. She saw the woman again, her reflection, in the mirror in Hashimoto's bedroom. But this time what she saw wasn't beautiful, it wasn't strong or powerful. It was ugly. She saw a monster, she saw a murder. She closed her eyes. Hashimoto lay asleep, holding her. But she didn't. She didn't sleep that night; she didn't try to, either. And in the morning, while they were driving to work he asked her again what had happened. She seemed to him still down, still an empty sort of melancholy. She was looking out the window, now, her head leaning on her arm. Watching the people walking past, in their bright colored clothes. She wondered about them, about whether or not they were going anywhere in particular. She wondered how many of them felt broken now too. "This is what we do Ama." His voice held notes of sympathy. "Mm." "Sometimes we have to hurt the ones we love, its our job, its who we are." Hatori saw a young girl talking on a silver-gray phone. "And you, Hashimoto. Could you kill a friend? Could you kill me?" There was silence, before he answered. "No." he said, and he didn't equivocate. "Then, should I have killed you, had you been in his place? Would you have wanted me to?" "If I turned against the company, then I would deserve to be killed, and I would hope." He trailed off. "Then me? Why couldn't you kill me Hashimoto? Should I not then deserve to die if I betrayed the company?" Hashimoto smiled, when he heard this. "Ama, come on. I know you, I know how much the company means to you, you would never betray us, you couldn't." She let out a quick "Hum." And then she began, a string of syllables "I suppose it is a commonly held supposition, one we make about many people. One I made about Lens. One maybe that should be rethought." She didn't say it so much to him as she did to herself, a vocalization of the internal monologue. Hashimoto looked at her, concern in his eyes. "What?" "Supposition..." She said off into space. "Ama, you're not, you can't be thinking." She rolled her head on her fist so that she was facing him. "About betraying you. And Kuriyama-san. And everyone else that I love?" She paused, looking into his eyes. "No." She didn't equivocate either. "Things have been happening, and they aren't making sense, Hashimoto. They just don't..." she trailed off, and began talking to herself again. "Or maybe it's that the sense they make is so outside the realm of what I thought could be possible. The axiom's I've taken for granted have become obsolete. The Axioms which form the foundation of every thing I believe." "What? Hatori what are you talking about?" "I've been shaken to the core, Hashimoto." She smiled at him when she said it. "Huh?" She sighed, "Never mind." "Well, I don't know what the hell you were just talking about." He paused, "but you seem better so, uh, I guess that's good." "Better." She said the word off into space. She looked at the girl, or rather some other random girl, talking on another phone, to some other random person. And she wondered if the two were talking to each other. She stared at the screen, of the machine, in her office. And it displayed an ever-shifting mosaic of text and images. A screen saver, a particularly beautiful one, but, not the most beautiful one she'd found today. Screensavers: Pulsing colors, shifting shapes, fractals, lines and colors, music. They had become an art form. Some thought that in as soon as five years they would be bigger then the music industry. Others thought that that was stupid. Hatori didn't usually think about things like that. And she didn't think about it now. Now she didn't want to think about anything. She couldn't work, she didn't want to play any games, and television just grated on her mind. So she downloaded screen savers, and she watched them. A white box appeared, above the mosaic. An instant message. ?IM! From: firstname.lastname@example.org Tokyo local search complete. 29.6Pb scanned, 156.02Gb retained. And in the next instant it had disappeared. Hatori put her hand on the mouse, and with a flick of her wrist the computer returned to normal. She leaned back in her chair. The image search she had started, the day she saw the woman in the red dress, the search for people who looked like her had finished searching through all the databases it could correlate with the physicality called Tokyo. "Computer," She spoke quickly. "Log me into my home machine, por favor." "Voice print recognized. Connection established." "Ni hao, dien nao?" she asked, (how are you computer, in Chinese) "what is the status of the process one-two-four-five-three-two?" She could have asked about the process by date, or by asking the computer questions until she found it, but since she had just gotten the exact Process ID number from the IM it wasn't an issue. "The process has completed its search of databases that generally correspond to the greater Tokyo Area. It began to search databases singly linked from those databases 13.2035 seconds ago, and is an estimated one one-hundred-thousandth complete its search of that data space." "Can you show me the records?" "Yes." A list names showed up, next to the pictures. Of those that fit on the screen, all said "Ama Hatori." Dozens of entries in Kuriyama's personnel database, to which Hatori's system had trusted access. Data from the public records of the DMV. The images were cropped to show only her face. She blinked. She scrolled down. "Computer, how many records here have the name 'Ama Hatori'?" "One thousand and seven." "Group all records with the same name together, show me the list of groups." A new list appeared on the screen Name correlation (max - min No. Images) ================================================= Ama Hatori 99.9996% (100% - 99.95%, 1007) Ann Wong (?) 99.99992% (99.99992%, 1) Miruwa Muyotsu 97.24% (99.2% - 90%, 12093) Iicisu Kitusiba 94.12% (98.3% - 86%, 23190) Meihua Chang (???)92.06% (97.2% - 90% 342) Unknown (>90%) 90.00% (100% - 90% 362546) The list went on. There were one thousand seven pictures of Hatori; there were twelve thousand of the second closest match, someone named Miruwa Muyotsu. But of the closest match, Ann Wong, only one images existed with that name. A pseudonym perhaps, a one time name for a one-time picture. But it hadn't been her, and by the numbers it didn't appear to be any of the other near matches. "Show me the single record for Ann Wong." s:highscore name="Ann Wong" place="1" credits="1" kills="96" gameduration="1:56:04" character=s:xiangHua xmlns:s="dxtp://jp/com/namco/XML/sb5" It was a high score ranking, from a video game. "Show me the picture." But she already knew what it would look like. It looked like her. The image appeared, cropped tightly around the woman's face. She was smiling, triumphant. And every feature, every facet of her face matched. "Computer, show me the median images from the next three matches." The pictures of Miruwa Muyotsu, Iicisu Kitusiba, and Meihua Chang appeared on the screen. They did look like her, but the differences were obvious. Miruwa's eyes were bigger, Iicisu's lips were tighter, her face wider. Hatori wasn't really able to quantify exactly what it was about Meihua that made her different, but she was. "Go back to the picture of Ann Wong." She looked at her, at the face, and briefly she wondered how Chinese she looked. Two of the closest five matches had Chinese names. She had always considered herself Japanese looking, but with the caption 'Ann Wong' her image did look like that of a Han. She supposed it had as much to do with what you expected to see as what you actually did. She sighed. This was worthless, this one picture, one image, one name, and a high score from Soul Blade Five. The Woman In The Red Dress. Ann Wong. She knew almost as little as she had when she first saw her face, looking down at her, a nameless person in a nameless department store. She wasn't nameless anymore, but the name she had was so common it would be useless. How many "Ann Wong"s would there be in the world? She wondered. Millions? Tens of millions? She was good at Soul Blade. "Where was that record from?" "It was located on sb5.shibuya.kachinko-laundry.co.jp" It was literally sitting on an arcade machine, in what appeared to be a laundry mat. The process had dug pretty deep, apparently. "How old is it, do you know?" "Seven years, three months, twenty five days, fourteen hours, forty three minutes..." "Ok, ok." Seven years ago. Four years before Hatori had even started working for Kuriyama. A Saturday night, she figured, the evening. "Collect all the data available on people named 'Ann Wong.' Do a net wide search. Try to identify specific individuals." "In what memory space would you like this process run?" The computer asked, it wanted to know if she wanted it run on her home computer, or the company's. It would run faster on the company's. "Hatori." She paused "res kuriyama" she wanted it done on her own machine. "Ok." Hatori leaned back in her chair. "What time is it?" she asked, staring up at the ceiling. "11:09." "Log me out of my own machine." The picture disappeared from her screen. She thought about what there was to do. The techs wanted her to try a hack on Abit, to get the data for their iMagiea, before they began forced electron microscopy on the thing. Hatori put her feet on the desk. Hacking Abit. She had no idea what kind of security they had, but it would be decent, at least. Probably hosted by hinet.net, by "ChangHwa" telecom, which should really be "ZhangHua", at least if one were using the standard romanization. She had been in hinet.net before; they were hard to get into silently, none of the public stuff worked, so their admins must at least keep up to date on BugTraq. And some of the techniques she'd used had gone public since then. Attacking Abit directly would probably work better. She sighed again. "Crack open a game box for me." She asked the computer hack into a video game machine for her. "From there, try to get the DNS A-records for abit.com.tw, do a portscan on those boxes, get the OS, everything." List of DNS names appeared, one after another. And she tried to look at it, she really did. But her mind just couldn't focus. "What time is it?" "11:09." Time for lunch, she decided. "Save the output, put the task in the background." The screen went blank. She pulled the small silver phone from her pocket. "Phone, Yume." She said 'phone' so the computer wouldn't try to figure out what she wanted. She held it up to her ear. She heard the sound of a hammer and bells on the other end. But she knew Yume's phone would be playing music now, that phones hadn't really rung like that in decades. "Hello?" A soft woman's voice answered. "Yume, what's up? Que passa seniorita?" which meant something like "what's happening girl" in Spanish. "Hey, Ama. What did you say?" "Oh, it means 'what's up' in Spanish." "Oh. 'NOT MUCH'" she said the words slowly, and deliberately, in English. There was a heavy accent. Hatori laughed. "What about you?" Yume asked, "What's up? How's life down there in infosec?" "Shut up Yume." Yume worked in Physisec, physical security. "At least I've got a view. And a sweet computer." "Whatever," "Anyway, you want to go to lunch?" "Isn't it kind of early." "Don't be such a wuss." "How does not wanting to eat at the wrong time make me a wuss?" "Oh, but it does. Anyway, I want to eat now, who cares what you want?" "I'm so glad you care about me Ama." "You're welcome. So do you want to eat or not?" "Um" she paused "Sure, where do you want to eat, Chinese again?" "Mmm… Wo shen zai hen xiang zhongguo fan." "Huh?" "I said 'I'd really like Chinese food now'" she translated into Japanese. "Oh." And then in her broken English: "I NOW LIKE SOME ENGRISH FOOD." Then back to Japanese. "How about McDonalds?" "That's American food, Yume." "Oh, well, that's implied, isn't it? The English don't really have there own food, do they?" "They do," she said in English. "But I believe it sucks." "British food isn't good, is that what you said?" "Yeh." "What's up with all these languages, Hatori?" "I don't know." She said, the happiness in her voice dying down. "The wheels of my mind are spinning aimlessly, I don't want to think about certain things." "Oh." "Did you know that in America, eating at McDonalds is considered lower class?" "Really?" "Yup." "Strange." She paused. "Well, we are in Japan." "Well, I don't want to eat there. What's the matter with That One Chinese Place?" "We always eat there." "Why try to change things?" "Fine, Fine. Meet in the lobby? She asked?" "Ok." Hatori put the phone in her pocket. It disconnected itself for her. Hatori left her office. And on the blank screen the mosaic reappeared. "You seem down, Ama." She said. Yume was holding some Mongolian beef between her chopsticks. "What's wrong? Are things ok with you and the Hash-man?" Hatori smiled an empty smile, when she called him that. "Things with Hashimoto are fine." "Then what's wrong? I thought you were hungry" "I said I wanted to go to lunch, I never said I was hungry." She said looking up at her. Hatori had been stacking her pieces of Sweet and Sour chicken into a pyramid. She hadn't eaten any of it. "Really, what's wrong?" "You know about the mission last night, you know what I had to do, right." Yume looked down, "Yeh. That's what's bothering you?" "That is. What is." She said, aimlessly. "Oh. He was your friend, right?" "I suppose. I guess we haven't really been hanging out much lately, you know. But he used to be as close to me as anyone. I would always talk to him, about what was going on, about what I was thinking about. And he would always listen. His eyes, they always seemed to understand me." She looked right into Yume's eyes. "Last night I shot him in the face 14 times. Those eyes are gone now." "But its what we do, Ama. I'm sorry you feel bad, but." "I don't want to talk about it, not now. I don't want to think about it." "Maybe that's the best idea." Yume said. "Yeh." They sat in silence for a while. Yume broke it first, asking Hatori about a guy she was interested in, someone new named Shibichi, Hatori didn't really know him. They gossiped about other people in the department, about celebrities, about intra- and inter-corporate politics. They talked a little in English; Yume had taken it in high school, forgotten most of it, and was thinking of buying a computer-teacher for it. Hatori was able to eat while they talked. Then Yume looked at the time on her phone. "Oh shit, we've been here for an hour and a half. Think we should get going?" "Ah, who cares?" "Come'mon, I don't want to have to hear another one of Hashimoto's lectures about punctuality and responsibility." Hashimoto was her direct superior, which was how the Hatori had met her. "I still can't imagine him doing that." "Well, I can. I'd imagine that if I were fucking him he might treat me differently to." She smiled at Hatori, indicating the joke "Go ahead," She said, and then she leaned in and whispered, "It's not that great." Yume laughed, "Yeh, right. Anyway, I think the fact that you're friends with Kuriyama might have something to do with it; you don't have to worry about being fired. Unlike me. And I do have stuff to do, Unlike You." "I have stuff to do, I just don't feel like doing it. Anyway, why don't you go back yourself then, I think I might go shopping or something." "Alright, see ya." Yume got up and left the table. Hatori pulled out her phone and held it up to her ear. "Car." She said. She heard Toyota's theme music on the other end. "Pick me up in front of That One Chinese Place." She said. "Ok." The car said. She could hear the engine start up. "I'll be there in about 15 minutes." Hatori put the phone back into her pocket. She had 15 minutes to kill; she pulled out her handheld computer. "On." The handheld turned on. "Messages." The PDA couldn't understand her the way other computers could, its processing ability was limited to short verbs, verbs without adverbs or nouns. A list of messages showed up, one from Hashimoto this morning, another one from Goto last night around 10 or so. Normal messages, Hatori could guess their content. But she couldn't guess the content of the first message, the one that filled her body with a painful mix of fear and dread and sadness when she saw it. The message was from Karl Lens, sent only three hours before she killed him. Her hands went num, and it was hard for her to get the stylus out of the side of the device. But she did, and she clicked the message. From: Karl Lens
To: Ama Hatori Subject: (none) The path of the message had kept it out of systems controlled by Kuriyama, from a hotmail account directly to her computer. She clicked to read the text, and her heart froze. XOR pad with the story of Annabelle, 2048 *bytes*, UTF-8, all lower case, no spaces, punctuation, etc. Attachments: 1 (decrypt.dat) "The story of Annabelle." She whispered it. The name again. 'Annabelle'. If she had seen this message before she went out, if... she shook her head, "We can't change anything Annabelle." Her mind told her. God, she had to stop calling herself that. "We can't change anything Ama. We can't go back and change what happened. And we hadn't read this then. We didn't know." "The story of Annabelle?" Christ what the hell was that? Something she was supposed to know? Something he was supposed to give her? She shut her eyes. She closed the message, and halfheartedly read the other two. Goto was asking her to start on the next hack, Hashimoto was letting her know that he hopped she was feeling better. Hatori looked at the time on her PDA. It was going to take another 13 minutes before her car came to get her. Hatori leaned back in the chair. She stared at the ceiling. Why the Fuck hadn't she listened to Lens, it wouldn't have been wrong, to give him his last words. He attacked her, though; he jumped at her, held her down. He didn't give her a choice. But the message, the message might explain everything. She just had to find this data, this "Story of Annabelle", whatever it was. It wouldn't be on Kuriyama's computers, either their main systems, or the ones they had Air -gapped, the ones she couldn't get into. It wouldn't have made any sense for him to encrypt it with data that they had access to. So, it must be on one of his personal computers, either on his PDA, which would be damn near impossible to get at, unless she wanted to try raiding MegaTek again (assuming they hadn't moved the body) or on his Home PC. Hatori pulled the phone back out of her pocket. "Information." She said. She heard the phone ring. "mushi-mushi" The computerized operator said. "You've reached DoCoMo wireless information service. How may I assist you?" She asked, in a cheerful tone. NTT had splurged on emotion logic, apparently. "Could you give me the address of one Karl Lens?" Hatori asked. "Certainly," The operator rattled off a street address Hatori wrote it down in the PDA's contact book, under Lens's name. He lived in Shibuya-Ku. "Thank you." Hatori manually ended the call. "Car." She said. She heard again the car's little melody. "How much longer until you get here." "About seven minutes." It replied. "Ignore speed limits," she said, "get here as soon as possible." Hatori had done a little modifying to the computer, removing the artificial limits. Hashimoto had shown her how to do it, a while back. He did it to all his cars. "How long will it take to get to Shibuya?" she asked the car. "About 24 minutes." It replied. Hatori was leaning back in the driver's seat, staring at the roof of her car. She had given it Lens's address. It was taking her there. The car's computer was pretty slick in its own right. It was specialized for machine-vision, processing the data from its cameras and radar. Calculating spatial trajectories and velocities, thousands of interdependent vectors. It could drive a car far better then any human. It couldn't communicate for shit, though, and Hatori hated dealing with it. The driver could control the car in two ways, either by making 'suggestions' with the steering wheel and pedals, or by simply ordering it around using voice comprehension. Most people liked the first mode. Hatori did not. Hashimoto and his friends would usually disable the computer all together. "Go faster." She said. She pulled the PDA out of her pocket. Using the stylus she opened a connection to her home computer. The tightly cropped image of Ann Wong appeared. "Did you perform any additional cropping on this image?" she asked. "Yes." The Hatori's computer replied through the tiny voice of the PDA. What it said next was drowned out by the voice of the car. "I don't understand the question." "Car," she said, frustrated, "mute input until I say 'unmute'." "Ok." Hatori's attention returned to the PDA's display. "What was that?" The machine was silent for a few moments, and replied "The picture of Ann Wong." It had misunderstood her. "Repeat the first thing you said to me during this logon session." "Yes. The image was cropped so that it would take less space on the disk. Only data relating to the face was stored." "Can you get the original picture?" The PDA's speaker was silent, for a moment. "I'm having trouble connecting. The host is now unreachable." Hatori lay the PDA on her chest, and put her hands behind her head. "Car, is there a map entry for a kachinko-laundry in Shibuya-ku?" The car said nothing. Hatori swore under her breath. "Unmute." She said. The car played its little melody. She asked the question again. "Yes," it said. "How far out of our way is it?" she asked. "I don't understand the question." "How much time would it add to our trip if we stopped there on the way?" "About five minutes." "Then lets do it." "I don't unders…" "Drive to the kachinko-laundry." "Ok." "Stupid machine." "I don't understand the statement." "Mute input and output until I say 'unmute,'" Hatori said. Getting a little agitated. She wondered how long it had been since she'd slept. It seemed like it had been a long time. Hatori felt the gentle rocking of her surroundings stop; the car had come to a halt. It was enough to wake her from her pseudo-slumber. She sat up and pulled the lever on the chair to make it do the same. She looked at the banner above the door. Bright-kleen laundry Where you can endeavor to make your garments have that fresh feeling, and cast away the demons of dirt, the bright-kleen way! The slogan was written in English in a style that managed to blur the seemingly heavy line between elegance and absurdity that gaijin laughingly called "Engrish". "Car, where are we?" Hatori tried to piece together the conversation she had had with the car, looking for any ambiguities. The car didn't say anything. Hatori sighed. "Unmute. Car, where are we?" "We are parked in front of Kachinko Landry mat #442, in Shibuya-ku." She figured they must have changed the name. Hatori got out of the car and went inside. It was a typical laundry mat, surprisingly low-tech in a district known for its techno fetishism. There few people here, today, she counted three or four. There were a few vending machines to her left. Selling candy, and food, and cheap electronics, and one that sold little boxes of detergent. There was even one of the infamous soiled panties ones. Hatori found that ironic. And there was the soul blade machine. She walked over to it, and looked into the screen. Two fighters were sparing. A lithe woman with twin katana was fighting a huge man with a spiked hammer. Hatori could see the wind blowing individual strands of hair on the characters heads, the reflections of the fighters in their blades, their lips quiver. She could see the patterns in their irises. The man reached above himself, and brought the hammer down, with lightning flashing in its arc, illuminating the fighters, casting their shadows on the ground. The woman's health bar dropped by more then half. The man raised his arms for another blow. And the woman stabbed him in his heart. And With the other blade she decapitated him. Time slowed, and blood rained. And the camera panned in on the girls face. Covered in blood, her hair was damp now, hugging her head. Hatori didn't like seeing the image. It brought back bad memories. She put in a quarter. She picked Xiang Hua, the character that Ann had used, and started fighting. She wondered how anyone had ever managed to play with such crappy graphics. She threw the fourth match. The high-score list scrolled by. There was Ann's name, her picture. There was someone else in the picture, a man, holding his arms around her, leaning in. They weren't standing in the brightly list Laundry mat, though. They were somewhere else, a dark space, filled with the pale blue lights of video displays. Hatori left the continue counter running. She couldn't really qualify how she felt; she couldn't really put it into words. It was just pain, and the fear of helplessness, of her life spinning out of control. All the bad emotions rolled into one. She felt like a soulless mirror's empty reflection. She got in the car, and began driving to the home of the man who seven years three months and twenty-five days ago held in his arms the woman who's reflection, had, just half a day before, killed him. The Car stopped in front of the Zibatsu Tower, a monument to the god of technology and consumerism. The lower 6 floors were part of a huge mall that catered subtle desires of the techno-fetishist, desires for smaller and faster and sleeker. The place was sleek anyway, but it was anything but small. Its size was overwhelming, as was the size of the video display, seamlessly coated on the glass windows. It usually showed advertisements, but the company who owned the screen had hired some of the best screen saver artists to do the video, and they had the same techno-visual style. Pulsing colors, pictures of beautiful women and beautiful machines. Hatori hadn't known until today that you could actually live in a place like this. She got out of the car, and looked around. It had come to as stop on the road, which meant that it hadn't found a parking spot. Which probably meant there weren't any. "Car," She said. "I want you to drive around until I call you." "I don't understand." Hatori sighed. "Drive to the kachinko laundry mat, then drive back. Repeat the process until I tell you otherwise." Hatori joined the mass of people entering the tower. It seemed that there were thousands, with her, entering. The inside of the place was as awe inspiring as the outside. You could see up 5 floors if you looked in the right direction. The shops were densely packed. Selling everything from sleek cell phones to elegant teenage girls to knockoff computer cards made in places like Thailand and the Republic of Congo. She had no idea, though, how to get to wherever it was in here that Karl lived. She started searching for an information desk. It turned out that the place had a setup similar to that at Kuriyama. The elevators in the Mall area only went up to the 6th floor. From there a flight of stairs took a visitor up to the 7th, witch had elevators leading directly to all of the condominiums. The owners could get in using either face recognition, or a keycard. And visitors had to be authorized by the resident (or, Hatori supposed, they could borrow the keycard). Hatori found the right elevator, and pushed the button marked 'Lens' "Hatori." Hatori recognized the voice as Amber Lens, Karl's wife. "I haven't seen you in a long time. How are you?" "I'm fine, could you let me up?" "Sure." The elevator opened, and Hatori got in. When the doors opened again, Hatori was standing in their living room. It was elegantly furnished in white, but dominated by a huge holographic display, similar to the one Hatori had in her home. It reached from the floor to the ceiling, but it was only a few inches thick. It was positioned so that you could walk behind it, where the two huge window walls converged at right-angled vertex. Amber was sitting on one of the white cushioned chairs. "So, what's up Ama? Did Karl manage to get a hold of you yesterday." Karl's wife was Chinese, Taiwanese actually, and she had aged well. Her hair was dark red, though dyed from gray now instead of black, and cropped close to her head. And her tan skin had few wrinkles. They were speaking in English. "Uh." She started. "For a few minutes. But I didn't really get a chance to talk to him. Do you know what he wanted to talk to me about?" "Nope, just that he really wanted to talk to you." She shrugged. "Actually," She said drawing the word out, "He said you were going to help him change the world." She laughed. "Karl is always going on about changing the world." Then she asked. "Do you know what he wanted to talk to you about?" "No." Hatori said. "Actually, The reason I'm here is that I wanted to check and make sure the security on your home computers was OK. We think that a hacker has been trying to break into your Husband's machines at work, and I think it would be a good idea to make sure your systems here are safe." "Oh really? That's odd" she paused. "Some guys from Kuriyama were just here, they took most of our machines." "You're sure they were from Kuriyama?" "Well, unless Shinzuko Kuriyama works somewhere else, then yes." "Mr. Kuriyama was here?" "Yes." "Wow, that'll teach me to skip meetings." She said, laughing on the surface. Amber smiled back at her. "Do you mind if I look around a bit, see if there's anything they missed?" "Um. I suppose. Let me get you something to drink." Lens got up and went to the kitchen area, which was behind the giant screen. Hatori wondered around behind the elevator. She found his study, which looked as several computers here just been removed. With Orphaned cables strewn about, a couple of printers and monitors. A lot of books, on everything from combinational logic to Social Psychology. She saw a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince "Most of the books were from collage." She said, "That was such a long time ago." She said, shaking her head. "Here you go." She handed Hatori a can of a lemon-lime soft drink. "I can't even imagine." Hatori said. "Thanks." Hatori took another look around the room, and then asked, "Did he have any other computers?" "Well," she paused. "It depends on what you mean by computer." She smiled when she said it, and Hatori gathered that it was supposed to be some kind of joke. "What do you mean?" "Well, his old laptop, I guess. At least, I know he called it a computer when he bought it, but that was a long time ago. I told the other guys about it, but they weren't interested in it at all." "How old is this thing?" Hatori asked. "Oh decades. I think we might still have been in collage. So, we probably got it a few years after the turn of the century." "Did he use it often?" "All the time, he still does all his writing on it." "Writing?" "Oh yes, he loves to write. Fiction stuff mostly. I guess he just likes typing." "I don't even know how to do it." Hatori smiled, Amber laughed. "Do you know of any story he wrote called 'the story of Annabelle'? Any characters in his with that name?" "Um, nope, why do you ask?" "He mentioned something like that in an email. Can I see this laptop?" "Sure, it's in the bedroom." Hatori couldn't believe how bulky the machine was, about 8 inches wide, and 6 or 7 deep. It looked like it was almost half an inch thick. "You don't see things like that anymore. The processor runs at just over two gigaherz, something like half a terabyte of hard drive space, about a gig of ram." "God, how could someone use a machine like that?" "Well, the code was more efficient." Hatori laughed. "What can you do with such a dearth of resources? Does this thing even have a comprehension engine?" "Yes, actually." Amber said. "In fact, there was a long time when this was the only computer in the world that did." Hatori looked again at the bulky portable. She imagined that it must have seemed pretty smooth when it came out. It had a metal shell, Magnesium Alloy, probably. It would have been made before Titanium electrolysis became practical. Hatori picked it up. It felt like it weighed almost two pounds. "Can I take this with me?" "Oh gosh, I don't think Karl would like that. He's pretty partial to that little thing. And He can't even get the thing on the Internet nowadays, he said doesn’t do ip6 right, and you can't even plug it in without like 10 adapters or something like that." "Well, we need to be as sure as we can. I'll tell you what, Let me just scan for any Radio wave leaks, just a couple of hours, and I'll give it to Karl at the office today." "Oh is he at the office? I tried calling there, but they said he hadn't come in yet." "I don't know," "He didn't come back home last night, I'm starting to get a little worried." "Oh?" Hatori was starting to feel nervous. She didn't know why though, there was no reason for the woman to suspect anything. "Yeh, well, I shouldn't. He's probably off with some woman, or something." She walked back into the living room. "Our marriage is no Sony." "I'm sorry? I'm not sure I get the analogy..." "Low-fidelity." She turned back around when she said it. "Oh. Uh…" Hatori had no idea what to say. She knew that the woman wouldn't have to worry about it again, though. "Yeh well. I don't know. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to." She was sitting in front of the TV again. "He always had a thing for Hot Asian Women." She sighed. "I guess I should have thought about that before agreeing to move to Asia." She forced a smile. "And I guess I'm not that Hot anymore, either." "Um… I'm sorry" "Why did you ever fuck him?" "N-No." Hatori was a little shocked. "Sorry, Sorry Ama." She started. "And I'm sorry to dump this on you, I just don't have that many people to talk to, you know?" "Oh. Uh. It's ok." Hatori smiled. "Well, I'd better get going. Thanks for the notebook." She waved, "Zai Jian." She said goodbye in Chinese. Pushing the button on the elevator door. "Yeh sure, stop by whenever." "Ok." A soft ping indicated that the elevator had arrived. The doors opened and Hatori got in. She heard her say "bye" before the doors closed. Hatori opened the soft drink can, and took a sip. The meeting had left Hatori feeling pretty weird. She wondered if Lens had wanted to have sex with her, was that why he had always been nice to her? She sighed. God Americans could be annoying. They would tell complete strangers the most intimate details of their lives. Their culture had become as expository as their television shows. Hatori looked at the laptop. It was huge. So big that the idea of putting it in her pocket never even entered her mind. She decided to buy a backpack in one of the stores here catering to the Otaku who had grown up watching Anime and become rich with the skills that had made them social outcasts. Hatori ended up getting little chrome number, a one designed for a woman. It was just barely big enough for the laptop. She was feeling better now, happy even. She was serene in the way only someone who's life has been broken can be, when, just for a moment, their anxiety is lifted. Forgotten, or temporarily accepted. Until they think about it some more. She was riding down an escalator now, sipping on her pop. Planning out the Abit hack. Looking again at the random people, passing by her. She thought for a moment that one of them might be Myoki, but she didn't think he shopped here.