But returning to sci-fi, I have further offering for the still untitled somewhat-epic that has taken over my brain. Chapter two under the cut below :)
The Bureau for the Investigation of Technology Crimes was known internationally as the pinnacle of crime prevention organizations. It employed the best programmers, hackers, detectives and scientists to detect and catch criminals who wanted to use technology or biology in ways disapproved of by international law. It’s agents served to protect the public and their country from cyber crime, tech-virus threats and everything in between. Thanks to them, Shangri-La was safe and peace was the norm.
Genjyo Sanzo, one of the best agents the Bureau had, wanted everyone in his immediate vicinity to die right the fuck now. The coffee machine was broken, he had a headache and he had a meeting with the Head Bitch in fifteen minutes; unless one of his agents came up with some sort of development soon he had absolutely nothing new to report to her.
He hated jobs involving bio-terrorists. Unfortunately, the biggest and most dangerous terrorist group in fifty years was upping its game on his watch and wouldn’t be so kind as to clumsily reveal their HQ location, leak some data or helpfully blow itself up. Fuckers. The worst part was that they were so close to solving the whole problem – the group had raided a university town in the neighbouring province just over twelve months ago, slaughtering university security and students alike to gain access to their Bioinformatics and Biotechnology building. Missing from the dead was the renowned bio-programmer Dr. Cho Hakkai. Subsequent investigations revealed that his sister has also disappeared, kidnapped by armed individuals at the same time as her brother. He didn’t have high hopes for the girl and six weeks ago had his hunch proved correct when satellites monitoring potential terrorist locations photographed a serious incident – arriving at the location himself, the charred body of Cho Kanan was shown to have been beaten and probably raped, most of the terrorists and captives dead, but no Dr. Cho. Further examination of the compound had yielded useful data, but the good doctor could not be located. The one man who could explain the fucked-up virus they had recovered data on and tell them what the terrorists had planned was missing.
This is what you get for lax CCTV standards in the middle of buttfuck-nowheresville, Sanzo thought savagely, massaging his eyes with a free hand. One base located, few leads on where the HQ is or how they keep releasing waves of malicious broadcasts to turn normal youkai insane, or what they’re trying to achieve with this virus. He glanced at the clock. Five minutes. Fuck. Sanzo’s monitor bleeped, rousing him from contemplating the deaths of the top tiers of the Bureau’s leadership team should they comment on how little progress he was making. Lazily, he tapped the screen so his fingerprint would allow him access to whatever it was that wanted his attention now. Email. Hmph. Probably one of his agents making big news out of nothing. Again. He opened his email window out of apathy more than anything else.
What he saw made his month.
“I hope you have a good reason for making me wait, darling.” Gods, five seconds and he already wanted to kill the old hag. Kanzeon Bosatsu was the celebrated head of the Bureau but Sanzo personally thought it was blowjobs and bluster that got her the job. Her sole talent in life appeared to be delegation and her only purpose was apparently to piss him off. Eyes a much darker purple than his own regarded him sharply from behind a folder held aloft in a red-nailed hand. Kanzeon smirked and flicked long dark hair over one shoulder. “But then my little sunshine, you don’t usually fail to impress.” Ugh, okay, I’m blonde, I know. He hated how she always referred to his looks every time she saw him. Creepy old drag queen. How her secretary put up with her he’d never understand.
“I’m sure you’ve already heard,” Sanzo gritted out “That there have been some developments in the terrorist case.”
“But of course.” Kanzeon smiled indulgently. “And I’m on tenterhooks to hear your assessment, Principal Investigator Sanzo.”
Turning to hide his grimace, Sanzo opened a panel in the wall and activated the silico-LCD display directly opposite the desk. Flicking the necessary switches, he pulled out an extending cable from the recess and plugged it into the data stream port embedded in his neck. A satellite photograph appeared on the screen, the majority taken up with a huge black scar across rugged terrain.
“This is the photograph taken by satellite 00014-R37 six weeks ago, when an underground terrorist base was destroyed.” Sanzo began, “As you know, we recovered data on a tech-virus from the site that was being engineered in labs at the site, presumably by the captive Dr. Cho Hakkai. No live virus was recovered due to the fire that destroyed the base, and the area has been monitored for viral contaminant since. Dr. Maoh, meanwhile, has been working on the virus; she estimates it is around 70% complete, but cannot be sure due to numerous conflicting data sources. Apparently much of the code is comprised of youkai code and insertion sequences, but there are several versions of the virus with different content and varying insertion methods. Little solid evidence of the eventual aim and viability of this virus exists and the purpose is largely conjecture. Many of the code-genes are for traits most youkai already have, and so would merely boost their natural capabilities. There is also evidence of work on a computer virus geared towards hacking high-security computer systems, but it is incomplete and seems to have originated elsewhere – “
“Yes, yes.” Kanzeon interrupted, a bored look on her face. “I know all this, darling. What’s new?” Sanzo sighed quietly. The image on the screen changed to a mountainous region. “This is Houtou Mountain, near Tashamu in the province of Tibet. In the last ten minutes I received communication from my men on the inside that over the last sixteen hours a large number of terrorists have suddenly been called to a hitherto unknown base at this location. They tell me a great number of their forces have been tasked with assembling a large quantity of high-grade technology, indicating that we are likely to see a large-scale terrorist event soon.
Until now, small communities across the country have suffered attacks from local youkai whose natural behaviours have been subverted by what people have started calling a ‘minus wave’. This brings on a state of acute rage manifested by violence and appears to be caused by temporary antenna constructs the terrorists move around to cause disruption and conceal their true location. Recovered antennae seem to be broadcasting a recording of a looped wave profile. We suspect a larger source profile may exist as the two antennae recovered had similar but different recordings.
It appears that the rage state is induced by the wave profile by means of an encoded data package designed to bypass the security software in bio-data storage chips, allowing a second code to be downloaded into the chip without the owner’s permission. It is this second code that is causing the rage in youkai; their physiology of metallo-neurons allows more complete integration of these chips than in humans and creates a weakness that the second code exploits. It causes some of these neurons to misfire, suppressing brain structures like the limbic system and areas of the prefrontal cortex, which control aggression and executive functions governing emotional expression. As a result, youkai become aggressive and unable to control the urge to commit violence on anyone nearby. Youkai with type-3 chips or older are affected, as are some humans, who complain of pressure headaches. We suspect these chips have been targeted because their owners are poorer and unable to afford security upgrades for their chips. My agents at the Houtou compound have confirmed that antennae with a much larger broadcast rage are being constructed there.
Well, Kanzeon certainly didn’t look bored anymore. “Your recommendation?” Her tone was clipped. Not a good sign.
“To immediately make available to users of type-3 and older chips free security software upgrades to prevent them from being affected.” Sanzo replied. What other option did they have? “I would also suggest it is time to put aside infiltration and subterfuge and launch an aggressive recovery mission to prevent that broadcast from being made. I also have concerns about this virus – there is clearly more intended by this insurgent group than mere chaos if they are trying to beef up their soldiers; we need their data and we need to stop them. It is also likely their leader is there – if we can get hold of him we stand a much better chance of removing this threat permanently.”
Kanzeon was nodding. “What about the negative-phase wave profile we developed to negate the minus wave broadcast?”
“The MATEN wave? If you’re asking if we could deploy it and prevent the minus wave’s effects, then I suppose it’s possible. Dr. Marshall has done his best to create a profile that counteracts the known and theoretical elements of the broadcast.” But without a complete broadcast to go on we’ve got little confidence it would work, Sanzo thought grimly. Kanzeon was quiet, tapping a knuckle lightly against red lips.
“How confident re you in the MATEN?” She asked quietly.
“Dr. Marshall is confident; the programme he has written for it has an AI of it’s own to try to adapt to any changes to the broadcast in real time and counteract them.”
“But do you trust his program?” Purple eyes bored into his.
“Unless we get new data, I’ve got no choice.”
Kanzeon leaned forwards and rested her elbows on the desk. Interlacing her fingers underneath her chin, she graced Sanzo with a smile sharper than a box of snake fangs.
“Then I have a little prezzie for you – from an old friend.”
Noisy. The last few times he’d woken it was very noisy. Just beyond his cell wall he could hear clicks, screeches, whirrs, banging, yelling. No-one came in except for the no-eyed man. The no-eyed man frightened him; he was gentle with his words, making soothing noises and whispering nice things, but his hands were cold and hard and reminded him of snakes. And he never let him out. He wouldn’t make the pain stop.
Please… make it stop.
Hakkai woke up feeling groggy. The downloads always took it out of him, but Gojyo assured him he was recovering quicker each time. He looked pretty pleased when he said it; like a proud parent. I guess he is in a way, Hakkai mused. He’s spent hours writing all this code for me and hoping it’ll work. I know how that feels. Hakkai thought of all his friends and students and felt a pang of guilt. I’m sorry, I can’t return just yet. I will not put anyone else in danger. I have a job to do. His plan was simple – get Gojyo’s anti-AI code into the terrorist’s computer systems and prevent it from ever being used, then find and destroy everything related to the viruses he had created. Hakkai didn’t know how much progress had been made on the viruses since he had escaped, but he knew he was part of a larger picture. If Gojyo could hack the system and implant his patch…
“Oi, what’s with that serious face?” Gojyo had padded in with some tea. “Figured you’d wake up soon.” His smile was so charming Hakkai almost forgot that the man in front of him had admitted to hacking businesses and establishments on behalf of his employers. Proposing his plan was risky, but if Gojyo was onside…
“Gojyo?” Well, no time like the present.
“Hm?” Gojyo looked up from pouring tea.
“I have a proposition for you,” Hakkai said, turning to lie on his side on the narrow bed. “But I’m not sure if you’ll… approve, exactly.”
Red eyes widened almost comically. “Umm, ‘kai I’m flattered and all, but you’re not totally recovered yet and –” What on Earth was Gojyo talking about? “- mean it’ not like I don’t find you attractive, but don’t you think –”
“I meant I have a plan to stop the AI program I carry from being used by terrorists to bring down the Government and possibly civilized society with it, Gojyo.”
“- completely awesome and… wait, what? Oh! Right, yeah. That. Um.” Gojyo had the good grace to look sheepish. “I knew that.”
Hakkai smiled gently. “Well,” Gojyo continued, “I was kinda hoping you’d say something like that actually, because I know a few people who could help us with that sort of thing…”
Hakkai raised an eyebrow. Oh? Contacts was better than he had hoped for. “Other professionals such as yourself?”
“You could say that.” Gojyo looked somewhat uneasy. Hakkai didn’t like it.
“Gojyo?” He narrowed his eyes, putting a bit of Tone into his voice. Normally that worked. Goyjo cleared his throat. “They are professionals.” He admitted. “As in… the Government?” Hakkai nearly dropped his teacup.
“The Government?!?” He squeaked.
“Honestly, I’d been wanting to tell you for a while, but I wanted to let you heal first and see if we can work on a code to help suppress the AI?”
Gojyo eyed Hakkai nervously. Either he was going to blow his top (and he wasn’t sure he wanted to see that ever), or admit he wanted revenge and accept a job with the Government like he hoped he would. It was about time they let him have a partner he liked, dammit.
“Will they let me avenge Kanan?” Hakkai asked softly.
“Her and half of Shangri-La, buddy.” Gojyo shrugged – who knew how many people’s lives those bastards had destroyed?
“Then… I suppose I have no reason to decline.” Gojyo grinned.
“Come with me.”
Hakkai’s first thought was come where? Surely Gojyo didn’t mean outside? He hadn’t set foot beyond the gate to the track leading back to civilization and potential capture by terrorists. Hakkai had to admit that fear of what lay outside the safe confines of Gojyo’s house was the largest obstacle to setting out on any sort of one-man vengeance mission. With Gojyo – and the Government’s – help, things would certainly be less risky.
Gojyo’s warm hand closed around his eagerly, hoisting him up and shuttling them down the short hallway towards the main living space. From behind, it was easier to scrutinize how human Gojyo looked; with a longsleeve shirt and sunglasses he could pass easily for a normal human. Hakkai had seen the ports lining Gojyo’s arms and spine several times now, and they seemed so natural on that warm golden skin in comparison to his own, which were still pink and healing around the edges. He didn’t understand the pride with which Gojyo displayed them, frequently wearing vest shirts or foregoing shirts altogether – especially as once people saw his hair and eyes it would be obvious what he was.
They were heading into the basement now, which upon arrival was very… boring. At least there was finally some evidence that Gojyo knew what laundry was as there was an old washer in the corner with some rickety clothes-horses displaying Gojyo’s appalling taste in underwear. Boxes of old technology and some dated furniture occupied most of the space under the stairs and spilled out to encroach on the laundry area, leaving most of the floor a sort of no-man’s-land between the useful and the useless.
Above it all was an old-fashioned angle-poise lamp, all curves and springs, artfully mounted on the ceiling to illuminate the chaos below. Gojyo must have installed it; most people weren’t tall enough to reach it.
Gojyo released his hand at the bottom of the stairs, turning to the immediate left of the stairway to face the wall.
“If we ever get searched, some idiot will probably stand right here guarding the stairs.” He grinned. Palming the wall at shoulder height, Gojyo didn’t outwardly appear to do anything other than blink, yet Hakkai felt a certain… shift in the dank air. Small strands of his fringe swayed in his vision. The lights, when they came on, were startling in their brightness. What appeared to be a plain stone wall was in fact a giant silico-display with a textured upper layer. Underneath the texturing the display was smooth, white-blue lines outlining Gojyo’s hand and both his feet whilst a bar projected across his eyes. Fingerprint and iris recognition, Hakkai thought, wincing a bit as a panel opened to disgorge snake-like wires which plugged themselves into Gojyo’s wrist ports.
“Access two.” Gojyo directed at the wall. More flashing lights; status updates, power usage charts, various indecipherable shapes moving in a sharp staccato dance across the wall. Voice recognition too… very impressive. Apparently satisfied with this data, the display to Gojyo’s right shifted over and a matching hand and foot outline appeared. Hakkai stepped forwards to take his position. Almost instantly scanning bars, loading icons and schematics appeared in front of him. It was quite a shock to see the extent of his own transformation rendered so… honestly; the white outlines of artificial nerves, tech-riddles organ, modified ports and lists of software – his AI and suppressant codes and other data files stored in his bio-data chip – assaulting his vision. The digital twin moved as he shifted, the digital eye onscreen mimicking his new one as he surveyed his changed body. No, perhaps… modified was a better way of thinking about it. He hadn’t noticed the wire jacking into his wrist port, but the data file he received was a flash in his vision, blue white and hexagonal before he directed it to a free memory slot.
Opening it, text began to scrawl across his left eye’s vision – the heads-up display trait he’d had as a human for displaying his data chip files was certainly improved – it read: HI THERE. Hakkai huffed in amusement, glancing across to Gojyo who returned it with a sly smile. Hakkai noted that Gojyo’s digital self was a lot less complicated than his own, largely comprising a list of new codes displayed over and image of some wiring and his radius bones in his arms, which were totally illuminated, along with some of his humerus. It looked pretty extensive, but before Hakkai could read off any details from the display ‘DOWNLOAD COMPLETE’ winked on the screen and they were disconnected.
In front of them the wall retreated then slid aside; the passage beyond was so much like home Hakkai could have cried. White blue lights cast a soft yet bright glow over the dove-grey walls and pale carpet from semicircular brackets on the walls; a living space contained a neat cot with grey sheets to match the walls and a bedside table, the modern lamp shading a clock-weather-news station with a sleek black frame; a fridge dwarfed the small yet functional kitchen area also finished in a monochrome palette and a small pod in the corner presumably contained the facilities. The only real splash of colour was an oversized patchwork blanket thrown over the bed, the squares of mismatched multicoloured fabric a joyous burst of colour in the otherwise clinical room. After weeks of 40-watt lightbulbs, wooden floors and Gojyo’s one tatty sofa it felt like returning to civilization. The only difference was that behind a white wooden slatted screen that blocked the view from down the corridor was an area easily the size of the living quarters that had not only a workbench covered in what could only be described as electric carnage but was dominated by a vast array of silico-display and holo-display screens, keypads and gadgetry, weirdly similar to Gojyo’s room upstairs but neat and crafted like the digital double he’d seen moments earlier.
“The Hub.” Gojyo said proudly, flinging his arms wide to cover the ridiculously small space. “Self-contained and completely isolated from the systems upstairs. They only communicated via me. I could hide out down here for roughly two months without outside assistance, but after that… well, fresh food and water start to be a problem, yanno? Synthetics taste like crap and if I get attacked by hostiles then they’d better not waste my goddamn time waiting me out.” He must have caught the look on Hakkai’s face, because his eyes did that odd softening thing again and he put a hand on his shoulder. “I know it sucks being so far from anything even resembling home,” he said “but it won’t be much longer, ‘kay?” Hakkai nodded, too emotionally jumbled to articulate his thoughts clearly. He thought he’d wanted to get back to civilization, but now he was confronted with it all it did was remind him of the last time he’d seen it, covered in the blood of his assistants as he was dragged from his lab past screaming staff and students who had taken one look at the guns and weapons and fled in terror. Not for the first time, Hakkai made sure he remembered the names and faces of those who never got to flee…
“Sit down.” Gojyo commanded. Hakkai obediently sat. The cup of tea shortly put in his hands tasted stale but it was warm and comforting all the same. Gojyo spun round in his bespoke leather chair to face the assemblage behind him and interlaced his fingers behind his head. “Mornin’ honey.” He chirped. Twenty screens flickered into life.
“The time is fifteen fifty-five, Gojyo.” A wry female voice reprimanded. Gojyo turned to wink at Hakkai conspiratorially. “Women, huh?” he whispered.
“Betty, I’ve brought Dr. Cho Hakkai to meet you today.” He gestured over his shoulder. About five lenses turned Hakkai’s way. There was a pause.
“…Why am I not surprised.” Betty sighed electronically. “The Bureau has been searching for him for weeks and you –”
“Have recruited him.” Gojyo interrupted smoothly. There was another, more pregnant pause.
“Glad to be of assistance.” Hakkai inclined his head respectfully. Several screens flickered into life, dislodging screensavers of motorbikes in favour of diagnostics and images of a blackened forest area.
“Then we must appraise Dr. Cho of the situation. If you would be so kind?” A wire weaved across the floor and poised, cobra-like, within reach. Hakkai set down his tea and jacked in.“Please begin.”