“At approximately 0500 hours an unidentified hacker staged a DDoS attack on CyberConnect Corporation’s main server by way of a third party connection. No one was severely affected. The hacker’s location has been ascertained; local authorities are on their way.” David listed off the facts. There wasn’t much to be said, after all—he knew about as much as they did. He might as well have described the screens behind them.
“They” were David’s superiors. They sat before the screens in an impromptu interrogative position. The meeting was being held in the Japanese NAB’s monitoring command room. It was more or less organized the same way as its American counterpart—the only major differences being the general cleanliness and brand of the monitors. Regardless of nationality, nothing good happens in these rooms. It is a place of surveillance—this is where words like “justice” don’t exist.
David stood before the array of screens in the NAB’s monitoring command room. Each screen was filled with different images and video clips that repeated the same moments over and over again. Virtual photographs of Flugel, of the rats, a clip of Drain unleashing his final attack cut off by static, over and over…
“Where did that discharge come from?”
“No one’s been able to track it down yet.”
“How could such a huge attack take place with an unknown origin point?”
“Perhaps they used drone machines?”
“Of that size?”
“There’s no way.”
“Then what are we to think?”
“There are logs and records.”
“And clearly they have done us no good.”
“Then this hacker… how did he stage such an attack?"
They rattled on. It seemed that everyone in the room was avoiding talking about one subject in particular. The one thing that would explain all the “impossibilities” and “errors” of this case was patently absent from the small talk being made by these old men. No one would dare discuss it, either—to do so would invite a sordid history of suffering and misuse of power into the room. David, however, was not one to care much about such sensibilities. Finer feelings like that were distinctly Japanese, and David was American.
“There is one possibility.” David said this clearly, and what would come next was palpable in the room. Ishizuka, the leftmost NAB official, was visibly becoming nervous. David looked on, waiting for his next cue to speak.
“Was there something else you observed, Steinberg?” he asked.
“I had been monitoring the quantum computer in San Diego during the attack.” A new silence permeated the room. Ishizuka turned to the others, and then spoke up.
"At around 5pm it recorded a huge surge in processing, sir.”
“The criminal use of quantum computers should be virtually impossible!”
“This is last year’s news!”
“If this is the case, then…"
"If I may, sir--if you'll note the rats on the screen here--these things were produced by the processing power of the quantum computer. This much can be confirmed by simply their visual appearance. Compare the appearance of these rats here to the raid monsters from the last recorded instance of a quantum computer's use last Christmas, and you'll notice that they both feature this distinct violet hexagonal pattern. This could be considered the hallmark of a quantum-enhanced virus."
"Like I said, Mr. Steinberg, that's impossible."
"And I'm telling you, it happened."
There was a silence in the room for a moment. It was indeed true that the criminal use of quantum computing should have been “virtually” impossible. This was something that was achieved by Reiko Saeki, another employee of NAB. David had spoken to her recently to retrieve her report on the matter. Ishizuka looked on at the rats. “And you’re certain of this?”
“I suppose in a seemingly impossible situation all possibilities must be looked into, no matter how absurd.”
“The absurdity of the case is simply due to its relative unfamiliarity to the NAB. The only other modern use of a quantum computer was just last Christmas, if you’ll recall. These sorts of issues will only become more common as quantum computing is developed further—that’s why it’s imperative that we set protocols for these ‘quantum crimes’ before they can reach even larger scales. The hacker’s work you see on these screens would’ve been catastrophic, and we only missed it by the hair on our heads.”
Whispering. Ishizuka leans over to his colleague and says something into his ear. The colleague nods, gets up, and leaves the room. David judges it to be a display of inscrutability—a tactic common in organizations like the NAB as an advanced form of exclusivity. Even if it hadn’t, something seemed to have been set in motion that was beyond David’s control.
"If that's the case, then you'll need to investigate internally. Meet with the officer who reported on this matter. After that, you'll have to go back to America and examine the computer for misuse yourself. Dismissed."
“I apologize for making you come out here on short notice, Ms. Saeki. I hear you’ve been preparing for a trip?”
“Yes. Duty calls, as you know.” Reiko looked upon the foreigner that sat in front of her. This was their first meeting. She had known many foreigners in the past, but none as peculiar as David--it wasn’t everyday that a tall white man yelling washi this and washi that in perfect kansai-ben came strolling around her offices. The world was certainly an interesting place, and David was one of its finer jewels.
“Then I apologize for delaying your packing. I’m sure a woman as beautiful as yourself requires a strict beauty regiment.”
Reiko ignored the comment and moved forward with the conversation.
"How can I help you, Mr. Steinberg?"
"I'm here about a report you wrote earlier this year," said David. He put the document on the table. It had been marked up to denote areas of interest. David was thorough about it. Reiko leafed through it as if to confirm that it was really her writing. The document bore no title, but the contents were about one thing:
"The quantum computer. Yes, I remember you contacting me a little while ago about this matter. I'm sorry I couldn't meet you in person, but I was able to produce this much for you. I hope it was of use."
"So? How'd it go?"
"I mean the follow-up. There are clearly some loose ends here. This investigation is still marked ongoing."
"Officially yes. But we shut down the project as a whole until we could confirm its security and the ethics of its use."
"So I can quote you on that?"
"It's what's written in the report."
David was still not satisfied. "And what about this PFW organization?"
"They were found to be irrelevant, criminally speaking. They had been developing the quantum computer without realizing what it was. It was all hypothetical until it wasn't."
There was a long pause.
"And this computer, it's supposed to be shut down?"
"Yes. We found that it was being used to leak private data of Aomori residents who had a Biological IC Chip installed."
"That sounds dangerous."
"Precisely why I called for it to be shut down."
David leaned back on the sofa. "I'm going to be returning to America tomorrow, and I'll be taking a look at that same computer. As you say, it should no longer be in service, but it seems a certain hacker was able to utilize it for less than savory means right in the playground of your former employer."
"A hacker? In The World?"
"I haven't heard of any such incident. Nor have I heard of any abnormalities."
"The matter was taken care of without incident, and the whole thing was pretty hush hush even among the NAB. I can't say too much about it, but if there's anything you'd like to tell me about your investigation, I'd like to hear it."
"Am I being interrogated?"
"Oh, nothing of the sort--I apologize. I just don't trust beautiful women."
David's words, albeit rude, were calculated. If he was going to get under her skin he would need to choose exactly the right slights to make his way there and set up camp. He took no joy in being rude to anyone--it was just how he conducted work.
"There's not much to say about the investigation. I visited Aomori and had a nice time. That's about the most notable highlight.”
“Congratulations on surviving Aomori.”
“You know, you ‘went to Aomori.’”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Then I apologize for my morbidity.”
Reiko was curious, but not curious enough to press the comment.
"I've never been. I'm a Kansai boy, through and through."
"Is that so? That explains your accent."
"Yes, it's something, isn't it? I can speak in a regular Kanto dialect, too," said David, carefully switching his intonation to a more natural, Tokyo-based Japanese, "but I find using my native tongue keeps people on their toes. It's jarring enough that even the average obaasan stares at me blankly for a moment while their brain buffers."
Reiko did not laugh.
"Anyway, Ms. Saeki, what I'm curious about is the open-ended nature of your report. It doesn't seem to implicate anyone in particular in the event. What I'm wondering is: who are you protecting?"
"Protecting? Mr. Steinberg, again, I think you're becoming increasingly accusatory here..."
"I'm just doing my job. There are inconsistencies that must be rectified. For example, this thing you call the 'black stick.' Has anything changed on that front?"
"All I know was that it operated as a frontend of sorts. Perhaps the first step in a mass-produced version of the program. Like a debug tool."
"And someone got a hold of this tool?"
"Yes. It was something like a freak accident. We presumed it was someone on the inside, but that hasn't been proven yet."
"I did a thorough investigation of both PFW, the manufacturers, and CC Corp, the supervisors. There were no signs of internal collusion. It seems a third party was at work."
"And you left it at that? This is a pretty serious case, Ms. Saeki..."
"I understand that, but there are no more current leads. I am not twiddling my thumbs, either--my assistant at the Akasaka branch is also on the lookout. Like I said in the report, I was investigating something else at the time, and I only happened to walk into this case. It's not my main objective."
"Something else, huh? What was that about?"
"I'm not at liberty to say. But because of the overlap between that case and the quantum computer case, it was under my jurisdiction to investigate."
“Both cases have to do with Lost Ones. I thought that if I researched the quantum computer, a case where Lost Ones were being essentially mass produced for unknown reasons, then maybe I'd find a lead in my other case. I was wrong, and now I am back to my original assignment."
Neither David nor Reiko were capable of revealing more information without endangering their missions, and the conversation petered out somewhere here. Regardless, David left with respect for Reiko, who he believed to be an investigator worth her salt.