Web小説 「.hack//bullet」


   Ryuuji now stood in the sliver of space between Jonathon's and a birdwatching goods shop. This slice of civilization was populated with trash, trash, and more trash. Air conditioning units whirred overhead, and the smell of hot garbage was thick. There was barely enough room for the width of his body, and every step was hindered by some cardboard box or the other. In the smallest of clearings, he had laid out all the electronics that were on his person.
   In his right hand was a screwdriver, and next to the electronics was a rock. It was execution day, and Ryuuji had to make his picks. First: the P-COM. The data was backed up into a cloud on a service owned neither by ALGOS or ALTIMIT. The P-COM itself ran on a third party operating system created by amateur programmers for other technologically literate people like Ryuuji. For most intents and purposes the P-COM was safe. Just to be sure Ryuuji unscrewed its backing and carefully removed its wireless card. Even though the machine was only marginally lighter without it, he felt a huge weight off his shoulders.
   Next: his ALGOS-brand cell phone. He had carefully removed a rare Grunty keychain off of it that had been a gift from Tokio on his last birthday. It's super rare, Tokio had said, because the Grunty was from the R:1 era, when they were still called Puchiguso. He tucked it away in his jacket pocket. These smartphones had become mostly closed systems--even opening it for repair without the aid of a licensed technician would void your warranty. Ryuuji had never trusted them to begin with, but modern society had been organized so that avoiding their use was impossible. He had already removed the image data on the phone to his P-COM--photographs of Tokio and Saika on his 17th birthday, photographs of the sakura in bloom just a few months ago, including one of him Lillie had snuck during hanami, beer in hand; and so many, many, photos of Lillie--when she wasn't looking, mostly.
    Some tears managed to escape down Ryuuji's face, but passed without leaving an impression. He made sure to put those emotions away for when he would be able to deal with them and wiped them away. Surely, he would see Lillie again.
   The remaining components of the phone, lifeless and without personality, lay in front of him now. With a few swift swings of the rock they were left in more pieces than he had laid out.
   The final device in front of him was one he kept tucked away in his inner pocket, a pristine condition NAB-issue cell phone, Beans brand. David had given it to him just a couple weeks prior.
   "By the way, that phone," David had said as they left his mid-range business hotel. "It's also got something really important on it."
   "Oh? David, I don't need your collected works of poetry."
   "I don't think I'm physically capable of writing poetry."
    "Then what's so important about this thing?"
   "The voice message we recovered from Yodogawa's terminal. The one from your former employer, Durga Fida Sharma."
   "Do I need to have something like this? I'd rather not carry incriminating materials."
   "As it is, the only person it incriminates is himself. Like I said before, I managed to decrypt the first half of it using the various tools we have at NAB, including the few prodigal programmers under our command. They managed there, but they told me the second half was different in nature--completely impenetrable."
   "That's just like him."
   "What do you mean?"
   "He loves these sorts of puzzles. Like a koan. I've had many an annoying employer in my day but this guy takes the cake. He's the reason why I only take on clients now, I've had enough of bosses."
   "Well, seeing as you know him better than I do, perhaps you can figure out the secret of the second half. There's clearly more there about what exactly he was funneling cash to at the end of his tenure at CC Corp. I think if it's truly a personal sort of encryption, then maybe..." David trailed off. If he explicitly planted the idea in Ryuuji's head then he would be involving a private citizen into matters far beyond that of a regular network detective.
   "Maybe I can figure out how to unlock it, you mean?" But it was too late. The idea had already been transmitted.
   "Yes. But I'm telling you now--the second you figure out how that thing works, that is, the second you know the contents of the second half of that message, you need to contact me immediately. After that it's NAB territory."
   "I get it. A private eye like me can't play with the big boys."
   "Sorry, but that's the law of the land."
    Very carefully, Ryuuji removed the hard disk of the phone from its shell. He had also copied the file to his main P-COM, but kept the hard disk of this NAB phone as a physical backup--this was something too sensitive to upload to a cloud.
   And the phone was gone, its contents dissipating into the resonance of the earth.
   Staring at the mound of rubble in front of him, he sweeped it away among the nearby trash where it effortlessly disappeared into the scenery.
    "Okay... time for my disappearing act."

next ch.56: FLASH