Web小説 「.hack//bullet」


   "If the director says smoke her out then we smoke her out. Even if I don't personally agree."
    "I agree, but it's like shooting a fish through water."
    The conversations between Eleanor and David were always like this. Business hotel rooms across the country. They spoke nearly everyday but couldn't remember the last time they were in the same room together. This was the sort of relationship between higher level NAB partners. Or, to be more specific, FBI partners.
    "It's just too weird. You remember how this all started, right? That disk. How could we have overlooked this detail all these years?"
   "I'll be honest--I don't really believe it; that Knox is involved in this somehow. She was the one who recommended me to the director, after all, and she was like a mentor then."
   "But, she has a vested interest in ALTIMIT. She always has."
    "So do many politicians. It's a safe interest to have. It just so happened to be that she took the first initiative back then."
   "Is it really so simple?"
    "At least for now, let's keep it that simple. There are bigger issues at hand."
    "Like what? Some protests? That's local law enforcement stuff."
   "No, David, the news."
   "The news? More people being arrested under false pretenses?"
   "Everyday, but that's not it. Have you really not seen what's happened?'
    "Aren't you the one who micromanages my life? You should know between being on an airplane and visiting our elderly boss I've not done much else. Not an ample minute to read the ticker, at least."
   "Check out the NAB headlines. They're going wild."
   "Oh boy."
    Eleanor was talking about the special NAB news aggregate where work-related headlines accumulated. Somehow, it seemed, the details of the Yuri Seto case had leaked. What David--what the FBI had intended was to keep the entire situation under wraps, even from the NAB itself. Nothing good came of it for a multitude of reasons; the case would have set a huge incentive for pro-IC Chip proponents within the NAB, as the Seto case would have been open-and-close (or so they liked to assume) if he had an IC Chip implanted in him with GPS functionality like all prisoners should, say the pro faction. This was the basic scope of the problem that David was trying to prevent, and someone had unleashed it.
    He took a look at the muted TV playing in the corner of the hospital's waiting room, where images of a crowd outside of the NAB's San Diego office were being broadcast. Police stare on silently as angry civilians mixed with those already living in the post-apocalypse, yelling in what might as well have been a foreign language. Nobody quite understood what the anger was for, but it was clear some negligence had been committed by the people committed to preventing people like Seto running loose. The choice of establishment to protest seemed odd to David. It made more sense to storm CC Corp, the people who had hired a death row inmate and trusted him with company secrets. The nature of the case, however, had created a larger interest in the general public than the intangible crimes of Ryuuji Sogabe, which might as well have been fictional to the common person. The news reports were almost unbelievable, that a virus could kill, but Seto's track record with Deadly Flash was proof enough. The bottom line was that virtually the entire world had been put in life-threatening danger that would've been easily stopped with the IC Chip.
   "Did you tell anyone about the Seto case?"
   "Only who was required."
   "This thing has created a lot of tension. Your friend, Sogabe, the headlines about him have caused enough tremors in the underground networks of those who care about that sort of thing enough."
   "He's innocent."
   "I know that, but they don't. Now comes a second criminal, a repeat offender no less. I'm hearing that Goldman is already planning to give a speech about all this, and how it's time for the IC Chip revolution or what have you. It's going to get worse with every passing day from here on out as more and more details leak. Just hope what happened to Yodogawa doesn't come to light--you can thank the skeptics for keeping things under control for now."
   "But we caught the guy--or, rather, he's dead."
   "Dead or alive, the danger was present, and that's what people are mad about."
   "Give me a break..."
   "This is the world."
   "Is the world spinning any faster to you? Because I'm starting to get dizzy."
   "Same as always. David, this is really no good. The lines are starting to get fuzzy here. The last thing we can do is blow our cover."
   "I know. I don't want to let the old man down either. What would you have me do, then?"
   David had always been a lazy person. This job was suited for lazy people. While Eleanor did all the research, David just went where she needed him to be. As a result, he never had to think too hard about the larger job, just what he needed to do moment by moment.
   "Can you remember exactly who you spoke to about Seto? The pool should be quite small."
   "Just those old men..."
   There were benefits to a lifestyle like this. David traveled often, for one, which contrasted well with Eleanor's homebody tendency to stay indoors and observe the world from her computer screen--compact & comfortable. Things were prepared the way he liked it. The right shampoo was always waiting for him in the hotel room bathtub, and flights were always adjusted to reserve the aisle seat. Eleanor made sure David's life was always to his liking.
   "Then, you would think..."
   "That one of them leaked it?"
   It takes a high level of trust to maintain a partnership like this, and it's not something easily attained. David and Eleanor met many years ago when the NAB had just formed, at the FBI briefing detailing their cover. David had just returned from his graduate studies in Japan, and Eleanor was a last minute addition to the task force. As it took a very specific kind of person to be in their positions, they got along well almost immediately.
   "It's a possibility."
   "The only possibility we've got."
   "Then I vote for looking into it."
   When they spent time away from each other in different timezones, this was the chance David had to think--to really think. The little spark in his mind about Tabitha Knox was one such golden nugget revealed in those quiet moments where his next move had not been planned in advance. Eleanor wouldn't realize--or perhaps she wouldn't admit--that the greatest strides in their cases would always occur when David had ample enough time to think.
   "I can't just up and go back to Japan."
   "Isn't there anyone who could act on your behalf? Anyone you trust?"
   "It'd save us a lot of time."
   "I guess there is one person I can ask."
   "Reiko Saeki."
   "And you can trust her?"
   "She handled the whole quantum computer nonsense last year. She's pretty deep into it all."
   Whether or not David trusted Reiko was besides the point. In clearer terms, he was suspicious of her--just as he was suspicious of everyone. She had given him reason to believe in their last meeting that something had been off about her experience investigating the quantum computer, but their meeting was not long enough for him to be able to ascertain what exactly that was. What he was able to ascertain, however, was that Reiko was a good person. Even if she had found herself in the middle of something unsavoury, he was confident she would find her way out of the labyrinth. So: trust, no. But he could rely on her, at least her innate character.
   "Then you should give her a call. Have her handle the Japanese side of things."
   "You're right. Our hands are full right now, huh?"
   "Yeah. There's a lot going on."
   "By the way, Eleanor, how're you?"
   The question took her a little by surprise.
   "Fine--I'm always fine."
   "That's good."

next ch.68: ATOM