“This is the future, folks. This is the grim reality we have to live in. I hate to have to be the one to tell you this could’ve all been prevented when it is in fact now far too late. That’s what those so-called democrats who preach democracy day in and day out have brought amongst themselves. Tell me--do criminals deserve democracy? As far as I’m concerned they gave up their ticket to democratic diplomacy once they committed the sin of their crime. Time and time again this is the pattern we face as a society--democrats make big promises, tragedy occurs, and all they can do to make up for it is make empty apologies with big words that do nothing but fill the air until next time. I, for one, have had enough.
“It’s not like I’m advocating for some Big Brother nonsense here folks, even if that’s what that Savas fellow might make it sound like. That guy’s empty words at the summit, talkin’ crazy about ‘privacy’ this and ‘censorship’ that, but there’s no basis to any of it. This has nothing to do with the free thinking individual. This is only a simple way of making sure criminals can be easily managed. The IC chip isn’t something any citizen of a democratic nation deserves, no sir, I’m not asking you to take one in your neck. It’s those in violation of democracy who no longer deserve to participate in it. Ask yourselves, folks, wouldn’t you feel safer knowing the government could wrangle any which murderer or rapist across any of our 50 beautiful states? I know I would. That’s why I ask of you today to make some noise--show those NAB rascals what you really think. The Tri-Surveillance Network is already here, and it has been for quite some time. I ask you--are you going to let it control you, or are we going to control it? Don’t let it become a system designed to cinch your rights away from underneath your nose, make it the weapon of the free man, he who respects the law. Fight for your democracy, keep your loved ones safe, and remember to give your vote to the only candidate offering full, no questions asked IC chip implants in all prisoners across our god-given country.”
The man stepped off the stage, and the image changed.
“About an hour ago, Senator Goldman gave this speech during an emergency rally he held less than 24 hours since news broke out that a Japanese man was killed following infection of a computer virus by Yuri Kaczynski Seto, the same programmer responsible for the Deadly Flash attack twenty years ago.”
The image changed again to show archival footage of Seto’s victims 20 years prior being carried away on hospital beds. Then it cut to a younger version of him, the last time he had been seen publicly before becoming Drain. He looked straight down, avoiding the cameras.
“Seto, having been released from prison, was planning to release the alleged virus worldwide had the NAB not intervened. Sources from within the NAB have claimed the attack was made possible by negligence on behalf of a variety of parties who let Seto roam free after his release.”
The screen cut to a shadowed man, with a dubbed-over voice.
“Obviously, you know, you want to play it safe in these matters, but they were en route to be covered up to a disturbing degree. I’m glad we were able to stop it. But it would also be a different kind of injustice if the world didn’t know exactly what kind of trouble it was put under.”
The reporter returned.
“Sources also claim that wanted criminal Ryuuji Sogabe collaborated with Seto, distributing the virus where possible--it is also said that he was the last known person to meet with the Japanese victim before his death.”
The screen displayed blurry CCTV footage of Ryuuji about a month prior at the Seadragon Chinese restaurant in Odaiba. Yodogawa had been mosaiced out by the television studio.
“As you can see behind me, crowds have gathered outside of the NAB’s California headquarters. Those both for and against the IC chip have convened, and both seem to be becoming more heated by the minute as they await NAB representatives to make an official statement on the matter.”
Verbal fights and hastily made signs with slogans like “Live Free or Die Trying!” or “My Net My Privacy” litter the strife that grew by the hour outside the glass doors of the NAB headquarters. The reporter herself was knocked around a bit by unrestrained crowds hurtling debate topics at each other faster than either could respond. The building behind them had not been built for such conflict, and was only meant for unassuming suited NAB employees to enter and exit. It was not a fortress, nor did it ever expect terrorism--physically, at least. What it had invested into its cyber defenses greatly outranked the meager tempered glass doors and bare minimum of a security system composed of middle aged men who had never fired a gun in their lives.
A hot California sun loomed overhead. Never an ample moment to even wipe sweat out of one’s eyes, protests both for and against the IC chip frothed at the mouth, desperate for someone, anyone to blame. The Japanese man the news kept pushing felt irrelevant. Deep net news sources had already revealed the fact that Seto had been found dead some weeks prior--dead for quite some time, too. There were no photos, no live feed of his arrest, only dubious reports of an FBI raid that had gone unnoticed. Sogabe’s meek face on television only produced a resounding sigh across the American consciousness that hungered for justice.
“The mood here, frankly, is one of anger. The overwhelming desire for the NAB to own up to its own negligence, and of the FBI’s failure to disclose what really happened.”
Behind the reporter David Steinberg’s blonde head poked out as he pushed through the crowd. His objective was to enter the building, and he most definitely would. He approached the glass door and slammed his ID and badge on the window. The guards allowed the sliding doors to inch open enough to let him in. The muted yelling beyond the glass now quickly began to drown out and was replaced by the frantic response of the NAB within. David was almost immediately greeted by Gus.
“I’m glad you’re finally checking in here. Where the hell have you been?”
“We need you here right now.”
“So here I am.”
A quiet acceptance of David’s reticence floated across Gus’ face.
“Well, you’re right on time at least. There’s a phone call waiting for you.”
“Yeah, come on.”
Gus led David to his cramped office, a space that only existed formally to mark his position in the organization. Almost all of its furnishings had been provided by Eleanor: a shelf of books handpicked to make him appear intellectual, a stack of business cards with his NAB rank and title, an expensive pen that had never been used.
“Line one,” said Gus.
David pressed the blinking light on the desk telephone, and picked up the receiver.
“Steinberg, David. I’m not really in the mood for small talk, sorry.”
“Do you recognize my voice?”
“Of course I do, Ms. Saeki.”
“I’m sure you’ve seen the news.”
“Boy have I ever. I’m sick of the news.” David glanced at his clock. “Isn’t it late where you are? Or early?”
“I have some information for you, something that couldn’t wait. The investigation you asked of me seems to have resolved itself.”
David looked over as Gus also picked up a call on his cell phone.
“Information? May I ask what this information pertains to? And, as a follow-up, would my knowing this information put me in some kind of trouble?”
“Not more than we’re already in as an organization.”
“Then let’s hear it.”
Gus spoke quietly but hurriedly into the phone, turning away from David as he nestled the small burner phone into his ear. David took note that it was not his usual ALGOS device.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the footage of the ‘informant’ being touted all over the news.”
“Of course. Journalism at its finest. I’m always happy to see when they’re having fun.”
Then colour drained from Gus’ face, looking like he did after the Pet Shop Chim.
“I know for a fact who the informant is.”
His head turned slowly to look at David.
“Yes. Do you remember the head executives of the Japan branch? I’m sure you’d have met with them last time you were here.”
“Christ, it goes that far up?”
“There’s only one at the top. A man named Ishizuka.”
The image of the silver-streaked middle aged man floated across his mind. He had left such a small impression on David that the face had been logged far back in his recent memory. His facial features were murky at best.
“I remember, yes. You’re saying he was the informant?”
“Yes. He’s been paid off by News of the World, the press owned by CyberConnect and ALTIMIT.”
“I figured they had a hand in it.”
There was that feeling again. The feeling that Reiko Saeki was saying things she didn’t believe in, that there was something being omitted from their conversation, but David could not discern its origin. He pried further, still unaware of Gus.
“Why are you telling me this, Ms. Saeki? Couldn’t you have run it by my nearest colleague, or my superiors? Why was it pressing that I in particular know this?”
“Call it a woman’s intuition. You're deeper into this than anyone else here or in California. It seemed like the obvious choice that you should be the only one to know about this information.”
There was a pause.
“I want you to know, Mr. Steinberg, that it seems to me that Ishizuka is only one pawn in something far greater than him.” She chose her words carefully. “This is not about him. It’s not about CyberConnect. It’s not about ALTIMIT. It’s about accountability, and that’s something you and I are concerned with more than anyone else.”
She paused again before she continued.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I do, Ms. Saeki.”
There was another silence between them.
“Is Ishizuka around?”
“He’s gone missing, or so it seems.”
David looked up from his thoughts, and Gus had finished his conversation. He gave him a questioning look, and Gus whispered something that floated across the room and disconnected David immediately from all other thoughts:
“It’s Director Coleman...”
He looked away from David.