Dust Chapter 15 Part 3

Tachi nodded.

A little voice in the back of my head yelled ‘Fuck him. You’ve got a pain editor.’

I ignored that voice.

Alright then.” I said instead. “What’s this big idea you’ve got that’s making you so hopeful?”

We recover Professor Sakazato’s notes.”

I let out a long exhale. “Wouldn’t Noodles have turned those over to RCF by now?”

No.” Tachi said. “If they had I’d have been notified when a dozen courier companies messaged me to say my package wasn’t available for delivery.”

Make sense please.”

When we first mailed the head and Professor Sakazato’s thumb drives. I put together a long sequence of redirections that would have that package bouncing all over the North American continent. If Noodles had ever intercepted the package there would be nothing for the next courier company to redirect and I would be sent a passive-aggressive email explaining that I will not be getting a refund. From our end all we have to do is tell every courier company in the sequence that the new destination for the goods will be the one address and meet the package there.”

Uh-huh.” I said. “And what are we going to do if we find that Noodles has intercepted the package but he just left the head in the box to keep getting redirected?”

Then you and I get to take turns saying ‘Alas, I knew him well’ before going back to the buying guns and killing people plan.”

I thought about it for a minute. Even if the package contained Noodles’ workstation and the notes had already been turned over I still couldn’t think of anything better to do.
“Okay deal.”

Our hovercraft pilot had needed to take a couple of days round trip to get us to Milwaukee. Which was annoying seeing as how it’s just across Lake Michigan. But a steady trickle of refugees were still sporadically attempting to escape the bitter poverty of Michigan or Illinois. So now the lake itself was too thickly patrolled.

This required a shot down south to Fort Wayne, then a day’s wait while the hovercraft took on cargo at Des Moines to deliver to Rochester (Minneapolis not New York) from there we made our way in through the back end of Wisconsin and hit Milwaukee.

Had we known any of that before we set out we’d have gone to Cleveland instead.

Tachi sent out the mass change of destination order once we were booked into our hotel. From there it was a matter of sit back and wait.

Our hotel room was your average, cheap mid-20th century holiday inn. The kind of place that maintains an outward appearance of family-friendliness but still lets you pay by the hour if all you want is to have an affair.

Tachi lay on the couch with his legs crossed and his hands behind his head. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at the TV. We’d picked up the post-box earlier today.

And we’d struck the jackpot. Noodles must have rigged the bags somehow so he could get out with his computer, either that or he got lucky. We found the head and the thumb drives inside, exactly as we’d posted them.

For shits and giggles Tachi did the ‘Alas poor Yorrick’ bit anyway. Forgetting that he’d already used that joke.

We went back to our hotel room and went through Professor Sakazato’s notes. Tachi took the technical specs while I grabbed the Professor’s personal log. My fluency in Japanese spared me from having to feed the journal through a translator. I’ve never found a Nihon-go to English app that could handle a shonen-manga let alone Artificial Intelligence theory.

Project Journal. Chief of Research: Professor Sakazato Amiko Ph.D. Date: September 19th, 09:38.

First days always feel so awkward. But the team is in good spirits. Sato and Arasaka called me Sensei today and bowed low. It’s been such a long time since I was the head of a research team that I was worried someone from the head office had arrived and I looked around to try and spot them.

I guess I’ve been working under my father for so long I forgot what being in charge felt like.

I’m going to have to remember when people ask for Professor Sakazato that it is me they are addressing.

Speaking of the head office. They sent one of their crusading accountants to oversee the prototype transfer. I’m sure my father wouldn’t mind, but I hate the way these salarymen conduct themselves. The accountants back at the university had a sense of humour and more importantly a sense of proportion and an understanding of where they really sit in the ladder of significance. They knew that we, the researchers were doing important work and that it was their job to make sure the background details were handled correctly and that they worked around
our schedules. These financial goons in their tailored suits and useless spectacles over their cybereyes behave as though the research hinges on how well they balance the accounts and that the people in the white coats with the letters after their names are just a necessary evil.

I will persevere however, so long as they can put the beads on their abacus in all the right places I can do whatever I need to.

Are you as bored as I was by this point? I jumped back into the main menu and started skipping through the chapters. I stopped when I heard…

We had an incident with Atom today.

I updated my software to NP05 and it revealed a back door in my hitching app. I searched for the code Atom used last time and found it in that back door.

Furious, I approached Atom and demanded an explanation. I explained very clearly the last time that this was an invasion of my privacy and that he must ask first before hitching onto the Neupro of any member of the staff.

Atom tried to talk his way out by playing up to the ‘sorry little boy’ routine again. That he keeps trying it suggests that tactic is still working with the others. I reminded Atom that if I caught him doing this again I would remove his wireless card.

Then Atom did something I’d never thought possible. He threw a tantrum.

I can’t believe how much like a child he is behaving.

Unfortunately Atom’s tantrum wasn’t just him screaming and crying. He unleashed a burst of high-frequency static over every wireless frequency his hardware can reach. It irritated my Neupro, like a swarm of fire ants were burrowing through my skull.

I couldn’t stand it. The agony in my temples brought me to the floor and I tasted blood flowing from my nose.

I reached into my settings and turned my Neupro off. The relief was immediate. But where my perception of my own pain ended I realised how badly everyone else was. Sato and Arasaka writhed, bleeding and sobbing on the floor and I could hear screams from all of the labs around me.

I rushed over to Atom’s pod, unscrewed the bolts on the case and opened it up to pull out the wireless card. Like the flicking of a switched the screams ended immediately.
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