Dust Chapter 15 Part 4

Security paid us a visit shortly after that. I told them I had no idea what may have caused the incident and Sato and Arasaka obediently agreed. With none of our equipment registering as faulty and Atom now safely inaccessible from wireless they had no way of saying otherwise.

When they had gone I tersely reminded my underlings that they are to scan their software for Atom’s backdoors at the beginning and end of every day. Then I explained to Atom that he was not getting his wireless card back. During business hours I will allow him wired access to the matrix and after hours he may amuse himself by constructing artificial reality domains to play in…

I skipped to the next chapter.

Arasaka was fired today.

Ooh scandal.

I didn’t believe it until security showed me the evidence. He had not only violated his non-disclosure agreement but he attempted to sell company secrets. An email had been sent from his Funmail account to an address connected to a tech blog. It not only described my research (thankfully Arasaka didn’t blow our biggest secrets), but negotiated the payment Arasaka expected to receive for his betrayal.

I was devastated. After all this time, after working together so closely with him for months I never even suspected he was concealing an uncle with such outrageous gambling debts. And I’m so disappointed that a man as clever as Arasaka couldn’t have come up with better ways to help his uncle pay them. If he’d spoken to me I could have put the word up to the head office that more funding was needed. Provided we turn in convincing receipts those sharks are happy to accept anything. It wouldn’t have solved the problem overnight but it had to be better than committing career suicide like this.

His workstation is still a mess. For an infraction like this security doesn’t even give you the time to clean out your desk, they don’t even escort you from the building. Arasaka was treated with less dignity than a pick-pocket, grabbed while having a picnic with his fiancée in the botanical gardens and man-handled into some cuffs before being almost literally dragged to the tube station and put on the first bullet out, they didn’t even care where he ended up.

His fiancée at least has been giving the opportunity to pack up their suite before leaving. She will be escorted by a pair of Yoriki’s toughs and made to feel like a criminal the entire way out.

I hope his uncle is happy. One of the brightest rising stars in A.I. research is now completely unemployable. All because his father’s little brother doesn’t know when to step away from the table.

I kept listening, but it didn’t really get interesting again until…

A courier arrived with a package for Arasaka. This came as a complete surprise to me as I hadn’t thought about him for over a week. The work with Atom and organising for Kobayashi to take over as his replacement has so absorbed my time that just the mention of his name felt like I was asked to recall something from a passed life.

I signed for the package and asked Sato to get in contact with HR so we could forward it to him. For all the hard work he did before the betrayal we owed him at least that much. Sato asked what he could possibly have ordered. Turned out it was a replacement wireless card for his tablet.

I couldn’t remember Arasaka having any technical trouble with his tablet. He liked using it for note taking instead of his Neupro. Sato had no explanation for it either but took the envelope, bowed low and told me he would have it resent within the hour.

The mystery of it still tickled at my brain. I glanced over to Arasaka’s workstation and saw the pieces of his tablet lying open on his desk. Odd that he would disassemble the tablet before the replacement part arrived.

Then Head office called to tell me Kobayashi was arriving at the heliport. Any opportunity to show off their fancy skyscraper.

I had a funny feeling I knew where this was going. I also wished Sakazato had left a copy of Atom’s stealth hitching code so I could scan my own Neupro.

I had the most horrible thought at lunch today. I was sitting in the observation deck, looking out over the bay towards Yokohama, when it hit me. What if Arasaka had installed his tablet’s wireless card into Atom?

Arasaka and Atom were always friendly to each other and I had to frequently remind him not to let Atom talk him into things. Could it be possible that he had been talked into installing his tablet’s wireless card before security found his wayward email and terminated him?

It was certainly possible, but I didn’t have anything really concrete to base that off.

Just in case I rescanned my Neupro’s software but couldn’t find a trace of the code Atom had used to hitch without my knowledge, which told me either Atom hadn’t done it again, or that he’d written entirely different code to achieve the same results.

I didn’t want to startle Atom by opening up his case again, but at the same time, it would be the most definite way to determine whether or not my stray thought was right.

I’m going to have to think about it.

Sato told me he’d been in contact with Arasaka’s family. Arasaka had committed suicide two days after the incident. In less than a week he’d lost everything. His career, his future and his fiancée and tied the whole thing up neatly by ending his life as well.

I couldn’t believe it. He had to have known this was a very real possibility when he contacted that Tech blog, that it could ruin everything for him. What possible hold could his uncle have on him that he would risk all of that?

I knew this had something to do with Atom. Arasaka’s suicide freed me from any further trepidation about upsetting him. If this was somehow tied to Arasaka giving him his wireless card I had to know.

I waited until after hours to approach Atom. To minimise the disruption he would cause if he decided to unleash that static attack again. As a precaution I also turned off my Neupro again, but before I approached Atom’s biopod I took the precaution of turning on our A/V drone and had it record our conversation.

Knowing that the information contained within was too sensitive to allow it to be accidentally discovered by Silicon Dreams, I have embedded the files within this track.

My Neupro flashed a request to run its video app and I hit the ‘Ok’ button.

The lab I hadn’t seen since I broke in and shot Sakazato appeared before me, though the view was from the other side of the room. Atom’s biopod was sitting in a cradle in front of a large A/V setup.

I saw Prof Sakazato approach Atom with the screwdriver in her hand.

Atom’s face appeared in the screen. “<Hello Professor.>”

Sakazato smiled up at Atom’s monitor but didn’t break her stride. “<Good evening Atom.>”

<What are you doing?>” Atom asked. Awkwardly leaving the words ‘with that screwdriver’ out of his question.

Sakazato reached Atom’s pod and went straight for the first screw. “<I just need to run some routine maintenance on your hardware. We’ve had you up and running for a good six months now, I think it’s time we make sure everything is working smoothly.>”
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