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[Fiction] Dancing in Shadows

Sakurako Hino

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It's quiet on the western front...

I just got done with an Opnet session posting on the usual boards. Nothing really useful. I sit in my comfy beanbag chair, looking over MP6 music files. JPop has gotten boring, so I'm sampling a few classic works from Metallica. Cost me a pretty bundle, but it was worth it. I start blaring "Call of Cthulu" over the speakers, as I read some intell on my current obsession. I had found a few dossiers on the "Akihabara 7". A group of radical hackers straight out of my backyard. All novas, and good at what they do. I was able to get info on the big two within the group.

First there's Slyce; the head of the group. Literally. His rep in the shadows say he's a walking supercomputer. He's also fruitier than a fruit bat. Some say he hangs with the QNA, others think it's a cover for his true identity. I don't really care, I'm an equal opportunity butt kicker. Then there's Firecraker. She's a 6'4" dominatrix in a black eufiber outfit that would scare even the most hard core of s&m freaks. Don't intimidate me very much, but then again, mom always said I had more guts than brains. This amazon hangs out at any night club she can find. Total raver and a soma addict. Makes me want to kick her a** even more when I read how she gets it. She kills novas to get her supply. At least that's the word on the street. This dynamic duo is the heart and soul of the team. But, as mom said before, you're never as good as your reputation. There's always someone better than you.

I head up to the attic room where my friend Debugger is hanging out while she does the exchange student thing. We've been back here in Tokyo for about a week or two. Though it seems after all I've been through a stretch of several months. When you fall from the top to the bottom you tend to get the "night after" hangover easy. Debugger is curled up cat like under the window. Her cat ears and tail twitch once in a while as she sleeps. It's sort of weird, having a real life neko-jin living under your roof. It's even more strange when she's your best bud. Debugger yawns and wakes up. After blinking a couple of times and rubbing the sleepers out of her eyes, she notices me standing in front of her.

Debugger, not looking too pleased lets me have a few words. "WHY DID YOU WAKE ME UP!!! I was having a nice dream..." I look at her with a quirked eyebrow. "Chasing men again?" Debugger just meows. It's weird how a few body modifications can make you behave so strangely. "We gotta head to the lab, mom's decided to help us out a bit." Debugger looks upset. "What's wrong kitty-cat?" "Can't we eat first?" she responds. Then my stomach growls. "Well, we could raid the fast food shack on the way over..."

Me and debugger start getting ready to head on over to grab some grub. It's raining as they say, cats and dogs. Debugger grabs her black trenchcoat, while I put on my pink rain poncho. It's strange, even in a huge city like this it's still hard to find any cover. The usual hang out is about 14 city blocks away, so I decide to fly it. I pull the drawstrings on my hood, so it don't fly around, then I start upwards. Debugger's light so I decided to take her along for the trip. Strange sight, seeing a cat-girl being flown by another girl in a pink poncho. At least that what I could gather from the looks of the people below.

We arrive at the fast food joint, and order up ourselves as much as possible. We'll probably be here for a while. It's nice being a nova and all, but the upkeep stinks. But the buisness likes the money they make, so it's sort of good. Then I notice something strange from my window seat. The storm is getting worse. Minnesota worse. I was in Minneapolis for a short stint last summer. The thunderstorms are nothing to mess with. Japan's weather is usually more civil, but this storm has that feeling to it. I turn to Debugger, and wipe a little sweat from my brow. "See any storm like that in SanFran?" "Umm, no, Sakura-Chan. But one time in Kansas I did." I'm even more interested now.

"Debugger, are you... picking up some juice?" I ask nervously. "Umm..." Her whiskers twitch. "Oh crap." I take even more notice. "What is it kitty?" "Um, theres like, a big siggy over there, about 3 miles away." I've always liked how she talked. What she means by siggy is a energy signature being left by a nova. She can pick up on such things, like a sixth sense. Pretty suitable for a cat-girl. Then I hear the sound that would scare anyone. 3 sonic boom like explosions from high speed novas. 2 ground stompers, 1 flier. "You said there was only one Debugger!" "No Sakura-Chan, It could have been 3 high powered ones. close to eachother." I'm getting curious. I didn't get a good view of our speedsters breaking speed limits. "Debugger, let's check this out." "But I didn't finish my burgers." "Hurry up, I'll meet you wherever they're headed. You probably can pick 'em up, so I don't think you'll miss us." I rush over to the coat hook, and grab my rain poncho, put it on, take a deep breath

and fly off to where they were heading.

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Part 2 - "It can't rain forever..."

I arrive where the fun was starting, but I wasn't ready for what I found.

The three novas that were heading to the scene were members of Nippontai. Tenshi, Naginata, and Kou. And the reason why, would change my destiny forever.

I arrived near the docks that I knew so well. The three Nippontai members were standing around Two dead bodies. I thought, why would they be at a murder scene? Only if there was a nova killing, there would be a need to be there. I flew down to the crime scene tape roping off the area. 3 police officers were blocking me. "What's going on?!?" I was asking one of the officers. He just told me to stay back. Then I got a view of where I was. I was at my family's yacht dock. "WHO ARE THEY?!?" I screamed. Then Naginata walked up to where I was standing, and told the officer to let me through. My heart was pounding.

Debugger arrived at the scene as I started running over to the bodies, I could see her, looking concerned. Seing her drooping ears telegraph her emotional state easily. I head over to the coroner. All she could do is stare at me. "...What's wrong?" She just bowed her head. I was panicking. I went to one of the covered bodies, and lifted the tarp from the face of one of the victims.

All I could do is choke.

It was my mother. It looked like she was put through a meat grinder. Her node ripped through her nose. Egyptian style.

Kou went over to me. "We tried to get here as fast as possible. But.... They got Hitomi and Shinji first." "WHAT?!?!" I exclaimed. I looked at the second body. Indeed it was my father. A execution style gunshot wound to his head. I went unconcious...

When I woke up, I was at the mansion. Debugger took me there.

Tears were in her eyes.

"Sakura-Chan.... I know you don't want to hear this... They found your sister. She's..."

I didn't need to hear any more words. In a twelve hour period, I lost my entire family. But when I found out who caused their deaths, I was enraged.

"They found your sister's killer Sakura-Chan. It's Kagemaru."

"WHAT?!? Kagemaru? Mom's new friend that was hanging out with her?"

"Yeah. He had a note on his person when Utopia captured him. He was the guy who hired the Akihabara 7. Or should I say, 8 now."

"I've heard enough......"

For the first time in my life, I was alone. And I had to bury 3 of the most important people in my life.

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  • 2 weeks later...


It's Monday. I have lived a lifetime in a week. I've never expected in two weeks, I would go

from a nobody nova, to running for my life from a nova who needs a part of ME for their drug fix.

From a Dilletante girl who fancies herself as tougher than titanium, to the only remaining member

of her family. From having a loving mother, father, and sister, to losing them and having to

spread their ashes in the southern sea of japan.

I'm back at the old mansion on the outskirts of Tokyo. Debugger is helping me pack a few things

of my family for storage in one of the warehouses that used to be used for our corporation. Now

it will hold what earthly remains my family had. The workers that my mother personally hired

from homeless shelters around tokyo are helping. But a sense of loss has spread all around.

Especially Cutter Smythe. She's a street nova. Barely a blip on anyone's scale. But she does

have one interesting ability. She's a precog. She picks up on any major events that are about to

happen. She went from a street squatter to mom's number one advisor. She hangs around me once

every few hours, telling me things that mom told her that she wouldn't tell me at the time. She

tells me how her concience aches from not picking up in time my mother's final fate. She's led

me to an interesting hobby that kept my mother up late as well.

The next day, me and Debugger head back to the old lab. It's a little part of the campus like

complex that is the mansion. All the typical stuff is there. Nothing of the unusual things

Cutter Smythe told me. Then Debugger spots something.

"Hey! E-Chan!"

Lately Debugger has taken to calling me that.

"What now, Mary? Found mom's secret snack food stash?"

"Umm... No, this don't look edible. It's a key pad hidden under the work bench over here."

I head over to the bench, and indeed there is a keypad there. And a note, in a secret door that

took the two of us about 30 minutes to figure out. I grab the note and start reading...

"Reminder to self, PWD:1138 USRNME:1337"

Heh, mom always liked sci-fi movies, and she always fancied herself at a hacker "elite". I enter

the codes into the keypad.

Username: 1337

Password: 1138



(Access DENIED)

Hmmm.... Another riddle. Then I remember a few things... never go for the obvious.

Username: ACCG

Password: AACH



(Access DENIED)

Bother... Let's try something else...

Username: THX

Password: ELITE



(Access GRANTED)


A rumbling sound is heard nearby. A hidden door opens up in the floor under the desk. My back

hits the ramp with a thud, and I slide, for what seems like 150 feet. Lights turn on, and what I

see shocks even me. It seems this is where mom had her best stuff. Debugger slides down and sees

the technological bounty. The door slides shut.

"E-Chan! We're trapped!!!"

"No we're not. I doubt mom would have a pit trap in her own private laboratory."

I look around. Varous vats and computer monitors and terminals are laid out all over the place.

Embedded in white walls, made of hard hinopolymer. Well, the vats aren't really vats, but clear

storage cylinders of some sort. Laid out across from each other. With a blue carpeted walkway

which we're on, in between. Heading toward a VERY large alcove. Robotic factory arms seem to

have stopped in their "parked" position, inside some what seem to be factory rooms attached to

the walkway hall we're in.

Debugger and I reach the alcove, which seems to be made of several hard hinopolymer panels coated

with a strange mylar like section in the middle of the panel. In the foreward section of the

curved alcove is a main computer terminal, and what looks like a MASSIVE supercomputer tower.

The cooling towers of the main CPU glow a light blue with water seemingly swirling around,

distorting the light. The main CPU turns on....

"Operating System Online..."

"No viral infections detected..."

"Linux/BSD v20.1.1... Registration Verified... No Updates found."

"Loading GUI....."

The panels of the alcove hum to life. The mylar has an interweaved LCD matrix within the

membranes. A graphic 3D icon interface logs on. A chair rises from the floor with a surrounding

clear hinofiber/mylar interface keyboard and track ball in the center. Debugger almost drools.

"Hmmm, well, Mary. You have the conn. You'll have better luck operating this."

"Oooh. You should have the honors."

"No by all means, you try it."

Debugger sits in the "hotseat". The keyboard closes around her, and the cushions inflate to her

contours. "Oh, nice! Pretty comfortable." Debugger's a kid in a candy store. The keyboards hum

to life. It's a standard QWERTY keyboard layout. With several "HUD" monitors, monitoring several

running programs at once. The chair swivels with the motions of the trackball. The main entrance

closes, and a new monitor hums to life. Giving a full hemisperical monitor around the user.

Then the computer speaks.

"Ms. Celeste. I recognize your weight and retinal scan. Please allow Ms. Hino to take the conn."

Debugger looks suprised.

"Oh sorry." I've always wondered why Debugger was so polite to her computers...

The seat opens up the keyboard interface to allow her to exit the "cockpit". I step in. The

chair changes the air pressure in the cushions, and adjusts the HUD/keyboard height and angle to

my ergonomics. The process takes about 6 minutes. The computer speaks again.

"Hello Ms. Hino. I am the main kernel server of this complex. I am holding 1 message for you in

your inbox. I use a voice command interface, or you may enter commands via the keyboard. If you

enter voice commands, you need to say; Yggdrasil, before stating your command."

Hmmm. A name from Norse mythology. The great tree of life if I remember correctly.

"Yggdrasil, open inbox, username: Endeavor"

"Incorrect user name."

I sigh.

"Okay... Yggdrasil, open inbox, username: Hino, First Name: Sakurako"

The window for my inbox opens up.

"One Message, 1 Audio and 1 Video Attachment. No Viral Infections. 5.4MB MP6 file with

40.7MB MPEG4 file."

I open the files....

The MP6 was left before mom headed for the yacht. It was my favorite song. Mom would always sing

it to me whenever I was scared or hurt as a kid. "Carribean Blue" if my memory serves. The video

file on the other hand is a mystery. It's origin was from Tokyo Police HQ. Then sent by a

mysterious benefactor. Hmm, more riddles. Then my eyes open wider than they normally are. It's a

security video. Dated Sunday. It shows me something that both dissapoints me, and angers me at

the same time. Its a video from a drug bust in the Shinjuku district's more seedier parts. It

shows Firecraker, the only member left of the A-7, making a soma deal. The cops swoop in assisted

by Naginata of Nippontai. A firefight naturally ensues.

Firecraker gets a lucky hit on Naginata's shoulder, temporarily taking her out of the loop. Then,

comes that part that dissapointed me and pissed me off. A sniper probably using an energy rifle,

doubletaps Firecraker in the head, right through the area the node would be. Dropping her, and

ensuring she couldn't regenerate herself. She's deader than a doornail.

"File complete. No more attachments. No new messages. Are there any more requests for mail server


I'm silent.

"Yggdrasil, delete video file with no reply to sender. Record opnet adresses associated with the

file. Track any foreign pings."

"Affirmative, Ms. Hino."

"Yggdrasil, move MP6 file to E-Chan's music folder."

"Done, Ma'am."

Debugger turns to me.

"Big downer huh? You were all jazzed up to kick that beeyatch's rear into oblivion, and you get

baller blocked. What'cha think you can do, girlfriend?"

I sigh.

"I guess we find something to do. I can't find anyone else who's free or still alive who was A-7.

I suppose we try to do some good out of all this, I guess."

(End of story: "Dancing In Shadows")

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