"Mankind has always endeavored to advance themselves in technological achievements, but it has also been the error of advancement that causes the greatest sorrow. Man entered a new age with the creation of the thinking machine. The glory of the thinking machine was as bright as a nova before its impact. Praised were the scientists, but careful they also were. The Law of Robots was the foundation for all thinking computers; laws built into them making them obey and never kill. But as the benefits grew, others sought different applications.
"The introduction of machine terrorism woke the world and rocked it to the core. The fear of a revolt from within the machines had been an ever-present concern, but neglected was the human factor. The world burned in an echo of explosions bringing them almost to their knees.
"War pounded through the people's hearts and a crusade against machines and their masters began. New laws drafted banned the thinking computer; the development of AI was halted. The fight against the machines continued with great public support. Victory was theirs.
"However, years passed and the war was forgotten, till Tokyo was bombed. It was quickly discovered that it was of machine origin. The crusade against the thinking machine began again, however it was only the machines fighting and not their human master that created them. A new enemy was realized with the machine faction that banded together against their programmed enemy.
"War ended again with the utter annihilation of the machines, but how easy it was to forget. And the public opinion had turned against the war. It had to be finished quickly, messily. Now ten years after the last conflict people have forgotten again, but those that lost family from the terrorist attacks could never forget. The powder key set decades ago has been primed and the world will never be the same again…"
Flesh is for Gods – Episode 01 – The Perfect Day
It was the afternoon already and he was going to be late. In fact, he was already late. The morning was late with no alarm to wake him and the water out, again. The super said it was just a technical problem, but five technical problems in two weeks was hardly a coincidence anymore. It was a bad morning, if that was not apparent already. Now it was made even worse by being late to a meeting, one that he especially despised as well.
He had to meet with the military, his or rather the company's contractor. The military always gave him a sour taste knowing what they would be using the things that he made. He knew full well what he was making and that they would be tools, instruments of death. However it did pay the bills and having too much of a conscious in this day and age did not pay, literally. A bad taste indeed it was.
Here it was before him now standing tall and proud among the numerous gleaming towers around, the Kamihara Building. It looked innocent shining like a jewel, but it was a cloak to hide the darker secrets. The military had covered its appearances these days, wolf in sheep clothes, perhaps. Nonetheless it was what it was and could not change itself. It was a small branch with most of it being heavily commercialized. Paid the bills.
He walked up the steps feeling the sun beating down on his suit. The tie choked around his neck and the heavily starched shirt did little for his skin. Another sheepskin, he had to play the part, came with the territory being head of the project. He could make the things that he wanted, but he still had to polish the boots of others. It was not the glamour that he had imagined in his naïve younger days. Innocence lost, how long ago had he sold his soul. It felt like it at least. 'How cynical have I become? Bad taste…'
The inside of the building gave him his first welcome sight, cool air on this hot summer day. It was not enough to cool his head though; there was nothing for that. He did not feel like waiting, but there was a line of people being scanned in anyway. For being so commercial it was still military and everyone had to be checked. It was taking forever though, purposely making him wait and delay his already late meeting. 'I'm going to be getting a mouthful from him today.'
The guards finally got to him and he sighed in relief. He withheld his annoyance preferring not to make things even worse. "Step through now please," the security guard said plainly.
He somehow managed to keep himself quiet and calm, even though his hand was shaking. They let him pass and he was free to enter the main hall now. "Finally," he said under his breath. He made his way to the front desk of the lobby to announce his arrival.
The receptionist at the front desk was busy working at her computer not paying attention him standing near to her. It was obvious that there was someone in front of her, but she did not acknowledge him. He placed his hand on the faux wood counter letting the metal of his watch make quiet noise. It diverted her attention towards him. "May I help you, sir?" the receptionist said acting as though she did not notice him before.
"Yes, I have a meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Takamoto for 1:00."
"And you are?"
"Kuromura Satoru." He pulled his hand back having achieved what he wanted from the effect. It was a small release of his frustration, but there were not enough things for him to hit at the moment to relieve it all. Even in the cool air his back was warming up again perspiring as his stress increased.
"Mr. Kuromura, let me check." The receptionist turned to her monitor screen looking up the appointment. A minute of long waiting later she turned back to Satoru looking directly at him. "Yes, here it is for 1:00. But I'm sorry he has not come back from lunch could you wait in the lobby till he comes?"
'The lobby! Hasn't come back yet…from lunch! I come here running all the way late to the meeting…and he…' There was almost a visible redness in his face that could be seen. There was a vein in his forehead starting to make itself visible as the redness began to calm down. He clinched his fists together trying to ease himself back down. 'This is not me…its just the day…its just the day…' Talking himself down was barely possible after the day he already had. He could barely catch himself to slow down from rolling over the cliff.
"I don't have much choice in the matter do I? Fine…" Satoru said annoyed, but managing to cut off the rest of his thoughts from being verbalized. It was a natural reaction to being stood up. Satoru kept trying to tell himself it was the day and being late, but it was difficult to calm the tensed muscles in his body. He was poorly keeping his emotions hidden from the receptionist who's job was to be kind and courteous to everyone regardless of their demeanor.
"I am really sorry, sir."Satoru turned and walked away from the desk. Aside from not being able to standing around to wait, he could not continue to look at her. The anger and stress was rising again as his mind rolled over the fact that he was late. 'The Lt. Colonel is going to yell at me for being late even though he was later than me. Then I'm going to try to defend myself and he'll just yell at me for being a whiny civilian. He end up on a tirade that I'll be forced to listen to. And then he won't be pleased with that I have to present.' He tried to stop the snowball effect that was happening, but his mind was moving too fast. All of the stress was returning and his body warmed up again. None of the cold air was enough to break his sweating.
Satoru sat down in the lobby that was lightly packed with people waiting on someone as well. He was just another one of them forced to wait on someone else to be ready. From the lobby he could see the elevators and the security area. It was the only place that gave such a view and he would be able to see if the Lt. Colonel arrived. 'Doesn't matter how late he ends up being I still have to go through it. I wish I could get out this somehow.' It was a bad taste.
After an hour of waiting his angry had finally slowed to a calm boil that bubbled up sporadically, but it was no longer the raging mass that had a grip over his body. Satoru was about to approach the receptionist when a man sat himself down next to him. It was a distraction that changed his focus slightly. He was a strange individual with his hand shaking constantly as though there was no control, but pausing at specific intervals. When the man took a breath it all stopped, but resumed after he exhaled. After the momentary diversion it brought Satoru was looking elsewhere again.
'I wish that he would hurry up.'
"Good Morning, sir," the strange man said nervously.
"It is Afternoon," Satoru said quickly pointing over to the clock that was on the wall, "See 2:20. Its 2:20." It boiled again, no tolerance for ignorance at the moment.
"I am sorry, sir," the man said taken back. Satoru voice was not loud, but he left a distinct emotion wrapped around the words. It made the man quiet for while thinking what he should say next. "Just a little nervous." A meager response that would not earn any remorse at the moment.
"Yeah," Satoru said ignoring him. He looked around trying to keep an eye out for the Lt. Colonel. The time was running long and the seat was quickly becoming uncomfortable. His legs vibrated softly as he hoped against himself that the Lt. Colonel would appear and would not so he could leave.
"This is just my first time here, I hope everything goes well."
"Yeah…sure," Satoru said. 'Whatever…'
"You okay, sir?"
"Yeah…" Satoru said pausing to think about what he was going to do next. 'Screw this already an hour late…one last chance.' His patience was up and if he was not going to get anywhere here he could just head to work instead, at least he could calm down there. Satoru stood up leaving the man behind heading to the receptionist to end it.
"Thank you, sir," the strange man said sighing.
Satoru stood before the receptionist with his leg shaking in anger now rather than stress. "Excuse me…when is the Lt. Colonel coming back?"
"Oh, you were wanting to see Lieutenant Colonel Takamoto, right?"
"Yes, I was…" Satoru said holding back his annoyance that the receptionist was acting like an airhead. The room waited in pause for the response.
"I am sorry, but he called me saying to cancel all his meetings for today. He said that his lunch made him feel a little sick and he was going home."
"What?!" Satoru said laughing out loud nearly crazed making others stop in confusion. He could not hold it back anymore. After all of his worrying, the stress and tension running through his body. He was not even able to have a breakfast, just some fruit that he ate on the way. Satoru slammed his hands down on the wood counter staring down the receptionist. That vein was appearing again as well as the sweat to warm up his body. "I come all the way down here to meet with him, for not to show?"
"I am sorry, sir."
"Oh, I bet you are…" Satoru walked away from the receptionist storming out of the building. He did not wait in leaving the building completely wanting to leave it all behind him. It was the perfect conclusion to his day; there was nothing that could have made it any better. 'I'd like to see you try to make this day any better!' Satoru turned around looking up at the building, now outside. It seemed to be mocking him now rather than the proud glare it at before. He exhaled a rough sigh of annoyance and started to turn.
At that moment as his eyes turned away the entire ground floor exploded sending glass and cement debris into the air outward. The ground leapt up through his knees shattering his balance and destroying glass on passing cars. A veil of glass shards ripped across his face and body as the shockwave quickly followed up knocking him off his feet before he had even a moment to react. The force of the explosion sent him to the ground clawing him against the pavement. It saved his life as chunk of metal flew over him impaling a speeding car bringing further disruption to traffic.
The force slammed his head against the cement and his vision immediately blurred. All he could feel was pain everywhere. His mouth wanted to scream, but his mind was losing itself. All of the tension in his body had been blown away in the blast now he did not even have the will to stand. Blood dripped down his face and from the back of his head across the sidewalk. He heard more sounds, but they were distant as though he was drowning. His thoughts disappeared and he could not see any longer.
Satoru's eyes opened to a bright light, it's white penetrated from all sides at his eyes forcing them closed again. He dared another peek into the light, this time he was ready for it, slowly opening his eyes till he could open them fully. The light came from the window where the sun was directly pouring in. The white windows continued to further the illumination till it had been almost blinding for a moment. But he was adjusted now.
Satoru looked around further to see that he was in a bed, a hospital bed from the appearance. The tag on his hand and soft beeping of a life monitor confirmed it. He inspected himself to find bandages around his chest, arms and hands. It seemed like he was entirely wrapped up, but he hoped that he was only exaggerating it. If it was as bad as it looked he feared what else might be wounded. He checked his head as he felt a stabbing pain around his head, there too was a bandage wrapped around. His hands were tense and sore, they would barely flex without feeling slight pain. There was dull needles of pain poking through his body telling him that he was alive even if he did not feel like it.
He laid back against the pillow trying to remember what happened, but all he got were fading images. An explosion, not much more than that, simple flashes that he could not piece together. He just wanted to rest. Saturo drifted off to sleep again.
Time faded in and out passing on as he slept. At some point he could hear voices suddenly, but his eyes were too heavy to open. He could barely manage to bring himself out of his sleep. Satoru did not even know if he was awake and was just hallucinating the sounds.
"He is still out…" a woman's voice said.
"Yes, he took a nasty bump to the head. It might be some time before he wakes," a man's voice said.
"That detective keeps asking about him."
"It is no wonder, it is…"
- - - - -
"I wonder when you'll wake…" a woman's voice said. His mind was awake again, the voice trailed around his ears until his consciousness was pulled out of the water finally. "It has been…already…"
Satoru's eyes opened sharply startling the woman that was looking at him. He almost jumped out of his bed in surprise as well, but he quickly realized that she was a nurse. The nurse had already leaped backwards against the wall in surprise and was slowly walking back towards him. She approached him looked at him cautiously, but reassured for some reason.
"You sure scared me," the nurse said trying to laugh off her embarrassed fright.
"Yeah," Satoru laughed along with her. It felt good to laugh, as though it was lifting weighs off his shoulders. Until now there was a pressure over him holding him keeping him tense almost, but it was lifted now suddenly. He did not understand it, but he felt better now. There was still a lot of pain, obviously, but the tension was gone. "Ow, hurts to laugh."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean… You took a hard fall, it scraped you up bad."
Satoru tried to sit up, but pain shot through his chest bring renewed stinging sparks everywhere. He ground his teeth together trying to buy out the time for the pain to ease out, but it persisted. His only release was to fall back into the pillow, it was small but enough to make the pain manageable. It continued even after he was back to his original position marching through him uniformly forcing him to tense his hand to break through.
"Careful there." The nurse rushed to him to help him up. She helped him up a little so that he was closer to sitting than lying. "Your wounds have not had enough time to heal. You'll be in some pain for probably another few days. It's amazing that you survive being so close and with so few injuries."
"I guess I am lucky to be alive," Satoru said trying to remember what happened. He looked at his bandaged up arm trying to bring his memories into focus. It was still a blur to him. There was more missing, but he could not bring it forward. He pressed his hand up against his head as though to pull out the memories and ordering them personally. He eased his mind as the pain took him over again forcing him to suppress it.
"Very lucky, not many people survived. The damn traffic…" she said pausing and turning away so that Satoru could not see her. He could only hear her sniffing as though she was crying. She started to handle a few instruments on the table looking like she was trying to change the subject. Her hands slammed the tools to the table. "If they would have gotten…damn traffic." She ran out suddenly dripping tears from her cheeks as a doctor entered the room.
"Good morning, I am Doctor Kishima, glad to see that you are awake. How are you feeling?" He approached the end of the bed looking down at the monitor with Satoru's paperwork. After verifying the charts he looked over at the monitor with his vitals at the side of the bed.
"Doctor, is she alright?" Satoru did not want to simply forget her with someone else in the room. She had left without any reason it seemed. It left him confused and the doctor entered so casually like he was trying to change the subject. Satoru knew he was missing something.
"Oh, Karin? She lost he daughter in the explosion. Made it all the way back to the hospital only to die in her arms. I doubt that there could have been anything that we could have done if they had found her sooner, but Karin disagrees. But she is a parent, so you can understand."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know." Satoru looked away from the doctor thinking about the nurse. 'I don't even know what happened with the explosion or the building. How many died then?' There were so many that must have died, but he had lived some how. He did not understand why he had to live only to know that so many had lost loved ones. Their lives were just as important, maybe more so. 'Her daughter…'
"Of course you wouldn't," the doctor said laughing trying to bring the room back to something a little more cheerful atmosphere. "Been asleep for two days."
"Two days!?" Satoru looked back over at the doctor in surprise. He had been in and out of consciousness so much that he did not know how long he had been out. It was difficult to imagine that he had been asleep for two day. So much must have happened and changed. It did not feel like two days for him. It seemed as though it was still the same day with a hazy fog around his mind making it difficult to remember the morning. That explosion was just a wavy image in his mind that was out of focus.
"Yes, I'm afraid so, seems that concussion that you got was more severe than first thought." The doctor walked back around the bed checking the charts again as though buying himself time. He was just filling the void needing something to be doing.
"Doctor, what has happened since I have been out?"
"More than I can tell I'm afraid." The doctor looked out towards the door as though he was searching for something. There was a painful expression on his face like he was about to do something that he had regrets about. It left Satoru with a strange feeling of anticipation and confusion.
"There is a detective waiting outside to see you. He said not to say much to you yet. Do you mind speaking with him?"
"If I can get some answer, then bring him in now." There was urgency in Satoru voice, but he was afraid to know as well. He was not sure if he wanted to know the full impact of what happened. The hospital already seemed to be full of sorrow that some ignorant bless could be good.
The doctor walked out of view out of the door into the busy hall of the hospital. A minute later the doctor returned with a police officer. He was wearing a gray raincoat, clean-shaven and his hair combed back. There was a serious, matter-of-fact expression on his face. "Morning, I am Detective Maruimura, there are a number of questions I need to ask you." He pulled out a paper pad and pen from his coat, an arcane tool for such sophisticated days.
"Can you tell me what happened?" Satoru said trying to put the conversation in his court rather than being guided through questions. He needed answers to what was happening outside. If that building had been bombed or something there would be more going on now. There were too many questions that he had to ask.
"In time, now sir, what do you remember of the time when you were near the Kamihara Building?"
He was pulled back unable to rush forward to the end like he wanted. Satoru took a breath trying to think clearly the best he could. He had been trying to remember everything himself still. "It is a little vague, but I was there to meet with someone. I was waiting in the lobby till they arrived. However, they never came and I decided to leave. Then the building exploded."
"I see what do you remember of the explosion?"
"Like I said, it is a little vague. I don't remember the explosion too well. There are just images in my mind and the feeling of the impact. I…can't remember what else."
"Now, sir you work at Qintech in software development. Do you not?"
"Yes…" Satoru said suspiciously. He did not understand why his work was being called into question for the explosion. There was no connection with either of them. Satoru tried to pull himself up a little on the bed feeling a little uncomfortable. "Why?"
"How are you familiar with artificial intelligence?"
"Not very, it is banned, so we are only allowed the basics. Why?" His questions remained unanswered and the detective seemed to go on further with his own interrogation in mind.
"With what little you know, do you think you could spot an AI?"
"Well naturally it would depend on the complexity of the programming."
"Do you think you can?"
"I guess if I had time, I might be able to, but AI's have been advanced to a point before their ban where it could be hard."
"Think carefully, can you recall if someone in the building or someone you saw could be a machine, a robot with artificial intelligence?"
"As I recall, I was in a rush, I did not pay close attention to things. My focus was elsewhere. Besides why would I be needing to look for a machine, they're gone…" The line of questions was slowly starting to bring Satoru to a realization. It was a thought that he did not like and it scared him. If what he was thinking were true it would mean that things were repeating themselves, again. "…wait a minute…no it can't be."
"I'm afraid that it is true. Reports from the explosion say that it was of machine origin. The metal and chemicals were too pure. They are almost identical to what was used ten years ago."
"It can't be…" Satoru said letting the shock set into his mind. It was the confirmation that he needed and the seriousness of the situation became apparent to him. He knew why everyone was in such pain now. It made sense to him. His muscles tightened up suddenly as he could feel his heart tense. The monitor started beeping as his blood pressure increased. The doctor rushed over to Satoru's side letting him lay back again.
"I think you have asked enough questions for today detective," the doctor said. "I'll let you know if he says anything more."
"Fine…" the detective said grimly. "You inform me of anything."
"Yes, I will," the doctor said looked back at Satoru once more. After he was reassured he escorted the detective out of the room leaving Satoru to his thoughts.
Satoru turned his head to look out the window letting his thoughts wash over him. There were too many things coming to him that it made it difficult for him to keep them all straight. 'I can't believe it. They've come again…will this ever end? What are we going to do this time? The machines…the machines…one of the lucky ones? I'm scared to think how lucky I am. Its all happening again…and there is still nothing I can do…' He clinched his fist in anger as his thoughts were interrupted by a news cast on the television in his room. He could not see the TV, but hearing it was enough.
"No clue about how many could still be trapped under the rumble, but firemen and work crews have not given up hope for survivors. The death toll stands at over 14,000 from the current count with about 1,000 unaccounted for still.
"It has been two days since the bombing, but the flames continue to burn preventing workers from reaching the center of the building's grounds. Where many believe there are still more bodies.
"Scientists and firemen say that the fire has remained alive because a new chemical that seems to be fighting against all their efforts to put it out. It is unlike anything the machines have tried in the past. But considering that it has been ten years since they were thought to be destroyed it is apparent that they have continued to advance their tactics in terrorism.
"Again, I am standing at ground zero almost, the wreckage that was the Kamihara Building stands behind me remains in flames. Machine terrorism has returned with a fury unlike anything seen before. Earliest reports…"'Machine terrorism…machine terrorism…machine terrorism…' The words of the reporter echoed repeatedly through his mind. Satoru could not get it out of his head as images of the explosion came back to him. The shock burst through his head causing him to shake violently. He could feel his body getting warm and sweaty from the stress. It was overwhelming him he could hardly breathe anymore. He could feel the heat from the fires engulfing him and screams of people needing help. The building crumbled around him crushing his chest. 'Machine terrorism…machine terrorism-'
"You should get some rest you look tired," the doctor said snapping him out of his delusion and bringing him to rest in his bed.
"Huh? Oh, yeah you're probably right." He was in his room again, the hospital lying down. Satoru looked around to reaffirm it for himself. He was safe now the voice had disappeared. It left him shaken though. The doctor helped him to lie back in his bed. Satoru gazed at the ceiling hoping to find some peace as he closed his eyes. 'Machine terrorism…its has returned. Why? Why now? What you are going to do?'
- - - - -
The hospital that Satoru was in was a tall building considering it is was only a hospital and nothing more. Rising up to the sky for roughly fifty stories, it branched out across four city blocks each as a wing of the main building that actually stood over the intersection of the street. Only two stories off the ground, the main building rose in unison with the other four wings. Each wing was a quarter of a pyramid that climbed together towards the main structure. It was one of the most unique structures in the city.
Satoru walked out from the east wing of the hospital looking back as he slowly departed to find a ride. He had finally been released from the hospital after a week and was now free to go home. Though he still had some of the bandages on him, he was feeling better than he looked. They were overly cautious about him for some reason. But it could have just been that fact they were doctors caring about a patient. He did not know, nor care at this point. He was just glad to be out and able to walk. If the walk home was not so far, he might have walked home.
Satoru raised his arm signaling the taxi that was coming down the street. The taxi stopped right in front of him perfectly, it's door opened for him inviting him in. 'An automated taxi, wonder if they'll ban these in time? They don't even come close to awareness…' Satoru paused his thoughts to give the taxi orders. "Hirayoshi Apartments." The taxi pulled out into the street immediately upon receiving the orders. He resumed uninterrupted by his command. 'Not that the government really cares. They will just ban whatever they like in the belief that it makes the people safe. No thought at all, not that the public has much sense either. AI's have their awareness because of us and are only as smart as their programming. The stupid public.'
Time drifted away with his thoughts as the miles passed by and he finally reached his apartment building. He inserted his bankcard into the slot to pay the taxi. Satoru stepped out of the taxi, looking up at his apartment building. It was a good sight to see from the plain walls of the hospital. Pulling out his keycard for his building, he let himself in. The elevator was at the bottom floor ready for him, it was a good sign. A better day for him than when he left last.
He had been in his apartment just a week ago; it was in a slight mess from the morning rush. Clothes were strung about the floor and breakfast that he had decided against eating still sat on his table from when he was watching the morning news. The TV was still on too, he pushed the button on the wall by the light that closed the panel over the TV. It was one of the TVs with almost no back and mounted inside the wall. During use it would come out flush with the wall as though it was just part of it. It was an expensive piece of technology, but it was adjustable to any size of screen, so it eliminated the need for a large unwieldy monitor.
Satoru proceeded to his bedroom to find it in about the same state as the living room. Sheets unmade and the closet wide open with clothes shuffled around. He had forgotten how much of a mess he left the place in the morning. His head was not in the right frame of thought then. There was little that he cared about, just a bad day that was going to get worse. Now he had to clean it up. "I was in such a rush, what a mess…"
There was little he was going to be able to do until he got something to eat. Something to eat that was more than hospital food. At least the kitchen would not be a mess as breakfast was not too messy. Satoru walked in grabbing an apple out of the refrigerator. He gave it a check and squeezed it lightly. "Hmm…still good…I'm going to have to buy some new food to replace this. More things to do, great..." As he bit into the apple he looked over to the answering machine to see over twenty messages left. "Mom, no doubt."
He pushed the button to begin listening to the messages cycling through them quickly knowing what they were about as they were all from a concerned mother. "Better call her before she gets anymore worried." Satoru pushed the button on the answering machine that opened the TV panel again. This time it displayed a listing of phone numbers that were stored. "Call mom," Satoru said in a commanding voice.
"Dialing mom…one moment please," a woman's voice said. It only took a moment for the call to go through. On the other end was an aging woman with more wrinkles on her face from endless worry. The sudden jump from her made Satoru choke on his apple forcing him to cough to clear his throat.
"Satoru! Satoru! Are you okay?"
"Yes, mom, I'm fine." He was better now that he had the piece of apple free. He had felt better a moment ago. Satoru pulled up a weak smile for reassurance to his mother. "Out of the hospital finally."
"You're so lucky, dear, are you in any pain? Maybe you should sit down."
"Mom, I'm fine, the pain is gone and the bandages are just a precautionary measure. The doctors I think are a little overly protective. Seems like they didn't want to lose another patient to the attack."
"So you were in danger of dying?"
"No, no, I was just joking. They said that I had a concussion, but nothing too serious. Just a lot of scraps and bruises, but they are all healed over now for the most part." Satoru decided to sit down, though he waited until it was his choice. He did not know how long it was going to take to comfort her. It was understandable to be worried; he knew what it was like. She needed her time to calm down and release everything. He slowly ate through his apple more cautious this time.
"We were so worried about you, without so much as a word from the hospital. We didn't know what to think. I remember that you said you had a meeting there that day. It wasn't until recently that they said you were alive."
"I'm little surprised that they waited that long. That is a little strange. But that explains why you weren't at the hospital." Satoru finished his apple and threw it away. It had him a little concerned that his parents were not visiting him. The emptiness left him with unanswered questions. He only thought was that they must have thought he was dead. It was impossible for him to even call out from the hospital; they were so tight lipped about everything.
"Well I'm glad you're alive, it was frightening enough to live through this once, but twice."
"Yeah, I know…just like with dad all those years ago."
"We were lucky twice, I don't know what I would have done without the two of you."
"You would have managed…" He looked around his apartment again realizing the mess that it was in. There would be plenty of time for him to speak longer to her. She knew that he was alive now and that was what was important at the moment. "Mom I need to be going…"
"Oh, of course, you must have just gotten back home. Thank you for calling, Satoru."
"Bye." Satoru pushed the button again closing off the TV. . "Now what..." He started to scan the room examining the typhoon that had come through his room to destroy its peace. Even that morning was a blur to him now that he could not remember the events that lead to the heap of destruction now present. "What am I going to do about this…"
Morning's light crept into Satoru's bedroom waking him up with his alarm. After a quick shower and breakfast, he left the apartment dressed for work. This time he was in better spirits and a clear head, plus his apartment was clean and orderly again. He had promised himself never to do that again to his place. Though he figured that would only last until the next time, but it got him out the door.
The morning train was on time and as normal it was crowded with the morning commuters. As the train pushed forward the city grew in size, the skyline began to divide into separate building. The train hovered at the third story level of the buildings, leaving the people below to walk peacefully away from the train. The train stations that were built were the only markers for where the trains would come in, as a hover train did not require tracks to follow. It made the view clearer as well as opening up the streets.
The train stopped at his work, it had always been convenient for him. It made for less travel, especially on a day like today. There was the ever present images of the explosion in his mind still that made him think of what happened. He did not want to have another reminder by walking outside. It had been difficult to sleep with the images constantly appearing in his head without warning. The unsettling presence of the city left him off balance thinking that there was something nearby waiting to happen, another explosion perhaps. He just hoped that it was his paranoia from the incident and nothing more.
Satoru entered the offices of Qintech that required about half of the building's space for its research labs, development and computer labs. He walked up to the receptionist at the desk greeting her politely as he did every morning. "Good Morning, Mr. Korumura," she said as he slowly approached. There was another man at the desk signing in that Satoru had pulled her away from. He did not stop, but simply slowed down his pace a little to allow a short conversation.
"Good Morning, how are you today?"
"I'm good, thank you, you feeling okay?" She had a genuine concerned expression undoubtedly knowing what had happened to him. More than likely most of the company knew, at the very least his team did.
"Much better," Satoru said smiling to reassure her. He continued down the hall to his room where the Sakura Project was held. It was his project, though being the head did not mean that he still did not have someone that he had to report to. Being the head just left him with the unsavory task of meeting with the top brass, like his meeting a week ago. However, someone had to do it he realized, but being the head gave him the control to make things the way he envisioned. It was the only consolation that he had at the moment.
He opened the door to a flurry of voices. The room held ten computer stations in the lab, but almost twenty people filled the room currently. Most of them were grouped together talking around and over each other. There were too many voices to know what they were talking about as he approached them. However, they all became silent when Satoru walked in. It was not because he was boss and commanded such respect, but the atmosphere that he brought. He was a reminder of what was happening in the world and the attack. Satoru was a survivor and they were glad, but it left them unable to speak. "Good Morning, everyone!" he said trying to rekindle the talkative mood.
"Morning, Satoru," they said quietly with distant voices.
"You guys all sound like you're at a funeral." A poor attempt, but he did not want them feeling strangely with him around. He preferred that they moved on passed it and focused on the project. It was difficult enough for him to concentrate with what happened, he did not need his entire team distracted. "So how is Sakura doing?" Maybe a new subject would improve the mood.
"Still a few bugs, but we have been working them out since you have been away."
"Great, I would like to see what I have missed."
People started to leave the room, as work began to resume. Satoru's boss came into the room, Kiyoshi Nakahoshi, though he was one of Satoru's best friends as well. He was a thin man, just a little taller than Satoru, short orderly hair and clean-shaven. His suit showed him to be serious looking the part of management, but a pink striped tie with little bears across it set his lighter, more humorous nature. "Satoru, glad to see you back at work. How are you doing?"
"Hey, Kiyoshi, yeah I'm glad too. I couldn't stand the hospital for one more day. Nice tie."
"Yeah, my daughter picked it out for me." Kiyoshi lifted his tie up looking at it a little embarrassed by it. He let his hand rub the back of his head trying to brush it off. He played it off like he was not fond of it, but Satoru could tell that he enjoyed it.
"How's the family?"
"Good, good…so…seeing as I have been gone for a week, what I have missed."
"They tell me Sakura is coming along quite well. She'll be ready for trials a week early they think. I think that they are being a little premature, but one can only hope."
It was a thought that he was not pleased by. He knew that it was their contract to make this thing for the military, but he still did not enjoy it. The name was even disarming, such a seemingly innocent name for something you think that everyone put their heart and soul into cherishing each discovery. That was not the case at all; there were few of them actually wanted to do this work. However, they all knew too well that it was a necessary evil. There were few jobs left in the world for software programmers with a specialty in artificial intelligence. Though one could hardly call it intelligence at this point. They were nothing like the masterpieces of thirty years ago. "So the logic protocols have been corrected?" Satoru said trying to get himself back into his role.
"Yeah, they found the problem a few days ago." Kiyoshi looked down at his watch realizing he had somewhere else he needed to be. He cut off their conversation quickly after that. "Well it is good to see you, I have a couple meetings I need to get to before lunch. Say, how about dinner, we can discuss Sakura in more detail then."
"Yeah, that would be great, The Blue Rain?"
"I'll have my assistant make the arrangements. See you then. Bye." Kiyoshi walked out of the labs leaving Satoru to his work. Satoru sat down at his desk against the wall; each computer station was like that going around the room in a wide uneven circle. Everyone else was already working hard listening to the TV in the background with it turned to the news. It seemed that everyone was watching the news these days.
Satoru went to work, looking over the progress of Sakura. But he was having trouble concentrating, images of the explosion kept appearing in his mind. The sight of the missing building echoed. He could feel the vibrations through muscles and the scrapping across his skin. His screensaver would snap him out of his daze frequently. Hours passed slowly as he fought through his mind to concentrate.
"That is right, reports of the sixth attack this week have been confirmed by authorities…"
Satoru was snapped out of his delusions by the news broadcast. "Sixth attack?!"
"Yeah, those damn machines are resuming their terrorist ways like ten years ago," Tadashi said from his computer terminal. He turned around to address Satoru directly clearly unable to focus on his work.
"…with the attacks in Tokyo, New York City, Washington, London, Moscow and now Los Angelus, there seems to be no specific target. Interpol and national security organizations still refuses to report beyond what we already know. No one knows where the next attack will be, but the world is on highest alert. Governments are warning people to be cautious of public landmarks and buildings with large number of people as it seems the more deaths that are possible have been the prime tactic…"
"I can't believe this…" Satoru said in disbelief. The images of the destruction on the news laid over his memories. It left him barely able to move his body realizing that it was no longer just a single strike. The machines were returning suddenly to strike against the world.
"Yeah, the damn machines, they just waited out long enough for us to drop our guard."
"But you can't blame them for all of this…" Chiyoko said not trying to be the opposition, but more a voice of a reason. However, her attempt failed with Tadashi refusing to listen to what she had to say.
"I sure as hell can."
"But it is as much the people who programmed them fault. It's those people that you should be angry at." Satoru had thought about joining the debate or silencing it so that they would get back to work, but he was distracted by it as well.
"Don't give me that crap, AI's…"
The voices faded out from Satoru's mind as the images of the bombing haunted him again. They continued to persist until he could not stand being in the room any longer. 'I need some air.' Satoru walked out of the office unable to shake his mind free. He walked down the hall and took the elevator out of the building. The suffocating building disappeared as he walked down the street, people passing him by without much of a clue. Everyone seemed to be continuing to go about their business even with the announcement that the machines had made against humankind. The images of the explosion flashed in his mind, they would not leave him alone.
'Will I ever be free of this…' Satoru clasped his hands around his head hoping to shake free his mind. However, it was no help either, his mind only twisted further. His body began to empathize with his memories again causing him to relive the moment over again. It was a cycle that he could not break. Satoru was afraid that it would never end; he would never be rid of these haunting visions left to torment him for the rest of his life. He was allowed to live, but he did not feel like he wanted to be alive if he was going to be in this state forever.
Before he knew it he was at the site of the Kamihara Building, the ruins that was the building. Now just burnt metal and cement debris everywhere. The fires had finally been put out and now the place was taped off by the police. He looked up to the sky, where the building had stood. He could imagine the building where it was, and then collapsing from the inside as the supports were destroyed one by one. It was an instant regret in his heart as he could witness the horror replaying in full effect. For him to be in front now where it stood only went to amplify the delusions he was already receiving. His body began to lose balance as the illusion over took him.
Satoru could see the flames bursting from the ground floor, glass shattered across the ground. 'I don't want to remember this…' Then the building collapsed, but how, he was unconscious then. '…wait I was out…then I came to again...' It had been several minutes later; the building began to collapse as the internal supports broke. 'Why don't I remember?' It fell in upon itself; metal was sent flying outward from the base and along the building. Then a woman came and dragged him from the place he laid. "A woman? She saved me…that's why I survived."
Satoru looked out at the rubble of the building. He felt some relief to know what happened to him. However, who was the woman, who was she to risk her life like that? He wanted to thank her, meet her. But that would be impossible; he did not know her name or barely what she looked like. Satoru continued to walk around the building, letting the images come to him. His heart was still pounding from the experience, but he had become calm again. Though something still seemed to leave him unsettled, but he could not place his finger on it.
'I spent enough time daydreaming, I should get back to work they are probably…oh my… its her. It can't be.' Satoru's vision had turned just at the moment he saw her as though it was set up just perfectly for him. He stared for a minute at her; she was standing at the site where people had built a small memorial for the fallen. The woman was placing something down with the numerous other flowers and pictures that were gathered. Satoru could not move, his heart recovered from its pause at the surprising coincidence before him.'She's beautiful…'
To be continued…