Take out Ramen from the Uncanny Valley – by Eric Gabrielsen

Undercover of the night…

They looked enough alike to be twins which they were… paternal… tall, compact with a crown of glossy jet black hair. Twenty-seven years ago they had been pulled from a orphanage in Pusan by AKOM a Korean tech giant and groomed for deep cover in Japan. A convenient traffic accident in Kobe, a man and woman with two twin boys killed. Except the twins then survived or more to the point two boys were later found alive in the wreckage. A wealthy patron adopted them and raised and educated them in a proscribed fashion. They were hired and then rose quickly in Toshiba’s R and D which lead to being assigned to Odin’s exclusive back engineering team.

“We got it.” Leif said looking up from his screen. They had been at it for over ninety hours with just three sleep breaks and despite Akira’s and Takeshi’s subtle redirections he had broken into the crypto squirt transmitter’s operating system. It was AKOM’s benchmark setting tech and it was now compromised. As Leif linked to admin, Akira stood to block his view of his workstation as Takashi peeled the flesh toned composite from his forearm and attached to Leif’s data sink. The lab was under a mnemonic lock, any memory of what transpired within was segregated in both Akira’s and Takashi’s mind and irretrievable once they passed the threshold. The only way it could be accessed was by a code word being spoken which Leif did every time the entered but which they never retained. The composite instantly mirrored and internalized the sink’s data after which Takashi deftly reapplied smoothing it to the anterior of elbow.

Tonight, Leif’s co-researchers had oddly begged off so he had decided to solder on himself. There had been a break through today, had managed to backdoor into the operating system of a piece of crypto gear the team had spent the last six months back engineering. It was their first real progress which only added to his surprise as his assistants claimed pressing business at home. It was Leif Odin’s usual stop after locking out of Toshiba’s covert R and D that was located on the second floor of a carefully distressed pachinko parlour two blocks east. He and two of his co-researchers regularly participated in a Japanese timeworn office ritual known as nomikai which involved working their way through a war club of Sake , toasting themselves into near oblivion while stuffing themselves on the grilled chicken skewers.

Ducking his near two meter frame, he entered the Yakitory stand bringing greetings from the owner and two of the regulars. He was something off a curiosity locally, sporting a wild head of blond hair and beard that radiated gajjin, but being in country almost ten years his Japanese was without accent and excellent. He ordered a couple skewers of Yakitory and a masu of sake and slid onto the bench throwing out Konbanwas all around. The Yakitory stand Izakawawas nestled under a train line in the bustling Yarakucho neighborhood that lies in one of Tokyo’s many entertainment districts. For its walls, the owner had strung up coaxial cables to the concrete bridge supports and attached to them thick sheets of dusky painters plastic. From the outside it glowed a ghostly white, reducing the images of those inside to spectral shifting surreal smudges. Heated by a dented orange 20 year old Salamander designed by a defunct Malaysian concern roared like a tame jet engine making it warm at chest level but freezing at your feet next to it was a long table made from a chipped piece of particleboard balanced on two Tokyo public works saw horses making seating for eight , a cooking area with two butane gas rings, one that held a large dented pot kept to a full boil to heat Sake and a small brazier on which the yakatori grilled. It was Leif Odin’s usual stop after locking out of Toshiba’s covert R and D that was located on the second floor of a carefully distressed pachinko parlour two blocks east. He and two of his co-researchers regularly participated in a Japanese timeworn office ritual known as nomikai which involved working their way through a war club of Sake , toasting themselves into near oblivion while stuffing themselves on the grilled chicken skewers.

“Sumimasen.” trilled a very feminine voice. Lief looked up groggily through a veil of rice wine and forced himself to focus. He saw a young girl in traditional geisha mufti, grinning shyly though bone white face paint. “Hai” He managed. She smiled and then showed him a small black sphere that was cradled in the palm of her hand. Deftly taking it between thumb and forefinger, she squeezed it, causing a stud to pop up. Bowing, she depressed it, igniting two ounces of hexogen wrapped in fifty meters of razor sharp monofilament. A soundless flash of white filled his world.
Takashi and Akira were two blocks east of the pachinko parlour when the blast rang out. Both men turned and looked back as they practiced due to the near ubiquitous cc coverage in Japan and then continued walking. ** “Morning, Sunshine.” Leif opened his eyes and saw the same white which slowly resolved into a very Japanese hospital room which did not sync with the greetings which though in English had a distinct Dutch lilt. You sound like my grandmother. Lief said in Dutch. Danke said the yet to be identified man. Leif turned his head, pain flared down the length of his body causing him to gasp. “Easy.” Said the voice. “We had to graft almost forty-three percent of your body mass replacement tissue on top of composite scaffolding to replace what was damaged in the blast.” “Blast? That was an explosion last night?”

Three vans packed with HR retrieval and recovery showed up eleven minutes after the blast, screeching to a stop and discharging Rapids in full beetle, Bullpup assault rifles at the ready swarmed toward Akira and Takashi. The response time was thirty seconds faster than AKOM’s predicted. Takashi dropped to one knee as he ripped free a Glock Talon with extended mag and opened fire.

A tan, angular face came into Leif’s field of vision and smiled, exposing a brilliant swath of enamel, his ice blue eyes actually sparkled as he raised his hand palm outward revealing a corporate illuminare tattoo. “Jon Yuan? HR recovery?” Leif read confused. “Got it in one.” Jon said flipping over his hand to grasp Leif’s. “And you’ve been OOC for close to three months since the incident.” “Three months?” Leif asked with dawning horror. “OOC? Out of commission?” “It was a near thing, your two co-researchers had arranged your…near obliteration.” “Takashi and Akira? Who the fuck was the Geisha?” “A Korean AKOM operative, meat puppet, both Akira and Takashi AKOM deep operatives, Akira suicided before we could pick him up, but we gleaned Takashi till he was almost fuckin see-through.” Leif winced. HR was notorious for being enthusiastic. “So how much damage was there?” Lief asked as he pulled up his hospital johnnie exposing an unmarked blameless Expanse of torso. “Quite extensive but being a tier 1 employee has its benefits.” The HR exec said with a wink. “Thankfully the head trauma was minimal, the force of the blast was centred on mostly your trunk and upper thighs. The wire that wrapped the explosive was treated with a hemorrhagic enzyme, so bleeding was a issue. Once they locked you into the medical AI and got you stable, things progressed quickly. Replacement tissue was grown on cartilage scaffolding and grafted using cutting edge antivirals, recovery under a stim net for tissue regrowth and muscle tone.” “Thanks?” Lief said uncertainly. “De nada.” The HR exec said around a grin.”

The cell phone tower was disguised poorly as an Elm sat half in and out of the shadow of a shipping container condo rack. Akira ducked behind it as bullets kicked up quarter sized pieces of asphalt behind him. Pulling the composite from his arm, he slapped it to the metal of the tower, triggering an integral capacitor to discharge, punching to data up and out onto the net. The impact of a soft alloy round spun him onto his back. Stunned he watched the closing Rapid pull out the Zip cuffs.

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