Part 65: Kid - Third Day - Part 1TrackInsel Null
"Takeshi, listen. Originally hacking as a word meant the rhythmical manipulation of a computer. People that could do this were called hackers. That evolved into the word hacker for technicians and research computer experts. Probably what you're thinking about is the hacking they talk about on the news, meaning a crime committed using a computer... Like when somebody steals secret information, or destroys data via computer... But that's a mistake. That kind of thing is called 'cracking.' It's completely different. And the people that do this are known as 'crackers.' You need to make a distinction between them."
"Uh, what's the matter everybody?"
"Are you sure you've lost your memory?"
"Well...anyway, you get it now. There is really no connection whatsoever between the word hacking and criminal activity. It was an intelligent gathering for us to gather to try to boost our computer skills."
"Oops. Excuse my ignorance!"
"I'm just surprised that You was involved in an indoor club."
"Oh, I was doing all kinds of things. All said...I must have been involved with seven groups."
"And Sara just joined right up then, huh?"
"She didn't join the club without a fight. Mayo is Mayo after all."
With that ambiguous comment, You got a distant look in her eye and started to speak.
"That day I could have taken Mayo to our club room... But...but..."
"So this is our hacking club room. Go on in."
"Huh? What's the matter? It's kind of cramped, but ahead."
"It really is...cramped."
"Well, I suppose."
"And you have tons of stuff."
"I mean, there is no way I'll fit in here."
"I suppose not...Ah, ha, ha."
Like always, our little one-room clubroom was so cluttered there was nowhere to even walk. Several computers and a steel rack covered the three walls and the floor was covered in a tangle of cables.
In what open space there was, computers without covers and bound up printouts were piled high. A stuffed animal bumblebee, a button with a picture of a nuclear missile blasting off, an unidentified object X and other stuff were scattered around almost completely covering the floor. If Mayo had been a clean freak, we would have lost her right there.
"Oh? Nakkyu, is that a new member?"
A girl stood from in front of a computer, her chair nearly buried. She was the head of the club. She always wore glasses with black frames and kept her hair in two braids. Her name was...uh...I forgot.
"That's right. We just barely avoided having our club fold..."
So as I answered her I hopped from one open inch of floor space to the next and into the room.
"Um, I, uh, haven't decided to join yet..."
Sara was still contemplating how best to enter the room.
"So where is your partner?"
"Out with a cold."
"I heard one is going around. You gotta be careful."
"Hanging out in a place like this it'd be even more strange if you didn't get ill..."
Sara gingerly entered the room as if searching for one foothold and then another. Every step she took her footsteps were punctuated with a crunching noise, as if something were breaking. Of course, we didn't pay any attention to it.
"Okay. Now is your chance to get a sense of what our club is all about. Please sit down."
I unearthed a chair from the pile of junk and gestured to Sara to sit.
"I'm only here to look."
"Alright, alright. If you still have doubts, just give it a try. It's pretty fun."
"Can I ask you something first?"
"This is a hacking club, right?"
"But it looks like the only thing on the screens are games."
"Uh, well, that's true..."
I crossed my arms and nodded seriously several times.
"Actually, we just call ourselves a hacking club. None of our current members can really program."
"Everybody that could graduated."
"Even games can have meaning. Uh, they aren't bad for helping you get used to computers..."
"Yes? What is it?"
"I'll be upfront about this. Getting involved with me will only get you into trouble."
"...Oh, mornin' Kid. Look we're in danger of losing our club as it is...nothing could be WORSE than you not joining."
"Do you mind if I touch this?"
Sara pointed at the keyboard.
"Oh, be my guest. You operate it by, um..."
"I'm fine. I know how to use it."
She sat in the chair, took the mouse and stared at the monitor. She opened several files. Finding the one she was looking for, she opened it up and started editing it. She didn't even glance at the keyboard. She just tapped nonstop. The speed of her touch-typing was incredible.
When she had finished typing, Sara opened a different piece of software and started typing in commands. The hard disk whirred to life and finally...
Suddenly the face of a bumblebee appeared on all of the monitors in the room. That face stared out at us and winked. Then all of the faces stuck out their tongues at us.
"What's going on? I can't get this computer to listen to me...!?"
The next instant...
All of the computers suddenly shut down at once.
The two of us stood there stunned. Finished, Sara stood up and said quietly -
"You get it now? Nothing good can come of hooking up with me. So...don't."
And then she left.
"What in the...?"
"The computer won't boot up."
"You sure it's not unplugged?"
"That's not it...it's plugged in, but it won't start up."
She meant that the software had been destroyed. And the problem wasn't limited to just one machine. All of the computers in that room that were connected to the network were in the same state.
"No way. That girl... Could she have cracked the whole system that quickly?"
Looking down there was a stuffed animal bumblebee glaring up nastily at me.
"Geez. That's crazy."
"Well Nakkyu was so persistent it was annoying!"
"Y-yeah, but you didn't have to..."
"So Sara didn't join? What? Then that would mean that..."
"No. You've got it backwards. I didn't say she didn't join, did I?"
"After that Nakkyu came bothering me, like every day."
"Even though she did that to your computers?"
"Because she did that."
Basically, You had been taken by Sara's genius. By her genius for programming. Day after day her fixation drove her to call on Sara. Finally, Sara was overwhelmed by You's enthusiasm and joined the club.
"That was how Mayo and I became friends."
With that long, long story finally over, we all stretched.
"Well, we finished eating. Whaddya say? Should we head back to the Conference Room?"
Tsugumi hadn't eaten, but there was no point in waiting around for her. We took her sandwich back to the Conference Room.
"I'm going to step out for a bit."
"Huh? Where to?"
"Uh, just a little walk..."
"Hey you keep poking your nose into a girl's privacy, and she just might start disliking you."
You shrugged and patted me on the head.
"What about me?"
"Sorry Mayo, but I think I'll go alone."
"I'm sorry. I'll be right back."
You shot the dejected Sara a smile as she headed quickly toward the door.
"Hey I don't care where you go, but if something happens you come right back!"
You shot Takeshi a thumbs-up on the way out the door.
I looked up at the ceiling.
I had thought I had seen something for a second. But when I had done a double take I didn't see anything.
"H-hey, what's wrong?"
Even with Takeshi calling out to me, I couldn't tear my eyes from the ceiling.
"I wonder... I don't know what it was, but I swear I saw something."
"Saw something? Like what?"
"Uhh...well, I didn't really see it... I just have a bad feeling...about the second floor...somewhere."
"What the heck are you talking about?"
"Um, I think we should check that floor one more time..."
Saying that Takeshi slapped me on the shoulder. Suddenly I came back to myself.
"Don't worry about it. If something's up, Sora would warn us about it, right?"
"Yeah...you're right...but still..."
"Looks like I'm not the only one who's tired."
I wondered if that was really all it was. I tried to remember what I had seen while I was walking. But it was like waking up after a dream and having the dream slip away...I couldn't remember it.
And - to our surprise - she was eating.
The reason we were all so surprised... was because... Tsugumi was eating a...hotdog.
"What're you so mad about?"
Tsugumi was indifferent. That just served to fuel Takeshi's fury.
"I thought everyone was sick of chicken sandwiches...and here I was going to make...and you...you...!"
I tried to calm him down. But Tsugumi just continued to munch on her hotdog without a care.
"I think that's pretty selfish of you to keep them all to yourself."
"You selfish pig! I hope you get fat like a whale and drown in the Mariana Trench, you hog!"
"All to myself?"
Tsugumi polished off the last bite and turned to face Takeshi as she wiped her hands.
"I'm not sure what you're talking about. This is the only one I ate."
"What? When I looked there was enough for everyone. And now they're all gone. In that soon-to-be fat stomach of yours!"
"Well...I didn't really count how many there were. Maybe the rats got them."
"You pathetic liar! The only rat here is you!"
Takeshi's fury only grew while Tsugumi stayed calm. She brushed away the hair from her forehead and stood up quietly.
"I'll ask you one more time. Why are you so mad?"
"I told you! It's because you ate everyone's food."
"And I told you - this was all I ate."
Tsugumi glared at Takeshi.
"Are you sure that is the real reason that you are angry?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"You sure it wasn't just because it threw off your schedule?"
"We-well yeah! Because the hotdogs that I wanted everyone to eat are gone now!"
Tsugumi stared unflinchingly at Takeshi. The two glared at each other. Sara and I were in no position to step in between the two. All we could do was watch to see what happened.
It was then that - Suddenly, a low metallic sound reverberated throughout the installation. It was a dull, muffled sound.
"Wh-what was that!?"
"This whole place just shook...a little."
The two turned their attention to the new situation, forgetting their fight.
"Hey, Kid, what was that?"
"Uh, I don't know..."
"Hey, this doesn't have anything to do with that 'bad feeling' you had earlier, does it?"
I shook my head.
"I don't know. Maybe we should ask Sora..."
"Did you call for me?"
Sora appeared into the air out of nowhere and descended in front of us.
"Hey, Sora! Where were you?"
"I'm terribly sorry. I overslept."
Sora looked embarrassed.
"Overslept? But you're..."
"...Nah, we'll save that for later."
"Hey, did something just happen? There was an awful noise just now."
"One of the shafts that supports this floor has started to warp."
"We didn't see any signs of it yesterday..."
"Yes, well, it wasn't in my calculations. It appears as if the ocean currents may have influenced this outcome."
"How dangerous are we talking about here?"
"Well it should be within the margin of error, but...no, wait a second."
"There is an anomaly in one the of pressure-regulating pipelines, at Zweite stock's warehouse."
"What are pressure-regulating pipes?"
"These pipelines are responsible for adjusting the pressure inside the multi-layered bulkheads comprising LeMU. If any of them should rupture, for whatever reason, I am incapable of repairing them. The anomaly is only slight, so you shouldn't have to hurry, but...I think it is best if someone goes to check on it. Would you please go for me?"
"Sure, leave it to me."
Takeshi nodded right away.
"...I guess that's that then."
I couldn't quite make out what Tsugumi had said. Then...
"I'll go, too."
She unexpectedly volunteered for the task.
"What? You got a problem with me tagging along?"
"No...that's not it...it's just..."
"Well, if we're going to fix something, we'll need tools, right? I know my way around a workshop."
"Alright.... Let's go."
"I'll help, too."
"Okay, you can come too Sara."
"So what happened with You anyway? She's not back yet?"
"I wonder if she didn't notice the shaking just now."
"There's no way she could have missed that..."
"Do you know where she is?"
"I'm sorry. Unfortunately, right now some sensors are out of order. I can't scan the whole complex."
(I wonder what happened to You.)
"Hey, Kid. Will you go look for Nakkyu?"
"Yeah. I'm a little worried about her."
I was also worried about Sara and everyone going off suddenly like that. An extra set of hands couldn't hurt...
"Takeshi, I'll go have a look around for You."
"Alright. It's in your hands then, Kid."
"If something should happen, use LeMMIH to contact me."
"Alright. See you later!!"
I ran through the corridor kicking up spray as I went.