-Beep- “Good morning everyone. It is 6 am in the morning, good morning. Today will be a bright sunny day with the weather forecast predicting clear skies with the cool winds in the evening welcoming the approach of autumn."
The radio broadcasts the radio talk show host's morning routine in a dark room. The sun emerging from the skyline casts its rays from the window into the room, illuminating it. Next to window sits a dark skinned woman with long, black, glistening hair. She wears a thick sweater and black pants as well as wool socks to keep her protected from the frigid temperatures in the room. She grips her chair and pulls it forward. Her adjusted position allowed the sun’s rays to illuminate her face. Her sharp, black eyes gives a look of unparalleled focus which contradicts her fatigued face. She's wide awake and has been for the past hour. Her work is laid out on a table in front of her. Documents are piled up in a stack next to a laptop computer.
The woman glances at the document she is holding. Her breath clouds her vision as mornings in Japan were quite cold due to the incoming autumn season. Sighing, she puts down the document and continues typing her report on her computer.
“Today, on this fine morning, we have a special guest,” -Tick- “Professor Neil Denierre Tyler, star host of~“
A sound. Drowned out by the radio. As if she heard the impossible sound, the woman stops her work and gets up from her seat. She walks over to the pantry where an electric coffee pot could barely be seen in the dark room save for its glowing red light. Upon reaching the coffee pot, the light flickers green, indicating that the coffee is ready. Without glancing at the machine, she swipes the coffee pot from the machine and pours her coffee into a mug. Blowing over the hot coffee, she takes a sip of her much needed beverage.
“So, Professor. About your” –Tick- “show, will it~”
She hears it again. The woman quickly places her drink on the pantry and glances at her computer. In a split second, she reaches for the nearby power plug at the pantry and pulls it out of the power socket. The computer that the power cord is attached to flickers off. Letting out a sigh, she quickly walks to her computer and closes it. She holds her position, hand still placed on top of the computer, as if anticipating something to happen.
“The show will be a discussion of science and technology in pop culture…” –Static-
Static interrupts the radio broadcast and begins to turn louder. As if someone is tuning an old radio, the static goes on at maximum volume. The woman has no reaction to it and simply kept still.
-Static- “-sure to check out Professor Neil’s fourth talk show episode on…”
After a few seconds, the static subsides as suddenly as it came and the usual radio broadcast continues on its original volume. Sensing that the ordeal is over, the woman returns to her cup of coffee. Sipping her drink, she stares at her computer while pondering on how much of her work is left unfinished. Because of the strange static earlier, she can’t continue her work without risking detection and capture. With her work interrupted, there is no reason for her to continue staying here. She removes a memory card from her computer. It contained the encrypted information of her work. She can at least submit what she has completed so far.
Woman: “Hmm… The results… They are… Here.”
She flips through the stack of documents and removes a smaller stack from the bigger stack. These are documents that were completed and will be destroyed. She walks over to the bathroom while tearing the papers in half. As she stands in front of the toilet, she keeps tearing the documents into smaller pieces and spreads them in the toilet bowl. Grabbing a bottle of bleach, she pours a generous amount of its contents over the torn papers. Washing hers hands of the deed, she returns to her workstation to finish her coffee.
Downing the entire drink, she begins to pack her work into her bag. Holding the documents, the computer, and various other items, the bag bulges into an uncomfortable shape. A slight frown appears on her face. If that incident didn’t happen, she would have continued processing the documents instead of cramming it all into her bag. Thinking that, she shakes her bag to settle the items in the bag so she can barely zip the bag closed.
Tugging hard on the zipper to seal the bag, she reaches out for her coat that is laid over the chair. A dark brown trench coat. It shows its years as the cloth looked frayed under the morning sunlight. Using both arms, she lifts the coat from the chair, hugging it close to her. She carefully slips her arm into the coat’s corresponding sleeves up to her shoulder and lifts the coat onto her back. With her back slightly lowered, she slips her other arm into the remaining sleeve and straightens her back, letting the coat rest on her shoulders. The coat is long, reaching past her knees halfway down her calves. Finally using her hands and fingers, she buttons up her coat and fastens its belt. Up till now, she has not handled the coat with her fingers, and was worn with care as if the coat itself weighed significantly.
She slips her feet into a pair of work shoes and sits on the bed to fasten them. The bed creaks in response to the weight, but she paid it no mind. Having fully dressed in her attire, she squats down on the floor and reached for the backpack propped up against the bed. Positioning her arm in a way that the weight on the back pack is transferred from her wrist onto her elbow, she slowly lifts the backpack with her whole body and slowly slips it over her shoulder before quickly slipping the other arm under the shoulder strap. The backpack rests over her shoulders with a heavy sounding thud.
Letting out a deep breath, she walks into the bathroom, letting out heavy footsteps. She approaches the toilet and peers into the bowl. The papers have broken up properly and the water is black from the released ink. Flushing the toilet and while making sure all of the contents are flushed, she fumbles through her coat pockets. Gripping something in her hands, she leaves the bathroom, picks up the room key and left the room.
As she walks down the hallway, she holds out a round tile with strange markings on it. She traces her finger across the markings as she walks slowly across the hallway. The tile activates its magic and befuddles the camera in the hallway and eliminates her presence from the record. As she enters the lobby, she returns the room key to the receptionist. The sleepy receptionist merely receives it without any response. This was the tile's doing as well, as it exhausts people and causes them to forget the user's characteristics and actions, working especially well on tired people. As she walks on one the side of the street, residents starting their day crowd the streets. With many people wandering around, she pockets the tile and blends right into the crowded background.
The woman reappears later near the city transit station. Standing near the entrance, she looks over the crowd leaving the entrance. As more people leave the entrance, she slips into the crowd. As she skillfully navigates through the crowd, she carefully scans the surrounding people.
She makes a move, walking quickly and dodging the early commuters. She slows her pace when she approaches a male youth walking nonchalantly. She carefully directs her hand towards the youth’s coat pocket.
She quickly withdraws her hand, lowers her head, and slows her walking pace to a crawl. A split second later, the youth turns his head around, looking around at the billboards and signs. She quickly shifts her shoulder forward to avoid a man jogging behind her and uses her boot to grip the side of the man’s shoes. The man stumbles and fall against the youth.
The youth got annoyed. The woman quickly picks up her pace and walks past the two. Her hand flashes for an instant.
Man: “I’m sorry. Please excuse me”
Youth: “Watch your step, shitty geezer.”
Leaving the scene, she walks off to the other side of the moving crowd. With a smartphone wrapped in a handkerchief in her hand, she briskly walks away from the area.
Sitting on a park bench in a nearby park, the woman focuses on her next action which involves the stolen smartphone taken from earlier.
*No traces*, she reminds herself.
She removes a pair of cloth gloves and slips them over her hands. She pulls off the casing of the smartphone and takes out the battery and the memory card. She then rummages through her backpack that she had set down next to her and pulls out a strange handheld device. She plugs in a wire extending from the device into the smart phone’s memory card slot and inserts her own memory card into a slot on her device. She attaches a few more wires onto the smartphone's power terminal and data port and presses a switch on the strange device.
The strange device whirs to life, a black canister with a white glow is faintly seen within. The smart phone starts up, showing a black screen with a white text input with a corresponding keyboard. She types in her username ‘Clock’ and enters the command to access her memory card and upload it to its destination. With the command in place, the smartphone and the device begins its task. The particles suspended in the canister begin to glow. A simple empty bar is displayed on the screen to indicate its progress. The woman sighs deeply. She knows that there is no time to relax. In fact, a distressing ordeal has just begun.
That phenomenon back in the hotel room, it is some sort of brute force magic. That annoying magic scans the information of electronics, looking for clues on her whereabouts. It doesn’t help that the magic is stronger in modern areas like Japan's urban setting or that this city had just been its current focal point. But at this moment, she can do nothing. Everything is hanging onto the device and the smartphone it is attached to. So in the time where it is most stressful and at the point where she can’t do anything, she closes her eyes for a few moments of respite.
It did not take long. The woman called Clock wakes up from her nap and is on full alert. She takes a look at the progress bar. It’s a fifth of the way done. The device is holding up well. The particles in the canister are still present but an underlying layer of wire mesh is now exposed. The woman rummages through her bag once more. And as she takes out something that looks like a glue gun…
Civilian Man: “Huh? What is going on? I can’t access the internet now. Did my phone data maxed out?”
Civilian Woman: “Hello? Hello? Saki-chan?”
Civilian Youth: “What the hell is this? My wifi got cut? Did they find out? Did they see my history?”
The worst situation has presented itself. The brute force magic from earlier had doubled back and is now focused on this area. The magic device she's using to conceal her presence is showing signs of failing. The particles in the canister are getting drained fast. She curses her situation of having to face such a powerful organization. She inserts the glue gun shaped device into a port on the device and squeezes the trigger. The ‘glue gun’ grips a greyish rod with unknown signs written on it in repetition and presses the rod through its body into the port. Particles then flow into the canister replacing the ones that are disappearing fast. She repeatedly squeezes the trigger as hard as she can to force more particles into the canister to offset the loss caused by the brute force magic.
Woman: “Goddamnit… It’s not enough.”
Despite trying her best to inject more particles into the canister, it is not enough to offset the amount of particles disappearing to the magic. In the end, it is still a net loss and she is merely delaying the inevitable. The woman’s face creases as she starts to get angry at this persistent magic. She glances at the smartphone’s screen. The bar is barely a third of the way. But she keeps going.
In hindsight, she could have just broke of the connection and submit her data at a safer time in a safer place. But her plans for the day had been shelved due to her circumstances and she wanted to generate some form of completion by submitting at least part of the data. And the enemy, they have interrupted her once today and she is determined to interrupt their search for her and elude their grasp. A petty action, but one she had honed into an instinct in her years of service.
Woman: “Kh…” [It’s about time to cut off.]
The canister is nearly out of particles and the white mesh is full exposed. While holding down her injector on the device, she grabs the smartphone that has barely even completed its task and removes the wires attached to it. The smartphone shuts off immediately and the device with the canister turns silent.She flips the smartphone to its back and removed the memory card.
She falls back on the bench. Tired and fatigued, she feels frustrated at the disappointing result of her confrontation with the enemy.
Woman: “That accursed magic. Rosetta said that it is a damn old man. Go and die already…”
Cursing the source of her current anguish, she straightens herself and quickly puts away the device and injector. Grabbing her bag, she gets up from the park bench and lowers her stature to pull her backpack onto her back. Bracing for the heavy thud, she stand up straight and walks out of the park. Nearing the exit, she takes out the smartphone from her coat pocket. She flicks her hand holding the smartphone in the direction of the exit’s dustbin with the intention of throwing it away.
Her fingers that are loosening their grip on the smartphone suddenly tighten but the low friction of the gloves allows the smartphone to slip out of her fingers. Losing most of its momentum, the smartphone falls short of the dustbin and towards the ground. She quickly extends her leg and kicks the smartphone back towards her hand again.
Woman: “So stupid…”
Lamenting on her foolishness, she returns the smartphone to her pocket and quickens her pace away from the park. She is reminded of the fact that the enemy can track her down from this blunder alone. The enemy will know at least her approximate location in the city and leaving the smartphone in such a hot zone will do nothing but put a noose around her neck. With a little bit of guesswork and searching in surveillance footage, her identity can be exposed and will be easily hunted down. Reprimanding herself, she continues her pace and shrinks her shoulders from the cold autumn wind.
Eight blocks from her last location, she stands in the middle of a group of pedestrians waiting to cross the street. As she stares at the traffic light, she wonders if she managed to escape from the enemy’s drawing net. She feels that there is no doubt that the local authorities were called to action to find and apprehend her. And as if complementing that, two police vans zooms past with sirens blaring. They both are heading in the direction towards the park. More sirens could also be heard in the background. From the numerous of sirens that could be heard, it seems like the entire police force is deployed in collaboration with them. No doubt the police are under a tight vice courtesy of their higher ups.
She now has to evade the police. The smartphone has already been slipped into a nearby pedestrian’s pocket the moment she squeezed into the crowd. As the traffic light turns green, she steadies herself as the crowd stepped into the street. This city is done. It will be a few years later that she have to set foot in it again. But now, she will leave it and continue her mission in another place, away from the grasp of the enemy.
- Mystical Forest
Hi there. I’m Q-ichi. I’m a mandrake. I write stories in clay and fire them into pottery slates.
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