Mission Statement

by McPoodle


Part One


Skip to Part 2.

Please see the end of Part Two for acknowledgements and credits.


The collapse of the American government in 2013 triggered the last push towards internationalism, as the remaining major nations surrendered their sovereignty to the World Government in Beijing. By 2023, the only major hold-out was Japan, which in fact was controlled by the newly-renamed Tachibana Networks. It was widely thought certain that the Japanese public would rise up and topple Tachibana to join the world community. These thoughts were mistaken. This is the story of the death of internationalism and the final triumph of Tachibana.


Chapter 1

Professor Chisa Yomoda was sitting at the back of the train to the university with a paper sack full of the best apples in all of Japan, trying her best to be whimsical. Chisa was a poet and teacher by trade, whose salary at Tokyo University was a joke. Her agent had convinced her to sign up for a monthly column in one of the national magazines. It would have been easy enough to come up with an ordinary poem every month, but the publisher insisted that the public would only read poetry if it was "lighter than one of those French frothy things." So whimsical it had to be.

It wasn't as hard as she had first thought. A mind trained to find all the hopelessness in life was also surprisingly well-equipped to spot life's little absurdities. It also did a great deal for her mood, making her less inclined to think of herself as "Death's Little Helper." But that didn't mean that she didn't spend an awful lot of her free time dreaming of ways out of that demeaning contract.

The train stopped at Nagatacho station and was soon filled with dozens of government workers, their minds completely numbed by hours of bureaucracy. Two individuals stood out in Chisa's eye: a stern-looking and balding Chinese official, and an excited young reporter with fluffy brown hair who seemed vaguely familiar. That the second person was a reporter was made obvious by the fact that she seemed constitutionally incapable of shutting up.

"Don't worry, your excellency," chirped Juri Kato, seating the ambassador next to the mousy woman with big glasses at the back of the train. "This should get you to the airport a lot faster than your car." The ambassador kept his eyes to the ground and tried to keep his trench coat up around his face. He wasn't quite sure how this woman had managed to get him away from his bodyguards, but if he didn't shut her up soon there was a very good chance that she would get both of them killed.

Juri took the silence as permission to start her interview, her hopeful first step out of the dead end of the Arts desk at Triangle News. She pulled out her microphone and pinned it to her lapel, then reached into her pocket and activated the voice recorder. "So, what is the official position of the World Government towards Tachibana Networks' violation of the Shipping Licensing Act?" Half of the train turned toward the back seats, their eyes blazing in fury at the internationalist in their midst.

The ambassador's eyes boggled. This has got to be the most foolish reporter in history! he thought. He sighed and trotted out the usual response in as quiet and un-accented a voice as he could manage. "The World Government stands for international trade without barriers, and only Tachibana stands against this fundamental principle. This is no surprise; the World Government hasn't changed its position. You should be asking Tachibana why they are standing against the rest of the world." A loud murmur of protest broke out amongst the crowd.

Chisa sat stiffly in her seat next to the official, her eyes forward. This situation was bound to get ugly, and the last thing she was going to do was provoke anything by trying to change her seat. That didn't change the fact that if any punches were about to be thrown, then she was in the line of fire.

Just then, Chisa's y-phone let off a soft ring in her ear. Glad of the distraction, she turned away from her two fellow passengers and put a hand to her ear, pressing the button on the little gadget that acknowledged the call. The voice of the teenage girl on the other end alternated between being very loud and being completely cut off by static, as the train had just entered a tunnel.

"THISSS ... 565 AM, ... AND ANNOY...WITH ANOTHER BILLION YEN GIVEAWAY! IF...NAME IS...CHIS....ODA, YOU HAVE JUS...ONE BILLION YEN! PLEASE TELL US WHO...ARE...SEE IF YOU...FOR ONE BILLION YEN!" Chisa noted that the "one billion yen" part came through loud and clear every time, although that may have been because a billion yen would get her out of having to write whimsical poems every month for the next year and a half.

"Hello, yes, this is Chisa Yomoda!" she said loudly into the microphone she had lowered down from her hair. She was answered by more static.

The ambassador was startled to learn that there was actually someone else sitting next to him. He also saw that the attention of the crowd had been momentarily distracted, so he decided that this reporter was as good a one as any for him to drop his bombshell on. "Perhaps you could ask Yoshi Myamoto what he thinks about the direction his company has turned."

Several things happened at the mention of the name of Tachibana's nearly-forgotten founder. A man who had followed the ambassador into the train stood up from his seat two rows back and pulled out a pistol. Chisa stood up to try to find a spot on the train with better reception. A young boy, seeing the gun in the assassin's hand, jumped for it and managed to knock it slightly off target. The gun went off, and Chisa's sack of apples was obliterated.

It was pandemonium after that. The emergency brake was pulled, most of the train's passengers found themselves on top of the immobilized gunman, and the ambassador found himself on top of Juri, who was too shocked to notice this. All she could think was Yoshi Myamoto is still alive?

Chisa looked like she was going through an asthma attack, which was strange as she had never suffered from asthma in her life. She vaguely heard the voice on the y-phone saying, "OOH, I'M SORRY, BUT WE WERE LOOKING FOR CHI...CHISABEL MIKODA! YEAH, THAT'S IT! GOODBYE!" Chisa sat down suddenly, a glassy look in her eyes, as the police stormed into the car and filled it completely. Now where have I heard that voice before? she asked herself.


Chapter 2

All of the passengers on the train were bribed to shut up with free tickets for the next month. The Transportation Authority was fairly sure they had handled this particular shooting pretty well, but there was no sense taking the chance that some disgruntled eye-witness would start blabbing to the press about a bit of incompetence they had missed.

Chisa Yomoda took her pass, but she wasn't exactly in the mood to take another train to finish her chores and get to the university, so she took the bus instead. This gave her a full hour to recover, since as usual the traffic was horrendous. She got off and walked by an outdoor café, which is where we'll leave her behind for now.

This wasn't much of an outdoor café, as only one table was actually outside, and it only had room for two seats. It was one of those small iron latticework tables with at least a centimeter of white paint on them, the kind that is always tipping from one leg to another. Both chairs at this particular table were occupied: a man sat in one, and a woman in the other. Both were in their thirties, and neither of them were particularly comfortable with being that old. The man was tall and lanky, dressed in the latest counter-fashion. He tended to use a goofy grin to cover for when he didn't have anything original to contribute to a conversation. The woman on the other hand was wearing a faded pink dress that had been patched in several spots and may once have had frilly collars, covered with a gray fake leather jacket. She tended to use a scowl for the same reason as the man's grin. They had finished their lunch (soup for him, salad for her) and were now nursing their beverages (tea for him, coffee for her). They were also currently suffering from a lull in the conversation, and, as always, the unstated presence of the absent third member of their former trio made them both edgy.

"So," drawled Masayuki, desperately trying to break the silence, "have you ever wondered about the Millennium?"

Myu-Myu groaned loudly. "Is there any possible way you can continue on this subject without bringing him into it?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, of course! I wasn't even thinking about him."

"Good. You were saying?"

"Yeah, well, I've been doing some research, and it seems to me that the period immediately surrounding the Millennium was very unusual."

Myu-Myu rolled her eyes. "Millenniums tend to do that to people," she stated dryly.

"No, not like that! I mean that this last Millennium seemed really lucky. I mean, if anything, a turn of the century should be calamitous, with so many willing to believe the world's coming to an end. But this time, there was a period of maybe four or five years when everything went really, really well. Take the elections: they went smoothly, and you know that never happens. And that was world-wide, as far as I can tell. Nobody cheated at either Olympics, and that's almost as impossible as an honest election. And crime was at an absurdly-low level. As was unemployment. Everything just seemed to go our way."

Myu-Myu thought about this for a second. "Well, I am having trouble remembering anything actually happening in the world around then, and that was about two years after I started keeping track..."

"See, that's what I mean! There were a number of newspaper and news sites that shut down completely towards the end, since no one was bothering to buy or visit anymore, and that was because the headlines had all become so boring!"

"It didn't last, though."

"Yeah, there was the Crash after that, and things have been going the way they always go after that. But for a few years there, something was going on."

"Have you got any theories?"

"I haven't got a clue. But that's OK. I'll just keep mulling it over, and maybe I'll figure it out."

"Maybe you won't."

"That's OK, too. The important thing is to know that it happened, and to be able to say I was there when the world decided to work right for a while. And, I don't know, to be..."


"That's it, thankful! Thankful that it happened."

Myu-Myu shrugged. "Whatever. You spend too much of your time in the past, you know."

"I know. So how's the 'Revolution' coming along?"

Myu-Myu rolled her eyes. That man can be so naïve! she thought. But it was not like anyone was bothering to overhear their conversation, especially after that Millenniest crap. "We've got an operative now, on the inside."

The "inside" in question was Tachibana Networks, but you didn't say that out loud, no matter how sure you were that no one was listening in.

"How inside is inside?" Masayuki asked.

"You can't get any more inside that we've got. This guy is the nerve center of the entire operation. He sneezes wrong, and it costs 30 billion. Easily."

Masayuki recognized the obvious cue, and responded appropriately: "Oooh!" He couldn't resist a little barb, though: "So, how'd you turn him from the 'Dark Side'?"

Myu-Myu ignored the obvious sarcasm. "Not too hard. He was a life-long User. Well...actually he came to us."

"User" was code for the other phrase that could never be mentioned in casual conversation: Hacker. Ever since the Knights Trial of twenty ago, the general public had been incredibly paranoid and violent on the possibility that hackers could somehow disrupt the world order. The Knights had been responsible for scores of murders, suicides, and bankruptcies, and they had been successfully framed for the Crash as well (which they had supposedly managed to engineer from their jail cells while awaiting their trial). As a result, most Japanese in the Twenty-First Century viewed Hackers the same way the average Englishman of the Seventeenth Century would have viewed a Catholic Irish witch.

Masayuki whistled in admiration. "So, have you got any plans for him?"

"Not yet. But when we do, well, the whole world will know!"

Masayuki nodded indulgently. He was firmly convinced that it was far too late for any group as poorly-organized as Myu-Myu's Virtuosi to have any chance against Tachibana and their infamous Men In Black security forces. But this was all she lived for now, so he never said anything. He was fairly sure she was equally aware of the hopelessness of what she was doing, but she suffered from this need for her life to be meaningful, a problem Masayuki noticed in most of the people he knew. In her case that meant giving up a possible career to run a conspiracy.

The clock in the bank across the street struck 1 o'clock. Myu-Myu confirmed the time on her watch (Tachibana might be messing with people's perception of time again, so always check your watch! Masayuki commented to himself irreverently), then got up and picked up the hempen bag that contained most of her earthly belongings. "Well, I've got to go."

"Another meeting to organize?"

Myu-Myu nodded.

"Taro should be by here any minute--did you want to stay and..."

Myu-Myu spat loudly at her seat at the mention of his name, then turned and walked out as fast as her legs could carry her.

"I'll take that as a 'no'," Masayuki answered himself as he got up to clean off the only seat Taro would have to sit in.


Chapter 3

The "nerve center of Tachibana Networks" was trying his best to eat a sandwich. As usual, his relief was late and he was forced to man the phones through his lunch break. Being on scale, he was not being paid extra for this. Inside, he was seething, but none of the callers knew this, for in all of his many jobs through the years, Carl always prided himself on his professionalism.

"Tachibana Networks, can you please hold? Tachibana Networks. Can you please give me the name of the individual you wish to contact? No, there is no one with that name here. Are you sure you wanted Tachibana Networks?"

At the same time, the frazzled receptionist was also sorting through the massive amount of e-mail directed to Tachibana. A good deal of it nowadays was hate mail or the ravings of the deranged.

On top of the phone work, the e-mail work, trying to eat lunch without making it obvious to the callers, and petty internal gripes about his immediate superiors, Carl was thinking dark, disloyal thoughts about his employers, for he had recently been told about the company's practice of erasing all traces of their enemies from the Wired. Since the only sources of data that anyone checked anymore was on the Wired, erasure meant that the victim ceased to exist. Carl had spent some time as a mercenary when he was young enough for such things, and had no problem with killing or being killed, but the idea of being erased terrified and enraged him.

It was in this state that he read the following e-mail:

To: info@tachibana.co.jp
From: "Kato Yuri" <kato_yuri@triangle-news.co.jp>
Subject: Yoshi Myamoto

Could you please send me a biography of your founder, Yoshi Myamoto? Triangle News is interested in a retrospective article on the early years of your corporation.

--Kato Yuri

P.S. We already have your file on Masami Eiri, so you don't need to send it again.

Carl put down his sandwich and read the message over three times, stroking the stubble on his chin thoughtfully. He knew what he wanted to do, but there was no question he'd be tortured, killed, and then erased for it. Then he thought about growing old.

"What the hell!" he muttered as he hit the forward button.


Chapter 4

Masayuki made his way slowly through a large cream-filled pastry as he waited for Taro to finish his lunch. The newcomer was dressed in the kind of flashy business attire that had a five-year fashion cycle that ranged from "tacky" to "chic". Currently it was merely "tongue-in-cheek".

Taro was a professor of Computer Science at the University of Tokyo. It was hardly the future anyone would have predicted for the ten-year old "greatest hacker who ever lived". It was also an unlikely future occupation for the fifteen-year old "most infamous traitor in the history of hacking". Masayuki wondered if Taro always ate out to avoid having his food spit upon by the professors or the cafeteria workers who knew who he once was.

Taro had never bothered to explain his actions of twenty years previously to anyone, and Masayuki respected him for that--it proved that he had been a monumental asshole, but an honest asshole. He'd certainly been punished enough, still persona non grata on any Wired site worth visiting even after all this time. On the other hand, the fact that he worked among the one group never to forget and never to forgive was also proof that he was still more stubborn than a mule.

Masayuki, ever the host, started the conversation when he saw the proper moment. "So, how's work?"

Taro pushed his plate aside. "Oh, well, I've got some time on JESSE next week--that's the department's computer bank. I'm working on getting my algorithms all in a line to be shot down." Taro was trying to develop the next generation of search engines for the Wired, a topic that bored Masayuki to no end. "Who are you working for today?"

"Instant Foods. I'm a stock clerk at their central warehouse." Taro rolled his eyes and mimed waving a "rah-rah" flag. "Yeah, well, at least it frees up the daytime hours."

"To do what?"

"To look. I'm still looking. I'll find it though, someday."

Taro sighed and rested his chin on his hand. Masayuki was that most pathetic of fans, a fan without anything to be fanatic about, and he was highly eager to transition from wasting his life on nothing in particular to wasting his life on something in particular. On the other hand, Taro mused, he certainly is the happiest of the three of us. "By the way, what's Myu-Myu up to these days?"

"I was just talking to her at this very table an hour ago."

At that, Taro jumped up and inspected the seat of his pants.


Chapter 5

To: "Kato Yuri" <kato_yuri@triangle-news.co.jp>
From: "Yoshi Myamoto" <Yoshi.Myamoto@tachibana.co.jp>
Subject: RE: FW: Yoshi Myamoto

This is some kind of sick joke, right? I thought after seven years of being left in peace that you beasts had forgotten about me, but I see you're still playing your little loyalty games. Well, to the sick bastard MIB who obviously sent this, let me tell you something: I'm not going to break, not now, not ever! You can keep me in this stinking hole 'till my teeth rot, I will not bow down, not to the MIB, and not to that pathetic Committee.

Just in case that wasn't plain enough for you, here's what I *would* say if this really was a member of the press asking about my well-being:

"Why, Ms. Kato, I'm flattered that someone still cares for me after all of these years. Yes, I did found Tachibana Labs in 1980, and my band of *loyal* programmers and engineers were responsible for some of the most important advances in the field of computing. It would be only a small exaggeration to say that Tachibana invented the Wired.

"But things changed when Chief Engineer Masami Eiri was put in change of Research and Development. He used the position to gather a set of allies opposed to the direction I was taking the company. One night I was seized by the Men in Black, a group I had created in my weakness to protect the company from the more ruthless tactics of my American competitors. I was locked in a room--this room--while Masami took over and began using a technique he invented--have you ever heard of Erasure?"

And this is where I would tell "Ms. Kato" all about Erasure, and all the people Tachibana erased. I'm pretty sure that one President you erased would strike a bell--he was very memorable, as you well know, the sort of man only an idiot would try to erase. But that was after Eiri had died, and I have yet to meet anyone of his abilities since then.

Alright, so you've had your fun, you've got yet *another* confession out of me--what are you going to do, erase me too? Eiri didn't have the guts, and he had far more personal reasons to want me dead than any of you spineless weaklings. Well?

Most Sincerely,

Yoshi Myamoto,
Former head of Tachibana Labs, currently captive at an "undisclosed location"

Hyashi, Eiri's successor as leader of the Men in Black, finished reading the e-mail message in silence, before looking up at the woman who had brought it to his attention. "I suppose you are aware that it was the Committee that prevented me from killing Myamoto when I took over?" he asked. His second-in-command nodded curtly. "So what do you think I should do?"

Mika Iwakura looked her boss squarely in the eyes. "I think his suggestion was pretty good, actually."

"Erase Yoshi Myamoto? Are you serious?"

Mika laughed coldly. "Of course I'm serious. Tell me, when was the last time you ever ran across Myamoto's name on the Wired? Eiri is the only figure from the company's history anybody cares about. I did a full 4-P search while you were reading that, and the only Myamoto hits I came across were from our own site. I think we can easily erase him without anyone being the wiser."

Hyashi nodded in agreement, but not without some reluctance. The man was held as a god by the employees at Tachibana, even by his guards. "As for this reporter, I assume you had her taken care of as well?"

"Well..." Mika looked a bit embarrassed. "I didn't really think that was necessary. I was her den mother one year at college, and I can tell you she's really easy to break. I was thinking of getting into Triangle's computer and destroying her that way."

Hyashi raised an eyebrow. "You know I trust your judgment. Why haven't you done it already?"

Mika blushed. "I kind of need you to show me how to do it," she confessed.

Hyashi laughed. "Mika, Mika, Mika! Still as computer-illiterate as ever!" Mika's cheeks grew even redder, but not with embarrassment anymore. "Now, as for the last order of business," he continued, "who was responsible for the leak?"

"That would be the receptionist."

"We have a lot of receptionists--which one..." Mika shot him a significant look. "Oh. Carl. I see now why no one else had the courage to approach me before this. Did they think I was too weak to turn on my best friend?"

"I can give you the names, if you'd like," Mika stated in her most-insinuating tone.

"No, I'll just show them the truth. Grab Carl on the way to the assembly this afternoon. Take him to the Interview Room, and leave the door open. I'll conduct the interrogation myself, and the more witnesses, the better. You might want to remember this lesson, Mika: always confront your enemies face-on. It weakens their morale and strengthens your own." Mika just nodded as Hyashi continued. "Be sure to have everything ready. We need to have Carl back out just as the assembly ends."

Mika's confusion was only betrayed by a more-rapid blinking of her eyes. "You're not going to erase him?"

Hyashi shook his head emphatically. "No! Carl's loyalty did not turn by itself--he's hardly what you'd call an 'original thinker'. I'm hoping the Virtuosi are behind this. You are going to re-write Carl's memories, and in this way we will be able to destroy those pests once and for all." Mika's eyes glittered in admiration. "Now," Hyashi continued in his most patronizing tone, "let me show you how to break into a computer network. First, you turn the computer on...like so."

Mika balled her hands into fists at her sides and waited until her superior had left before sitting down at her desk. After wreaking havoc with Kato Yuri's finances, she started on the article that would appear as the leading story on Triangle's newspaper and Wired site an hour from now, the story that would cost the woman her job:

Why Tachibana Networks Really Sucks
by Kato Juri

     TOKYO--You get into your car, and it doesn't start. You know why? Because Tachibana Networks messed with your gas tank during the night. They really like to do that kind of messed-up stuff. That's why I hate them! I really do! They also killed my cat! Why, Tachibana, why? What did Mr. Fluffo ever do to you?

It got steadily worse from there.


Chapter 6

Masayuki and Taro ran up to the bus stop just as the bus was about to close its doors. After making sure that this was the bus back to his apartment, Masayuki boarded and squeezed into a seat, waving like a madman to Taro through the open window (mostly because he knew how much it bugged Taro when he did it).

Taro expected the bus to the university to be the next to arrive. He turned to the nearby bench to sit down, but a girl in rags had somehow managed to grab it when he wasn't looking. She growled at him like a feral animal when he got too close to her personal space. Taro shrugged, backed away, and got out his HandiNavi and stylus to work up some more search algorithms.

Chisa walked down the sidewalk, the two paper bags in her hands containing the second-best apples in all of Japan. At the bus stop she noticed two people ahead of her. The man she recognized as someone from the university, but as for the homeless girl on the bench--well, she was bad news. Nevertheless, there was a certain procedure that had to be followed in such situations. Chisa put down her sacks to create a place in line beside the man, noticing out of the corner of her eye the complex flow chart diagrams he was rapidly sketching on his pocket computer. She then approached the small girl sitting in the center of the very long bench. "Excuse me..." she began.

"SEAT TAKEN!" screeched the girl, a long strand of hair at the side of her head flying forward and back across her face as she snapped her head to face Chisa.

Chisa put her arms up in surrender, then returned to her sacks. She noticed that the man was now staring strangely at his complex diagram. Perhaps this would be a good moment to introduce myself, Chisa thought. "Excuse me, sir," she began, "but I have the distinct feeling we've met before."

Taro looked up with a start. "Huh?" he asked, looking around him vainly for the source of the voice he heard. He then shook his head and returned to his work.

Chisa shook her head in exasperation. She was about to try a little harder to break through her social invisibility when she noticed the bus driving down the cross street towards them.

The girl suddenly stood up in excitement, her outstretched hand pointing at a featureless part of the street to the left of them. "LOOK!" she screamed. "A POTATO!" She then dashed off, presumably to grab the invisible object.

Chisa turned to the seat, wondering if she had time to sit down while the bus sat through the light. But the bus didn't wait for the light, and it didn't wait for the bus stop. It simply drove through the bench and into the cement wall of the building behind it. Chisa stood very still as the walls of the bus flashed less than a meter in front of her eyes. Her first instinct was to check to see if she still had her bags of apples with her. She did.

Chisa then backed up to get a look into the bus. It appeared to be empty with the exception of the driver. The man was apparently under the effects of some sort of recreational drug, as he got out a loud "woo-hoo!" before dropping unconscious across the wheel. I'd like to see the Transportation Authority get out of this! Chisa thought with a grin. Chisa had a moment of self-awareness then, and chalked her incredible calmness to the fact that she was very prone to near-death experiences, and the fact that this was the first time it had happened twice in one day.

Her next instinct was to walk to the street. As she expected the girl was nowhere to be found. But then, she never is, thought Chisa. It was at that moment that the dozens of unexplained observations from the hundreds of near-death experiences in Chisa's life fell together in her mind into a pattern so crystal clear it could only be one of two things: divine revelation, or a complete mental breakdown.

That girl. The same girl on the radio that morning. The same girl from a month ago. And two weeks before that. And all those other times, stretching back for decades. It was always the same girl, although she was always playing someone different. And she was always a teenage girl--she never aged. Why is this girl (if the term "girl" even applied to her) saving my life all the time? For that matter, why do I need saving all the time? It is one thing to know that God (or a guardian angel, or a bodhisaattva, or a time traveler, space alien, what have you) has an active hand in your life, quite another to realize that the Devil (etc., etc., etc.) does as well. Or maybe they are one and the same being? Maybe this girl-goddess thinks the look on my face when I think I'm going to die is the funniest thing in all creation, and She deliberately puts me through this torture for kicks? Or maybe I'm the pawn in some kind of titanic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil: "Tell you what, Satan old chap: if you manage to kill that girl with the glasses over there before she's reduced to writing poems for greeting cards, I'll let you have all the souls on Earth, lock, stock and barrel."

But that's absurd, she told herself. Stupid stuff like that would never happen to...oh, wait, this is humanity I'm thinking about. Stupid stuff like that happens to us all the time.

She suddenly heard a voice behind her. "Hey, is that our bus?" She turned around and looked in awe at someone even more clueless than the reporter from that morning.

Maybe I'm not Her only client, Chisa mused. She walked up to the man and held out her hand. "Hi, my name is Chisa Yomoda. I work at the university. Is that where you were headed?"

The man nodded and absently stuck a hand out, his eyes still glued on the demolished wall behind them. "Yeah. I'm Taro Okada." He started walking towards the bus, but Chisa grabbed his outstretched hand and pulled him back before he had the chance to knock her precious bags over.

Chisa was about to share her theory, but then she recognized the absent look in the man's eyes. She had that look herself, maybe ten years ago. But he looks like a bright young man, she told herself. I'll give him five years to figure it out for himself.


[Note to the reader: you have just read the last happy moment in this story. It's about to get a lot darker.]

Go to Part 2.