MIDDLE INITIALS: PKD
Private Comm.37b. Private Comm.37b. Directive to J. Hukiama, Dir. Art.Int.4/sub.6.
re: PKD.D.Alpha.4. Activation Date 3 June 74. Net Size 128K-G-Byte, Cold Storage.
Test run appears successful. Current usefulness of project negligible. After completion of final testing sequence, end project. Terminate program. No later 2 Sept 11.
Office. AM. Los Angeles. 14 August.
"So, youre a clone?" She was Japanese, the woman who asked.
"My middle initials are PKD."
"Right, for your..." She leaves that hanging, not sure of the correct term.
"He laughs, smiles, gestures her again to a seat she has yet to take. "Father?" He asks. "Brother? We use those terms interchangeably." He sits, now, hoping this will make her to sit as well. "However, among ourselves we just use the word progenitor." On a low table next to his chair is a huge brandy snifter full of all kinds of swizzle sticks. He takes a red one, begins to fiddle with it.
She sits then, legs becoming crossed in the motion. "Have you ever met your... progenitor?"
He sighs. He has become used to the questions as he doesnt try to hide his status from clients. It is, he knows, all part of the image. "Dead." He tells her. "He was a writer in the last century, so I never met him." He uncrosses and then recrosses his legs, shifting in his chair. He hopes this body language will indicate what he cant really say. He hopes that she will get the message and move onto the business.
She does. "Youre a clone and a citizen?"
"Yeah," He coughs, then, "Yeah, citizen." The word has a strange feel in his mouth, his citizenship, as a clone, being at best honorary.
She moves deeper into her chair, stretching without really moving. She smiles, trying to be kind, asks his name.
"Call me A1."
She nods, not offering her own name. She leans forward and he sees now that shes cutting to the chase. "Whats the status of your implant?"
He smiles, tapping his temple, asks, "Which one, ey?"
Tavern. Later. Los Angeles.
"I tell you, Mack, this is a hot one. This little nip comes into my office, wants to hire me..."
"Wants to hire your head, you mean."
"Yeah, well. Its Sukazi, though. Sukazi."
Mack sits, then. The table is wood. Oak. No plexi, this. No pseudoanything. Mack holds a steel-tipped dart and is fresh from the game he has just won. He makes tiny holes in the thickly varnished top with it, snick snick snick.
"Sukazi wants to hire you?"
A1 settles across the table, depositing a pitcher of almost black beer between them. His hair, straight, thin and dirty, is pushed away from his eyes by his idle hand. He smiles and when he does his eyes glint.
"Yeah, they want to hire me. Seems, bud, theyve misplaced some fundage and only little old me stands a chance of getting it back."
"How much?" leaning forward, Mack awaiting an answer while reaching for the pitcher to refill his empty glass. His dart is stuck, now, in the table.
Not wanting to be too specific, Al smiles. "God, Mack. Millions." He knows that millions arent much, anymore. He also knows Mack will think he means Dollars when he really means New Yen.
"Yeah." Al reclines into his seat. "Someone crashed the fundage from their own net." "Inside job more likely."
"They say no."
"And they want you to find it?" Mack understands, or thinks he does, what its all about, now. "Cause of the stuff in your head?"
A1 sips at his beer, now. Before answering he pauses just a bit. For effect. "And," He finally says, "Because Im an American."
Mack becomes surprised. For good reason, too. Japanese multinationals dont oft hire Citizens of the Thirty-Eight, no matter how much tech IS in their head. "Why an American?"
"I guess they figure no loyal Jap or Korean employee would stoop to such levels." Al sips his beer, again, before he continues. "Set a thief to catch a thief. Same with Americans, I guess."
Mack bounces his dart against the table, again. "And you get paid if...?"
"If I recover the fundage."
Santa Rosa Park. AM. San Francisco. 21 August.
She is here, with new information. She sits without waiting, not even for an invitation, onto a newly painted bench. And she asks no unnecessary questions.
"The funds were transferred from our account at the first bank of Sacramento on nine, July." She wears a short jacket and high waisted trousers in the new style of the Japanese woman executive. Her demeanor indicates that she is used to what is, really, a uniform.
"Transferred to where?" He is sitting now, too. From experience he knows not to be too friendly, though he would like to be. This Japanese is attractive. But more than once he has his status been thrown in his face. He risks no clients, now.
"We do not know." She opens her briefcase and pulls forth a bubble memory chip. With it comes a tiny new portable computer. He takes the bubble from her hand, waves away her computer.
She looks at him, questioning.
He taps his temple.
"Ah, yes." She says. "Well. Read it at your leisure, then. This is all our information, as well as temporary access codes into our system."
"And the total amount?"
Her pause is slight. "Eight hundred million Yen."
Out of the blue he says, "Have you people investigated the possibility that its an inside job?" She says nothing, so, "You know, an employee."
"This is impossible."
"Why?" He doesnt like her answer.
"Only one person had the correct codes." There is only fact in her voice as she says, "That person is loyal."
"Maybe the codes were compromised."
"Again, only one person even knew the codes."
His smile is grim but polite. "Who?"
She pauses, looks from him to the park, back. Then, a sigh. "The only employee with all the correct code phrases was the son of our Chairman."
He smiles. Now he understands. He isnt being hired to find the money, hes being hired to get the kid off. "Old Hukiamas boy."
"We...mustnt speak of this again." She is nervous, for the first time since he met her.
A vendor, in passing, is stopped by his hand signal. A twenty dollar bill and a hot dog are exchanged. He looks to his Japanese companion, her face full of surprise. "Would you like...?" He begins. She only shakes her head, no.
About to leave, her job finished, she stops anyway. "Im sorry," She says. "Was that...money?"
He smiles. "Money?"
"Real money, on paper?"
Laughing, then, he pulls forth another twenty, handing it to her. "Real money."
"In the Co-Prosperity sphere we no longer use actual paper money." She says looking at the bill.
He his only slightly taken aback, and does not let it show. "Well," He finally says, "In America we still like the feel of real, hard cash. I mean, yeah, weve got all the credit and debit cards. But nothing beats cash."
She begins to return the bill. "Keep it." He says. "Souvenir." And she puts in into an inside pocket of her jacket, instead.
"You have all our information, then." She smiles, for the first time. Perhaps, he thinks, it is because of the bill. "Contact me if you discover anything."
He watches as she leaves, a half smile on his lips. Even the smallest victory is something, he thinks, for a clone. He is recalling her smile.
Office. Night. Los Angeles.
He sits, the chair is comfortable, high back, padded arms. The softest touch to a hidden button along one arm dims the lights. His head nestles into the back of the chair. A coaxial attachment is hidden there. It snicks into place softly, into his skull. He looks inward, then, into his eyes. They become unfocused and he is looking at the tiny red light visible only to him, inside his eye. As he watches it becomes green.
The world vanishes for him.
Sukazi Net. Nowhere. Everywhere.
A new world forms for him. It is both real and unreal. He crouches for a moment, looks left and right. Trees appear, and a sign, neon, translated by a chip in his skull from the Japanese: SUKAZI. Time to work, he thinks, walking forward. There is a warrior, Samurai, all wrapped in black, hints of neon red on his belt, standing before him. "You wish passage." The Samurai holds a sword which he now brandishes.
He gives the passphrase from the Sukazi bubble chip. The puff of charcoal smoke into which the Samurai vanishes seems real in every sense. It looks real. It smells real. His eyes sting as he walks through it. Or, what he thinks of as eyes sting.
Before him, just past the place where the swordsman stood, is a very tall, very blonde, woman. Her blond hair and blue eyes clash with the traditional kimono.
He smiles, and it is a smile of understanding for the idiosyncrasies of Japanese Virtual Reality programming.
The woman says nothing, only motions with her hand. He follows. Walking, they come to a large clearing in the woods. For a moment, he thinks, strange that I hadnt noticed the woods, before, then it doesnt seem to matter. From the middle of the clearing, where they are now standing, he can see openings among the thick wall of undergrowth and he realizes this must be the main menu. For a moment he glances up, and there, above him, the trees form a dome.
Slowly, a fade to smoke, the woman disappears and he walks up the path with the neon sign saying FINANCE.
Tavern. P.M. Los Angeles. 24 August.
"Been all over it. I see how it was done, I think. Boz. Cant see how whoever it was didnt trip every alarm between here and Tokyo, though."
Mack, sitting, grins and gulps at a fresh beer. "You mean, youre beginning to think it might be an inside job?"
A1 reclines in his normal spot. He reaches to the table, picking up a swizzle stick. It is purple, almost neon. He nods to Mack, "For my collection," And laughing, he puts it in an inside pocket. Now he sips from his beer, a long sip. The amber liquid defines civilization for him. Swallowing, finally, he says, "Yeah. Maybe."
Mack pulls his dart case out of an inside pocket, now, the steel tips shining in the low tavern light. "Come on," He says, "Game."
Nodding, A1 begins to rise, stops. Its the little light, the one behind his eyes. It is blinking green, that one of his implants is going off-line, something, he doesnt know what. A part of him cant imagine how long this has been going on, how long this problem has existed. The light blinks, green. Green then nothing, green then nothing. There is no time in it, in the blinking. All time sense for him seems suddenly arbitrary. Reaching to the table, he steadies himself, runs his hand across its smooth top. It shocks him, the table top, and again he runs his hand over it. It is wood, yes, but it seems somehow false. As does Mack. As does everything.
Office. PM. Los Angeles. 24 August. Later.
He sits once again in the chair. Comfortable. Snick. The light turns over behind his eye, inside.
The dome of trees is above him again, at the main menu. This time it is to the tiny neon sign EXECUTIVES - RESTRICTED that he ventures. There are snakes along the path the color of Sukazi Corps logo, a metallic grape soda, but they do not bother him. The path is lines with fruit trees, banana, apple, tiny peaches. Some are colored normally, others, also, are purple. His pace is slow, leisurely almost. One of the chips his head carries has been programmed to look for intrusion countermeasures, but it is remaining silent. He is smart enough to know this might mean there are none, but it also may indicate that they are too advanced to be detectable.
The terrain begins a decent, into thicker and thicker woods. The trees are orange, purple, red, all bright, all unimaginably unnatural. On the ground is a double-edged Euro sword, colored bright purple, which he takes though its weight slows him.
A slow groan, a sound different than the whisper of the trees or calls of the birds, stops him. Listening, it sounds again. Slowly, then, he continues, toward the sound. Each time he hears it again, he stops, trying to judge its position. Eventually, finally, he can make it out. "Philip!" Is the call. "Philip!"
Dragging the weapon, he continues and, quite suddenly, a clearing presents itself. In the center of the clearing stands a middle aged Japanese man, his hands cupped around his mouth as he shouts.
"Here I am," A1 calls back, entering the clearing. "Only my names A1. Philip is just part of my middle name."
"Ah, Phil... A1. I had begun to think you may not arrive."
A1 stops, perhaps twenty paces from the other, "You were expecting me?"
In answer, the man bows. "I am Hukiama."
"Youre the Chairman of Sukazi?" A1, shocked, asks.
Hukiama bows, again.
Looking around his Virtual environment, A1 finally casts a wondering glance to the man opposite him. Inside his eye, he notes, the little light is blinking green.
"Im real. At least as real as you can be in here."
A1 looks more closely at one of the most powerful men in the world. His grey hair parted on the side and swept back, he is the stereotype of Japanese power. His bright orange Kimono managing to be both traditional and modern. As if sensing the stare, Hukiama looks down at himself and smiles. "If I were to wear this anywhere other than here, I would be arrested."
A1 only shakes his head.
"Only the Crown Prince may wear this color."
As the older man spoke, the reality began to change about the pair. The trees, such that they were, vanished and a great purple fog surrounded them. The haze wafted about them, occasionally removing the two from each others view. Eventually, Hukiama calls, saying, "You were not hired to invade this area of our Net."
For a moment A1 says nothing. Finally, "I need to see if it is possible that this was an inside job."
"It was not!"
Quickly, then, A1 continues, "Im not saying your son had anything to do with this... this mess. But youve hired me to..."
"Listen," Voice harsh, Hukiama gestured violently with his hand. "Even if my son had anything to do with this, any attempted transfer of a sum such as this would have set off every alarm between here and Tokyo. And those alarms cannot be disabled."
It was Als turn to bow, then, and he did so. Not from respect, but from understanding. He speaks, saying only, "I see."
First California Bank. AM. 1 September.
It had taken time to examine. Time to set up. The old man had been right, it was impossible to transfer anything over five-hundred million from any of Sukazis accounts without alarms screaming about it. But in typical fashion, the Japanese programmers had forgotten one thing about American banks. One rather simple thing. In America, if no place else on Earth, it is still possible to withdraw cash. And that withdrawl ceiling is the same as the Chairmans acquisitions and purchasing account. That ceiling is eight-hundred million.
It had taken time to set up. Also, to find two suitcases large enough.
Carrying them, with a third pack across his back, he walks the last few meters to the First California Bank. The shoulder bag is not too heavy, full of tiny tools for his head and such. The green light still flutters and for no reason that has been detectable. He hopes that with those tools he can fix himself. The two large cases, though, so far are empty. Their contents are still in the bank.
The bank opened not too long after ten, local time, as was custom. His hardware caused no alarms to sound as he entered, thankfully. The manager was helpful, as she should be. They knew each other, now, he having been here before, to set up the withdrawal so that time would be available to verify it. When verification arrived the next day, sent by himself, the manager began gathering the funds from local branches. This had been crunch time, as any branch manager could have requested further verification. He spent hours upon hours in the net, then, trying to cover every base to make sure he would intercept such a request. Only one had been entered, and he quickly returned further verification.
The bank seemed full of anticipation as he made his way to the vault. Full of possibilities. Entering the huge room that is the vault of the bank held a twinge of fear. If he was to be caught, this was the place to do it. The manager stops for a moment, and they look at each other. They smile. Filling his cases seem almost anti-climatic and, in only moments, he is back on the street, eight-hundred million in his cases.
Hilton Rio. Brazil. PM. 2 September.
The room, their best, is covered in money. Money that is being ignored. Opening the small shoulder case he pulls forth first a small wand, then some other tools. Behind his eye, for no reason, the light blinks green, on and off, green, thought this isnt virtual at all.
He is pulling more and more tools out, spreading them on the bed, when his hand finds his swizzle sticks, all tied up in rubber bands for the trip. Looking at them and smiling, he tosses them onto the bed and in the motion his smile becomes a frown. He picks them up and looks carefully at one in particular. It is purple. A strange, familiar purple. Pulling it free from the others, his frown deepens for a moment, then he simply shrugs at his folly, tosses the swizzle stick back onto the bed, and goes to the phone and orders a drink from room service.
The light behind his eye is still blinking, but he ignores it and cleans up the bills lying about, knowing that the drink will be brought by a real flesh-and-blood, this being the third world.
He is just finished when the door chimes. "Mr. Poole?" A voice in the hall calls out his name. "Room service."
Walking past the bed and grasping the door retract, he notices now that the tiny iridescent purple swizzle is missing. As the door pulls back into the wall his head turns to look for it, not looking at the room service attendant.
His eyes find the stick on the floor where it must have fallen during his recent cleaning. He blinks at it, trying to focus as the malfunctioning light behind his eye continues to tell him he is in Virtual. The tiny swizzle on the floor slowly, almost naturally, wiggles and, blinking, thats when he notices that it is no longer a swizzle stick, but a tiny shining purple snake there. And it is then that he recalls where that shade of purple is from, that metallic grape soda. It is the color of Sukazis corporate logo.
A voice behind him pulls him around in a spin. Before him stands not a Latino room service attendant, but Hukiama. Holding his drink.
"Ah, Phil... A1." Hukiama bows, holds out the drink.
A1 takes the tumbler, stumbles back, knees against the bed, and sits in a collapsing rush. "Im," He says, "Im in Virtual. I must still be in Virtual."
Hukiama nods. "In a sense."
A1 downs the drink, notices only absently that it is very good scotch and not the cheap local sweat hed ordered. Behind his eye the light still blinks. "I must have never left Virtual." He says, again.
Hukiama sits next to him on the bed and touches his knee. "A1," He says. "I must tell you some things."
"I must be in boz trouble, ey?" A1 turns to Hukiama. "I mean, I imagine Im going to be spending a few Holidays in uncomfortable places for this, no?"
The tiny Japanese only smiles a sad sort of smile and shakes his head. "I must tell you some things."
A1 only looks at him, says nothing.
Hukiama continues, "You are an experiment in artificial intelligence."
Laughing, A1 replies, "Well, Im a clone, I guess you could call that a form of artificial intelligence. But Ive never heard it put that way."
"No, you are not a clone. You are a Sukazi experiment in artificial intelligence."
"I am too a clone, ey. I remember being hatched. I remember the creche. I can recall..." Shaking his head, Hukiama smiles. "Nevertheless, you are not a clone."
A1 looks around the room, at the suitcases full of money that are no longer real, at his feet, then back to Hukiama besides him. "You mean Im human?" He asks, finally.
Hukiama shakes his head again. "Im afraid your not human, exactly, either." He says.
A1 stands and begins to pace. "Wait a damn minute. If Im not a clone, and Im not human just what the boz am I? I mean, Ive got to be one or the damn other, dont I?"
"As I said," Hukiama, still sitting, responds, "You are an experiment by Sukazi in artificial intelligence."
"And as Chairman of Sukazi youve come to let me know?"
"I am not the Chairman," Hukiama stands and looks about the room. "I am the researcher who programmed," In a sweeping gesture with his arms Hukiama indicates the room, the environment. "This."
"You?" A1 asks. "You programmed all this?"
"And somewhere Im plugged into your little bastard creation, lying on some couch..."
Hukiama shakes his head. "No," He says, "I have programmed you as well."
"You are an artificial intelligence program designed to test the ability of our computer system to create a suitable alternate reality."
A1 sits again. "Are you telling me Im not real?"
"Youre real, but your perceived physical being is actually a location in the Sukazi data net. In, as you say, Virtual."
"Im not a clone of Philip K. Dick?"
Hukiama shakes his head. "That, to, is a persona I created. For the program."
A1 only shakes his head.
"I was in charge of the alternate reality we created for you." Hukiama says, smiling. "It was my job to try and tip you off. Help you discover that your world was not real. Part of that was the creation of the Phil Dick persona. The many story lines that were available to you were specifically designed to help you uncover the truth about your reality. The novels, the stories, I wrote them.
"So," A1 begins, then stops. "So."
"The program was a success. You were unable to discover the truth."
A1 stands, moves to one of the bags which contains the stolen money. Opening it, he pulls for a wad in his clenched fist and shakes it. "This, this isnt real?"
Hukiama only shakes his head.
"I dont believe you!" A1 flings the cash into the air and it begins to fall like light green snow on a Winter evening. Reaching into the bag he pulls more forth and this is also thrown up to the ceiling. "I am Alpha PKD Poole, I am a clone of the American writer Philip K. Dick, I am an investigator. I exist."
Hukiama only shakes his head.
"I exist, damn you." A1 sighs, sitting again. "I do." He looks down at his feet and there is the tiny metallic purple snake that had once been a swizzle stick.
"I will not argue that point."
"Then why tell me at all?"
Gently, Hukiama continues, "As I said, this program has been a success. As such, it is time to discontinue it. As the chief programmer I wanted to interact with you... With your program before it is ended."
"Youre going to kill me?"
"Not really. You see, you never really existed in the classical sense."
Clutching his fists, A1 makes ready to dive for the small Japanese man, he envisions his head being turned to a pulp against the wall. Shifting his weight in preparation, he asks, "When?"
Near his feet the snake rears its head. Before A1 can so much as move Hukiama answers him, "Now."
Private Comm.39b. Private Comm.39b. Notification to P. Shimoza, Dir. Art.Int.1/inclusive.
re: PKD.D.Alpha.4. Activation Date 3 June 74. Net Size 128K-G-Byte, Cold Storage.
Test program terminated, as per directive 14 August.
PKD.D.Alpha.4 program discontinued. Test run successful. Report to follow.
Lab. Sukazi Research Center. Japan.
Pulling the attached coaxial cables from their connections in his skull, the researcher Hukiama stands. The confrontation with the artificial intelligence test program has been draining. Touching his brow he feels the sheen of sweat. He pulls at his lab coat, surprised that the sweat is all over his body.
Exiting the lab he returns down the white corridors to his office. The facility is strangely quiet and he sees few people, none that he knows. In his office he pours himself a cup of coffee, stirring in sugar and milk. It is then, stirring, that he notices the spoon is a deep purple in color. It is almost the color of metallic grape soda. He stares at it, examines it, turning it before him, surprised.
Almost spilling his coffee, he whirls at a cough behind him. He is shocked. The Anglo face, straight black hair. "You," Hukiama says, "Dont exist. Your program has been terminated. Youre a program. I know, I made you." The researcher pauses, running a hand through his grey hair. "I exist," He says, "You do not." The Anglo smiles a sad smile and shakes his head. "Im afraid youve got that backwords," he says.