“Are you sure you want to see this?” Jasleen looked up at Anna walking beside her.
“I know this will sound strange,” Anna said, “but I think I have to see it. I have to know what it looks like inside my head.”
Jasleen nodded and led her off to where the bio-android bodies were being kept. After Jasleen punched in her password at the door to the lab, they both entered. Logan was already inside, and he held a gun. That much was enough to stop Jasleen in her tracks. Then she saw that he was pointing that gun at the head of Robert Ecker. She was about to step forward and stop him when he said, “Don’t worry. Mr. Carrington approved this.” Ecker was propped up on a table so that his upper body was unsupported. The two women watched in bemused silence as Logan took careful aim and then fired. Ecker’s head snapped backward, and it seemed that his entire body would fly back over the table. Then, he slumped and slid down to the floor. Logan calmly put his gun away and walked over to Ecker’s body.
“All right,” Jasleen said. “Would you mind explaining this to me now? We all knew that bullet wouldn’t penetrate.”
In answer, Logan picked up a remote control and pushed a button as he pointed it at a television monitor. Hikaru’s face appeared. Jasleen recognized it as one of the images retrieved from the last moments of Ecker’smemory. “Take a close look,” Logan said. He kneeled down, put his arms around Ecker and lifted him onto the table. Jasleen walked up to the monitor and examined it for a moment.
Finally, she said, “Hikaru has a circle on her forehead.”
Logan nodded as he bent over Ecker and pulled the bullet out of Ecker’s forehead. “If you look at it, you’ll see that it’s about the size of a .21 caliber bullet.” He stepped back to let them see the bullet imprint he had made on Ecker’s head. “And if you let Ecker here sit for a day or two, that hole on his head should look something like that one on Hikaru’s head.”
The implication sank in immediately. The two women alternately stared at Ecker’s head, then at Hikaru’s on the screen. “That must be what spooked Mr. Carrington,” Jasleen whispered. “Did you see the look on his face after watching the video? You’d think his daughter had just died.” Logan nodded.
“It can’t be,” Anna blurted.
Logan raised an eyebrow. “Why not? It all makes sense. It would be the only reason for her to leave us. She doesn’t want to reveal more secrets to UM about our organization.”
“But her memories,” Anna almost pleaded. “I used to talk with her over lunch. I can’t remember very much about my parents because they never existed, but she remembered them very well. It’s been nine years since they died, but she remembers them as if they were alive yesterday.”
Logan nodded, and his expression changed into something almost thoughtful. “Either UM’s technology is much more advanced than we thought,” he mused, “Or else…” He didn’t complete his thought.
“What are you talking about?” Jasleen asked.
“I don’t really know.” Jasleen reflected that it was probably the first time he had ever admitted to not knowing something. “I only have a theory.” He paused, and his eyes unfocused slightly. Coming from Logan, thatwas the equivalent of screwing up one’s face in concentration. “What’s the best way for Hikaru to locate the other bio-androids on her list?”
“The public records building,” Jasleen promptly answered. “Do you think she would go there?”
“She has to. She’s doing her best to eliminate all of UM’s bio-androids, but she can’t do that unless she knows where they are. None of them are nearly as prominent as Ecker was. It’s the night after his death, and the public records building is most vulnerable at night. She’ll strike there tonight.”
“The people at UM are very smart,” Anna said slowly. “If you were able to figure that out, they probably can too. They’ll chase after her.”
“Then my mission is two-fold. I have to contact her, and I have to keep her away from UM.”
“I’m going with you.”
Logan only stared at her. “You could do worse,” Jasleen volunteered. “I’ve seen her at the shooting range and also running alongside our agents. She could be one of our best right now. Evidently, UM left a lot of Velvet Dark intact.” She smiled slightly. “Besides, I don’t think any other agent you bring along will have a bullet-proof head.”
Logan nodded. “We’re leaving at 1800 hours. Meet me in the lobby.” He turned and walked out the door.
Hikaru knew that they were coming for her. She would have done the same thing in their shoes. Thus, by attempting to penetrate the public records building, she was risking discovery and capture. She had to take that chance. The only way to get UM to chase after her was to systematically pick off their bio-androids one by one. And the only way to do that was to know who was a bio-android. Once again, she felt a faint regret at having to execute innocent beings who were classified as living organisms in CI. On the other hand, quite a lot of those bio-androids were criminals anyway. She would start with the criminals first.
Breaking into the building was so easy that it was almost routine. Taking out her palm top, she connected a wire to the top and connected the other end of that wire to a special card. Pushing the card into the slot at the front door, she waited while her palm top decoded the necessary password and then unlocked the door. She pushed the door open and ran noiselessly into the building.
There was only one guard in the building. It made sense. Normally, this building didn’t contain anything valuable enough to merit a second glance from any wandering burglar. Hikaru had taken a tour of the building during the day ostensibly to admire its architecture. It was indeed a very well designed structure with plenty of glass to give it a modern, spacious look. During the tour, she had noted the room which contained several monitors. That was the room where the guard would watch over the building, and that was the room where she was headed right now.
Dressed in black as she was, she doubted that any camera could see her, but out of habit, she peeked around every corner to see where the camera was pointed and then took the necessary steps to avoid it. Reaching the room with the guard, she pulled out a spray can. It contained a knockout gas. The gas was extremely easy to make if the person making it knew what to do and what ingredients to use. Those ingredients happened to be available at pharmacies or in the juice squeezed out of certain plants that could be bought in a nursery. Stepping lightly into the room, Hikaru saw that the guard was facing the monitors as she had expected. That meant that he had his back to her. Holding her breath, she opened the can and pointed it at him. The gas drifted toward him. It was odorless. That was one of its advantages. The other advantage was that when the victim woke up a few hours later, he usually assumed that he had naturally fallen asleep. For a few seconds, she scrutinized the slumped form before her. Then her eyes narrowed in suspicion and she turned to walk towards where the personal files were kept.
Logan had broken into the building about an hour before Hikaru although he hadn’t known that at the time. After spraying the guard on duty with a simple knockout gas, he headed toward the personal files. It had been a matter of minutes for him to find the file he was looking for. He had momentarily felt something almost like surprise after finding the file. He hadn’t expected it to be there. Holding the file, he went out to look forHikaru. It was only after making a thorough search of the building that he realized that she had not struck yet. If she went by standard procedure, she would knock out the guard with sleeping gas. She would grow immediately suspicious after looking at the guard and seeing that he had clearly already been knocked out before her arrival. He shrugged. There was nothing he could do about it now, and besides he wanted her to look for him. It was pretty clear that if she didn’t want him to find her, he wouldn’t. He began making another thorough search of the building, not bothering to conceal the noise of his footsteps.
He was walking down a hallway when he heard her quiet voice behind him. “Stop right there and don’t move.” He stopped right there and didn’t move. He noted that this hallway had a set of windows along one wall. From those windows, it was only about a 5 meter drop to the ground. Hikaru had chosen to confront him here so that she would have an escape route if she needed it. “Turn around slowly,” the voice said. Logan complied. She hadn’t bothered to put on protective armor, and so the close-fitting ninja suit displayed her body to good effect. Her Falcon 3 was absolutely steady as it pointed at his chest. Logan wondered what that body would look like streaking silently across the floor towards him to deliver a deadly blow to his head. He knew that he had no chance of survival if she decided to kill him.
He decided to take a gamble. “I don’t have any weapons. I came here to give you something.”
“Just give me something? That will be the day.” The last was said with a bitter sarcastic note. “I deserted CI, broke regulations by killing someone outside mission parameters and broke into a building without authorization, and all you want to do is give me something?”
“If you decide to leave, I can’t stop you. We both know that.” He waited while she thought the matter over. Then he took a step towards her.
“Stop,” she nearly shouted. “Take another step and I’ll shoot you.”
“I don’t care,” he said as he took another step. That was true. It didn’t matter whether or not she shot him. His only concern was getting the file into her hands. He took another step towards her. Her body language indicated that she wasn’t going to shoot him. There was some humanity left in her after all.
Desperately, she pointed the gun at her own head. “No closer. I’ll finish myself off before letting you have me. You don’t understand how much damage I’ll do if I go back.”
Logan paid no attention and continued to walk forward. Finally, he was only about a foot away from her. He reached out and gently took hold of he gun. Then he pushed it down to her side. For the first time in a long time, he wished for something. He wished that she hadn’t done that. Now, in order to keep her alive, he had to deny her humanity. “It wouldn’t have mattered if you had pulled the trigger,” he said as gently as he could.
She stared at him. “How did you know?” In answer, he reached out and smoothed back her hair. Then he gently touched the bullet mark on her forehead. The wound had mostly healed by now, but it was still visible. “You couldn’t have known about that. You haven’t seen me since I ran away.”
“Yes, I have. Jasleen developed a method for extracting memories from a bio-android brain and displaying it as images. We used that to extract the memories of Robert Ecker.”
“Then…” she stopped in thought. “How many people saw those?”
“Jasleen and I both saw them. And of course, Mr. Carrington saw them.”
Her eyes had been cold and uncaring before, but now they lit up with a strange grief. “Daddy saw them? He knows about me?”
“Yes. He knows what you are.” He stopped to let it sink in. “I don’t think he cares.”
His words didn’t seem to register. The enormity of what she had done seemed to be hitting her. “DaddyÖwhat does he have left now?” Then she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not even Hikaru any more. Or did you know that as well?”
“No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She smiled a strange, twisted smile and pointed at her head. “I’m Joanna Dark.”
Logan had speculated about that, but he had never expected it to turn out to be true. “So nine years ago, you were Joanna. I suppose that’s one possibility.”
Hikaru laughed softly. There was a slight hysterical edge to her laughter. “What other possibility is there?”
“The other possibility is that nine years ago you were Hikaru Shinsuke.” He held the file out towards her. She stared at it for a moment before taking it and beginning to read. “I found it in the personal files.”
“Logan, these are my parents files.” There was disbelief in her voice, and there was also something else. When he thought about it, it sounded almost like hope. It was as if she didn’t care about the truth for a while and only wanted to believe that her parents had existed. Then her eyes hardened again. “They could be fake.”
“It’s not likely. There are birth certificates included in those files.”
“My parents were born in Japan. Those certificates could be fake, and they might have just presented them to the city after becoming American citizens.”
“Your own birth certificate is also there. You were born in America in this very city.”
“That certificate could also be fake. If UM has the technology to create false memories, do you think it would really be that hard for them to forge government records.”
“There’s no similar birth certificate for any other bio-android who is supposedly a native of this city.”
Once again she had to stop and think. “Why are you doing this?”
“I want you to have a family.”
She laughed that hysterical laugh again. “Such kindness for me? Can’t you see what I am? I’m a murderer. I have a list of people, and I’m going to do everything I can to kill them all.” She stopped and put her face closer to his. Her eyes were wide. There was something frightening in those eyes. “Can’t you see? I’m going to be a serial killer. I’m going to kill and kill until I die. Don’t you dare tell me that you like what I’ve turned into.You must feel at least a little disgust.”
“That would be hypocritical.”
“I can’t feel disgust for someone whose crimes are no more terrible than my own.”
“What could be worse than killing an innocent man and planning to kill more?”
“Killing an innocent eight-year old girl could be worse.”
“You did what?” He was getting emotion out of her again. The black eyes were wide open, but there was no madness there now. Only shock.
“It was during a mission to steal information from the Daggett corporation. It was still around at the time. I had worked my way into Daggett headquarters, and one day I was ordered to steal certain files. The orders were perfectly clear: no witnesses were to be left alive. Nobody was to know who had stolen the files. I made a mistake during the mission. I hadn’t counted on one of the executives arriving early with his daughter. I ran into him while escaping the building with my stolen files. He was a witness, so I had to kill him. His young daughter was also a witness.”
There was horror in those black eyes now. They seemed to stare into his soul, searching for some sign of humanity or remorse. It was just like that day so many years ago. He could still remember those young eyes pleading with him, unable to believe that such evil could exist in the man before her. “There was no other way?”
She continued to stare at him. “Why are you telling me this?”
Logan thought for a moment. “I don’t know why.”
“You didn’t tell me that to save me?”
“You don’t need saving.”
There was another silence as they stared at each other. What they saw there was perhaps more important than anything they said. Anna’s voice cut in over Logan’s earpiece. “You’d better finish quick. The UM troops have arrived. I’ll try to hold them off, but I can’t stop them all. There are dozens of them.”
Logan put his hands on Hikaru’s shoulders and guided her towards a window. “There must be somebody still alive who will remember you from nine years ago. I suggest that you go talk to that person.”
Hikaru nodded. She took one last look into his eyes and then whispered, “How do you know you really killed that girl?” Then she jumped out the window. She didn’t look back up as she ran away on foot. Carrington’s voice sounded in Logan’s ear. “Do you think you got through?”
“There’s reason for hope, sir.”
“That’s a very cautious answer.”
“There’s also reason for concern.”
“You’ve formed some kind of conclusion about her?”
“I think it’s the same conclusion that you’ve formed. Mirror Syndrome. An advanced case of Mirror Syndrome.”