As soon as Satomi woke up yesterday morning, Yuma and Masae gave me my walking papers.
I’m no longer the unofficial fourth member of Die Database. If Masae had her way, I would never be allowed to see any of them again, but I know part of that is existential shock.
After what happened to us at the empty shell of Agartha Labs, their entire perspective of the universe immediately changed, and they blamed me for it. I was part of the problem, the secret occupying force that kept the world groaning in pain, and I killed their fanciful visions of God and Heaven and purpose with the clinical, accidental truth. If the cosmos was Santa Claus, then I strangled him in front of the kids.
Eventually, I know they’ll come around. I’m not saying that in a wishful thinking sort of way – Ai assures me that they will be around for the Fifth Event, but she won’t give me any more information than that.
Not that it really matters. Masae kicked me out of Yuma’s apartment, and told me that “if you ever even listen to our music again, I’ll tear your ears off.” She wasn’t being hyperbolic, believe me – I’ve heard stories of her teenage punk girl terror days.
Yuma seemed more confused than angry or spiteful. I know she was always looking for purpose in life, above and beyond the world of flesh and photography, of singing for her supper. I just don’t think she wanted to find it in that way, scratching on her door begging to get in.
The thing is, I didn’t tell them much more than what I’ve already mentioned in this blog. It’s just that words simply can’t suffice when your screaming under a resurrection cloud, when you skin is covered by absolute, certain terror.
I’m terrifying to them now, an agent of death come calling for what they hold most dear.
I really can’t blame them. It doesn’t matter if the Structure didn’t give me any powers, or if I’ve never been Pure Land Antenna. It’s much worse – I’ve lied to them without knowing, from the first moment we met. I didn’t remember my role in things until a few months ago, but how do you explain that? In their eyes, I’m a fake – a pseudo-person that’s been digging into their lives only to destroy it all.
I can’t change those thoughts. I can’t even really explain how things ever really got this way, dozens of centuries ago.
All I know is that there are only a few months left, and it really looks like this is going to be the last go around, the long anticipated collapse and revealing.
I could sit around all day just contemplating what’s next, but that’s not the job I was recruited for. Every fiber of my being wants to fight the seeming inevitability of it all. I always like to hope that this fire is burning in my belly on my own accord, but odds are it was placed there and tended by Ai, so deep that there’s no putting it out.
Oh well. I’m going on and on about this more than I wanted to right now, especially considering what I’ve found out during the past 24 hours.
As I mentioned before, Satomi let go of all Agartha Labs staff right before the office closed. I tried to contact everyone after things happened, but no one would return my calls, texts or emails, except for Izumi, the Lead Graphic Designer, who at least told me that she was under a non-disclosure agreement. The most she was willing to say was that everyone was offered “crazy generous” severance packages.
Yesterday, I finally heard from Harumi, Satomi’s first hire and current (ex?) Executive Assistant. She wouldn’t say anything over the phone, but she told me to meet her at Odaiba, near the petite Statue Of Liberty (only a few dozen feet tall). I took the Yamanote and Monorail to the artificial island, walked outside past the Fuji Television building (which always reminds me of a huge Erector set), Sega Joypolis and the Aqua City mall, and got to the spot about 14:00. Spent a few minutes aimlessly staring at the water until she showed up, obviously nervous.
Harumi doesn’t have the kind of beauty that jumps out at you on a crowded train. Instead, she’s more like those few days before the sakura really bloom – you look at her, and every part of her being looks like it’s becoming uncontrollably brilliant. Yet she always holds it back with tightly combed hair, clothes too conservative for most girls in their early 20s, and a voice just melodic enough to appease imaginary authority figures.
Today, however, she was fully shining forth, for the first time I could recall, and as she walked up and gave me a big hug, I had to remember to breathe. She smelled like the full moon, breezy and electric. Her white blouse and brown skirt were Platonic ideals.
“Tokie, you’re not recording this, are you?” She squinted her perfectly applied eye makeup, showy yet subtle, with a cute eyeliner poke at each outside corner. I had always liked her, ever since we first met, but the feeling she called forth was too much, especially considering her relationship with Satomi.
“No, no, I just want to talk to you about what happened at Agartha. With Satomi.” Harumi and Satomi were on-and-off together since she was first hired, but hardly anyone knew about it – they kept things perfectly professional around the office, even to the point of barely acknowledging each other.
Harumi sat down on a brown brick ledge, and I joined her, as the occasional tourist aimed their camera wildly.
“I really can’t say much now. Not really, ever.” She placed her obscenely fashionable black leather mini purse on her lap. “It’s not because of the agreement she had me sign. It’s because of her eyes.” She took out a small compact and gave her face a quick peak, like she was afraid her perfection would be stolen away at any moment. “Ever since the accident at that Die Database show, it’s like the light in her eyes had changed. Dimmer, joined by another glow.”
Harumi had told me earlier about how Satomi’s insomnia affected their relationship – it was too much for her to handle, so she never stayed over at night for more than a few hours.
“For the past few months, I hated for her to look at me, even when I longed for her gaze.” She couldn’t resist a slight touch of blush, before she hid the compact away again. “She had eyes like lions. Poisonous snakes about to strike. And her smell changed, too.”
“Smell?” I didn’t like where this was headed.
“She used to be all sweat, pollen and pheromones. One whiff of her neck would sustain me for hours. Now, she’s like a plastic water bottle, or shower curtain. Just a hint of stale, dead moisture.”
All the pieces were starting to fit together – Satomi was a Dark Antenna for months, slowly booting up and transmuting for ideal control. Her sleep patterns and physical changes were typical of the recently etched.
Of course, as far as we could tell, she was etched a few years ago, sometime during her stay in the US. So the big questions were – who etched her, and why was she left disconnected for so long?
“I appreciate you telling me all of this.” I patted my hand briefly on her left knee, enough to tell that even her hose was exquisite. “Can you let me know anything else about what happened before the office shut down?”
Harumi started to stare past Lady Liberty and its tall pedistal, at the Rainbow Bridge. “She really wasn’t herself. She only ate Circle X onigiri and Kagome apple juice, like a toddler. She canceled all of our contracts, and spent hours talking to the silent partners on the phone.”
“Silent partners?” I had no idea what she was talking about, which was frightening enough.
“She gave up majority control over Agartha Labs in March. Ms. Strauss even came in on Thursday and Friday, to supervise the transition.”
Now I knew what she was talking about, which was even more frightening. It had to be Kaia.
“Do you know how to contact Ms. Strauss?”
“Oh, it doesn’t work that way. She and her partners contact you, at your inconvenience. They’ve been waking me up at all times of the night for months.”
“Do you know who the other partners are?”
“No. I’ve only ever met Ms. Strauss and her daughter. Miranda – really cute gaijin, like out of a TV commercial. She loved to talk to everyone.”
This was the moment when I was certain we were fucked. The last time I saw Kaia, she was being dragged off by the Trouble Twins to see the Nameless – Miranda. Next thing I know, Kaia has a hidden, lengthy back history with Yuma, and now she had a controlling stake of Agartha Labs.
Or, had – what the fuck happened to Agartha, anyway? And why the elaborate manipulation of Satomi and Die Database?
Harumi could tell I wasn’t happy to hear what she just told me – she threw her right arm around my shoulder, and tried to smile. “I’m sorry that you’re hearing this from me, and not Satomi. Or whomever has been my boss for the past few months. Honestly, I’m happy it’s all over – I couldn’t take one more moment of those eyes just staring at me. Even with her door closed, you could feel them poking at you.”
She reached in her purse and pulled out a key.
“Take this. You know what it’s for. Don’t linger, before the girls catch you snooping.” With that, she gave a perfectly formed kiss on the cheek, took off her red bottomed pumps and held one in each hand, and then darted up the stairs between lingering tourists, her jog turning into a run past Aqua City. I knew I would never see her again.
As for the key, I’ll have to put it to use this weekend, before Satomi is walking again. Now that I know it’s not just her in there, I have to strike quickly before the last bits of evidence are gone. I don’t dare say anything beyond this – it’s always everywhere, now more than ever.