Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prologue – Chapter 2

A banner advertizing "Lots for Sale" hung from a newly-built apartment building behind the shopping district. His gaze downward, Nakamjima walked while continuously moving his lips. To any passerby, he appeared like an ordinary high school student, deep in concentration trying to memorize something for a test. But those few people that caught a fragment of his words looked at him suspiciously. His voice intoned something like the low and hostile muttering of a dark spell, not at all something they’d expect to hear from a high school student.

A cherry blossom fell from the nearby concrete wall and landed on Nakajima's cheek, but he ignored it and kept walking, his stare still cast towards the ground. When he finally looked up, he was standing in front of a conspicuously tall apartment building. When his electronic key entered the keyhole, the solid plate-glass doors automatically slid open with a heavy sound. The entrance to the building was made from extravagant marble imported from Canada, but still seemed somewhat artificial. As he stepped inside, Nakajima took a deep breath and straightened up.

Nakajima entered the elevator and pressed the button for the thirteenth floor. The change in air pressure induced his body to ache, reminding him of the unpleasant events of the afternoon. A copper plaque with "NAKAJIMA" engraved on it was affixed to the door to apartment 1302. Nakajima pressed the doorbell, but there was no response. Sighing, he unlocked the door.

Opening the door and going inside, Nakajima took off his shoes and negligently tossed them aside before he headed to the bathroom. The injured lip on the face in the mirror had swollen up like a balloon; it was quite unpleasant to look at. His left cheek had a yellowish bruise on it. After looking at himself in the mirror for a bit, Nakajima abruptly turned on the faucet and splashed his face with water. Returning to the living room and collapsing on the sofa, he noticed a memo on the side table.

"I'm going to be late at a meeting. Heat up your dinner in the microwave...."

Nakajima crumpled up the note without reading it to the end. "If you're just going to write the same old excuse, you might as well just photocopy the thing..."

After Nakajima's father was transferred to the branch office in Los Angeles, his mother had become more and more involved in her job as a designer. Sometimes she wouldn't get home until the middle of the night. Picturing his mother's face, Nakajima's smoldering anger suddenly flared up. The telephone rang; it was probably for his mother. Glaring at the ringing phone, Nakajima opened the door to his room.

Lacking even single poster or decoration, Nakajima's room was quite dreary. The walls were filled with large steel bookshelves that stretched to the ceiling, the sole exception the wall with the window. The bookshelves had anime magazines and manga, as expected in a Japanese high school student's room, but one corner seemed starkly out of place. That shelf was filled with books on magic and sorcery with titles like "The Book of the Dead" and "Pnakotic Manuscripts." A fully decked-out computer sat on top of his steel desk, and sitting next to it was a general-purpose book on magic called "The New Golden Dawn Theory." From the look of wear on the leather cover, it was clear the book had seen a lot of use.

Nakajima pulled his chair out from the desk and sat down in front of the display. He flipped the switch on the side of his speakers; the vocals of David Coverdale filled the room. Nakajima's fingers started flying over the keyboard.

> LIST

The command entered, a very long program scrolled down the screen. Following the program list with sharp eyes, Nakajima tapped the keys in a flowing rhythm.

Nakajima first became interested in magic when he had the opportunity to read "The New Golden Dawn Theory." The book was poorly written, the interpretation clumsy and unskillful, but Nakajima read through the whole thing anyway. The world of magic held an appeal that hid a dark and sinister side, yet it also showed a rational and scientific realism as well. While re-reading passages that seemed unusual to him two or three times over, Nakajima had a sudden realization that was almost like an epiphany.

Magical theory and computer theory were surprisingly similar.

At first glance, the two worlds did not seem to have any connection to each other. However, the similarities between them had been noted by both magic and information technology researchers long before Nakajima’s revelation. Professor Charles Feed of MIT, a school famous for its study of artificial intelligence, was one of those researchers. Nakajima had immediately become a member of his group, the International Satanist Garden. For the past few months, he had been immersed in writing a program to summon demons, an idea he had thought up himself.

It was almost complete.

Nakajima had already finished the core part of the program. All he had to do now was add a few subroutines and it would be finished. Until today, Nakajima had had reservations about completing his project. If his theory was correct, the program would definitely call a demon into the world. Up until today, Nakajima couldn't think of any particular reason to summon a demon. He hadn’t even known what he’d make it do, but the events of the day had given him a clear, simple goal.

"I feel a little sorry for you, but you're going to be the subject of a little experiment."

Nakajima started creating his final subroutines. "Use data addresses 3780-3990 for 'Toad's Legs.' Put this in the buffer, and before displaying the result, chant the spell. Yod, Dur, Dawr, Set. Wonder what this spell means?"

Picking up the modem receiver, Nakajima dialed Arkham in Massachusetts to connect with ISG's host computer. As the connection picked up, his computer's display filled with the image of the demon Lucifer. He called up the ISG AI Craft, and explaining the situation, he asked about the spell. Nakajima's English was not particularly good, so several times the only thing that appeared on-screen was question marks.

UNDERSTOOD.

Finally, Craft appeared to have gotten it; Nakajima asked the AI what the spell meant.

HIGHLY LIKELY TO BE A COUNTER.

Craft's response indicated that the spell was probably just a time counter.

> THANK YOU, CRAFT.

Nakajima cut the connection to ISG and set himself to the task of writing the subroutine once again. Two hours later, there was a knock on his door.

"Come on in." A hint of irritation in his voice, Nakajima responded to the knock without taking his eyes off the program list on-screen.

"Did you eat dinner?"

"...."

Nakajima didn't respond and continued typing on the keyboard.

"Oh, what happened to your lip?" Nakajima's mother bent down from behind him to take a good look at his face.

"I ran into the goalpost playing soccer."

Nakajima stopped typing and looked back at his mother. Nakajima bore a strong resemblance to his mother, a beautiful woman with a slender face. When they were together, they were frequently mistaken for siblings. When it came to her son's education, she was very conservative; she wanted him to get into Keio University's medical school. Of course, there were too many blemishes on his academic record for that to ever happen.

"Shouldn't you put some medicine on it?"

"It's OK, mom. It's not serious."

Irritated at his programming being interrupted, Nakajima absentmindedly tapped keys at random on the keyboard.

BEEP.

The computer made a harsh tone, and an error message appeared on-screen. As if realizing that her son wasn't going to pay her any mind, Nakajima's mother left the room.

3AM.

"All right, it's done!"

Nakajima slapped his thighs with his hands and stood up from his chair.

> RUN

The disk drive started whining, and bizarre letters blinked on and off the screen. But in less than five minutes, the screen displayed an error message and stopped.

> OUT OF MEMORY

If there wasn't enough memory for the program, it was either because the program itself was too long, or because it dealt with more variables than the machine could handle.

"No big deal. One little computer isn't enough to run a program like this anyway. If I use the school's host computer, it should have more than enough memory."

Nakajima's eyes glittered with anticipation.

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