Monday, December 13, 2010

Quickening – Chapter 4

A whiteboard covered in complicated mathematical formulae and surrounded by many computers and electronic instruments dominated a room in the brand new National Electric Research Laboratories building (otherwise known as Electric Labs) behind Shinjuku Park in Tokyo. A crimson thaumaturgic circle painted on the ground around a desk with a terminal stood out conspicuously. This was the Demon Banishment Project Room, constructed for Professor Feed via direct request to the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Of course, there was no way they could officially name the project "Demon Banishment:" a placard attached to the door read "New AI Project Room."

A week earlier, late at night, Feed visited Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujita along with Narukawa and the fully-recovered Nakajima. Skirting around Nakajima's culpability in the incident, Feed had explained the situation to the Secretary--how Nakajima fought with a demon summoned by a computer, and how the incident posed a potential danger for the future.

Fujita's response had been less than accommodating.

"Even coming from a brilliant MIT scientist as yourself, I can't possibly be expected to believe in demons." Behind his glasses, Fujita's eyes displayed surprise and confusion.

"Well, at the very least, there are plenty of people in the US government that believe in that possibility," Feed shrugged.

"We're low on help already, and I've already appointed our most elite investigator to help you..." Fujita said disdainfully, barely concealing his irritation.

Narukawa, who had remained silent listening to the conversation, suddenly spoke.

"Nakajima-kun, could you show us Kerberos?"

"Of course."

Nakajima pulled out his handheld computer. With deft movements, his fingers flew across the keyboard. Fujita's foot, tapping impatiently, instantly stopped as a strange mist started billowing forth from the liquid crystal display. The mist Rapidly condensed into the outline of an otherworldly beast. As a gut-wrenching roar shook the office, Fujita found himself staring into two flame-like eyes.

"What is...!?"

"This is a demon, Secretary Fujita. This demon is an obedient one, fiercely loyal to his master, Nakajima."

Shaken by Kerberos' roar, Fujita waved his hand frantically to indicate his comprehension.

The first job of the Demon Banishment Project was to recreate the Demon Summoning Program that had been deleted off of Jusho High's host computer. That was easy for Nakajima. Several days later, as Nakajima was going through the nearly complete program line-by-line to check it, Feed called out from behind him.

"How is it compared to the old version?"

"Part of the machine-language subroutines might be different, but for the most part, it should be the same." Nakajima's voice was slightly downcast. It might have been that he no longer wanted any more association with demons.

"Want to give it a shot?" Feed spoke casually as he stepped into the red thaumaturgic circle that had been drawn on the ground with mercuric sulfide-based paint.

"OK."

The computer started up; a musky odor started to fill the room. A low rumbling filled the brand new building; cracks shot up the white walls.

"If a demon appears, I'll take care of it." In his right hand, Feed gripped an ornate cross. Realizing the man's sincerity, Nakajima cast a genuinely friendly smile in his direction for the first time. But the rumbling started to die down, and the musky smell started to thin.

"Is there some sort of mistake in the program?" Nakajima looked at Feed as if searching for an answer.

"I don't think so. From what I've just seen, there's no mistake that a magnetic field suitable for summoning a demon was set up. It may be that the reason no demon appeared was that it might have arrived in the Assiah world via a different magnetic field."

"There’re still some details about the mechanism for demon summoning that I don't really understand yet."

"Unusual words, coming from the genius that was the first to successfully summon a demon via a computer." Feed grinned broadly, but his expression soon turned grave as he looked directly at Nakajima.

"The last demon to appear called himself Set, correct?"

"Yes, that's right."

"While it's too dangerous to try and conjecture the state of affairs in the demon world based on our own knowledge of this one, my theory is that the demon world is like a colloidal conglomeration of countless mini-universes, each centered around a powerful demon. Most likely, with Loki's death, the mini-universe in contact with Japan or Tokyo vanished, and Set's mini-universe entered to take its place. Demon summoning is just opening a contact point between the two worlds at the same time."

"So what would happen if two contact points were opened at the same time?"

"The demon would decide where it wanted to appear. However, there are some examples in medieval records of demon summonings that report that when the difference in strength of the two magnetic fields was great enough, the demon would be pulled to the stronger field, regardless of which it wanted to go to..."

A knock on the door interrupted Feed's explanation. Carrying a stack of thick books, Narukawa closed the door behind him as he approached the two.

"There are about 6,000 computers in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area capable of summoning a demon. Using large numbers of investigators, this is the number of locations that can be searched out in detail within a month."

Since the project officially started, Narukawa had been investigating places with mid-size or larger computers installed with an eye out for hardware that would be capable of summoning demons while continuing to try and track down Ohar,.

"I see. Have you made any headway on finding Ohara?"

"Unfortunately, no. However, there is something I'd like to ask you..." Narukawa looked at Feed.

"What is it?"

"Professor, do you know a man named Isma Feed?"

The instant the professor heard the name, Nakajima noticed his expression cloud up.

"Where did you hear that name?"

"We've received a communiqué from the FBI that Isma Feed has snuck into Japan."

"This is bad. As you know, in the incarnation of a serpent, Set was powerful enough to take on and fight all the Egyptian gods to a standstill single-handedly. If Isma were to join forces with one such as him..."

Without explaining just who Isma was, Feed turned to the window and gazed outside with unfocused eyes.


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