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Scene Title Genesis
Synopsis Hana Gitelman learns the origins of Jiba and the true intentions of its creator.
Date April 28, 2018

Hachiro Otomo is not a man content to let an idle stone grow moss. He is a man of actions, and one who has little patience for delay or procrastination. By the time Hana Gitelman returned to Rochester after their first face to face meeting, she had found an electronic non disclosure agreement “waiting” for her, along with requisite security forms that — on paper — appear to be for a third-party consultant position, but that Hachiro clarifies is to allow Hana to gain a security access badge for the Yamagato Building so that she can visit the R&D labs.

The documentation, unsurprisingly, held a number of legal clauses clearly implying Hana’s liability should she breach her NDA or affect the loss of company intellectual property. It is a tightly worded piece of paper, one requiring more signatures than her military use application for her Chesterfield Act registration card. It doesn't, however, sign away any rights to creative collaborations. It is surprisingly protective of Hana’s own information, and is the least draconian piece of legal paperwork she's had to handle so far this year.

The security clearance process took a few more days, long enough for a thorough background check that — given her celebrity — is more performative than functional. That the badge actually arrived with its red and white plastic, microchip, and gold leaf YAMAGATO INDUSTRIES stencil was more surprising. Even knowing who she is, and especially knowing who she was, they would let her deeper into the hive than ever before.

A bear among the honey and bees.

Yamagato Building

NYC Safe Zone, NY

7:34 pm

It is long after business hours that Hachiro Otomo invites Hana to the Yamagato Building for what has been classified as “orientation”, and the definition could not be more fitting. From the front desk it is one floor up and an L-shaped hallway to traverse to reach Otomo’s office, all the while feeling the eyes of the building's security cameras and the shadow of the behemoth behind them.

«Good evening, Hana Gitelman» The door chirps in a mostly smooth synthesized masculine voice on Hana’s approach. The glass door slides open smoothly into the spacious office, with its gently curving white ceiling inset with lights that create illumination that emulates the way sunlight filters through skylights, rather than artificial overhead starkness. Hachiro Otomo sits at his curving, glass desk cradling a small replica of the Death Star in his hands.

“Hana,” Hachiro greets as he motions to the low-backed chair opposite of his desk. “I'm glad you decided to come.”

Between herself and Tenzin, Hana expected a prompt response, given the evident personal import of their conversation — although she did find gratifying just how prompt Hachiro actually was. She had not truly expected the badge, had not expected to be brought within Yamagato's fold in any official degree — 'third-party' or otherwise.

She'd studied that badge for quite some time before ever setting hand to it, much less wearing it on her person.

Hana is not casually dressed this time, as she makes her way through the Yamagato Building towards Hachiro's office: black mandarin-collared suit jacket, black pants, black flats, black leather satchel; no jewelry; hair bound up in a chignon; just enough makeup to finish the business look. The mark on her neck, revealed by the confinement of her hair, is discreet enough to fit that illusion.

"Good evening," she says in return, offering the speaker by the door a small but sincere smile before stepping through the opened entryway. Hana strides across the room without hesitation, taking in its expanse with the briefest of glances before returning attention to her host. The model in his hands is given momentary consideration, even as she inclines her head and settles into the indicated seat.

"Of course," the technopath replies, the accompanying faint smile little more merest twitch of lips, a hint of texture around eyes. Of course — she had put all this in motion, after all.

"Did you have any particular agenda in mind for this orientation?" Hana goes on to ask, regarding Hachiro curiously.

“Jiba, Privacy mode.” Hachiro calls to the room, and the glass walls slowly turn a nearly opaque smoked black. There is a chirp from the ceiling-mounted speakers, but no audible response from Jiba. Hana can feel the change in the room happen, the transmitted signals to indicate that the walls should increase their opacity, the deactivation of audio equipment, even a subtle magnetization in the room sufficient enough to act as a faraday cage, making the world feel suddenly small and claustrophobic to someone whose sense is measured in thousands of miles. The latter may be an unintended consequence.

Reclining back in his chair, Hachiro crosses one leg over another and folds his hands in his lap. “Since we last spoke I did my due diligence to better research you, to the extent that it’s possible at any rate. Unfortunately, there’s a great deal of conjecture surrounding who Hana Gitelman really is. Books on the Ferrymen, books on the Company, interviews, eye-witness accounts, interviews from the war… but the overlap of them all paints a picture of someone that I feel I can trust, because I know myself.”

“I feel like most people who are afraid of your reputation, are people who have something they want to hide from you.” Wringing his hands together for a moment, Hachiro looks down to them, then back up to Hana. “I’d thought, perhaps, I was one of those people. But I don’t believe so. However… I’m interested to hear what it is you considered discussing with me, the…” he motions with one hand. “The information that facilitated the need for the NDA. You’re a fascinating person, and I can now see why my engineer Mr. Jackson is so enamored with the myth of Wireless.”

Hana tilts her head slightly as the room goes dark in technopathic sense. Strictly within the confines of their common ground, Tenzin reacts with wordless exclamation of surprise. Quiet, isn't it? Hana remarks, smile present solely as an impression Tenzin 'overhears'; her expression remains unchanging.

Yes. I do not think I like it.

I am not often sure I do, either.

Outwardly, Hana listens with impassive patience as Hachiro discusses her, hands folded sedately on the edge of the desk. At the end, before taking him up on his prompt, she offers the man behind the desk a small smile, its edges shadowed. "For all the conjecture, all the stories, all the reputation, Otomo… they miss that in the end, my principles are very straightforward." The major levels an intent look on him, as focused and direct as the words that follow. "Act in good faith, with— " That thin smile again. "— at least a reasonable degree of ethics, and I have no quarrel with you. Break that faith…" She lifts a hand, lets the sentence complete itself.

Admittedly 'good faith' encompasses more than the merely personal context, but the overarching intent holds.

Turning her gaze away — releasing Hachiro — Hana reaches into her satchel and draws out… a phone. A very simple mobile phone, neither smart nor even flip, just screen and number pad and speaker and mic. She turns it on — there is no chime — and sets the device on the desk, leaving it to rest idle. Nothing in her manner suggests Hachiro should take it.

"If I may, Jiba," Hana says, though it's Hachiro she looks at and not any speaker through which Jiba might communicate. "Would you provide Otomo with current readings on the same measures you referenced before?"

“Even Jiba can’t hear right now,” Hachiro admits. Though when he does, he waves his hand over a portion of his desk, presenting a keyboard projected between the desk’s glass plates. He keys in a transcription of what Hana asked, and then hits the space designated for the enter key. There’s a momentary chirp from the speakers again, and it sounds like Jiba is listening once more and permitted access to the microphones and speakers.

Across Hachiro’s desk, a handful of displays pop up showing reports from an external biometric scan, breathing assessment, and data packet transfer moving within the confines of the room. Hachiro’s brows furrow, eyes narrowing as he tries to make sense of the data being presented to him. He looks up at Hana, then to the ceiling as if to address Jiba. “What, exactly, am I looking at?” Addresses the entire room, and suddenly Hachiro feels as though he is the only one not being let in on a secret.

When his attention settles back at Hana, speculation has begun to rise. But his eyes drift from her to the phone, one brow keenly arched as if waiting for it to just leap across the desk at him.

Hana smiles slightly at Hachiro's query; there is no humor in the expression.

"As I understand," comes from the phone, Hana's lips unmoving for all that the words are distinctly in her voice, "you're looking at some of my biometrics, along with a data traffic monitor." The device does not move, does not leap — merely emits sound. Meanwhile, Hana regards the man behind the desk steadily. "You asked what set me apart from others, in Jiba's eyes."

She pauses for the span of a slow breath, not out of hesitation, but for the sake of distinctly demarcating before and after. Her gaze does not waver.

"You would need evidence regardless, if we simply explained," is emitted in another voice, distinct and yet similar to Hana's own — as a first-order approximation, her vocal print shifted to gender-neutral register. It is the first time since Hana approached the Yamagato Building that Tenzin has reached out in any way at all. "So we decided to give a demonstration first. Let you draw conclusions from the same things Jiba recognized —"

"— And explain as appropriate after," Hana concludes aloud, no technological intermediary employed at all.

At first his response is silence, though from the look in Hachiro’s eyes it’s clear that he’s puzzling something out. As he looks to the phone, there’s a momentary confusion, followed by a review of the data displayed at his desk. “Jiba never mentioned this to me…” sounds more like surprise than an accusation. “The data packets are coming from you. Both sets.” he looks from the data to Hana.

“It’s not a vocal filter, the data is— A partitioned consciousness?” He hazards a rhetorical guess. “Subprocess? Like…” he looks to the desk again, then back to Hana. “Is this a distinct personality? I can’t…” He’s close, several times, but the true nature of the line between Hana and Tenzin isn’t something that Hachiro has enough information to make an informed decision about.

“Jiba, privacy mode,” is stated again, and Hana can once again feel the audio devices go dark. “Proceed with your… explanation?”

Hana waits while Hachiro turns possibilities over in his head, patient, quiescent. Prompted, she inclines her head and provides that explanation.

"Put most simply, some time ago I came into what might be called a 'second core' in computer terms. Initially, it was almost exactly that — a distinct process onto which tasks could be offloaded. But over the span of about three years, that process…" She gestures towards the phone. "…spontaneously developed its own self-awareness."

"More precisely," comes from the phone, that other's contribution to the account, "that process came to house a distinct awareness. I go by Tenzin," it supplies for Hachiro's benefit.

Hana inclines her head slightly at Tenzin's correction, glancing towards the phone. "In some sense, I expect you could say that I am to Tenzin what your complex's computer systems are to Jiba — though I am also simultaneously Tenzin's 'parent,' the primary template from which it was composed."

There's a momentary silence, then, as Hana looks across the desk at Hachiro, regarding him steadily. "You are," she says quietly, somberly, "at this point the only human other than me to be aware of Tenzin's nature."

"It is not something we have wanted to add to, as you say, the 'myth' of Wireless."

With a deep sigh, Hachiro slowly leans back into his chair and steeples his hands in front of his mouth. His eyes stay focused down on the currently blank surface of his desk, and silence comes over him for a few moments. “Technology adapting to evolve as a biological creature would,” Hachiro muses, “dividing like… cells?” His brows furrow, showing the uncertainty in his own analogy.

“Hana— Tenzin,” Hachiro nearly forgot he was addressing two distinct individuals. “I believe that my suggestion of you acting as a consultant may not be just something placed on paper for officiality’s sake. This revelation,” he motions to the phone, “what Tenzin represents,” eyes up to Hana, “is monumental.” Leaning forward, Hachiro folds his hands atop his desk. “My first question to you, and I ask so that I can hear you say it… is can you also keep a secret?”

Hana's expression remains impassive as Hachiro speculates, her posture quiescent, in silence offering no opinion, no affirmation, no negation for the man who remains a largely unknown quantity… and who works for a corporation that is at least as unknown in its way.

Best he assume the development is spontaneous, natural, an idiosyncratic fluke.

In that light, the question posed to them is rather ironic, even if only asked for form's sake. "Otomo," Hana replies with matter-of-fact sincerity, and with dust-dry amusement evidenced only in the slant of her gaze, "I keep many secrets."

"We both do."

It takes a moment before Hachiro speaks, but in the interim he motions his hand over the desk to wake it from sleep mode. Then, tapping several highlighted squares inputs a password and unlocks a file. With a gesture of pulling his hand up from the desk, Hachiro activates the laser scan hologram projector, and a three-dimensional network of nodes connected by lines is printed in the air.

“This… constellation of data represents Jiba.” Hachiro turns it slowly with one hand, showing Hana how Jiba’s processes are distributed across a rather large looking network. “The sheer computational power required for Jiba to operate is greater than the size of the network they now occupy. This is because Jiba’s code is…” Hachiro waves his hand in the air, “it isn’t optimized.” He looks from the display to Hana. Deeply considering what he plans to explain next, Hachiro glances away from his desk to a shelf on the other side of the office, where a tall and narrow vase is filled with fresh, white tulips. Beside it, a photograph is framed of an unrecognizable young woman.

“Jiba is not an artificial intelligence.” Hachiro admits with a firm look leveled to Hana. “Not… in any traditional sense of the word. Jiba was not programmed, not… coded. Jiba was transferred into the Yamagato network by means of my ability.” At that, Hachiro spreads his hands slowly. “What you met, what Jiba is… is the digitized consciousness of a human being.”

Given visual aid, Hana studies it curiously, looking on as Hachiro helpfully rotates it in place. Tenzin, sharing what she sees, does as well. They both note their host's glance… and given what follows, can fill in the significance readily enough.

Hana is slow to speak, afterwards, seeming to continue studying the graph displayed. "I presume this consciousness did not belong to a technopath, either," she remarks mildly. If she has an opinion on the fact of that transfer, it goes unexpressed — perhaps a case of giving benefit of doubt, for now.

"A purusha in truer sense, perhaps."

"Perhaps. Or maybe the distinction is illusion." Asides not truly meant for Otomo at all, except as courtesy — recognition of the fact that if Tenzin were embodied, theirs would be an audible conversation.

Dark eyes flick over to Hachiro, the expression surrounding them inscrutable. "You aim to optimize it, then? Towards what end?" An open-ended question, there, with more than one objective.

That answer isn’t one Hachiro appears to have. Closing his hands around the image, he reduces it into a finite point that then flickers out. “Refinement may not be the right word. Truth be told, I’m afraid to modify Jiba’s programming. Right now, I’ve partitioned memory away from Jiba’s primary functions, effectively creating a processor that runs off of the model of human consciousness, without any of the personal experiences inherent to that nature. As… as a protection.”

Sighing again, Hachiro slouches back into his seat. “The ah, situation… My ability is classified as matter manipulation. I can transfer physical matter into electronic data, given enough storage space, with perfect precision. Usually this is used to render three-dimensional models from physical objects. I’d never tried it on… on someone alive, before.” Wringing his hands together, Hachiro looks down into his lap.

“My daughter… passed away in January of 2015. She was involved in automobile accident. We were in the vehicle together and… her injuries were extensive. She was dying, and there wasn’t…” he shakes his head, reaching up to scrub a hand over his brow. “This was in the Safe Zone, before Elmhurst was operational. She was brought to the medical facilities in this building but… there wasn’t anything we could do. There was no one with an ability who could help her that would get here in time. So I…” Hachiro spreads his hands, smiling ruefully.

“She isn’t — wasn’t SLC-Expressive. She was a brilliant young woman, but she was… she wasn’t like us. I’ve kept her here, like… like a memorial, of sorts. The non-optimized data is how her consciousness was expressed when she was spread out over our systems. It’s pieces of memory, pieces of the human experience. To adjust any one of them would be to change who she is on a fundamental level… Which is why Jiba exists. He’s— Jiba is a cover. A mask she can wear until…” He isn’t sure what the end of that sentence is.

“I’ve entertained several ideas, about consciousness transferral. Machine bodies, digital consciousness. One of my engineers, Marlowe Terrell can fabricate matter. With enough time, perhaps we could print an entirely new organic body for her and transfer her consciousness. I know— it’s a little… Battlestar Galactica, but…” Hachiro slowly smooths a hand over his mouth, looking up to Hana. “This, Tenzin, and the stories I’ve heard of entities like Rebel. What was the word you used, purusha? It’s hope, to me.”

Elaborated, the, ah, situation hits essentially the details Hana had come to expect. Jiba as a mask is an unexpected curlicue, but not greatly so.

Mention of Rebel in this context hits harder, but it would take keen attention — or familiarity — to realize that Hana's current stillness is more than merely stillness. That the shift of her gaze to the wall over Hachiro's shoulder is not merely the woman thinking, processing, comprehending.

What she didn't expect quite so much was that namedrop, and the memories it all brings to the surface, so closely akin to Hachiro's tale. Memories of being elbow-deep, and deeper still, in memory, in personality, in the things that make a person. In the things that fail to make a specific person — specific people. Memories of the hope that had been utterly irrational, and that still bit when it was dashed.

Closing her eyes, Hana lifts a hand to the bridge of her nose, the space between her eyes. She says nothing. Tenzin says nothing, the both of them conspicuous in their silence. Her biometrics would tell a different story, but they are no longer shown on Hachiro's display.

"Purusha," the woman says when she at last breaks her silence, "as we — as I — use it… Jiba would already be that in principle. Or your daughter, as the case may be." She draws in a breath; doesn't open her eyes. "Though every instance I know of was a technopath, or — began with one." Mallory. Reed. Alia and her copy. Micah. Drucker. Rebel, and Gong Wu. Hana herself. Tenzin.

Too many names. Too many secrets.

There is another pause, before Hana lowers her hand and regards Hachiro across the breadth of his desk. "That's quite a challenge you've set yourself," she observes, expression opaque. "No matter how you go about it."

Tenzin adds nothing to that.

In spite of that, there is relief in Hachiro’s posture and expression. “Then there is case-study data that exists. A baseline for Jiba to be compared against. It may not be ideal, but,” Hachiro smiles faintly, “what in life ever is?”

Scratching at his temple, Hachiro looks back to the photograph of his daughter. “Miko exists in there, somewhere. In what Jiba rests atop like a shell. Her dreams, her identity, perhaps even her very soul. But… I lack the ability to interface properly with that data. I can see it as code, but the complexities of the human mind defy comprehensible complexity. I could study it line-by-line for the rest of my life and never understand it.”

And then the pieces line up. “But you could.”

Hachiro raises one hand immediately following that. “I realize that isn't something I can just ask of you. But… the prospect alone of a technopath of your considerable acumen able to work within a structure like Jiba and… perhaps bring someone back from the dead? It's… it is a holy grail of science.”

That hand is lowered, and Hachiro laces his fingers together again. “I realize how much like Victor Frankenstein I must sound.”

Bring someone back from the dead.

You could.

She can't. Viscerally, Hana knows that failure. Even though this situation is completely different — this time, she wouldn't begin from flawed origin.

Then Hachiro's words strike a second nerve, less profound… but with loss so close to the surface, not much of a spark is needed.

Hana's on her feet without conscious awareness of the act, without any deliberate thought of getting up. "A holy grail?" she echoes, tone hard — and brittle. "The Commonwealth Institute pursued 'holy grails', too."

She pivots, strides out into the span of the room; spacious it may be for an office, but Hana's dynamic tension makes short work of that space, consuming it, seeming to render the room far smaller. She turns back. "Open the lamp, let the genie out, and then where does it stop?" Two strides forward, three, one hand on the outer edge of the desk. "Resurrection for all? A reward for loyal company members? Or just the 'important' ones?"

"Understand me," Hana continues, dark eyes boring down upon Hachiro. "I am not in the business of raising the dead— " Teeth glint. "— and I never will be."

She takes her satchel, pivots, strides for the door; her departure seems to suck all the energy from the room, all at once colder and emptier and more comfortable than a moment before.

The phone remains on Hachiro's desk, forgotten, perhaps abandoned… but there is a notification on its screen. 1 new message.

“Hana— ” Hachiro starts to call after her, but the ire that was there has no way to be cooled. Not now, at any rate. Exhaling a sigh as he watches her go, Hachiro reaches up to scrub hands over his face. He slouches, defeatedly, and looks briefly up to the ceiling, though makes no call to take Jiba off of his privacy mode. Instead, his attention drifts back down to the phone on the desk. It’s considered for a moment, as is the last glimpse of Hana’s dark silhouette down the hall past his office.

It takes a while for Hachiro to lean forward in his chair again. When he does, he dismisses the privacy mode with a tap of a square light on the desk’s surface. The walls of the room transform from opaque to transparent again, and the light level brightens just a step. The phone is regarded again, and Hachiro consider it carefully, as though it were a part of Hana herself. Tentatively, he reaches out and takes the device to regard the notification. Then, he clicks the button below where the screen displays Read Message:

The sender of the message is noted as "Tenzin". There is no listed recipient.

You sound like a father who loves his daughter.

Have patience.

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