The Nakamura Code, Part II


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Scene Title The Nakamura Code, Part II
Synopsis Richard and Elliot bring Silas a possible alternate means of cracking Kaito Nakamura's cipher.
Date June 21, 2021

Elliot is trying to avoid the pitfalls of overpreparation. He knows next to nothing about this code other than that it’s in Japanese, and that it was apparently written by Company founder Kaito Nakamura. He already has a few possibilities for help with sharing the burden of the task of deciphering it, and plans to ask a few more members of the team. He has no idea how many people he can sustain long enough to perform this stunt, with his current record being five co-hosts.

One such possibility is the man they’ve come here to meet, Second Star’s captain Silas; a man Elliot is told he can trust regardless of the fact that he’s still kind of afraid of him.

Second Star

The Flooded Timeline

June 21, 2021

“I’m not saying I’m going to reflexively stab him if he calls me Watery Mac and Cheese,” he says as they approach Second Star’s berth, “but just in case he does you should know I do my stabbing with my right arm.” He works his arm like he’s warming up for a pitch to demonstrate.

“Why would he call you that?” Richard gives the other man a bemused look, one eyebrow lifting upwards over his shades, ”Do I even want to know what that’s a reference to? Is it a bad dinner serving or slang for a Bangkok-specific sex move?”

They draw closer, and he calls out, “Ho, the ship! Silas!”

The battered old smoker is still on deck, but no smoke issues from it this time. There are no other signs of life visible onboard until Richard's hail… then, a few moments later, Silas emerges from belowdecks.

"Ahoy!" Silas calls back as he spots Richard. He's dressed in black shirt and pants, the stylized fish hook charm hanging visible on the front of his shirt. He frowns as he spots his visitors… then waves them forward. "Come aboard!" he calls.

“It’s a badly timed joke that made me fear for my life,” Elliot says quietly, laughing off the concern as unserious. All the same, he gestures for Richard to board first. “Maybe he doesn’t even remember!”

“Ah, Silas is fine. I mean, this one is, the one from our world’d gut you for a quarter,” Richard replies with a chuckle, despite being completely serious, “Liz put a lot of trust in him and I respect that more than anything else– ahoy!”

He walks up the plank, pushing back the hood of his poncho and flashing a smile, “All well?”

Silas snorts at that. "Well as can be expected. Sky's falling," he says — it's not inappropriate given the perpetually stormy weather of late, but he seems to lower his voice just a bit on that even so. His gaze slips over to Richard's companion, considering for a moment… then he looks back to Richard. "If you're here for more barbecue, I've got a little — been experimenting with some of the honey Nova brought — but either way, let's get belowdecks. It's dry there."

Gesturing for them to follow, he turns, heading back below.

“Honey?” Elliot asks. “And here I entered into indentured servitude for a mere palmful of salmon. I can’t imagine what honey costs in the captain’s estimation.”

“This is a man who takes his barbecue very, very seriously,” Richard informs Elliot in grave tones, though there’s a smile lingering there, before stepping after the other man, “And you know I’d never turn down some of your food, Silas.”

"Gotta take something seriously, and barbecue is as good as any," Silas calls back, faint good humor audible in his voice as he leads the way down the dimly lit hallway to the mess. "And I like to keep busy when I've got things on my mind. Which is basically always. Have a seat, and I'll get the food heated," he says, gesturing to a battered and scarred table surrounded by mismatched and equally battered chairs.

Elliot looks around the space curiously. “What kind of wood do you find for that smoker?” he asks Silas. “I’m generally a sauté guy, though I venture into baking and grilling. Been considering building a brick oven in the back yard, assuming I get back at some point.” He settles into one of the offered chairs, hands in the pockets of his hoodie.

“The one problem with being an executive is that people look at me judgingly when I order Chinese take-out to the office now,” quips Richard as he walks down, heading for the table and dropping himself into a chair, sprawling out in it.

"Ah, a foodie, huh," Silas grunts. "Makes sense, I guess." He rummages around a bit, pulling out some mismatched and chipped plates and utensils. "In the Safe Zone… you all had a lot more variety. Even with the food shortage. Pizza. Pierogis." He glances over to Richard with a rueful grin. "Chinese."

"There's a lot more making do here — as I'm sure you've noticed — and yeah, there's a lot of salmon and sometimes Easy Mac," he says, giving Elliot a flat look for a moment. "But we do our best with what we've got. And barbecue has been a side gig of mine for awhile. I dip into frying now and again, too," he says, looking to Elliot with a momentary smirk. "I was going to start a restaurant, over in your world… had a boat. I was going into business with someone, but…" he trails off, shaking his head.

Asi's mouth flattens, and she looks away from the distant point she'd been fixated on. It's a bittersweet memory for her, too.

"It didn't work out," Silas says flatly, fishing a trio of well cooked birds covered in reddish brown sauce from the icebox, setting them on the stovetop to warm. "Anyway. To answer your question," Silas says, looking to Elliot, "mostly oak. Some maple, a little cherry. I know a few places around that aren't blighted to shit. Or at least, that haven't killed me or anyone else yet eatin' from 'em."

Now his gaze turns back to Richard. "But I assume you're not here to swap recipes or talk about the finer points of the Pelago's culinary arts." He takes a seat at the table. "We got a bit before the food's warm. What brings you here aside from the talents of an old sea cook?"

Elliot looks to Richard before returning his attention to Silas. “With any luck,” he says, “I’m your codebreaker.” He leaves it at that for now. Admitting to a stranger what he’s capable of is difficult. This man has Asi’s trust, and as such he’ll be forwarded Elliot’s as well.

“I think someone’s still upkeeping the place,” Richard offers in reference to the restaurant, “If that helps at all. Pretty sure it’s open, actually, or maybe about to open?”

A vague motion of his hand towards Elliot, “As he said. We’re here for– well, to crack that code of yours.”

Silas doesn't respond immediately, frowning as he thinks. "Yeah?" he asks, as much to fill the silence as anything else. "That's good," he decides. "Probably 'Jason'." There's another pause, then nods. "Well. Good for him; glad someone's making use of it." Even if it's not me, Silas thinks, with a dull pain that he quickly brushes aside.

Then his attention shifts to Elliot, his scrutiny intensifying a bit. "So you're the codebreaker, then… alright. What's your plan? How are you gonna do this?"

Elliot tries to prepare himself to say outloud what he’s been reticent to do since their arrival. It’s hard to trust, especially when one is so untrustworthy to begin with. He focuses on Asi’s trust, and solidifies his resolve on that foundation.

“By linking volunteers together in a telepathic network and borrowing as much cognition as possible in order to operate like a supercomputer for a short period of time,” he says. Straight to the point. “I have experience with ciphers, which makes the task simpler.”

Richard waves a hand vaguely at Elliot. “That.”

Silas regards Elliot with scrutiny for a long moment at that, considering. "A supercomputer, huh? That's… a neat trick," he finally says.

For a moment, Silas is silent, mulling things over. "Don't know if it makes a difference or not, but it's in Japanese." He gives a slight shrug. "Or appears to be, anyway. Hard telling. Though I guess if you're able to borrow enough brains, wouldn't matter if it was in hieroglyphs; just one more level of obfuscation." Silas frowns, looking thoughtful. "If you've got someone linked in who knows Japanese, could you just… run it through them?"

"If they were networked, I could borrow their knowledge of Japanese," Elliot says. "Thankfully your friend Asi has already agreed to assist in that regard." Asi, home Asi, would rather be left anonymous in dealings with Silas, which Elliot will respect. Thankfully the local Asi covers that base for them.

"Any data-based skill can be shared. Language, quantum physics PhD, recipes. It takes a little more effort than the person you're borrowing it from would require, but basically anything that isn't muscle memory can be shared with any other network host. You can also share sensory information, which is like being a passenger in somebody else's body without being able to affect anything, but I'll be keeping most of the fun features limited so the event doesn't spiral out of control," he adds. "Absolute worst case scenario, if I can't manage it, I can get it to somebody else who can feed it through an actual computer, there's just a higher chance of outside eyes getting a look at it.'

“Hm.” Richard - who hadn’t heard the full details of the other man’s ability in those terms - muses aloud, “Kind of like what we’re hoping to accomplish with the SEER systems eventually, just without the tech needed.” He pauses, “Can you network ability usage at all?”

Silas keeps an even expression throughout this exchange. Elliot's ability is impressive, though also a bit troubling… and Richard's apparent ambitions dive into the deep end of that particular mess of troubled waters.

Even before that, though, there's something Elliot said that merits response. "Asi agreed to that?" Silas asks, raising an eyebrow.

"She did," Elliot tells Silas with a chuckle that doesn't hide his own surprise. "Even though I all but sabotaged any hopes of it during our first meeting. I had to spend about a week working for the ingredients of an apology breakfast, but ultimately it was worth it."

Turning back to Richard, Elliot bobbles his hand. "Abilities don't share the way you're probably thinking," he explains. "I can experience the ability use of another host, but no host can use a co-host's ability themself. So if you could see in the dark and I streamed your senses, I would see in the dark through your eyes while remaining blind myself.

"There's also a related downside," he adds. "Some telepathic abilities can backfeed through the network, so if somebody targeted me with a mental compulsion, Wright might act it out too. It's not always, and it's mitigated by other factors, but it's something to keep in mind. What exactly do you hope to accomplish through SEER?" The last question is a worrying afterthought, as the idea of mix and match ability use is ethically troubled.

"You're not going to like the answer," Asi warns in a murmur, like otherwise she might be overheard by the others. "The mental-physical interface of the machine, if better developed… well." She pauses, sure Richard will answer, too.

“One of the potential uses of the technology - that we know is possible - is tandem operation of mental abilities,” explains Richard with a shrug of one shoulder, hand waving vaguely as if to show a machine that isn’t present off, “Like– if just as an example, a probability analyst or hyperintellect and a precognitive could be linked up for real-time interpretation of visions. Or a hyperintellect or multi-cognitive could work together for a geometric increase in problem-solving. That sort of thing.”

Those are the nice uses anyway.

“But, anyway– “ He holds up both hands, “We digress from the subject. Code.”

“Jesus Christ,” Wright says, covering her mouth against the shock. “It’s Project Fucking Zero.” The shiver of revulsion she feels helps Elliot’s face not curl into a snarl where he sits, slowly processing Richard’s admission and his offhanded dismissal of it. Because the man’s scenario is something Elliot could facilitate without SEER, and he will die before a second version of this man puts him in a cage.

"Uh huh," Silas says slowly. He's no brain surgeon, but it seems to him that for all the potential good applications of something like that, there's sure to be a lot of bad ones — and some asshole is sure to find them and use them.


Richard is also correct in that this isn't why they're here. "Right. Alright," he says; he looks to Elliot for a moment, considering. "I'd say somethin' like do right by her or you'll deal with me, but… nah. Do right by Aces or you'll deal with her, and that oughta worry you a lot more," he says, with a flash of a smile that shows just a few too many teeth.

It's gone almost as quickly as it had appeared, though. "Anyway. You already got your volunteers assembled, then?"

It takes a moment for Elliot’s ears to stop ringing before he hears and processes Silas’s insinuation. His heart rate is elevated, but he knows he can’t afford to openly oppose something he has absolutely no control over right now. Using the opportunity to switch gears lets him decide what to think about SEER at a later time.

“Asi has nothing to fear from me,” he says flatly. “I didn’t seek her out to make an enemy. As for volunteers, I have a few so far, but more volunteers means more processing power. It’s not a one-to-one exchange, so more is always better. I’m not sure how many co-hosts I can sustain, but if you would be willing, that would be six.” It’s more than his current record, but he’s confident that he can manage more.

Unaware that he’d just triggered some very upset feelings, Richard just leans back in the chair and lets the two men discuss the matter at hand. He’d probably be playing with his smartphone, but there aren’t any satellites here for it to work on - even if he had it with him.

Silas nods in acknowledgement of Elliot's assurance in regards to Asi; truth be told, he'd expected no less, but he'd feel remiss if he didn't offer the advice. The suggestion of him taking part in Elliot's network catches him off-guard, though. Silas blinks owlishly for a moment, then frowns. "Me?" he asks, peering at Elliot. "Not sure that's a good idea, Mac," he says, frowning pensively. "You said you need to borrow brainpower or whatnot; not sure I'd be the best use of your… co-hosting slots or whatever it is."

"He's keener than he gives himself credit for," Asi murmurs from afar, eager to return to the topic at hand rather than the topic that upset both Wright and Elliot even worse than she figured it would. "A good eye at identifying fearful symmetry."

"People often balk at the idea, and that's understandable," Elliot says. "Telepathic is a word that carries a lot of baggage, but the network isn't traditional telepathy. We can't hear each other's thoughts, or go rooting through each other's memories."

"That being said, no it's always an acceptable answer," Elliot assures him with a wave of his hand. "You don't need any special qualifications to be linked into the network other than the willingness to do so. Not wanting to be linked breaks the link. And of course there can be any number of other reasons to not participate, which I will also respect." He doesn't nod to Richard as he says it, not wanting to draw attention to the reason that the other man rejected the idea himself; it's his strange story to tell, not Elliot's. It strikes him as interesting that he isn't still feeling reflexively antagonistic toward Richard, but he reminds himself that he already put in the work to separate the man before him from the man in his broken memories.

"I have a feeling you're selling your capabilities short either way," he says to Silas in a way that's mostly a response to Asi, whose current stability keeps his mind from returning to the dread.

“Silas, there’s a reason that my wife trusts your opinion and aptitudes,” notes Richard with a tip of his chin up towards the man, eyebrows raised slightly, “And it isn’t your good looks. You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for, and it’s not all about sheer intelligence either.”

A wry smile, “We are more than the meat processors in our skulls, even for this purpose.”

Silas grimaces. "You're not wrong," he admits, looking to Elliot. "It's an old habit. A lot of people'll buy it if you undersell yourself. Even the ones who should know better, sometimes." He wonders, briefly, if Redd had tried that on Linderman and gotten more than he'd bargained for.

Silas takes a breath. "So let's take this from the top, then. Yeah, telepathy's got some baggage; my business partner, over in your world, was a telepath without an off switch. Nothin' against her, but… it could be a bit much sometimes," he admits, sighing heavily. Which is maybe underselling it, but it doesn't matter too much anyway; she'd left.

He looks over to Richard. "Never did figure out what Lis saw in me, but I'm not gonna complain."

With that said, Silas falls silent, mulling things over a bit. "When are you planning to try this?"

Elliot nods in understanding; he undersells himself every day, and not just in his professional capacity as an infiltrator. “I’m hoping for some time in the next few days,” he answers. “I’d like to do some practice runs with people in advance to lower the possibility of a broken link mid-process, and I’ll be meeting with another possible volunteer soon.”

He shifts in his seat, eyes flickering in the middle distance for a moment as he drums his fingers against his legs. “What format is the code currently in?” Digital may present problems, though the local Asi does seem to be building a PC.

“I trust Liz’s opinions on people,” Richard says simply, shrugging; he may not know what she saw in Silas, but that doesn’t matter to him. As they get down to business, he drops silent; he’s just the facilitator for the process.

His brain is too weird a place to risk attaching to this right now.

"Uh… mostly hiragana, I think?" Silas says, frowning. "It's a printout. The kind you get from one of those old printers. Dot matrix, I think?"

He mulls things over for a moment longer. "I think I'll pass on the, uh, link thing for now," he says. "Who's your next candidate?"

Elliot merely nods in acceptance of Silas's decision. "Robyn," he says, then an acknowledgement of remembering, "Quinn, as she's calling herself currently. Need to bring her in for a communication with home anyway." He directs the last bit toward Richard just to keep him apprised.

"If I can see the printout in advance it would be appreciated," he continues to Silas. "See if there's any prep work I can do." More important now with fewer potential volunteers, Elliot will need every advantage he can get. He has no personal stake in whatever message the code may contain; at the root of it he just wants to see exactly what he can do at a scale he's never managed before.

This is getting exciting.

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