The Wrong Hands


hayate_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wrong Hands
Synopsis Richard Ray's fears become reality.
Date February 25, 2021

There is a slice of the United States, just under three square miles in size, that is no longer a part of the United States.

Yamagato Park is an anomalous zone within America, a nation unto itself abiding only by the corporate rule of one of the most powerful technology companies in the world. A corporation built from the ground up by the superhuman insight of Kaito Nakamura. In the aftermath of the Second American Civil War, Yamagato Industries was there to help the United States piece itself back together, rebuilding the once-great city of New York up from the ashes. Now, more so than ever, the fruits of that labor can clearly be seen beyond the Park’s borders.

In a glass-walled elevator ascending to the top floor of the Yamagato Building, Richard Ray is given a birds-eye view of the fruit of Kimiko Nakamura’s labor. A sprawling city built on the bones of what came before. The contrast of the Safe Zone with the walled tomb of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone used to be what the rest of the Safe Zone looked like when held up against Yamagato Park. Today, the distinction is less sharp.

But Kimiko Nakamura isn’t here today. Her lasting legacy, the metropolis on the east coast of the United States and the bargain signed in the blood of patriots to make it, is all that remains. The weight of Kimiko’s death presses down on Richard’s shoulders as he heads to the uppermost floor of the Yamagato Building for a meeting that was supposed to be with Kimiko, but is now something else entirely.

His stomach turns at the thought.

Executive Floor
Yamagato Building, Yamagato Park

February 25th
3:12 pm

As the elevator doors open to the executive level of the Yamagato Building, Richard sees a distinct change in the architecture. Gone is the eggshell white and lush vegetation of the lower floors, gone is the vibrant futurist optimism. It feels at once more corporate and older, like an executive space with lighting pulled from the mid 1980s, dim, ambient.

Here, things feel different. In the dark halls of the executive floor of the Yamagato Building, marble floors and wooden walls give the space a semblance of old world aesthetic rather than the plastic and plants juxtaposition of the lower levels. From behind a black desk, a young Japanese man looks attentively at Richard.

“Mr. Ray?” He says cheerfully. “President Kawahara is expecting you.” The executive assistant motions to a tall pair of opaque, black glass doors.

It should have been a meeting of— if not friends, then allies. Richard and Kimiko were both people who understood the game board and the hazards on it, and the steps that needed to be taken to ensure the wrong side didn’t win.

The loss of a queen from the board was a major change in the game. Even if that queen was made of jade.

“Thank you,” says Richard with a slight smile and a nod of his head towards the assistant, dressed in his best black suit, red tie perfectly adjusted, sunglasses securely in place upon his face. Nothing out of place. It’s not him, but when meeting with an unknown Japanese businessman whose favor may determine the future course of how he interacted with the Safe Zone… he can’t take any chances.

He moves for the doors, to pass through, and face the challenge on the other side.

Truth be told, a part of him would be more relaxed if it was just someone with a gun trying to kill him.

Beyond the doors, the office of Yamagato Industries' president rests in the building’s southwest corner, with that corner of the room angled nearly forty-five degrees, given the shape of the building, affording a clear view of the ocean as well as the length of Yamagato park and the steadily falling snow outside.

The President's office itself is cathedralesque in height, with tapered black columns trimmed in gold rising to the ceiling. Ferns and other potted plants are spaced around the room along with six foot high decorative trees. A single black slab desk rests beside the windows, behind which stands an elderly Japanese man with a dour demeanor dressed in a charcoal gray and white formal kimono over which is worn a matching haori coat. Antique paintings of Showa-era landscapes adorn the walls. The stark lines and regal appointment of the office normally would inspire a sense of wonder in first-time visitors, but this is not a sightseeing visit.

The new CEO of Yamagato Industries, Hayate Kawahara, does not stand when Richard enters. Instead, with a motion of his eyes, he directs the doors to the office to close. Richard can’t tell if that’s a gesture reading automation of some kind or telekinesis.

{Richard Ray.} A simulated voice emanates from the entire room, not matching Hayate’s lip movements. Richard can just barely hear audible Japanese coming from the elderly man behind the desk, beneath the artificial English. {I have read much about you in the late Ms. Nakamura’s files. I am pleased you came to do business today.}

Hayate motions to a low-backed black leather chair across from his slab desk. {Please, sit.}

A grand office with a view, subtle shows of power and technological advancement; these are familiar things to Richard, who’s used them many times in his own business. He takes in the office briefly before his gaze settles on the CEO, and he steps forward, arms at his sides as he bows at a precise thirty degree angle.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Kawahara-san. I was pleased to be welcomed here for business,” he replies in practiced tones, stepping to the offered chair and easing down into it, “And my deepest condolences, as well— I assure you that I felt the recent loss as keenly as most here.”

Polite greetings, condolences. Playing it safe, but watching for reactions. Gauging the man across from him.

Hayate’s expression is a passive mask, though his dark eyes do briefly drift to the clean surface of his desk. {Yamagato Industries will continue its partnership with Raytech with regards to the Greenhouse presently located on your company’s campus, per the arrangement you obtained from Ms. Nakamura.} He begins without so much as another whiff of formality.

{Pursuant to that, Yamagato Industries desires to accelerate the production of algae biofuel and halve production of consumer produce. There are greater applications for the greenhouse’s biofuel production and Yamagato Industries is not a grocery store.} Hayate explains, making his case simply and clearly.

Richard was prepared for something like this. Business tactics uncommon across American desks, but far more common from Hayate’s perspective. A statement of demand with the expectation of either concession or modification. Traditionally a tactic, not unlike advancing a pawn in chess. Begin with one topic, and if the other party demands negotiation it will reflect against future negotiations. Either the pawn continues to move across the board, or it is sacrificed to allow for another maneuver.

Hayate isn’t just negotiating with Richard, he’s sizing him up.

"We appreciate the continued partnership, of course," Richard replies, a single eyebrow lifting a hint at the suggestion made. No other surprise, though, as he regards Hayate for a moment. It may not be an uncommon maneuver across the Pacific, but it's rather severe for such a request.

"However, while we can certainly appreciate the profits in such a production strategy," he ripostes smoothly, "I would be remiss not to observe that such a move would be extremely damaging to your company's image and support here in the States. You were of course following the recent election— the fact that foreign companies were being given so much influence over the Safe Zones was a point that the Democratic party made one of the tentpoles of their campaign, and it was a feeling only given weight after the Praxis incident in the Californian Zone."

He lifts the other brow to join the first, pointing out, "Right now, the greenhouse project can produce sufficient food to ensure that there will likely never again be a food shortage as the Zone has suffered in the past - shortages in recent memory. It stands as proof that your company is supporting and providing for the people of the Safe Zone. Reducing that production in the current political climate would significantly alter the view of your company, and not in the positive."

Richard’s never been good at concessions.

{While appeals to the image of Yamagato Industries is appreciated, we are not concerned with public appearances.} Hayate notes plainly. {Moreover, fifty percent of the greenhouse’s public persona is legally Raytech’s, but in the eyes of the people it is a Raytech endeavor financed by Yamagato Industries. It would behoove you to responsibly handle the public relations of such a change in direction, Mr. Ray.}

{I am certain that there could be a pretense of benefit to the Safe Zone from the biofuel, if not a material benefit. It is high time the city becomes self-sufficient and feeds itself. We are willing to absorb the other associated risks.} Hayate concludes, which comes with the unspoken caveat of unless you disagree?

The polite response to Hayate’s demands would be acquiescence to hold a stronger hand in future negotiations, I gave you this, so you give me that tends to hold some weight, especially with traditionalists like Hayate. But it also means eating this problem, one that is personally unpalatable to Richard. Which means, more than likely, whatever other business Hayate intends on discussing likely has higher stakes.

It’s all measures now. How much is Richard willing to concede, if anything at all? How many pawns is he willing to sacrifice for a bigger picture? Hayate Kawahara certainly desires to know.

Richard’s silence for several long moments as he considers the other man across the desk, a single finger tapping against his knee in consideration. Hayate may be sizing him up, but he’s revealing just as much in the ways he’s doing so.

“Being a primary food source also gives us a great deal of leverage here in the Safe Zone,” he points out, “But it seems clear that you’re uninterested in the political and image benefits of the current system, so I can look into what can be done to rebalance the production priorities. Microalgae production is heavily water-dependent, but with our new BARNACLE systems we may be able to increase biofuel production while not having to quite halve food production. I’ll see what can be done to accommodate your… requests. In the interests of continued and profitable partnership, of course.”

Concession, with the fact that he’s not pleased with the request politely made clear.

Hayate nods as he sits forward, elbows propped up on the desk and hands folded in front of himself.{Wonderful. Your willingness to concede on these terms and apply creative refocusing speaks well of Ms. Nakamura’s decision to partner with your company.}

“Compromise is a necessity in any partnership, and I’m not a man unused to setbacks in the pursuit of my goals, Kawahara-san,” Richard replies with a faint smile, inclining his head in acceptance of the compliment.

With a motion of his right hand, Hayate conjures a three-dimensional image of a mechanical device as though a stage magician. The machine is unfamiliar to Richard, blown out into its component parts as it is.

{When I was reviewing the details of this partnership, I was surprised to come across this development.} Hayate reaches up and compresses the blown out device into a single object, revealing it to be some sort of cylindrical sensor, almost like a shotgun microphone with an octagonal metal housing.

{A device designed to detect the presence of interlopers from parallel dimensions.} Hayate says with a rise of one gray brow. {Ms. Nakamura spent a considerable amount of our resources working on half of this design, and I see your brother Warren’s fingerprints on the other half. My surprise at the necessity for such a device aside, the potential for security application is obviously great. Every government in the world would wish to know who is truly in power, should they become aware.}

Richard watches the holograph collecting together into a single device, but it’s not until Hayate explains its nature that he understands what it is. And why Kimiko had been delaying reaching out to him— her own people had been working on improving the design.

Hayate pushes his hand forward, sending the holographic design across the table to Richard, where it slowly spins in the air. {It has not been built yet, but the concept appears sound. Along with other… interesting related research.} Lifting his chin, Hayate considers Richard as he asks, {Walk me through your thoughts on this technology.}

“I don’t know how much you know about the… necessity of the technology,” Richard admits, “Kimiko was well-versed in the situation but I know that these particular cards are ones that people are holding quite close to their chest. A fear for public panic, no doubt.”

“As far as my thoughts? It’s absolutely necessary. We’ve already seen infiltration of more than one organization by individuals from other timelines— they can pass fingerprint, retinal, even DNA checks, and even a telepath might have a difficult time identifying them. Although cross-dimensional travel is rare— it does occur.”

He smiles ever so slightly, “It behooves us to stay on the bleeding edge of security technology, even against threats that the general public isn’t aware of. I can’t comment on the other projects, since I’m not sure which you’re referring to?”

Hayate’s eyes narrow in consideration, then his expression softens some. {I held out some small measure of belief that Kimiko may have been delusional, but everything I have heard about you says that you are unlikely to share in another’s delusions out of politeness. Then, other worlds exist.}

For a time, Hayate is silent, staring at the holographic image hovering over the desk. {How do these transits take place?} He asks directly, then adds: {How many… other timelines are there?}

“In theory? Infinite; in practice, we’ve only identified three or four in our particular… cluster of superstrings, if you were,” Richard grimaces, “I apologize for not being able to explain in more scientific terms, I’m more of a practice man rather than theory.”

He watches the man across the table, “Those we’ve had cross-over with have universally been worlds in which some global-level disaster has struck. Viral outbreaks, worldwide flooding, et cetera. Given that, transit - even if it could be accomplished easily - is inadvisable due to the risks to our own world. Fortunately, it also means we’re unlikely to be ‘invaded’.”

“Some individuals with spatiotemporal abilities have accidentally crossed over in the past, and during certain— solar events there have been a handful of ‘natural’ incidents. I don’t know if you’re aware of the weakening of the magnetosphere, but it appears to be going hand in hand with an increase in these events, which has necessitated the use of this technology. We have no reliable way of crossing over, currently.”

Hayate gives no indication as to whether he is aware of the phenomenon or not, save for a single nod to everything Richard has said. {Anything the United States Government endeavors to keep a secret is undoubtedly valuable, and their jurisdiction to maintain that secrecy extends at the borders of their nation.} He says rather directly.

{Yamagato Industries is interested in expanding our understanding of these universes and potential value that they can offer to humanity.} Hayate lifts his chin up in a subtly assessing look at Richard. {Given your experience with the issue, we would like to partner with Raytech to develop technology not only to detect incursions from these hypothetical dimensions, but technology to map and explore them as well.}

Sitting back in his chair, Hayate rests his elbows on the chair’s armrests and folds his hands at chest level. {Would Raytech Industries be interested in such a partnership?}

There was a part of Richard that knew where this was going, but he was really hoping that he was wrong. Unfortunately, he tells himself resignedly, he rarely is about this sort of thing. Sometimes he thinks it’d be nice to be wrong more often.

“An intriguing proposition,” he observes, bringing one hand up to scratch at his chin briefly in consideration, “Certainly a logical one. We’d need to research a variety of secondary technologies before we could consider a venture between strings, of course, but…”

One eyebrow lifts slightly, “So long as we could keep this work secret, we certainly would be. It wouldn’t do for certain parties to become aware that this area of technology even exists.”

{Certainly not,} Hayate agrees, reassessing Richard. {We would not want such technology falling into the wrong hands.}

A brief silence hangs between the two before either speaks again. {Yamagato has recovered some technology that we believe may originate from another dimension,} he says confidently, gesturing to the back of the room.

“ここに来て。” Hayate commands, and the whirring clank of a machine coming to life causes all the hairs on the back of Richard’s neck to rise at once. A refitted Yamagato Tetsujin manual labor robot comes walking out from behind a folding screen, carrying a battered black helmet in metallic hands.

The robot walks to Richard's side, then offers out a familiar six-eyed helmet. The same technology the Horsemen brought over from their timeline. Turning the helmet over, Richard can see the internals of it have all been stripped out.

{Quantum communication,} Hayate says with a motion to the helmet, {computing systems so secure that they cannot be intercepted by modern technology. We are very interested in integrating this technology into our continued exploration into other dimensions, and would be willing to offer a trade of information and resources with Raytech for access to your own specialists and knowledge.}

Hayate raises his brows, expectantly.

As the familiar whirr of machinery reaches his ears, Richard straightens up in his chair a little more— on guard, gaze flickering to Hayate’s face before moving to watch the robot emerging into view.

Once its purpose becomes clear, he doesn’t relax one bit, the tension just comes from a different source. He reaches out to accept the helmet, turning it over in his hands, noticing that it’s just a stripped shell.

“That technology would be a enormous boon to our operations even above and beyond its obvious usefulness for transdimensional exploration,” he observes, glancing up from the helmet to the other executive, “I’d certainly be foolish to turn down such an offer, Kawahara-san.”

{Excellent.} Hayate says with renewed confidence in the exchange. {I have high expectations for our future together, Mr. Ray. Do not fall under the assumption that I am like Kimiko Nakamura. I do not suffer failure or incompetence as she did, but I reward loyalty and cunning doubly so.}

Hayate motions to his desk, sweeping a hand over an iron with familiarity with the space. {I will have my assistant make the necessary preparations.}

Hayate slowly rises from his chair, then reaches out across the desk to offer a weathered hand to Richard.

{To the future.}

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