Description: The inventor of the HitBit devices has tried to go off the grid, but certain parties just don't want that to happen. A cry for help is answered, and a mysterious third party makes an appearance...
Mamoru Sugimoto is a familiar face to those at the Nagoya HOBBY-UP Makerspace -- the bottommost floor of a three-story office building near the city center that's seen much higher residency rates in the past. Lately, Mamoru has been something of a fixture at the facility, tinkering on one thing or another, staying busy with printing out new gadget prototypes. Some of the regulars know the reclusive man's reputation as the lead engineer on the revolutionary HitBit family of devices. He's happy to talk about the technology, or whatever he happens to be working on, but he makes a point of deflecting any questions about his former employer.
Watch him for a moment, and it would become obvious why he doesn't want to talk about his past. Anyone new to the makerspace is met with wide-eyed panic from Sugimoto. Anyone fitting the "mold" of an engineer or gadget-builder meets his respect; anyone else is treated with trepidation and anxiety.
He's got his own little station in the Nagoya makerspace, a wide desk littered with dozens of blueprints and hand-sketched drawings. Protractors and rolling rulers lie atop detailed wiring schematics, with a few 3D-printed prototypes for a new glove-like device hanging from the boundary walls of the cubicle he calls "home," amidst three well-worn button-down shirts.
This is a public space. There's nowhere to sleep, and folks are encouraged to go home each night. And yet... it's pretty apparent that Mamoru Sugimoto has been living here for a few days, at the very least.
It may have had something to do with his post about a week ago. It was his only contribution to the HOBBY-UP web presence, an insightful post inserted into the midst of a heated discussion about the HitBit technology. The original poster had a rather incendiary post about the apparent features of the HitBit technology -- the suggestion that viewers could directly influence fighters in the HitBit-sponsored Rumble In The Streets tournament. Other posters insisted the guy was mistaken. All of the message thread was full of anecdotal misinformation -- until Mamoru spoke up and identified himself as the creator, and insisted that nothing was intentionally designed to be so.
It was a bland repetition of the HitBit PR department's bottom line. And yet, it carried weight, because he was the designer. But what was striking was the unusual line length of the post -- the seeming product of a copied-and-pasted message. And the last kanji in each line spelled out a message.
'Please save me.'
And Mamoru's been here ever since.
Lita herself wouldn't have caught any of the chaos that happened on the HOBBY-UP boards. She was trying to figure out the Yamaguchi-gumi was getting the fight location info before even the fighters themselves. Her best lead ended up turning up nothing when things got too intense and she was forced to beat a hasty retreat. Things were quiet for her and all she could do was cool her heels... And train... And train some more.
Meanwhile, George Ginzu, their resident computer and tech expert was watching the boards for information and he picked out what most had overlooked. He sent out a private message to Mamoru letting him know that while he wasn't able to help in person, he was sending someone who could help in his stead. He didn't know if Mamoru would acknowledge the message let alone whether or not it was already too late.
Ginzu then sent a message to Lita telling her to get to the Nagoya maker space ASAP and that the contact would be recognized by the yellow rose pendant in her hair. A symbol of friendship.
Lita enters HOBBY-UP wearing that yellow rose hair clip in her long blonde hair glancing around as she moves about.
HOBBY-UP occupies most of the first floor. After checking in at the front desk, anyone can rent access to the several enclosed rooms which constitute the makerspace. Some rooms, like the printer lab, have an additional surcharge, but Mamoru is hard at work in his designated area. He's turning the screws on one of the glove-like devices when Lita enters the room.
As soon as he realizes she's in the room, he stops and looks over at her, eyes going wide. He'd lost track of time, and no one else is in the room. This could be the assassin. This could be the one to finish him off. The fear is written plain as day on his pale face.
But then he notices the yellow rose pendant.
Mamoru Sugimoto breathes a sigh of relief, as the unanswered message registers in his mind. He springs to his feet, and bows formally in introduction to the lovely Lita.
"Hello... I got the message from your associate." Mamoru is slightly shorter than average for a Japanese man, but he stands straighter now that he recognizes the pendant -- and the woman. Color slowly returns to his features as he hastens across the room -- a shorter distance means he can keep his voice low.
"I was not sure if anyone else would have seen the message. Anyone else who could... help." He smiles tersely, with a curious mix of enthusiasm and anxiety across his face. "I am sorry for... the 'problems' my work may have caused you."
Regret flickers across his face, as he bows once more. "My apologies. I am Mamoru. It is nice to meet you."
The tall blonde when acknowledged, likewise moves closer for the exact same reason. She's quiet allowing, Mamoru to break the ice since in the situation that he's in, it was important that he was as comfortable as possible. Highly nervous untrained civilians no matter how intelligent they were had a high potential to do something incredibly stupid if pressured.
"No. Your work hasn't caused me any problems." She then mentally added, 'The circumstances surrounding how the work was being used, on the other hand...'
She then bows choosing a form of greeting more familiar to her contact. "I'm Lita Luwanda. The honor is mine, I assure you."
She looks around at the relatively deserted makerspace. She'd ideally would want to move into a public area where in order for someone to perform a hit on him they'd have to come out into the open to strike. They made it clear that they could engineer situations to make even public area hits possible.
"Based on how you looked when you noticed me, I can figure out what you need help with. What I need to know is why. Why are they after you? In the meanwhile, figuring out how to keep you safe is a high priority."
As Lt Luwanda talks, Mamoru's gaze flickers back and forth between her eyes and the door of the room. With only one point of entry and no windows, the open-plan room makes for an easily defensible location -- which is why he'd chosen it. There's only one entrance, and in his naive logic, that makes it easy to attack anyone on their way in.
The problem with that logic is that there is only one -exit-, turning the easily-fortified room into an easily-closed trap.
But he's not a professional. He's an engineer, and a damn concerned one at that. While Lita downplays the significance of his contribution to the Rumble tournament's casualty rate, Mamoru shakes his head, insistently denying his unculpability. "Without my invention, without my passion to this project, I don't think they'd have run this tournament..."
Her common-sense approach seems to be the best way to rein him in, though. By focusing on the hard facts -- the relative unsafety of a room he considered impregnable -- he chokes back his trepidation with a dull nod. "O-okay. I... you may have heard from your associate that I worked with HitBit. Designed... the HitBit suite, and the rest of the team refined it. Shaved off the rough edges like that meant something..."
Mamoru leans against a table, looking around. His lips press together with worry, and he draws in his breath for a moment of clarity. "Liquid-metal battery, it's unproven. You start compacting this much circuitry in such a tight space, it's bound to heat up. And this technology... I found a feedback issue. It's all wireless, you know, and 802.11ac is supposed to be a proven interface, but the idea is about addressing, you know..."
He looks up at Lita. And frowns somewhat. "... I'm getting too technical, forgive me. I just mean, if you send a wireless signal into the air, the device still has to -process- it. If the message isn't meant for the device, it doesn't matter -- it still has to -listen-. It's like me listening to you in a crowded room while ten, twenty, a hundred other conversations are going on. It's easy... if you're standing next to me."
He looks back towards his desk, and the prototypes, and briefly frowns again. "The HitBits are only supposed to listen for the confirmation message. But to listen to -that-, they have to filter through all the chaff. And if someone overloads the channel with noise, it still has to process it. So it heats up. That's... normally fine, because the liquid metal battery also acts as a radiative cooler."
His lips press together, as he looks down, not meeting Lita's gaze. "When you fought, did you, erm... feel any electrical feedback from the devices? Like a tickle... or a shock?"
Then he seems to recall the earlier statement about security. Abruptly, he interjects, "Oh, if... if you think we should move, I... I leave it to you. Th-thank you, for this."
"Electrical feed back?"
Even as she prepares the rest of her response, she glances around the room. Everything a potential weapon if need be. She then looks back towards Mamoru. "There was nothing in the way of shocks or tickles in the few fights I had... Except that one fight against 'HitBot.' I guess my fights didn't have much in the way of wireless noise."
She glances around reflecting on the luck that her team was the one that found him first. That line of thought leads her into thinking that if they could've found him, other people could've found him.
"Yes. We should move. To be honest, I'm not even sure Japan is safe for you. That being said, if you do wish to stay in the country, I will honor that wish. Just know that my ideal scenario would be in the United Kingdom under the protection of Delta Red."
She heads towards the door scouting the entrance just in case someone was waiting for her to make contact before making their move. She then glances back to the engineer awaiting his reply.
No electrical feedback? Mamoru chuckles mirthlessly: "You're one of the lucky ones. That new girl, uh... Lightningu Spangoorooz...? I was watching one of her fights and..." He wiggles his fingers like a field of corn under a tornado watch. "So much interference I'm surprised she didn't fall over."
He nods absently to the suggestion that he should be relocated. The urgency is not lost upon him -- yet, he has a lot of his work out still. "I'll go! I... I want to get out of here. I just need a moment, if that's okay..." He steps away from Lita, going back to his cubbyhole. One of the shirts is pulled down from the wall, and with brutal efficiency, the workspace is torn down and wrapped up within the garment. With Lita watching the door, he doesn't have anything to fear.
"While I was with HitBit I worked with the web dev team. The idea is that users could either sign up with HitBit's website and have their feeds broadcast there, or else they could download our open source software and write their own. We really wanted to encourage people to run with this, but knowing about the bug..." He frowns, pausing for a moment with his glove device in hand. "HitBit management didn't seem interested in fixing it. I delivered a prototype, but the size of the device was enormous, and..." He shrugs faintly, rolling up his blueprints and stuffing the drawings into a manila folder. "I quit, didn't think much of it. But then I found that the Rumble team used the software for their livestreaming site."
Tying up the shirt, he slings the whole kit-and-kaboodle over his shoulder. "Did you know they left it completely unsecured the first week? Anyone with the default password could access the streams and the setup cameras, before they went 'live' to the audience. They didn't bother to sign with a different certificate authority... Amateurs! Anyone could get in if they knew how..." He walks up to Lita, and a smile blossoms across his face. "... I'm so glad to be able to talk to someone about this, it's been eating me up..."
There are three other people in the hallway: two Japanese men with long-sleeved shirts, and a young woman with a bright yellow hooded sweatshirt and flame orange hair. All three wear glasses of some sort, and they seem to be in the midst of discussion about drone technology. Anyone else in the makerspace would be in one of the other side rooms, or at the front entrance.
And in that moment, Mamoru reveals how they got access to the fight locations before the fighters did. It was eye opening even to a lay woman like her. When she was entered she thought nothing of it expecting it to just be a fighting tournament. It was probably something that George Ginzu picked up on right away but didn't mention since he wanted to keep her focused on her fights and then subsequently her pieces of the mission.
She turns back towards Mamoru and says, "Of course. Just let me know when you're ready to go."
She then returns her attention to the hallway where she can focus on people in the hallway. Her eyes focus on the woman with the orange hair and yellow sweat shirt and she gets a nagging feeling like she should recognize her but for whatever reason doesn't. Usually that feeling is a bad sign. That something is about go horribly. She turns back towards Mamoru to smile to reassure him and to try not let on how nervous she is right now.
Mamoru left out some details that George Ginzu undoubtedly encountered in his circumvention efforts, but as he comes up alongside Lita, he's happy to explain further. "Well, see, the funny thing is, the security got progressively tighter after the first few fights. I mean, yeah, it was kind of a big deal in the press... and heck, it's what got -me- nervous..."
As Mamoru and Lita step out into the hall, the three others are continuing to talk. With an index finger, the yellow-sweatshirted girl nudges her glasses up along the bridge of her nose; the light catches the lenses of her glasses at an odd angle, making them appear as if they're internally lit. It's hard to really tell what she's saying from so far away, of course, but the guys are making sweeping gestures with their hands and the young woman is shaking her head no. Not much to worry about... is there?
Mamoru's smile falters as he glances over at the three, scratching his cheek for a moment. And then he steps a bit closer to the Delta Red lieutenant.
He starts to speak, but after a momentary chuckle, he starts rambling again, walking down the hallway. "... Mm. Well, the other weird thing is... when I was in Southtown, I was staying up at odd hours. I normally worked in the nighttime, but sometimes I'd find myself waking up at noon, in front of my computer screen. I guess you could say I was intrigued by their software, but like... it was an obsession. I had to figure out what they were doing."
Mamoru looks back over his shoulder, but his pace seems a bit more hastened. "So did you have a car outside, ma'am? I... I guess you didn't come alone, right? Ahaha..."
The young woman can be heard laughing shrilly. "Are you freakin' serious?! You guys are -ridiculous!- I mean, like, what good would that maneuver even -serve?-" All in good fun!
Her voice is soft but still insistant. "Our best chance of getting out of here is hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately..."
She lets out a sniff as an unpleasant aroma fills her nostrils. Her lips curl into a frown. She opts not to finish the sentence since the meaning is still conveyed without words.
"Needless to say, you'll be too easily remembered which in this particular case would work against us because the story I would've put forth isn't as easily sold."
She pulls out a cellphone fires off a couple quick texts. Her plans have changed and she's going to need a little help from her friends.
Mamoru is pleased that such an attractive - and tall! - woman is the one leading him to safety. He continues listening as the woman details her escape plans, but then she interrupts herself...
Mamoru... hasn't bathed in a few days, it's true. That's one of many reasons the room was left vacant but for himself. He laughs uncomfortably once he hears the sniff -- until then, he hadn't even considered the -secondary- ramifications of staying here away from a proper shower.
"Ah, hmm. I suppose so, but... what exactly were you thinking of doing?" Mamoru quirks an eyebrow at the sound of cellphone's buttons being pressed, and peers over at the device.
"... Ohhhhhh. I see."
Mamoru seems to miss the obvious fact that the woman would be talking into the phone next. "So like I was saying, sometimes I would wake up and have no idea of the code that was on my screen, haha! I guess I was so tired when I downloaded it that I didn't remember... though it was -weird-, it looked like I uploaded code too..."
While the two had been walking through the hallway, the laughter from the other three makers had doppler-shifted a bit -- it sounds like they had entered one of the other nearby rooms. There's no sound at all right now though.
She was originally going to pose as a girlfriend but the smell that would bring too much unwanted forced her to call what her counterparts across the pond would dub an 'audible.' She sent a text to her squad mates in Delta Red to see if they could arrange for a later flight from Japan to India so they could have a bit of time to wash up before heading to the airport. Then the next text went to the nearby Interpol driver saying contact was made and they're ready to go.
Meanwhile, she's listening to Mamoru and as he talks about code she hears alarm bells go off in her head.
"No idea of the code on your screen? Uploaded code?"
She glances at the girl with the yellow sweatshirt again and then begins praying that a scene isn't made and that the sinking she's feeling in her stomach isn't going to get justified.
"Do you happen to have a copy of that code? I know someone who might want to look at it."
Her fingers work the touch screen on her phone again and brings up what looks to be a excellent facsimile of the Uber app on the screen.
Mamoru nods quietly to the person by the door of the facility -- though he's quick to look back down at the pavement as he walks, not quite wanting to meet Lita's gaze. Feeling tremendously self-conscious, he's now -quite- nervous about the impression he's giving, though he shares an equally tremendous amount of respect to Lita for indulging his ruminations about code.
"... Well, it was a mishmash of everything. I was..." He strains to try and remember. "Honestly...? I can't even remember how I got in."
He remains silent for a moment as he walks, idly glancing over at the Uber-like phone app.
"It's kind of like, I remember the code since part of it was stuff I wrote, but others... I don't remember how I -got- there. Maybe I was dreaming about writing it, when I was actually poring over someone else's code..."
On the streets again, Mamoru looks up and down the street. Nothing seems to set off his own 'alarms' insofar as out-of-place elements, so he continues: "...As for what was -on- the screen, it was a whole bunch of stuff. Access routines. IP address lockdowns. Video stream manipulation. But the one I didn't understand as much -- the stuff that =wasn't= based on anything I actually put into the open-sourced API demo code... was DDOS, distributed-denial-of-service code. DDOS is when you just continue to hammer the same website over and over and over again to try to get it to break. Everything else was based on something I wrote, so it looked familiar, but the DDOS stuff..." He shrugs faintly. "Again, I was so sleepy, I don't remember how I got there. But... I was testing stuff out on a cloud server. So it should still be there."
Mamoru pulls out a rather bulky LG smartphone, squinting at it. "I've never been to England before, will this thing work there?"
Lita glances at the phone. Looking it over for a few moments. "I can't claim to be an expert on that type of thing but I don't see why it wouldn't work. You may need to change the sim card though. Actually, I'm sure my mates in Delta Red will insist on it."
It takes about 10 minutes for the Uber driver to arrive dressed in a suit with a black bow-tie. Lace on the seats and everything. The driver wasn't Japanese so that stood out a bit but at the very least look like a normal Uber pick up from a distance.
She is content to let Mamoru talk. While he's talking about tech stuff he's calmer and that makes it easier to look after him. Also him talking has yielded a lot of information so she then asks a question. "If they took you seriously and actually the addressed the issues with the HitBit, what changes would you have liked to make to it? That is if you stayed with the project."
"... Oh." Mamoru blinks at the idea that, yes, it'd be as simple as changing the SIM card. He's gifted with a great deal of hardware and software know-how, but not so much common sense. "I guess that makes sense! That way I can't be tracked..." Without any further ado, he starts pulling back the shell of his cellphone...
When it beeps with the indication of a text message. Out of habit, he turns the display away from Lita so that he can read the message: "Pardon me, one moment..."
Mamoru's face darkens. And for a moment he seems hesitant.
After another moment, the nervousness returns to his face -- and he rapidly yanks the battery of the cellphone. The battery slips into one pocket and the phone into another.
Smiling weakly, he turns back up to Lita with an apologetic grin. "... That was...... an ex."
Mamoru looks around, and again, sees nothing out of the ordinary -- but that's when the driver pulls up. He babbles away as he's led into the car -- it looks -completely- normal to him, and not even the driver arouses suspicion. "... Ahahaha, if I had my way we'd actually have switched away from ethernet and would be using a custom pairing system based on bluetooth technology instead -- we'd need higher-gain antennas and a different frequency, but we wouldn't be locked into 802.11, but the problem with that comes down to spectrum, and..."
He sits down, keeping his arms pressed tightly against his side out of nervousness. Once seated, he takes another look around, but more or less continues uninterrupted, "... well, honestly, =I= think it'd be worth it, since no one could hijack a live video stream without going through the local base server like everyone else. And that would also make it immune to the DDOS effect, since the device wouldn't be able to receive 'push' messages, and moreover, it wouldn't overheat as much..."
Mamoru blinks as he looks over to Lita. "Is this all making sense? I mean, I can go back and explain..."
Right around the time the taxi pulls off, another set of lights appears behind the car. It's hard to make out -- looks like another taxi.
Once again Lita gets that nagging bad feeling when she sees that cab follow the Uber(read: Interpol driven rental car disguised as an Uber). She listens and a large portion of it is going over head since she's not a tech expert. She's still paying attention though and still asking questions since it is keeping him calm which is the main objective... At least conversationally.
She then reaches for a device positioned under the driver's seat and begins sweeping for listening devices which was the first indication that this was not the standard Uber.
She then looks towards her driver. "We may have to delay going to a hotel until we get rid of this tail."
Mamoru continues giving -way- too much detail, but he summarizes well.
"So really, all I mean to say is... there's no telling -how- many people had access to it in the first week, but by the second, it was pretty much just genius hackers like that one that got busted on camera. Nagashi... no, Nagase. The one who was fighting the pretty miko when she ripped her headset off. -She- probably had access to the fight streams -and- knew who was fighting, since like... she showed up -early- for her fight, which they should've totally not been able to do..."
Mamoru stops talking abruptly when Lita reaches under the driver seat. "Hey, uh, I'm not... I'm not sure you're supposed to..."
The engineer blinks, pausing again. Tilting his head like a bird, he squints back at the device. "Oh. Oh wow, are you like... a spy or something? I thought Delta Red was like... an airline or something..."
And then he raises an eyebrow at the mention of a hotel. "... Ma'am, are we... are we... are we going to a -hotel- together?"
The engineers left leg starts shaking, and he turns a bit more pale. "F...for the night?"
"Which was how the assassin knew where to be in preparation for my fight with Agent Little."
She bites her lip in thought as she lets the information roll around in her head. "But how were they able to send someone the night before to mess with the pre-approved demolition charges before my fight with 'HitBot?'"
Meanwhile the Uber driver tries to shake the tail by using various evasive techniques.
"Actually, Delta Red is Military Special Forces. That being said, we do indulge spy games every now and then."
She glances back at that cab and frowns before returning her attention to the engineer.
"Actually. I only plan for us stay there long enough to wash up get dressed and then head to the airport. I will escort you from Japan to India and then pass you along to one of the other members of Delta Red for your trip to England while I head back to Japan to continue my investigation.
As the car swerves left and right through the busy streets of Nagoya, Mamoru holds on tightly to the pull handle over his window. Gritting his teeth, he tries to focus on Lita's hard questions -- he hadn't thought through -those- particular questions before.
"Well... hmm. I didn't see any sort of 'master plan' for the fights, but I did remember stumbling across a log of the GPS locations for the quadrotor drones... I think I saved that on my phone." He braces as the car swings tightly around a car, gritting his teeth -- and then explains, "Once I figured I in some kind of danger... I started downloading everything to my phone. I'm still not sure why they wanted to take -me- out, but just in case, that's when I bailed and came here to Nagoya, figuring I was safe..."
The tailing cab is forced to take an exit that the Uber driver was able to avoid in the nick of time. But its passenger window is open -- and a second later, a metallic *PLUNK* sound reverberates through the cabin, suggesting a small round has been embedded within the trunk of the vehicle Lita and Mamoru are travelling within.
Mamoru looks to the trunk, wincing. "... Was that person shooting at us? I mean... we're still driving so... I guess they missed...?!"
That 'Plunk' sound fills her with a sense of dread. Maybe it was a sense of paranoia. Maybe it was gut instinct but she didn't think that sound was thing that was working in her favor. Correction. Their favor. She then added things up. They only took one shot. They knew that two went in but they only took one shot.
She gritted her teeth in annoyance at their tail.
"They didn't miss!"
"We're not going directly to our hotel. We'll go to the closest hotel north of here, ditch whatever they put on this car and then we'll go to our destination hotel. Meanwhile, I need you to either switch cars or at the bare minimum switch license plates so that when you swing around for the trip to the airport. Preferably a car switch. I hope they didn't ding the car with that tracker or it may end up coming out of my wages."
She breathes in deeply and lets out an annoyed huff of air.
Mamoru cowers into his seat, holding his arms up at the sudden hiss of anger from Lita. He's... not had much experience dealing with women, and -especially- not British women with fierce attitudes.
In a different situation, he might like it more. Right now? He's kind of at the mercy of the woman, the driver, and whatever got flung their way by the other car.
As Lita delivers orders to the car driver, he meekly withdraws the phone from his pocket, removing the SIM card. Once that's out, he pops the battery back in and powers it up.
Once he feels it's safe to speak (which might be a few more moments), he ventures, "... Um. I'll see what I can dig up, then, Miss Luwanda... I.. I sure am glad to have you looking out for me! I... I can't imagine how much trouble I'd be in if you weren't here!"
Meanwhile, in the other car, a young woman pulls the left sleeve of her sweatshirt back over the shiny metal panel of her gauntlet, as the window returns to its upright position.
The cabbie politely cautions her, "Ma'am, please refrain from firing things out the window, I could be at risk of losing my job over this..."
Nagase calmly leans back in the doily-covered seat of the cab, rolling her eyes. "Fine, fine." Under her breath she mumbles, "... that oughta keep 'em busy for a little bit..."
Raising her voice back to speaking volume, she leans forward and wraps both arms around the passenger-side headrest, her face suddenly shifting to full-on glee. "Okay, we're done here! Take me to the airport, my good man!"
Log created on 10:12:46 03/03/2016 by Nagase, and last modified on 15:45:33 03/06/2016.