Our story so far: Allison is an American high-school student who has transferred to a private prep school in Japan. In this Japan, transfer students bring trouble close on their heels, and her classmates are hard at work trying to figure out just what form that trouble will take. Is she a demon? A killer Robot? Seiji, the boy who sits next to her in class, just wants to be out of the crossfire, but he knows the signs and there’s big trouble heading his way. Allison, of course, understands none of this.
Meanwhile, there is a computer virus running around, called White Shadow, that somehow infects the minds of computer users. Some of her classmates have fallen victim and have been shipped off to the Institure. Allison’s “uncle” (actually a distant relative) seems to have fallen victim as well; he has been sitting at his computer, staring blankly, for days.
If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
Allison was afraid to look into her uncle’s office, but she just couldn’t stop herself. The room was almost filled with electronics now, a cybernetic womb with her uncle at its center, bathed on all sides now by the radiation from the monitors. On some flashed images, seemingly at random, from all around the world, while others showed quickly-transforming schematics and streams of text. The wash of information was hypnotic, drawing her into the room. Beneath the torrent there was something else, some structure, some deeper meaning, a secret of infinite value. She was sure of it.
Allison moved toward the focus of the information, and now she heard snatches of sound, voices in every language, music, sounds of nature and sounds of the city. Yes, yes, that helped.
She had forgotten her uncle until she bumped into him. “Sorry,” she said distractedly, annoyed that he should have the best spot. She looked down at him where he sat, then recoiled in horror. Wires, tubes, and… things, pulsing with life, were coming from the machines around him and going straight into his arms and legs, distending his skin. Those were nothing compared to his face, however. A host of filaments emerged from his cheeks, his ears, eyes and mouth.
Allison stepped back, turned to run, when her Uncle’s face came on one of the monitors directly in front of her, then another and another until he was surrounding her. She twisted around frantically; she didn’t like having him looking over her shoulder.
“It is not how it appears,” her uncle said from the screens.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Your new friends think I am a victim of White Shadow. You know that’s not true.”
“Listen, I’ve got to go…”
Suddenly Uncle’s voice was a roar that filled the room, crushing Allison. “DO I LOOK LIKE A VICTIM? Do I look like one of your pathetic little friends hooked on his video game?”
Allison shrank in on herself under the barrage. The voice softened.
“I have become more than that. More than human. I am White Shadow! I created it, just as it created me.”
Maybe I should call the cops, Allison thought, or an ambulance.
“The authorities cannot stop us,” Uncle said.
Allison already had a bad feeling about that. “Umm… us?”
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Uncle said.
Oh, shit, she thought.
“But you are not ready. You will return.” Uncle’s face disappeared from the monitors, and once more the patterns and crush of imagery returned. Allison staggered from the room and sagged against the wall outside in the hallway, gasping for breath. She heard noises behind her and ran from the house without turning to look. She was not going to trip on something while running and looking over her shoulder.
She slammed the front door behind her and fought to control her breath.
Maybe someone at school would know what to do.
She shook her head. Who am I fooling? she thought. No one will believe me. They’ll all think I’m crazy. I’ll just find another place to live. In the meantime, I won’t go into that room. She started up the street.
A moving van passed, going slowly, while a little boy chased after it. “Wait! Come back!” he cried. From the cab a little girl was waving and shouting some sort of incomprehensible promise back at the boy. That seemed to happen a lot around here. Maybe it was a tradition when families moved, for the neighborhood kids to chase after them to let them know they would be missed.
The kid staggered to a halt, and the van sped away. There was no other traffic on the road at all. There was never traffic. For all this was a bustling, populous city, she wasn’t sure why they even had roads outside the city center. For the moving vans, she supposed.
Try as she might to distract herself, her thoughts kept returning to the monitors in her uncle’s office. There was something there, beneath the seemingly random stream of information. Something big, world-changing even. The sound had helped. Maybe if she could see all the monitors at once…
“Hey, space cadet!”
Allison snapped out of her reverie and turned to see the one boy who was nice to her hurrying up behind her. “Hi, Kaneda,” she said. She wasn’t in the mood for company, but she wasn’t in the mood to be alone, either. It was something else, she wanted, a different form of communion—
“Heellloooo! Jeez, Allison, you really are spaced out this morning. Is everything OK?”
For a moment she considered telling him about her morning, but she decided against it. He had just started being nice to her, and if he told the rest of the boys in the class she was crazy then none of them would ever talk to her again. She would find a way to deal with this on her own. Maybe if she understood the patterns she would know what to do.
In her distracted state she didn’t hear the rumble of the skateboard wheels until too late. “Watch out!” Daisuke shouted just before he crashed into her. Allison spun to the ground, scraping her knee again, her books flying again.
Allison looked up and for the first time since she arrived she was genuinely angry. This wasn’t a cultural difference, this was just plain rude. “Watch where you’re going, you jerk!” she called out to the retreating boy. He turned in wide-eyed surprise at the anger in her voice, and at that moment his board hit a pebble and he tumbled to the sidewalk. “I’m sorry!” he cried as he jumped back on and skated away even faster than before.
Kaneda didn’t respond. “They’re… white…” he choked out in a tiny voice. A trickle of blood came ouit his left nostril.
Allison blushed and jumped up. Damn this short skirt! She turned on Kaneda. “If you were a gentleman you’d help me up instead of staring!”
Kaneda shrank back. “Don’t hurt me! I’m sorry!”
She stooped — carefully — and began to collect her books. “At least last time I met someone with manners,” she grumbled.
Too late Kaneda jumped to help her. “Oh?” he asked with an air of indifference. “Who was that?”
Allison remembered the stranger’s voice and his tall, lanky good looks. “I didn’t get his name. He probably thought I was an idiot.”
“He’s not in our class?”
“No, he was older, I think. But he seemed to know about the academy.”
Kaneda’s interest seemed to be growing, as much as he tried to hide the fact. “What did he look like?”
Allison remembered his eyes, almost violet — indigo, perhaps — and deep as the ocean. His voice had been deep and clear, like a mountain lake, but warm as well. “Kind of tall,” she said, “his hair was messy.”
Kaneda gave a calculated shrug. “That could be lots of guys.” They turned once more toward school.
When they reached class there was an excited buzz going around the room. “What’s going on?” Allison asked.
“Didn’t you hear?” Ruchia said excitedly. “City 12b is almost ready!”
“Yeah!” Tasuki said. “It’s the best!”
“Beaches,” Ruchia said dreamily.
“Shops,” said Kano. “And boys.”
Hitomi said, “The bay is excellent for swimming, and the mysterious island is quite harmonious.”
“12b?” Allison asked. “Doesn’t it have a name?”
“Not yet, silly,” Kano said. “Not until someone lives there.”
Ruchia understood Allison’s confusion. “Here in Japan, we number our backup cities until people move into them.”
“Of course. So when a city gets destroyed the people have somewhere to go.”
Allison was speechless.
“Don’t you have backup cities in America?”
“That’s horrible! You just leave everyone homeless?”
Allison supposed she should be flattered that the entire class had conspired to pull her leg like this. Across the room she heard a boy say, “12b! Do you think it will be ready in time? I heard they’re still rusticizing.”
“… problems with the plum blossom system…” she caught from another part of the room. But then she started to see the giveaway signs. Everyone was furtively glancing her direction, to gague her reaction to the joke. Allison hd never felt farther from home.
It was not until the lunchtime Emergency Committee meeting that Kouta and Seiji were able to debrief Kaneda.
“Well,” Kaneda started, “I saw her teeth.”
“You made her smile?”
“Uh, actually, she was shouting at the time, but I saw them.”
“No demon teeth. As mad as she was, I think they would have been noticeable. But she sure seemed like a demon. She knocked Daisuke off his skateboard from twenty meters. She was scary.”
Seiji nodded. “I heard about that already. It’s all over school.” He chuckled. “I bet the kid watches where he’s going a little better now.”
“Maybe she’s a killer angel,” Kouta mused. “They’ve been on the rise lately.”
“Daisuke’s lucky she didn’t kill him. I’ve never been more afraid than I was when she caught me… uh…”
Seiji looked his friend in the eye with cold fire. “What did you do?”
“Well, uh, I found out she wears white panties.”
“Of course she does,” Kouta said irritably. “She’s a transfer student. You mean with that skirt you still hadn’t noticed?”
“Well, there’s seeing, and then there’s… seeing.”
The boys stood for a moment in silent appreciation of the seeing. “She didn’t punch you?” Seiji asked.
“No. I thought I was dead, I thought she was going to knock me into the stratosphere, but then she was just sarcastic.”
Seiji lapsed into silence. He had dared to hope that Kaneda would be the one, and the panty-sighting had seemed like a good omen. But then, no violence. The poor sap who was bound to a transfer student would never survive a panty-sighting unscathed. Was sarcastic enough? Seiji didn’t think so.
Kaneda was not the one. He would blindly chase Allison, but he would never be the one. Kouta was a possibility, but his mother was still alive, and that made him a long shot. Seiji didn’t like the way the math was working out. He didn’t like anything about this whole mess.
“There’s one other thing,” Kaneda said. “Kenzo’s back.”
“He talked to her. On her first day of school.”
“How do you know?”
“She was asking if I knew someone she had met. Tall, spiky hair.”
“That could be anyone.”
“It was him. She got that look. The look all the girls get when they think about Kenzo.”
“He didn’t waste any time,” Seiji said. “First day of school. Before we even knew she was coming.”
“I don’t like it,” Kouta said. “That guy’s trouble.”
Kaneda swallowed. “I hope they get 12b ready quickly.”
“They better have another city ready after that one,” Seiji said.
“What do you mean?”
“This is just chapter one. The wacky old monks told me so.”
Sharing improves humanity:
I am rather pleased with myself for the idea of backup cities. It still makes me chuckle.