by, James Pyles
Part 2 of 3
May 2017 – 11:27 p.m. – Project Chalkydri – A Secure Medical Facility near Tokyo
Daniel Hunt sat back in his swivel chair in the half-lit interior of his private office watching the Prime Minister’s science and security “expert” Naoto Abe sweat. He tolerated government functionaries because they paid the bills. Thanks to them, his company was now the exclusive provider of synthetic prostheses to Japan, America, and half of Europe. However, he knew their ultimate goal was to turn his greatest creation into a servant for the state. He didn’t like it.
Abe was bilingual and bicultural. He’d been born in the Kensington district of London and so was both a citizen of the UK and Japan. However, the Japanese PM had made it abundantly clear that both he and his British counterpart had damn well better be pleased with their exceptionally large investment in this young woman and the Project that had produced her. Abe knew his professional neck was in a noose.
“Tell me about Ms…Jahn as you call her, and the progress you’ve made.” Abe was very good at maintaining professional nonchalance, but knowing Hunt’s eccentricities, and particularly his dislike for authority, he doubted very much that the cyberneticist cared.
“We had to give her a codename. As it turns out, Mikiko had a German ancestor with a similar surname. Besides, Chessmaster Constanze Jahn twice won German Women’s Fast Chess Championships in 1998 and 2005. I’m fond of both chess and champions, the latter especially if they’re underdogs.” Hunt steepled his fingers, lightly touching their tips.
“Your report, please. As you might imagine, my superiors are anxious to hear the latest developments so close to their desired conclusion.”
“I’ve been sending you my reports for years, so nothing I say now should be a surprise.”
“Continue.” Abe hoped mentioning the power brokers behind the Project would turn the tables and make Hunt uncomfortable.
“Ms. Jahn is a core of biological and neurological systems supported by a highly advanced synthetic infrastructure and superstructure. Almost all of her is constructed of biosynthetic components, her internal organs, her skin, her eyes, her hair, her fingernails, everything. Even her skeleton isn’t the one she was born with. It would never have endured supporting her enhanced body.”
“It was expected that you return her to her original appearance and functioning, but it is the enhancements in which I…we have a particular interest.”
Hunt leaned back in his chair and attempted to resume a position of superiority. “All of her senses are enhanced. She can see, hear, and smell with much greater acuity than a human being. Her sense of touch is far more sensitive, as is her sense of taste.”
“Like that blind chap who used to be on that Netflix show.”
“Not quite, since that blind chap couldn’t adjust his degree of sensitivity. Mikiko can. She can possibly read print on book pages with her fingertips, but dull that same sense so that she would barely feel a punch to the head.”
“You said her sight and hearing are acute. To what degree?”
“About on par with a wolf.”
This took Abe aback. “I beg your pardon?”
“And smell. A wolf can recognize an individual scent up to almost three kilometers. It can also hear well into the 25 kHz frequency and perhaps as high as 80. You and I, by comparison, can hear only up to about 20 kHz. As far as eyesight goes, she can identify even the slightest movement within her field of vision while retaining a human’s capacity to detect fine detail and color, and can also see somewhat into the infrared.”
“She has an excellent sense of balance which makes her capable of some rather impressive gymnastics. One of my staff was a gymnast at university and he feels she matches or exceeds Olympics quality. She is also physically stronger and runs slightly faster than one would expect, but nothing incredibly fast. Same for jumping and other physical activities, enhanced higher than the best most people could perform. Just don’t expect her to outrun a speeding bullet or jump over tall buildings.”
“I understand she also trained in combat skills, hand-to-hand, firearms, and the sort.”
“Yes, for the past eighteen months. I can tell you she actually enjoys practicing a number of martial arts but detests firearms.”
Abe opened his mouth as if in protest, but Hunt raised his hand and continued.
“She has exceeded the expectations of the former Navy SEAL who trained her. I just said she doesn’t like guns very much.”
“Impressive. Anything else I should know?”
“She’s a bit of a chameleon. This was an unexpected effect. We find that she’s retained some physical plasticity from these past years of metamorphosis. After all, there are still tens to hundreds of thousands of microscopic nanobots embedded throughout her body.” Abe was silent in either expectation or astonishment. Hunt couldn’t tell which. “At any rate, she can adjust her facial features, her body type to a certain extent, skin and eye color, and even her hair color.”
“But hair is dead, she shouldn’t…”
“Your hair and mine is dead, and obviously when getting a haircut, so is Mikiko’s, but she can extend her influence through the follicles and up the strands when need be. She could never pass for say a Norwegian, but could pose as a woman from any Asian country.”
“In your opinion is she ready both physically and psychologically for what we have in mind?”
“That depends on what you have in mind, Mr. Abe.”
“Don’t be coy, Dr. Hunt. I have read every report you sent to my office, so you have merely confirmed that information. Please do not pretend you do not know our intent for Ms. Jahn.”
“Then I won’t. Physically, she is without peer, both in her raw abilities and the skill sets to employ them. But while the neural network I originally implanted does regulate her emotional state, it is not programming in the classical scene. Anxiety, fear, panic are all suppressed, especially in emotionally charged situations, but in spite of the extensive modifications, she’s still a human being and a young woman. You can send her trainers, but Mikiko is essentially the person she was born to be.”
“You are not willing to commit an opinion?”
“The proof of the pudding and all that.”
“A failure at a critical juncture and she might die. Is that enough pudding for you.”
Hunt allowed his shoulders to slump, through imperceptivity. “She is ready. I’m just saying she has a mind of her own. She’s not the government’s trained monkey.”
“I never meant to insinuate otherwise, but the investment is quite steep.”
“The cost of the last six years of her life is immeasurably more expensive.” Hunt didn’t want Abe to know the extent of his attachment to Mikiko, but he couldn’t stand the thought of mincing words with him either.
“May I see her?”
Hunt paused again, and then adopted a humorless grin. “I don’t see why not. For the past five minutes, since she entered the room, she’s been watching you. Turn around.”
Abe twitched rather than jumped, immediately regained composure, much to Hunt’s disappointment, and then swiveled in his chair.
She was standing there, a mere six feet behind him, casually dressed in a pale blouse and dark knee-length skirt. Her deep-brown hair hung loosely about her shoulders and her face appeared lightly made up. Mikiko bowed deeply and said an honorific in Japanese.
Abe stood and returned the gesture. Hunt could only see Abe’s back, but he believed that for all the reports and correspondence they had exchanged over the long years, actually meeting Mikiko as a real human being was more than startling to him. It was astonishing.
Hunt rose slowly and walked over to Mikiko, standing at her side. Mikiko greeted him as well, only in English. Shaking his hand, she said, “It’s so good to see you again, Daniel. Thank you for inviting me to meet Mr. Abe.”
“It was actually a bit of a demonstration. I don’t suppose you know of anyone who could have approached you from behind and gotten so close without you noticing.” Hunt had read Abe’s official biography, and even without the exquisite details, knew the man was extraordinarily perceptive, and if the situation called for it, he could be utterly ruthless.
“An understatement Dr. Hunt, though I don’t think you know how much.”
“Mikiko, we’ve talked on numerous occasions on how both the Japanese and British governments are interested in you acting as a sort of consultant for them. Do you think you’re ready for that?”
“Even if I had not been reading reports from Mr. Abe’s office for the past month, the training I have received would have given me an idea.” Up until this point, she had been polite and even professional. Now she trembled and hesitated. “I cannot say that I am like what Mr. Abe would consider a government operative of that kind. I can say that I would have died without you Daniel, or had I lived, I would not have wanted to.” She turned to Abe. “I am willing to help where I can. If the person I am now is to mean anything, then I have to leave the womb, be among people again, and do what I can…”
She didn’t finish the sentence. Abe’s security briefings she had read would not have been subtle, yet Hunt wasn’t sure Mikiko really comprehended the full extent of what she might have to do.
“You are a very special person, Ms. Jahn, and I don’t mean just because of…”
“My body?” She looked down to see her fingers intertwining.
“I will contact Dr. Hunt when we are ready to brief you on your first operation. Please be assured you will be working with a team of highly trained professionals. We won’t leave you alone.”
“Thank you, Mr. Abe.”
“I must be leaving now.” He bowed with Mikiko and they briefly returned to speaking Japanese.
“The security guard outside of my office will see you out.”
Abe grasped Hunt’s hand. “I’ll be in touch soon.”
As he walked toward the door, Hunt saw a transformed man. Mikiko’s effect on him, knowing who and what she really is, and then finally seeing her, made her not a project but a person. What he didn’t see was Mikiko’s hair change from brown to black, her skin tone lighten slightly, the “make up” on her face disappear, and her apparently losing ten pounds.
# # #
Mikiko also watched Naoto Abe walking out of the office, but while Hunt’s eyes labored under dim light, she could see him perfectly. His footsteps echoed more loudly than Hunt could hear, and even after he left the building and returned to the parking lot, she could still have followed him by his scent.
Just before he left the room, she calculated the average running speed of a man of Abe’s height, weight, and age, and scrolled through several scenarios involving killing him with a variety of rifles and handguns. When she heard the front doors of the medical facility open, he imagined how many seconds it would take her to catch up with him and which physical methods she might use to incapacitate him. Then it frightened her to realize even Daniel Hunt had no idea what she was thinking in those few seconds.
# # #
End of Part 2