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Chapter 14


Chapter 15

"The major difficulty," said Mr. Ian Woon, "was that I was so closely tied to the school that any investigation I did would be suspect. I could either be accused of using ISCE to try to interfere in one of the world governments, or the school itself could be suspected of being an accomplice in whatever plot was uncovered."

"So you had to bring in someone who wasn't connected to you," supplied Toshi. 

Due recognition )


 
FINIS


Sequel to this story, NaNo2007, starts here
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Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Kenji moved more quickly than he thought possible, grabbing without much hope at Miaki's flailing hand as he went by. Miraculously, the two hands met. Miaki dangled in the voracious wind, hanging above the ravenous, whirling blackness below the window. He swung his own free arm once, twice, and then managed to throw it upwards and grab Kenji's arm with a second hand. But that was as much as he could manage. The furious pull of the sucking wind was almost irresistible.

"Pull him in, hurry!" Toshi screamed. He was helpless to do anything, only held back from swirling into the blackness, himself, by the corner of the ledge and frame, and Kenji's outstretched arm. Neither he nor Chika could move, without probably sending all three of them hurtling into the whirlwind – and probably to their deaths.

"I'm trying!" Kenji gasped. "Hold on – Miaki, hold on – "


Chapter 15
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Chapter 12


Chapter 13

Toshi gasped unbelievingly, and the others stared in horror. In all their care to watch Miaki, to make sure he didn’t do anything drastic, none of them had thought to watch Kenji for the same reasons.

He stood pointing the weapon at his father, his hands shaking. Kazuo Tanaka stared at what seemed to be the ghost of his son, holding a very real-world weapon, and hardly even looked surprised. His eyes flicked briefly to the five apparitions coming through the door behind him, then settled back on Kenji.



Chapter 14 

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Chapter 11


Chapter 12

The day had arrived.

The six of them sat at the same table at breakfast, as they had done yesterday, the day after exams were over.

They had reasoned yesterday that it probably wasn’t going to matter if they were seen together: the cafeteria was raucous, as most of the students were staying only long enough to eat, and then would be departing home for a week, on a stream of shuttles. There was a steady migration of students from one table to another, wishing each other a good holiday, letting off steam from examination relief, and just generally socializing. Breakfast yesterday morning was quite a long affair.



Chapter 13 

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Chapter 10

Chapter 11


“What we finally found,” said Jin as their avatars relaxed in the entryway gazebo, “is that the featureless simulation is a sort of gateway. We could all sense that there was something there, rather than nothing. But that something wasn’t yet anything real. It was basically just a potential, waiting to be filled.”

“Meaning what, exactly?” Chika asked.

Jin consulted the notes on her holoscreen. “It means that it’s a simulation that can access all of them. You can be in the grey simulation, and pull up any of the other special sims without logging out of it and into the others.”

Final preparations for the big push )

Chapter 12 

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Chapter 9

Chapter 10

"Spin was part of the study of atomic particles for some time before scientists made one of the remarkable discoveries in connection with the phenomenon," said professor Narita. "This was the suggestion that whatever happens to an elementary particle in this area of space, exactly the same thing will happen to its counterpart," he waved an arm, "out there, wherever it is in the universe. It will happen simultaneously, without any intervention between the two. No medium to convey the action in a split second from one particle to the other, no billiard ball hitting another billiard ball hitting another – nothing. Two particles perhaps separated by billions of miles, yet if you act upon one, you act upon them both." He peered at the first-year class over the tops of his glasses. "Needless to say, while the theory is mathematically solid, it's been very difficult to prove conclusively. They very act of trying to observe the particles alters them in the first place. Nevertheless, research continues, and scientists are fairly certain the theory will be proven in the near future."

"Sir?" asked one of the first-years. "Weren't they trying for a while to use the theory to create new methods of communication across distances in space?"

Terrible discoveries for Kenji )

Chapter 11
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Chapter 8

Chapter 9

They stood inside the same featureless, empty dormitory room that the first-years always found themselves in.

"Ugh," said Chika. "I'd forgotten how ugly this room was. I promise, the entry points get much better as you get more advanced."

"Nice to know," Julie said. "I've always thought it was pretty unbearable. I thought they meant it to encourage us to get out of the entry room and into the simulation as quickly as possible." She smiled at Jin and Kenji, who stood beside her.

Miaki, standing by himself near a corner, looked around the room contemplatively, as though noting its true drabness for the first time. He had behaved pretty much normally the last two days, during classes and when he had passed any of them in the hallways. He might have been slightly less communicative than usual – if that were really possible – but it was understandable, given the events of the last few days. If he seemed reluctant to meet anyone's eyes, and tended to hang back a bit, it wasn't hard to know why.

Exploring the VR simulations )
Chapter 10
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Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Despite their general rule that the six conspirators shouldn't sit together at meals, Jin and Julie made straight for Chika's and Kenji's table at breakfast. Chika had chosen a table in a far corner, hoping it was out of the way enough that other students would leave them alone. She had put Kenji so that his back was to the rest of the cafeteria. But his bright auburn hair was hard to miss, so Jin and Julie found him almost immediately.

"I didn't think he'd even come to breakfast," Julie said.

As the two girls took their seats across from their friends, Julie peered at the young man's face. He didn't seem to have bruised much from last night, though there was a nasty cut at the side of his mouth.

The others decide Miaki's fate )

Chapter 9 


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Chapter 6

Chapter 7

For all the next day, Jin couldn't shake a feeling of vague, unfocussed unease. Miaki seemed mostly normal again when they worked together on their VR exercises in the morning. Mostly. He was no longer talkative about himself, as he'd been last night, but then, that openness wasn't his normal mode anyway, was it? But although he seemed more able to concentrate on their class work today than yesterday, it was as though he had programmed half his mind to work on it, almost robotically. Whereas, the other half of his mind, the place in which he was really living and thinking today, was somewhere else entirely.

So in his class work in the VR room, he was attentive and sharp, and impersonally courteous to Jin, and nothing more than that. To her query about his state of mind he crisply answered, "I'm fine," and went on to something else.

But now and then, the less robotic part of him would seem to surface from...wherever it was...and his eyes would darken and narrow as it peered from behind them. And when this intense, calculating gaze would land accidentally on her, that was when her uneasiness increased. She had no idea what she was worried about, but there was no doubt in her mind that she should be worried. The grieving, vulnerable person whose cold hands she had held last night seemed utterly gone.

Things take a very disturbing turn )
Chapter 8 
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Chapter 5

Chapter 6

He was still in the grip of the nightmare even as he could feel himself trying to pull free. He could feel the bedcovers while still standing in the dream, gaping in horror at the body of his father sprawled at his feet. They constricted, restrained him, wrapping up his legs so he could not run away, blocking his arms so he could not reach out and grab his father and shake him awake – wake up – not dead but asleep, surely just asleep – wake up – wake up –

"Wake up! Miaki! It's alright, I'm here – wake up!"

He wrenched himself out of the nightmare at last, flinging the covers away and making himself sit up. There were hands holding him, gripping his shoulders, stroking his hair. It was only a dream. Just a dream.

"Father...?" he croaked.

Toshi gave his shoulders another squeeze. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry – it's just me."

Miaki finds his answers )
Chapter 7
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Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Jin had thought Miaki took her seriously already, as they worked together in their regular class exercises. But after the six of them formed their little investigative group, she seemed to move beyond "being taken seriously" into a completely new level. It wasn't that he actually talked to her about his father, or his suspicions about the school; his confidence in her didn’t extend to confiding in her about personal things. But there was a new assumption of equality, somehow, as they worked together. He expected her not merely to be capable of doing her part in their work together, but to actually do it, without fanfare or display. And, to Jin's private pleasure, she always did. It was never difficult. She was turning out to be better, at almost everything, than she had ever expected, even knowing her own strengths pretty well. It was gratifying, partly just for her own sake, but also when she realized that she really was not going to let him down.

Miaki himself also seemed to rise to a new level: it was as though his focus had sharpened and his confidence level had risen. Somehow, he just seemed to have a better idea what he wanted to do and how he wanted to use his studies to achieve his goals.

More investigating )
Chapter 6
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Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Miaki almost flew down the corridors, following Jin to the advanced VR room, with Julie and Chika close behind them. The room was deceptively quiet when they burst through the door. It looked much like the room that the first-years used, with three rows of terminals in the centre. But along the outer walls there were tall, people-sized glass tubes, where more advanced users could don a full body-suit for an even more real and intense Virtual Reality experience.

They found Toshi and Kenji inside two of these enclosures. Toshi had collapsed inside his tube, half-lying, half-sitting against the glass, eyes closed and face white. His hands twitched a little, and his breath came in short, rapid, shallow gasps. Kenji, in the next tube, was on his knees and bent over. At first they thought he was motionless, but it became clear that in fact he was straining very hard, the sweat running down his face. He made no sound.

Are Toshi and Kenji alright?? )
Chapter 5 
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Chapter 2

Chapter 3

It had been several weeks since the last nightmare, but now that he was here, he should have expected more of them. Tonight's was the same as always: the memory of graduation day, and coming home at the end of the day, angry and planning to confront his absent-minded father for missing the ceremony altogether. Only to find the man lying on the floor, dead, still wearing his VR equipment.

Miaki sprang up with a gasp as he wrenched himself out of the nightmare. He was momentarily disoriented, looking around wildly at his unfamiliar surroundings, but finally he recognized where he was. His room was dark, except for the faint blue glow from the terminal at his desk, which he never turned off. He contemplated lying back down and trying to go back to sleep, but he knew from experience that it wouldn't work. Both his mind and heart were racing, and it would take hours for them to slow down again. By then it would be time for breakfast. So he might as well get up and do something constructive. Maybe the nightmare was a signal to him that it was time to begin what he had come here for. 

So what is Miaki up to? ) Chapter 4
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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

"PICT!" Akio boasted, standing by the breakfast table and sticking his chest out proudly. "Paris Institute of Cyber Tech. One of the best schools on the planet!" He grinned at his breakfast companions, the red light from the Mars screen darkening his blue hair almost to brownish purple.

"Not bad," said Hikari, cutting a slice of bacon and delicately collecting it on her fork before eating. "It's got a very good reputation. What about you?" she asked another of first-years at the table.

Jason said, between mouthfuls of oatmeal, "Silicon Valley Cyber."

"What's that?" said Akio. "Never heard of it."

"Your loss," said Jason.

Early days at ISCE ) Chapter 3
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Disclaimer: Remember that this was a NaNoWriMo story, so there will be inconsistencies and it can get a tad wordy at times. But I had such fun writing it, in 2005, that my 2007 NaNo is a sequel to it! I decided to write an anime-style story, so the whole time I wrote it, I was picturing it as an anime series. I'd love, some day, to get it illustrated as a manga.

Oh! And remember. If someone does decide to run off with this story and illustrate it for profit, or profit from it in any other way -- you do know I'll hunt you to the ends of the earth and make you pay wretchedly. Yes? Right then. On with the story.


 

Chapter 2

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