Aug 15, 2011


A few days later, Doctor Fujikawa called Liam down to the main control center for the eastern side of the Fujikawa Network. He told Liam to come alone and not to tell anyone he was down there. Of course, Liam obliged. Dr. Fujikawa was like a grandfather to the Mitchell kids.

It was late at night, past midnight. The once warm, Lisbon air had cooled in the darkening breeze. No one was on the streets. Even twenty-five years later, people were still afraid of going out after dark. Lisbon was safe though. The city was surrounded by an electric fence, a minefield, and armed guards. Zombies constantly tried to get in, but short work was always made of them. Liam felt plenty safe. Underneath his jacket was his Springfield Armory XD-45. It was not his first pistol. Dad had given him a Ruger .22 pistol at age eight and then a GLOCK 21 at age twelve. When he was about fifteen, they found a large of stash of weapons from a survival group gone wrong. There were a quite a few good finds, but Liam found the XD-45 most to his liking. It was a good choice too; Liam had been relying on the same pistol for seven years.

The control center was at the port, very close to the sea. It was where the Fujikawa-Mitchell Line was to begin. At night, the control center was completely closed down. Trying not to look suspicious, Liam approached the facility as carefully as possible. There appeared to be no one around, but Steelewood operatives were sometimes known to be watching at the strangest of times. Interestingly, Steelewood had not actually done anything lately. In recent months, they went from a lot of movement to suddenly going quiet. It made the crew of the Holdsworth uneasy, but it was nice not having to play a constant game of passive-aggressive dodgeball.

Liam came to the front door to find it was locked. Strange, but not entirely unexpected. He walked around and passed through the alleyway beside the facility. Immediately, he felt sketch just being there. And then he got that irrefutable feeling that he was being watched. The fingers of anxiety danced against his spine. Liam took a second to acknowledge his feelings, take a breath, and push them aside. He had more important things to do than worry.

At last, he turned the corner to the back of the facility. He tried the door and found that it too was locked. Liam sighed and then turned around. He unclipped his pistol, but left it holstered. This whole thing was getting more and more suspect. He entered the alley and immediately, “Hello, Liam.”

Liam's hand bolted down to his holster, but stopped as soon as he realized it was Doctor Fujikawa, “Doc! You scared the sh-”

“Let us go inside,” Fujikawa said hurriedly. “I have no desire to be watched.”

“Whatever you say,” Liam clipped his holster as he and Fujikawa walked over to the back door. “You gonna tell me what this is all about?”

Fujikawa opened the door with his key, “Come inside and I will tell you.”

Liam followed the good scientist inside. Immediately behind the back door was the kitchen area. “Come, we are going to the main control room,” Fujikawa said quietly as he locked the door behind him.

“So, what is all this about?” Liam asked as they made their way down the halls.

Fujikawa pushed open the door to the main computer room. “I will show you,” he said as he booted up the main computer, which sat at the center of the room. It was almost eerie seeing the room empty. Normally it was full of technicians making assorted repairs or making improvements to the network. Neither the European or North American sides of the line were operational except for testing purposes, but near-constant maintenance was still necessary. Fujikawa paused.

“Well, doctor?”

Fujikawa sighed, “Liam, I have to confess something to you. My network... it makes me nervous. Whoever controls my network holds a very great deal of power. If that power were to ever fall into the wrong hands-”

“I know, doc,” Liam said calmly. “It's a risk we have to take. The world needs-”

“Liam, I know,” Fujikawa did his best to hide his frustration. “This work is necessary. But it is also dangerous. We need to take precautions.”

“Such as?”

“The network is code-locked,” Fujikawa pulled up a window on the computer. “You know this.”

“And only you and my father know the code,” Liam told him what he already knew.

“Yes,” Fujikawa nodded. “However, I have changed the system.”

“To what?”

“The system now requires two codes to activate,” Fujikawa explained slowly. “The first of these codes is the one that Hank and I know. The second, I am going to entrust to you.”

“Wait, what? Me? Why?”

Fujikawa explained, “Liam, there is not a soul in the this world who knows my network as well as I do. You, however, are a close second. There is not a soul in this world who I trust more than your father. You, however, are a close second. This makes you the natural choice.”

“So, what you're going to tell me the code?”

“No,” Fujikawa shook his head. “Only you will know this code. Not me and not your father. And do not tell your father of this code. You must wait until the moment of activation of the network to reveal that you are in possession of a second code. This is the safest way.”

“You really think of everything, don't you?”

“It is a wonderful gift, but a horrifying curse,” Fujikawa told him. “When you can think through as much as I can, nothing is ever simple. Everything is so full of detail and complexity. I cannot help but think through every intricacy and nuance. If I could ever have one wish, it would be that the world would be a simpler place. That is why when my network is completed, I am moving back to Japan to find a life of simplicity.”

“I'm sure you'll find exactly what you're looking for,” Liam said reassuringly. “Maybe one day I'll go and visit you.”

“I would like that,” Fujikawa let out a faint grin. “Do you remember what you were like as a boy?” He laughed. “When we met, you were always asking me millions upon millions of questions. You wanted to know absolutely everything about technology and how everything worked. You amused me to know end.”

Liam chuckled, “Yeah, I remember.”

“But you grew up,” Fujikawa kept nostalgic. “And you turned out to be a very good friend. I am glad to have gotten to know you.”

“You too, doc,” Liam put his hand the old man's shoulder. “Now, about that password.”

“Right,” Fujikawa pulled up another window. “You will type it in here and then it will be protected by the security system I designed. The only way to get past my system is to input the password directly. You must think of a twenty-five character or more password. Be sure and make it as impossible to guess as possible.” Fujikawa vacated the computer chair.

“Twenty-five characters?” Liam sat down as he cracked his knuckles. “Good Lord.”

“I would recommend a phrase or a sentence,” Fujikawa turned around so as not to see the screen.

And then it hit him, “I got it! I got just the thing.”

“Type it quickly,” Fujikawa sighed.

“Alright, alright,” Liam got to work typing, keeping a mischievous grin as he did. And then he finished, “Alright, doc, I'm done.”

“Press enter and then it should be set,” Fujikawa said. “Once you and your father have connected the line in Boston, then you can activate the network.”

“Alright, doc,” Liam stood and pushed aside the chair. “It's mad late and I want to hit the sack.”

“Understood, my friend,” Fujikawa bowed. “I am going to stay here for a while. I have some work I would like to get done.”

“Okay,” Liam replied. “I'll see you soon.”

“Goodbye,” Fujikawa sat back down in the computer.

Liam walked to the back door of the facility and left. He checked his watch to find that it was after one in the morning. Liam liked to be in bed by at least eleven; he was always an early type of person. He preferred to be in bed before midnight and awake at the crack of dawn. Under the guise of moonlight, Liam trudged his way back toward the Holdsworth. That feeling of being watched was back, but he shrugged it off. Liam was too tired to care. If someone truly was following him, they would have gained nothing by it.

Walking through the ghostly calm night of Lisbon was chilling, to say the least, but it was also relaxing. Liam rarely found himself in places where simply taking a walk was possible. He lived on a crowded ship and some of the most solitude he got was when he was with Bobby Ramirez in the armory. Liam enjoyed being alone, he enjoyed the time to think. And as he walked, he thought.

His thoughts dwelled on Dr. Fujikawa. Liam worried about the doctor, who seemed more and more distracted; more out of it. Once upon a time, Shigeru Fujikawa was sternly dedicated to the Fujikawa Network project and seemed willing to stop at nothing, but these days he just wanted it to be over. Liam completey understood. They had been working on getting the network running for years and the light was just starting to shine at the end of the tunnel. No matter how grand the project may be, the end is always the best part. And a project this substantial could break even the most ardently enthusiastic. Dr. Fujikawa was tired and not simply from the project. He was old. Liam understood that there came a certain point in life when you just have to stop and rest. And then.... Liam decided it was best not to think about the “and then.” Not yet, anyway.

Finally, Liam found himself walking up the boarding ramp to the Holdsworth; his home. Once again, his body reminded him of just how tired he really was. He closed his eyes and yawned. A voice all too familiar said to him, “What were you doing out so late?”

Liam looked to see his father standing on the deck smoking a cigar and said to him, “Hey, dad. I though you quit smoking.”

“I did,” Hank shrugged. “Mostly.”

“I see.”

“So, really, you usually ain't out so late.”

“I just- I just needed a walk, y'know?” It was half-true.

“Little cabin fever, huh?” Hank puffed.

“Yep,” Liam resumed his walk to the bridge. He was in no mood for a conversation.

“Well, goodnight, son.”

“Yeah, dad,” Liam sighed as he made it to the door. “You too.”

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