Chapter 3 of Arlo

Aloha – If this is your first visit, I am sharing drafts of Arlo, a Sci Fi thriller as I’m writing it.  We’re still introducing characters and bits of the plot at this stage.  You can catch the first two chapters in earlier blog updates.  Doc

Chapter 3  Naomi Katsuki

Naomi Katsuki was twenty-seven years old, although her birth certificate indicated that she was twenty-four.  She was raised in Gardena, California, although her honseki was identified as Nagano.  She had spent several summers in Nagano-ken as her grandparents lived there, but it wasn’t really home.  She had enrolled at UCLA in the Japanese Studies program two months before she got her driver’s license.  Her plan had been to earn a PhD in Japanese History and become a university professor, but John Smith had interviewed her on the recommendation of her mentor at the beginning of her senior year of studies.

In October of that year she had skipped class for the first time ever to fly back to Virginia.  She was interviewed and tested by several people, and had taken a polygraph test.  She was so nervous when she took the polygraph that it read that she had committed every crime that they brought up.  That led to an extra day at Langley where she had to talk through her issues with a psychologist, who apparently passed her.  She knew that the psychologist must have passed her because in November the CIA offered her a job predicated upon a successful background check.

In December John Smith contacted her again, in person, and asked if she were ready to go to work.  She negotiated a May start as she had no intention of dropping out of college half way through her senior year.  Mr. Smith agreed, and suggested some adjustments to her Spring schedule.

Naomi held a black belt in Shotokan karate, but she was a bit out of practice.  Her new schedule included a refresher course in karate, a second course in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and a course not on the schedule in Aikido.  She was encouraged to sign up for rock wall climbing, and cross country running.  She was surprised on the first day of class, that each of these courses had exactly one student, and one instructor… Staff.  By the end of the third day she wondered if she would survive.

After she graduated from UCLA she was immediately inducted into an intense training program in Virginia.  She spent exactly three days at Langley.  The curriculum of the next three months made college feel like a breeze.  She had to internalize her new identify, Naomi Matsumoto; she had classes in cryptography, computer hacking, rappelling, shooting small arms, dirty knife fighting, and her favorite…. Lock Picking.  She did learn how to pick a lock, but the devices she was introduced to for high security circumvention was fascinating, and made her feel like a real spy.  Then came her assignment, and the reason she now was sitting in an office in Ichigaya in eastern Shinjuku, the commercial district of Tokyo.

Naomi almost quit when they told her what she was going to be doing.  She was going undercover as a college freshman at a women’s college in Tokyo.  She would spend four years attending classes, wearing heavy ankle length blue skirts with a white blouse, and being differential to all of her instructors.  She was to be near the top of her class, but not too conspicuous; bright enough that she would be recruited by a major Japanese corporation.  When she asked which Japanese corporation, John Smith just laughed, “We don’t know yet.  Three or four come to mind, but we’ll have to see which one, if any of those is our best candidate in four years.

Four years.  Classes had been boring, although she still struggled with some of the nuances of street talk when she would socialize with some Tokyo-kos, or classmates who had grown up in Tokyo.  She learned patience, as she was frequently pinched or groped by men on trains.  It was all she could do not to use some of the special defense skills she had learned.  She had slipped only once, and that on a train ride leaving Tokyo for Nikko Park on a short weekend trip alone.  She was certain she had heard a rib snap when she turned and delivered the blow mid-chest of the middle aged pervert.

She had kept herself busy studying and developing intelligence skills in her new profession.  But even there she had to be careful not to attract attention.

Four months before graduation she was interviewed by several major Japanese corporations.  She knew that their main motivation for hiring at a women’s college was to find likely brides for young managers who were too busy at work, to do much socializing outside of work.  Three of the companies she interviewed with still had mandatory retirement for female employees at age thirty.  In other words, marry one of our future middle managers or go work in the fish market the rest of your life.  She realized how lucky she was that her parents had emigrated to the United States years ago.

Kenji Tanaka contacted her during the interview process.  She couldn’t help but snicker when he met her at Shinjuku Koen.  Tanaka was the Japanese equivalent of Smith.  “Don’t any of you have real names?” she spluttered.

“Shhh… and keep walking,” he said in English with an East Coast accent.  “We’ve arranged for you to be hired by Kajima Electronics.”

“Contacts?” she lowered her voice.

“None that you need to be aware of,” Kenji replied coldly.  “Right now all you need to do is aim at an Administrative Assistant position in the R&D group.  Then just keep your head low, and develop trust.  You won’t hear from me again for some time.”

That was it.  Naomi didn’t even know what she was supposed to do.  Now, eighteen months later, she had a job to do.  Kenji had reconnected.  After nearly six years, all the deep cover efforts were about to pay off.  Her first task was to access the R&D groups coded passwords.  That had not been difficult.  Her boss had the codebook in his office.  He often left with most of the department to go drinking.  She would sometimes be invited, but often often was left behind to finish up filing.  Six years for this, she muttered under her breath.  But that wasn’t the end.

Kenji reconnected just two weeks later.  “We have a problem,” he confided.

“You’re telling me!” Naomi grimaced, “My supervisor is pushing for me to marry a rising star in the department.  He wants to start an omiyai negotiation with my parents in Nagano.  By the way, I haven’t met my parents in Nagano, who are they?” she smirked.

Kenji ignored her comment, “We need you to break into the secure computer system.  It does not have outside connectivity, so we cannot get outside access.”  He handed her a thumb drive, “This is what we need.”

Naomi waited.  Monday night her supervisor not only invited her, but insisted she join the department for drinks to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday.  Tuesday, half the department was so hung over that people were late working on catching up projects they couldn’t focus on earlier in the day.  Thursday night her boss was again insistent that she join the department.  This time she had managed to delay enough filing that she was legitimately able to excuse herself.

She was stopped by security at eight o’clock when she checked to see who was still in the R&D department.  Two people were obviously working late she observed as she returned to her office.  She watched the main entrance from her own department’s windows on the front of the building for the two programmers to leave.  At 10:15 the programmers left together.

She waited for security to make their rounds, and then slipped quietly down the halls, taking the stairs up to the eighteenth floor where R&D resided.  Rather than using her key card, she by-passed the stair access lock to gain access to the lab.  She was nervous.  Practice made this look easy, but her heart was racing by this time, as she quietly stepped silently down the hall, hugging the wall to avoid the security camera.  The processing of the computers provided just enough noise to make her jump every time a system altered its processing assignment.  How will I hear security if they’re making a round? She worried.

She arrived at the work station she had targeted on a casual pass on Monday.  She was lucky, she didn’t even need to run a by-pass on the system for the password, it was written clearly on the base of the monitor.  Insert thumb drive, copy, wait.  That was all there was to it.  But it was a huge file, and she knew she would have to wait several minutes to download the set of files.  She focused on bringing her breathing under control.  Twice she kneeled behind the desk, as she heard footsteps in the hallway.  The second time she stayed on the floor until the copying was complete.  That wasn’t so bad, she thought as she removed the thumb drive.

“Password”, she heard the computer demand sharply as Naomi slide the thumb drive into her backpack.  She typed in the password she had used to access the system.  “Password,” the computer demanded again.  I typed it correctly, I know I did, she thought as she typed it in again slowly even as her hands shook.  “Password,” the system demanded again.  She quickly searched the monitor for a second password.  Damn, she thought.  There was something scrawled below the first password, but it had obviously had something spilled on it.

Alarms began to ring, “Damn,” she exclaimed out loud.

She could hear footsteps running down the hallway.  She raced to the emergency exit on the other side of the building.  More footsteps were racing up the stairs.

I knew I should have worn pants for this, she exhaled as she raced to the windows at the front of the R&D room that ran the length of the back side of the Noritomi building.  As she reached the windows she again paused to take three deep breaths.  Naomi then pulled and placed a very small C-4 charge on the front window, set the charge, and turned her back to the charge as she began pulling equipment from her small backpack.  She had barely set up her rappelling equipment, attached to a large computer unit when a security guard flashed a light on her.  D

“Naomi?  Naomi Watanabe?  Nan desu ka?

He would have to know me, she frowned.  Her roundhouse kick knocked him to the ground.  She should kill him.  She knew she should, she must.  But he was stunned.

The window blew.  Most of the glass blew outward as planned, but there were shards that nicked her left cheek.  The guard wasn’t so lucky.  It looked like a bead from the shattered glass must have penetrated his femoral artery.  She bent to staunch the bleeding, but heard more voices approaching at the run.  Maybe they’ll save him; she gave a silent prayer as she jumped out the window and quickly worked her way to the ground level.  Pulling her skirt back down to where it belonged, she ran to the corner of the building, then immediately slowed her pace to the brisk walk of a person rushing to get home.  But home was out now.  She would have to go to the safe house near Senzoku Ike, and wait.

Two days later she was at Yokoska Naval Base, south of Yokohama dressed as a naval lieutenant.  The following day she was on her way back to Virginia aboard a transport plane, mission accomplished.

The security guard died.

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