- This story was originally published in 2014 in Cosmos.
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- For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our sortable Wikipedia page
about the author…
from the author’s website: I’m an Australian computer programmer and science fiction writer.
I live in Melbourne and love travelling. I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than 80 countries.
I’ve always been interested in writing science fiction and made my first sale when I was 18. I’ve had short stories and articles published in magazines, newspapers and web sites. I have been a finalist for the Aurealis Awards, several of my stories have received honorable mentions in Year’s Best SF anthologies and I was the youngest writer to have an entry in the Encyclopedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.
In 2009 I attended the Clarion South science fiction writing workshop in Brisbane.
I did a computer science degree at Monash University in Melbourne. After university I worked for an Australian computer games company as a programmer and designer. I’ve also worked as a software consultant and web site programmer.
I have an entry in the Internet Movie Database. (For a computer game I worked on).
Some of the interesting places I’ve visited include: North Korea, Belarus, the Galapagos and Transnistria (not officially a real country). I worked in Bolivia for a short time as a journalist for a Bolivian English-language newspaper. I lived in Osaka in for 4 years and worked as an English teacher. Now I’m working as a web site programmer.
I’ve had articles and stories translated into Finnish, Mandarin, Romanian and Polish.
about the narrator…
Austin Learned is an Asian-American aspiring actor/singer/voice actor who would probably appreciate your comments and encouragement on this fine piece of work.
By Aidan Doyle
One of Saito’s guys led Kentaro through the arcade. They passed row after row of black game pods, silent except for the hum of their cooling systems. The idea of crawling into a pod and letting the rest of the world deal with its own problems was tempting, but Kentaro had spent thirty years hidden from society. He needed his old job back. Saito sat in an office in the back of the arcade. He was flicking through a document on his tablet and didn’t acknowledge Kentaro’s presence. Kentaro had plenty of practice at being made to wait. A young guy Kentaro didn’t recognize lounged on a chair in the corner of the room. Saito finally glanced up and motioned to the chair in front of the desk.
“Thank you for making the time to see me,” Kentaro said. He also had plenty of practice of being polite to jerks. Saito’s gaze strayed back to his tablet. “My wife’s goal in life is to visit every world heritage site. Which do you think would be less boring, Angkor Wat or Petra?” “I don’t travel much,” Kentaro replied. Saito laughed. “I guess not. I think we’ll go to Angkor Wat. It says they filmed Audition for Death there. Maybe I’ll meet Akita Yumi.” The young guy guffawed appreciatively. Kentaro had never heard of Audition for Death or Akita, but tried his best to make his chuckle sound authentic. “So you’re supposed to be some superhacker?” Saito said. Kentaro didn’t like boasting, but he needed the money. “I’m good with computers.” “I already have guys that are good with computers.” The young guy looked as though he was ready to explode with smugness. “How long were you away?” Saito asked. “Thirty years.” Yamamoto would have told Saito all this. “Technology has changed a lot since then,” Saito said. When Kentaro went inside, a tablet was something your doctor gave you. “I wasn’t allowed to use computers, but I learned other skills.” Most of the other inmates had complained about missing sex and alcohol, but Kentaro missed programming above all. The world no longer responded to his commands. He set about furthering his education in other ways, learning how to pick locks and forge signatures. The first thing he’d done after his release was wander through the electronics stores in Osaka’s Den Den town. “Yamamoto used to go on about that Mizutomo job,” Saito said. “What was your hacking name again?” “Sabayomu.” Sabayomu was an abbreviated form of an old expression that literally meant to read the mackerel. It referred to fish traders who confused customers by counting fish faster than the customers could follow and short-changing them. The expression also referred to someone who lied about their age. Mackerel had such a short shelf life it wasn’t worth counting them accurately. Saito smiled. “How old are you?” Kentaro knew better than to lie. “Sixty-two.” Saito handed his phone to Kentaro. “You just got someone’s phone. Show me what you’d do.” The screen requested an unlock pattern, but Kentaro didn’t know anything about smartphone hacks. He pressed what he assumed was the power button and the phone again prompted him for a pattern. He experimented with some of the other buttons. Saito sighed and took the phone from him. “I’ll make it easy for you.” He swiped the screen down, then across. The home screen appeared and he handed the phone back. Kentaro flicked through screen after screen of icons. What was he supposed to do? Saito probably didn’t want him searching through his address book. A Mizutomo banking icon caught his attention. He glanced over at Saito, who nodded. Kentaro pressed the icon and a new screen appeared, prompting him to enter a username and password. He tried entering Saito and password, but the onscreen keys were too small and he kept touching the wrong ones. How did anyone use these stupid machines? Saito took the phone back. “Maybe phones aren’t your specialty. Nakagawa is going to ask you some questions.” “When would you use an SQL injection attack?” the young guy asked. “A what?” “What stops rainbow table attacks?” Kentaro should have done some research before he came to see Saito, but he wanted to start work as soon as possible. His reputation should have meant he didn’t have to suffer these kinds of challenges. “I might be a bit out of date, but I have experience.” “You should enjoy your retirement,” Saito said. “I’ll earn my keep,” Kentaro said. In the old days he would have been looked after when he got out, but young ones like Saito had no sense of tradition. When Kentaro had been inside Yamamoto had announced he was leaving the organization and becoming a Buddhist priest. Kentaro assumed, along with most of the media, that this was a ploy, but when he got out, his former boss insisted the move to the priesthood was genuine. Yamamoto gave him enough money to last a month and told him he could no longer afford to pay the fees for Kentaro’s mother’s nursing home. Saito opened a desk drawer, took out an envelope and handed it to Kentaro. “Enjoy your retirement. Take a trip to Thailand.” One of Saito’s guys showed him out of the office. As he was leaving, he overheard part of Saito and Nakagawa’s conversation. Sodai gomi. Big rubbish. An expression used to describe retired salarymen that were good for nothing.