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Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe 3




The first immediate effect of Turners comments was to change Hosatos plans for the balance of the morning. Instead of returning to his apartment, he set out to explore the complex.

If there was a security change in the wind, it might accelerate his plans. Even though theoretically machines were easier to fool, Hosato preferred to pit his abilities against human guards. Humans could be lulled by repetition of existing patterns, but a machine would check things as closely on its thousandth execution of routine as it did on its first.

Going my way, Hayama?

Sasha had materialized in the corridor behind him. Hosato felt the instinctive surge of distrust he experienced with anyone who moved quieter than he did.

He shrugged. Just looking for a bite of breakfast.

Good. Ill tag along and have a cup of coffee. Of course, just to keep it in the line of duty, Ill have to ask you a few questions.

Fine. Hosato forced a note of cordiality into his voice.

Who made your robot? she asked, falling in step with him.

Actually, its a custom job.

I know that. She smiled. But whose work is it?

I cant recall his name just offhand. Hes dead now. I think its on the schematics somewhere, if you want to check.

Ive checked already, she retorted. Nobody recognizes the name, and we cant find it in our computer files anywhere.

Ill try to remember some details, Hosato promised. Why. Is it important?

Not really, Sasha admitted. Im just reflexively suspicious of anything new and unusual. Goes with the job. But its awfully convenient, you and your robot turning up uninvited just when we need a coach.

But is there anything specific thats worrying you? Hosato asked. I didnt think Suzi was that different from most simple robots.

Yes and no, Sasha commented thoughtfully. It seems to be awfully large for the functions of the schematics. You could reduce its size drastically.

Mechanically maybe, Hosato commented. But I think theres one function youre overlooking. One of my robots primary duties is to act as a fencing partner, performing simple moves against a student while I watch and criticize. The student needs a man-sized opponent to perform against, so a compact unit the size of a mailbox wont do at all. Do you understand?

I suppose, Sasha said grudgingly. But theres still a lot of unused space there. Couldnt you get by with less depth or maybe with a fold-out target panel?

Maybe, Hostao admitted. But Im not rich enough to experiment. I had this unit built and it works. Thats good enough for me.

While youre here, you might see what some of our designer robots could come up with as an option. It couldnt hurt to find out. Incidentally, why do you have it rigged so you can open only one door at a time?

Its a safety factor, Hosato said easily. Some of the weapons I carry have real points and edges. I dont want them spilling out when

A high-pitched beeping interrupted the conversation. Quick as a flash, Sasha palmed the communications unit off her belt, unreeled the ear plug, and fitted it to her ear in one easy motion.

Go ahead, she barked into the mouthpiece. Uh-huh no, seal the area double the force at points Echo and Fred have Ralph standing-by with gas just in case . . . Im on my way.

She collapsed the unit and replaced it on her belt.

Guess well have to take a rain check, Hayama. I still want to talk with you sometime, though.

Trouble? he asked politely.

She shrugged. Probably just routine. We average about two false alarms a week. Most likely some messenger robots decided to take a shortcut through a restricted area.

A Mc. Crae robot? Hosato murmured sarcastically, but he was talking to thin air. Sasha was already in full stride, heading off down the corridor.

He watched the distance-eating length of her stride without the slightest appreciation of the movement of her feminine hips. It seemed Sasha and her team took their work very seriously if they reacted with that speed and intensity to a false alarm. Unless . . .

Unless the whole thing had been carefully planned and executed just to impress him.

Suzi was waiting when Hosato returned to his quarters. For a change, she followed him in stoic silence instead of immediately expressing her annoyance as soon as the door closed. One part of his mind registered this and breathed a silent note of thanks to the Hungarian. Whatever behavior recognition patterns had been built into the robot, they were definitely programmed correctly. He had a lot of heavy thinking to do and didnt need a nagging assistant to distract him.

The silence lasted as he made himself a pot of tea. Loading cup and pot onto the small end table, he kicked off his shoes and draped himself over the large reading chair.

He spent several thoughtful moments sipping the tea and collecting his thoughts before he spoke.

Suzi, give me the layout prints of the complex.

The robot obediently swiveled around, and the viewscreen blinked to life, showing the line drawings of the buildings that made up the Mc. Crae complex.

Exclude the living quarters and mall and give me an enlargement on the rest.

The display changed according to his specifications.

Confirm corridors in Administrative Building lobby and Personnel areas Turners office subterranean tunnels to all buildings corridors in southern half of Household Manufacturing Building . . . also external lines on all buildings.

As he described the various areas, the designated lines on the drawing changed from blue to red. The data being displayed had been provided by Raven-54

steel and was quite detailed. Hosatos plans called for believing none of it without confirmation. He was not prepared to risk his life relying on other peoples data. Refilling his cup, he studied the new display. There was still too much blue showing to make concrete plans.

Problems? Suzi prodded gently.

Yeah, he responded absently. Problems.

Want to talk it out?

Hosato thought for a few more moments, then shrugged. Why not. Im supposed to put this complex out of business for an indefinite period of time . . . the longer the better. The problem, of course, is how.

He rose and began to pace restlessly as he continued.

Right off the bat, we can forget about the living quarters and the mall. They exist independently of the complex proper, so hitting them wouldnt slow production a bit. Similarly, the Administrative Building is safe. They dont even store records there, its all terminal tie-in with the main computer banks. That leaves the manufacturing areas and the main computer-control building.

If I might suggest, interrupted Suzi, the obvious weakness in the complex is the main computer-control building. All of the automated design and manufacturing functions are controlled from there, and if my understanding is correct, it also serves as storage for most or all of the corporations financial records, correspondence, and design programs. Sabotaging that unit would be certain to disrupt the functioning of Mc. Crae Enterprises perhaps permanently.

Hosato grimaced. Youre right, Suzi. Its obvious . . . too obvious. Its apparently occurred to several people here at Mc. Crae that its their major vulnerability, because theyre guarding it damn close. Every corridor leading to that unit is loaded with sensors and live guards, both stationary and roaming. It would mean a major undertaking just to approach the unit, much less penetrate it.

But you've

Ive saved the best for last. The whole building is subterranean, just like our charts show. What the charts dont show is that its completely sealed. The only ones who can get in are the technical-maintenance teams, and they havent set foot in the place for three years. It requires two keys turned simultaneously at different locations to spring the lock, and even if I could beat that, theres another little problem. The unit is kept at planetary surface conditions . . . no pressurization, and minus three hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The controls to bring it to humanly bearble conditions are alarmed and guarded. That means Id have to wear a full surface suit to survive inside, and it might make me a little conspicuous walking through the corridors.

There was a few moments silence; then Suzi changed her display to show an enlargement of the manufacturing areas.

Right, said Hosato.

He poured himself another cup of tea before he turned his attention to the new display.

That brings us to our current problemthe manufacturing areas. Hosato spoke as much to himself as to Suzi. The first problem is that we arent talking about one building, were talking about three. Mc. Crae has divided their operations into three product families: Household, Office, and Industrial. Every one of the product families has its own separate building, bless their paranoid little hearts. That means I have to gimmick three separate areas if I want to get paid.

You keep talking about the manufacturing areas, Suzi interrupted. What about the mining and ore processing?

No go, Hosato proclaimed. Same story as the computer areasconditions unfit for human survival. The mining is done at planetary conditions, and the ore-processing area is hot enough to cook a human in a minute and a half.

Do the humans here have any means of going out on the planet surface?

Theyve got a few surface suits, and therere a couple sand-crawler-type vehicles, but theyre unarmed and lack the power to do any real damage. Believe me, Suzi, its going to have to be the manufacturing areas. Unfortunately I dont know what the interior layouts are or what kind of machines are operating in there. Until I know what Im up against, I cant settle on a plan for gimmicking it.

What was the source of your information? Suzi asked. Some of it was not on the data tapes supplied by Ravensteel. How or from whom did you obtain it?

From one of the maintenance crew, Rick Handel. He was in the bar grumbling about the firings, and I bought him a couple drinks.

I thought you were picky about whom you drank with?

I am, but this was business. Look, do you want to hear this or not?

Sorry. You were saying . . .

Right. It seems Mc. Crae has just dismissed a third of their maintenance staff, the crew that used to work the manufacturing area, and replaced them with robot repairmen. Handel ran down the list of the complex areas for me, complaining at great length about the problems involved in keeping them functional. Thats how I got the information.

Would it be possible to persuade your newfound friend to take you on a walking tour of the manufacturing areas?

Negative. Ive already tried it, and its no go on two counts. First, the remaining maintenance crew is avoiding the manufacturing areas in quiet protest over the dismissals. Second, Security will let them into those areas only with a signed work order.

Well, can you get the necessary information direct from Handel?

I might be able to get a few details out of him, but not enough and not fast enough. Im going to have to make an advance scouting trip of my own to get the data before time runs out.

Your contract with Ravensteel contains no time requirement . . .

Not Ravensteels requirements. Mine. I dont know what Turner has up his sleeve, but I want to finish this mission before he has a chance to implement it.

What bearing does Harry Turner have on events?

Oh, something he said when I was talking to him this morning. As near as I can tell, hes working on a robot security system to replace human guards.

Impossible! Suzi stated flatly. I would advise against letting Harry Turners mumblings influence your plans for this mission. The system he is describing is unworkable.

But why cant they replace humans in this specific situation?

Because of Asimovs First Law of Robotics. Its included in the programming of every robot. We are unable to injure or kill a human. With that limitation, no robot could perform effectively as a guard.

They could sound the alarm or detain the suspect.

Sound the alarm for whom and detain the suspect for how long. Any human, given time, can escape from a robot. And as far as sounding the alarm goes, the sensor units already do that. If Harry Turner is trying to come up with a new robot security system, the individual robots in that system would have to be able to deal with emergency situationsnot detect them, not delay them, but deal with them. As you know, the best way to deal with a renegade human is to kill or injure him before he can escape or counterattack . . . and machines cant do that.

Hosato pondered the point. I never thought of it in quite those coldblooded terms, Suzi. Surely there are other ways to deal with humans, even renegade humans.

There may be other ways, but there arent any better ways. Humans violate many of the laws of nature. They can kill without the usual motives, not for food or self-defense, but out of anger, greed, or even at random on a whim. That is why humans are the most dangerous creatures in the universe. That is why only a human can stand against a human. You could have passed this ability on to your machines, but you didnt. We have our parameters. Thats why no machine can effectively guard anythingincluding itselfagainst a human. But

There was a knock at the door. Suzi immediately darkened her viewscreen and floated off to a corner. Hosato swept the room with his eyes as a quick check that there was nothing incriminating in view, then opened the door.

Sasha was standing silhouetted in the doorway. Come on, Hayama, she said. Ive decided to buy your dinner. Unless, of course, you were planning on doing something else this evening.

No. Dinner sounds fine. Hosato smiled. Be with you in a minute.

As he retrieved his shoes, he watched Sasha out of the corner of his eye, remembering Suzis oration: . . . the most dangerous creatures in the universe.

They lingered over coffee in a quiet corner of the employees cafeteria. It was a huge place with lots of alcoves painted in bright, cheery colors.

Hosato had found Sashas company surprisingly pleasant. She had let her hair down off duty, both figuratively and literally. Her dark hair now tumbled over her shoulders, framing her face and contrasting with the beige dress she was wearing. The dress was obviously not a uniform; it was cut too low at the neck for that. It was some kind of jersey material, conservative in style but tight enough to be provocative.

Hosato studied her in a leisurely fashion as she talked.

So there I was with eight years experience and not a black mark on my record. Well the fact I was willing to take the job for less pay than most probably entered into it, too.

Hosato smiled appreciatively.

Actually, she said confidentially, I think some of the people who signed the authorization were hoping Id fall flat on my face. To this day I dont know which ones resented me because I was young and which ones didnt like me because I was a woman in one of the last fields dominated by men, but the bad feeling was there. They were like a pack of vultures waiting for me to stumble. Let me tell you, Hayama, its great incentive not to make a mistake.

I know what you mean, Hosato murmured.

He meant it as a random comment, but Sasha zeroed in on it for some reason.

Hows that. Oh. Yes, I guess there isnt much room for error as a duelist, either.

Hosato smiled and shrugged. He had not intended to turn the conversation to himself. In fact, he was anxious to avoid it.

Its very impressive, he said. Shoplifter patrol to corporation security chief in eight years. There arent many people of either sex who have that kind of a success record.

Well, I had a couple lucky breaks. She shrugged. I guess Im just a little more stubborn than most about pursuing them. Darn ill There I go talking about myself again. Weve gone through an entire meal, and all weve done is talk about me.

I think its fascinating, Hosato insisted. I dont usually get a chance to talk to someone in your line of work. Tell me, why did you go into Security in the first place?

No, Sasha said firmly. Were going to talk about you for a change.

Why. My life is terribly dull compared to yours.

Dull. A professional duelist. I find that hard to believe, Hayama.

Really. People tend to romanticize the profession, but its quite a drab existence.

So tell me a little about this drab existence of yours.

In the face of her persistence, Hosato changed tack. Actually, he said, lowering his eyes, Id rather not talk about it. Ive fought a lot of duels and killed a lot of men. Theres no way of elaborating on that without it sounding like bragging, and I dont think its the kind of thing one should brag about. So, if you dont mind, lets just drop the subject and keep talking about you. Okay?

If you dislike dueling so much, why did you go into it in the first place? she pressed.

Shimatta! He shrugged, grinning wryly.

Hows that? Sasha frowned.

I said, '. Shimatta,' Hosato explained. Its an old Japanese expression, one of the few I use.

What does it mean?

It means '. I have made a mistake!' He smiled, In common usage, its an exclamation or a curse, usually just after a major disaster. Thats how I got into dueling. Shimatta . . . I made a mistake, and Ive been trying to correct it ever since.

Sasha cocked her head at him. Youre a strange man, Hayama. Most men Fve met would try to use their violent past to impress me.

Dont misunderstand me. Hosato smiled. Its not that I dont want to impress you. Youre a charming and attractive woman. I guess I was raised differently from most people as to what is included in polite conversation.

Okay. Then lets talk about that Your upbringing. You were raised on Musashi, werent you?

Thats right. Hosato felt vaguely uncomfortable. Sashas tenacity was disquieting.

Thats one of the colony planets, isnt it. One of those where a special interest group established a colony independent of corporation or government sponsorship?

Im surprised youve heard of it. Yes, it was originally a Japanese-. American settlement, but its pretty homogeneous now.

I have a confession to make. Sasha smiled. I hadnt heard of it until it showed up on your personnel form. After we contacted them to confirm your records, I did a little research on the place.

That must have been a chore, Hosato commented, checking my records, I mean. My family moved around a lot, so my records are pretty scattered, with several gaps in them.

There was another reason for his familys frequent relocation and the sporadic condition of their records. Both Hosato and his sister had received their educa- tion under three different names. It added to the completeness of their covers.

Oh, it wasnt that much trouble, Sasha assured him. Ive always been fascinated by the old Japanese culture. It was interesting to see what had survived the relocation into space. Do you know much about old Japan?

A bit, Hosato admitted . . . "had to learn about it as self-defense. A lot of people on Musashi were big on retaining ancestral ties. Fortunately, my family wasnt so fanatical on the subject as most. Do you know anything about Ninjas? Hosato suppressed his reaction with difficulty. If this was a trap, Sasha had laid it well.

A smattering, he replied casually. I always considered them more folklore than history.

Oh, they were real enough. The Invisible Assassins. The main problem is separating fact from fantasy. Even their name, Ninja, comes from the word ninjitsu, the 'art of invisibility.' You wouldnt believe some of the things they were able to do. Thats how the folklore thing got started. They did the impossible with such regularity that people thought they were somehow supernatural.

What I cant believe is how much attention youve given them, Hosato commented. I somehow never pictured you as the sort who got wound up over ancient history.

Sasha shrugged. Normally I dont, she admitted. But the Ninjas fascinate me . . . professionally. I mean, security is my main field of expertise, but from what Ive researched about the Ninjas, Im not sure I could stop one.

Oh, come now, Hosato chided. You just finished saying they were human. Surely todays security

Sasha interrupted him with a wave of her hand. You didnt let me finish. Let me give you an idea of how the Ninjas operate. The invisibility thingthey had a lot of fairly inventive gadgets that let them move freely where anyone else would be stopped cold, but that wasnt their main weapon. Their real strength was in their secrecy.

They cant have been very secretive if youve found out so much about them, Hosato interrupted.

What Ive found out is probably just the tip of the iceberg, she retorted. The Ninjas were very close, organized in clans or families. All their secrets were passed on from generation to generation within the family. Can you read between the lines what that means. The children were raised into the system, trained from birth. Can you imagine someone trained his entire life to be a spy and assassin?

Hosato didnt have to imagine it. What was more, the memories were making him uncomfortable, particularly considering the current situation.

But theyre still just human, he argued. One thing Ive learned as a duelist is that a sword or a bullet kills a highly trained opponent just as dead as an untrained opponent.

If you know who your opponent is. Look, the average thug we have to deal with today is fairly easy to unmask. His idea of a cover story is to use a different name and list some phony references. Check his references closelysay, like we did yoursand hes caught. The Ninjas were required to maintain three, sometimes four completely separate lives. Thats what I meant about the invisibility thing. Someone in town is assassinated, but no one new has been seen entering or leaving. Obviously the assassin was 'invisible,' coming and going without being seen. What actually happened was that the guy who sells you your vegetables every morning is a Ninja, and has been living in the town for five years. Hes not really invisible, just very well camouflaged. If someone like that popped up today, we wouldnt catch him, no matter how many checks we ran on his background.

Hosato was now desperate to change the subject.

It is interesting, he admitted. But academic. As I recall, the Ninjas died out a long time ago.

Dont be so sure, Sasha chided. There were reports the clans were active into the twentieth century. Theres no real reason why they should have died out. Remember, their strength is their anonymity. The fact we havent heard of them lately could mean theyve died out. It could also mean theyre still around and very successful.

If thats a possibility". Hosato laughed. Im glad its your problem and not mine. You make me very happy I chose the line of work I did. Incidentally, I think youve proved my point for me. Next to your job, mine as a professional duelist is drab and unexciting.

Sasha winced. I did it again, didnt INo matter what I try, we always end up talking about me and my interests.

Dont apologize, Hosato insisted. I get the feeling there arent many people here at the complex you can talk to.

Thats the truth. Sasha made a face. All in all, the people here are a pretty grim crew,

The robot that had been servicing their table chose this moment to wheel up and present the bill.

Almost robotlike? joked Hosato, nodding his head at the intruder.

Sasha produced her employee card and started to feed it into the robot.

Hosato slapped her hand lightly. Stop that. He smiled, producing his own card. Allow me this one concession to romanticism. He fed the card into the robot, charging the meal to his own account.

Romanticism? Sasha leaned back, studying him with a cocked eyebrow. I suppose you feel that entitles you to carry me off to your room for activities of dubious morality.

Certainly not, Hosato laughed. In fact, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

As soon as he said it, he knew he had made a mistake. Something went out of his dinner partner. She seemed to shrink for an instant, and when she moved again, it was with the brisk, efficient motions of the security chief again.

What I mean, he hastened to add, was that I really found your thoughts on Ninjas quite fascinating. So fascinating, in fact

Thats all right, Hayama, Sasha said, cutting him short. Its rather late, anyway. She rose but motioned for him to remain seated. Go ahead and finish your coffee. Ill just . . .

She stopped suddenly, staring at nothing; then a slow smile crept over her face.

Since youre interested, Hayama, you should be the first to know. I think Ive figured out a way to catch a Ninja.

Oh, really. What? Now she was smiling directly at him. Ill tell you, once I find out if it works or not. A wave of her hand and she was gone, leaving Hosato feeling more than vaguely uneasy.

Make that feint believable. If you dont draw the parry, youll parry yourself by attacking into a closed line when you disengage.

James nodded his acknowledgment without looking at Hosato, settled into his en garde position once more and again launched his attack against Suzi. Extending his sword to threaten the manikins chest, he hesitated a split second, then dipped his point and circled it left to evade the anticipated parry, and lunged.

The sword in Suzis single arm remained rigidly in place, refusing to react to the feint. As such, Jamess final lunge met an unyielding wall of steel as the blades met, and his point slid harmlessly past the target.

Hosato rolled his eyes in exasperation but regained his composure before he stepped forward to address his student.

First off, youre too tense. Relax for a minute and loosen up your sword arm. If its tense, your movements are jerky. That slows you up and telegraphs to your opponent what youre trying to do. Minus two points, and you lose. Loosen that arm.

James obediently stepped back and dropped his sword arm to his side, flexing and shaking it in an effort to reestablish its suppleness. Hosato watched for a few moments before nodding his satisfaction and continuing.

Now, then, he said firmly. From the top. A disengage attack the old one-two. What are we trying to do?

Hit the opponent, James replied.

Hit the opponent, Hosato mimicked. Thats what youre trying to do with any fencing move.

James gave a small sigh of exasperation. The disengage attack is intended to negate your opponents defensive speed, he recited. As the defender has to move his weapon only four inches to parry an attack, and an attacker has to move his point four feet to score a hit, the defender is able to easily stop a straight lunge. Therefore, to successfully complete an attack, we first feint, drawing the opponents parry, then evade or deceive the parry and launch the actual attack.

Correct, commented Hosato, picking up his own sword. Now, watch.

He came en garde smoothly, facing the boy, hesitated a moment, then extended the point without twitching any other part of his body.

James watched with rapt interest.

Hosato withdrew his arm to resume the en garde position once more. You didnt react, he said accusingly.

React to what? the boy asked, surprised. Thats what Im trying to show you. Hosato smiled. Heeii!

He was suddenly a blur of motion. His foot hit the floor with a slap as he crouched, sighting down his arm and sword at Jamess chest. The boys reaction was instantaneous and reflexive. He bounced back a step, and his sword whipped up to defend against the attack.

Hosato relaxed and stood upright again. That time you reacted. He smiled. Why?

I thought you were going to hit me, the boy retorted, cautiously relaxing his guard.

Look at the distance between us. Even if you hadnt jumped back, I couldnt have reached you with my longest lunge.

James studied the floor between them.

A feint isnt a move, its a threat. The first time,

when I just pointed the sword at you, I made a move. You didnt feel threatened, so you didnt react. The second time, you felt threatened and reacted. That was a feint. It isnt done with the sword or even the sword arm. Its done with the entire body, and most of all with the entire mind. Now, lets try it again.

James obediently took up his position in front of the robot again. Hosatos practiced eye noted the tension still in the boys sword arm. Apparently his student was getting tired. Theyd have to end this lesson soon.


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