Chapter 01

Air Force Base 110, Creil, France.

“Approach Taxiway B and await further instructions.”

The air-traffic controller gave instructions to the Mirage F1C Fighter that had just landed.

On Runway A, the nearest runway to the south, another fighter plane was preparing for takeoff with an OK from the control tower, having been transmitted a northbound route.

There was no response from the Mirage F1C.

“Is something wrong? Please approach Taxiway B.”

On the monitor, the Mirage F1C Fighter changed course to the south and kept proceeding in that direction.

The air-traffic controller’s face turned pale.

“Stop! Take Taxiway B! Correct course immediately!”

The frantic calls were in vain and the Mirage F1C Fighter continued to push its way through the night in a straight line.

The air-traffic controller’s voice reached the fighter plane’s cockpit. The pilot was trying as hard as he could to obey instructions.

However, the aircraft behaved as though it were on autopilot and would not accept any manual input.

Meanwhile, the fighter plane on Runway A started increasing its speed in order to take off.

This pilot was surprised to see the other plane slowly but steadily coming towards him from the other side.

While cursing at the wayward aircraft, the pilot made a sharp turn to the right.

However, his aircraft could also no longer be manually operated.

The two network-controlled fighter planes crashed into each other with such precision and with such callousness, it was as though they were both executing a predetermined path by a computer program.

Both aircraft were wrecked in an instant.

Eastern Missouri, United States of America.

Departing St. Louis, the train conductor, heading for the Eads Bridge, moved the lever as instructed by the computer and tilted his head.

He felt that the train’s speed was higher than usual. The scenery outside passed by faster than usual.

The conductor confirmed the speed on the indicator. Fourty-six miles per hour (seventy-five kilometers per hour). Proper speed as usual.

There was no problem.

The conductor followed the computer’s indications without giving them a second thought. He felt it would be safer to follow the computer’s instructions than for a human to make unneccesary judgments. When an error occurs, in most cases it’s due to human error. Computers don’t make mistakes.

That notion is true in a sense. However, it’s based on the premise that appropriate human checks will be in done. The conductor neglected to properly check.

In fact, by this time, the train’s speed was already beyond seventy-four miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour).

The network control system was completely running wild.

The train went over a gently descending curve and its speed increased further.

The front half of the train could not withstand the force and was derailed. Then, each car’s connection was broken upon impact.

The curve’s destination was the Mississippi River.

The separated railcars rolled off of the Eads Bridge with tremendous speed and pierced the pristine river like a missile.

The rear brakes locked into place after the first through fourth cars dropped, stopping the rest of the railcars in the middle of the bridge.

There were twenty-one dead and seventy-five seriously wounded.

The White House office was filled with an unusual amount of bustle and angry yelling.

The 44th President of the United States, Jim Stonecold, listened to the reports brought to him one after the other.

He took office seven years ago and has since enacted bills for the establishment of the World Network Council (WNC) and passed legislation concerning the Internet.

While jokingly being called the Net General, he tried to adapt the rapidly growing network to his country and, in taking the helm, he was considered to have been successful.

But what was happening right now? The network went silent, communications ceased, accidents started occurring all over the world and no one could grasp the full picture.

Everyone was shouting randomly. It seemed that this office where top-class officials gather had become Babel.

“It’s seems a virus has penetrated our defenses.”

“Impossible. To think, a virus in a completely clean and large government office such as this.”

“Two aircraft crashed.”

“Communication was…”

“The stock exchange…”

“There’s no connection.”

“The situation is quickly…”

The Director of National Intelligence walked to the President’s side.

“Mr. President. This is serious.”

“Is there anything more serious than this?”

“The automated counter-strike missiles have become operational.”

The office fell into immediate silence at the words of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Impossible. Why are they activated?”

“It seems the computer determined that the Executive Office had been attacked and destroyed, so the system entered the launch-ready position, pointing the missiles towards enemy countries.”

“Shut it down.”

“I can’t relay that order. Our communications system is down.”

President Stonecold was lost for words.

It was unbelievable. Of all things that could happen, such a disaster had to happen during his term in office. His mind couldn’t keep up with tremendous amount of information it had to process. Who caused this to happen? Who can fix this?

Oh, God.

(January 5, 2006, California)

――Can you tell me your name?

“Warren. Warren Brock.”

――Okay, Warren. There’s no need to be nervous. There are a few things I need to ask you, okay? How old are you?

“Ten years old.”

――Do you have any family?

“My mom, dad, and Timmy.”

――Timmy?

“Timmy, my cat. A British Short Hair.”

――I see. Where do you live?

“Downtown.”

――Do you like school?

“Yeah.”

――Do you have any friends?

“Yeah.”

――What do you usually do with your friends?

“We play baseball and soccer.”

――Do you play computer games with them?

“No.”

――Why not?

“Because they’ll think I’m a nerd.”

――Do you play games in secret?

“Yeah.”

――When did you start using computers?

“Two years ago my dad bought me one for my birthday.”

――Do you talk with your friends about computers?

“Except for Randolph, no.”

――You mean Randolph Hennings, right? He runs a Computer Shop near your house.

“Yeah.”

――Did you get Randolph to teach you about computers?

“At first, but…”

――But?

“Now I’m much more familiar with them.”

――How did you learn to write programs?

“I would ask Randolph, read a book, or look things up online. After that it came naturally.”

――Did you eventually become good enough to create a program?

“Yeah.”

――Did you want to try out the program you had made?

“Yeah.”

――Why?

“Because I thought I could. So, I just tried it out. Besides, someone else may have done it first. I had to be the first one to do it, but…”

――Do you regret it?

“Yeah.”

――What happened?

“A lot of people did horrible things. I saw it on TV. All because of my program…”

On December 24, 2005, the entire world’s networks stopped all at once for one hour and seventeen minutes.

All commercial transactions that were dependent on the network were stopped and the world economy was hit hard.

Most computers connected to administrative, financial, transportation, and enterprise networks were disconnected. Data ended up getting damaged or leaked, trains collided, planes crashed and other accidents were rampant.

The computers of the Executive Office of the President of the United States went offline, and the Department of Defense’s auto-retaliation missile system, which was linked to the network, decided that the Executive Office was under attack, thereby entering a launch position pointed towards enemy countries. If the network had continued to be disconnected for a few minutes longer, the real world could have been thrown into ruin by a nuclear war or a third World War.

The culprit who made the computer virus that caused the incident was a young boy, just ten years old at the time.

The reasons for this cybercrime and the motives behind it were summarized into each of the following four statements.

The crime was committed out of simple curiosity and as a sort of prank, while the culprit also delighted in watching people react to his crime.

The crime was committed for political or religious reasons.

The crime was an act of espionage to incite a war between several nations.

Finally, the crime was committed for financial gain.

This worldwide cybercrime, later to be known as “Pluto’s Kiss,” the first of several like these, was caused by a “voyeuristic criminal who aimed to create mischief for the sake of intellectual curiosity.”

The matter is difficult to understand if we don’t call this type of person a hacker.

He did what no one else had done, did it so quickly, and in a way no one had seen before. He wanted to be praised by others for his accomplishment. He wanted approval.

That’s why this young boy tried to destroy the world.

Fortunately, the Pluto’s Kiss virus had been set to self-destruct in advance.

After spreading chaos across the world, the virus automatically disappeared, which allowed infected computers to recover.

A nuclear war was avoided and infrastructure was not damaged beyond repair.

The world was saved. Barely.

After the “Seventy-seven Minute Nightmare” brought on by the Pluto’s Kiss virus had ended, many people realized something.

The Internet was not the shining path of hope they had first thought.

It had the potential to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Pluto’s Kiss opened Pandora’s Box.

After the incident, restrictions were placed on access to the network and these restrictions would continue for about two years.

(California once again)

“Am I under arrest?”

――No, you’ll be protected.

“Protected?”

――Yes. We’ll protect you. From all of this.

“I don’t understand.”

――Your skills are tremendous. If it becomes known that the creator of that program was you, people may threaten you or try to hurt you.

“And my mom and dad?”

――They’ll be fine. We will protect your father and mother. And Timmy too, of course.

“Will everything stay the same? Will I still see my friends?”

――You… won’t be able to see your friends. You’ll have to move. Also, you’ll need to change your name.

“Will I go to school?”

――You’ll go to a different school. You’ll be able to make new friends there.

“Am I allowed to use a computer?”

――Oh, of course.

“Good. I’ll study very hard.”

――That’s good.

“Next time I’ll do even better.”

――That’s… what was that?

“Next time I’ll make a virus that I can control properly.”

――…I’d like to ask about your work.

“Okay.”

――Why did you create a self-destructing program?

“Because my birthday is next week.”

――What do you mean?

“I made a promise with my dad. He said he would buy me a new game.”

――In other words?

“You’ll be worried if I can’t use a computer then, won’t you?”

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