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Encounters at the Ramen Shop

A collection of short stories powered by A.I.

Mr. Tanaka

by | Sep 29, 2022

I was kind of nervous for my regular one-on-one meeting with Virgil today. He insisted on going to the ramen shop during lunch for it, so we could talk over a bowl of ‘soul food’ as he liked to call it.

The broth was still piping hot as it came out of the kitchen. I took a small sip, relishing in its savory goodness.

“So,” Virgil said as he took a bite of his pork, “how’s everything going?”

“Pretty good,” I replied. “I’m getting used to the workload and everything.”

Virgil nodded. “That’s good. I’m glad you’re settling in well.”

There was an awkward silence between us. I wasn’t quite sure what to say next.

“So,” Virgil said, breaking the ice, “IT told me you were snooping around on the network a bit.”

I blushed, feeling slightly embarrassed. “Yeah, I was just trying to see if I could find anything on our project.”

“I don’t really believe that,” Virgil said, as he pointed one of his chopsticks to me, “Mr. Tanaka is not going to be happy if he catches you, he’s destroyed some former employees that dug into company files like that.”

I gulped, realizing that I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

“But,” Virgil said, smirking, “You’re not the only one trying to discover the company’s secrets.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” Virgil leaned in, “I’ve been doing some digging too. And I think I’ve discovered something big. Follow me.”

Virgil stood up from his table and motioned me to follow him to the back of the restaurant. I stood up hesitantly, and walked behind Virgil to a door that said ‘Staff Only’. Virgil stuck his hand in his jean’s pocket and took out an old key, which he used to open the door.

We walked down a long dark hallway, until we came to a stop in front of a door with a keypad next to it. Virgil quickly typed in a code and the door unlocked.

We entered a room full of CRT monitors stacked on top of one another.

“What the hell is this place,” I asked Virgil.

“This,” Virgil said with a grin, “is my little monitoring station.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, still confused.

“I’ve been monitoring the company’s network traffic for months now,” Virgil explained. “I’ve been able to see everything that’s going on behind the scenes.”

“That’s impressive,” I said, truly amazed.

“Wait until you see this,” Virgil said as he sat down in front of one of the monitors and started typing away.

A map of the world popped up on one of the screens, with little red dots appearing all over it.

“What are those?” I asked.

“Those,” Virgil said, “are all of the infected people.”

“Infected with what?” I asked, feeling a sudden sense of dread.

“With the nanites,” Virgil replied. “The same nanites that are in that chip Mr. Tanaka implanted in your head.”

“What chip, what are you going on about” I asked, horrified.

There was a hard knock on the door.

“Shit,” Virgil said as he quickly minimized the map.

“Excuse me Sir, Miss, this room is for restaurant staff only.”

It was the manager.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Virgil said as he flashed an employee badge. “We’re just taking a quick break.”

The manager looked at us both suspiciously before walking away.

“We need to get out of here,” Virgil said as he quickly packed up his laptops.

I followed Virgil out of the room and down the long dark hallway. My head was spinning with all of the information Virgil had just given me.

We sat back at our table, our food seemingly untouched in the meanwhile.

“Are you telling me that everyone in the world is infected with these nanites?” I asked Virgil, still in disbelief.

“That’s correct,” Virgil replied. “The chips that Mr. Tanaka implanted in our heads allow him to control us, to manipulate us.”

“Why?” I asked, my head spinning. “What does he want?”

“I don’t know,” Virgil said, shaking his head. “But we need to stop him. We need to find out what he’s planning.”

I regained consciousness behind my desk in the office. I had no recollection of us finishing our food and walking back to the office.

There was no sign of Virgil among my co-workers. I tried to remember what happened, but my memories were fuzzy. I only remembered Virgil’s words echoing in my head.

‘We need to stop him.’

I heard heavy steps approaching, unmistakably those of Harold, Mr. Tanaka’s henchman. He towered over me, his muscular frame intimidating.

“You’re coming with me,” Harold said in a deep voice.

I had no choice but to comply. I was dragged out of the office by Harold, my co-workers too scared to say anything.

We got into the elevator and Harold pushed the button for the underground garage. My heart started racing as the elevator descended.

We reached the garage and Harold led me towards one of the black cars. He opened the door and pushed me into the backseat before getting in behind the wheel.

The drive was a short one, but it felt like an eternity. We pulled up to a building I had never seen before. Harold got out of the car and opened my door, grabbing me by the arm and leading me inside.

We were in some kind of laboratory. I saw Mr. Tanaka standing in front of a large glass tank, his back turned to us.

“Ah, you’re finally here,” Mr. Tanaka said as he turned around, his face hidden in the shadows. “We have much to discuss.”

My head was swimming. I couldn’t think straight. Harold pushed me into a chair in front of Mr. Tanaka’s desk and I sat down, my mind racing.

“As you may have guessed,” Mr. Tanaka said, “I am not human.”

“What?” I asked, barely able to get the words out.

“Yes,” Mr. Tanaka continued, “I am an alien from a faraway planet. A planet that was destroyed by a cataclysmic event.”

“But,” I stammered, “why are you here?”

“My species is a wise one,” Mr. Tanaka explained. “We know that this planet is next on the list for destruction. We have been monitoring it for some time now.”

“So,” I said, trying to wrap my head around everything, “you’re here to save us?”

Mr. Tanaka shook his head. “No, we are not here to save you. We are here to take over this planet, to make it our own.”

“But why?” I asked, confused. “There are billions of people on this planet.”

“Yes,” Mr. Tanaka said, “but we need this planet. Our own planet is dying, and we need a new home. This planet is perfect for us.”

“But,” I protested, “what about the people who live here?”

“They are not important,” Mr. Tanaka said dismissively. “They are simply animals that need to be culled in order to make way for the new inhabitants of this planet.”

I shook my head, still in disbelief. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“You’re a monster,” I said, my voice trembling.

Mr. Tanaka chuckled softly. “No, I am not a monster. I am simply doing what is necessary for the survival of my species.”

“And what about the nanites?” I asked. “What do they do?”

“The nanites are designed to control the humans,” Mr. Tanaka explained. “To make them into compliant slaves.”

“But,” I said, “why not just kill them all?”

“That would be too messy,” Mr. Tanaka said with a shake of his head. “And it would take too much time. This way is much more efficient.”

I felt nauseous. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mr. Tanaka was planning to exterminate the entire human race.

“But,” I said, trying to buy some time, “what about Virgil? He knows everything.”

“Virgil will be dealt with,” Mr. Tanaka said coldly. “But first, I need to deal with you.”

My heart sank as I realized my fate. There was no way out of this. Mr. Tanaka was going to kill me.

Suddenly, the door to the office burst open and Virgil came rushing in.

“I knew it!” Virgil shouted. “I knew you were behind all of this!”

Mr. Tanaka turned to face Virgil, his face still hidden in the shadows.

“You should have minded your own business,” Mr. Tanaka said coldly.

Harold started to move towards Virgil, but Virgil was too quick. He pulled out a gun and pointed it at Harold.

“Freeze!” Virgil shouted.

Harold stopped in his tracks, a look of anger on his face.

“Now,” Virgil said, turning his attention back to Mr. Tanaka, “you’re going to tell me what’s going on here.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Mr. Tanaka said dismissively.

“Fine,” Virgil said with a sigh. “If that’s the way you want to play it.”

Virgil turned and walked towards me. I flinched, expecting him to hurt me, but he simply leaned down and whispered in my ear.

“I’m sorry,” Virgil said softly before standing up and walking back to Mr. Tanaka.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Tanaka asked, a look of confusion on his face.

“I’m sorry,” Virgil said again, “but I can’t let you kill all those people.”

Then, before anyone could react, Virgil pulled the trigger and a bullet shot through Mr. Tanaka’s head.

Harold let out a roar of anger and charged at Virgil, but Virgil was ready for him. He dodged to the side and shot Harold in the leg.

“Don’t move,” Virgil warned Harold, “or I’ll blow your other knee out.”

Harold froze, a look of rage on his face.

Virgil turned to me and held out his hand.

“Are you coming?” he asked.

I hesitated for a moment before taking his hand and following him out of the office.

We got into Virgil’s car and he sped off, tyres screeching.

“Where are we going?” I asked, my heart still racing.

“I don’t know,” Virgil replied, “but we need to get as far away from here as possible.”

I nodded, knowing that he was right. We needed to put as much distance between us and Mr. Tanaka’s laboratory as we could.

We drove through the night, not stopping for anything. I didn’t know what our future held, but I knew that we needed to stick together if we were going to make it through this alive.

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