<Nanasawa-san? >

Kimiko looked up from her script to see Rostovich standing in front of her. She was amazed that someone so large could move so quietly.

<Yes? >

Rostovich looked around before he continued; there was no one else in the sound room or even visible down the hallway. <I'd like to talk with you after work today. It won't take very long. If it would be all right I'd like to meet at the little coffee shop at the end of the block.

Kimiko frowned, <What's this about Rostovich-san? >

Rostovich looked up nervously as the crew began returning to the control room, <I can't really say right now, I have to go. >

Kim iko scowled as she watched him leave, was this some clumsy attempt to hit on her? She began reading her lines again, her irritated mood suited this afternoons reading quite well. She wondered if Matsui had put Rostovich up to it just to annoy her and that thought irritated her even more.

Two hours passed and they were through for the day, Kimiko had forgotten about Rostovich until she left the building. There he was, standing on the sidewalk waiting on her. Kimiko smiled at him, her resolve to pursue Piro was making her feel bold <I had forgotten all about meeting you, Rostovich-san. > She searched his face for some sign of disappointment at the slight.

Rostovich nodded, <I was afraid that you might so I decided to meet you here. Please follow me. >

Kimiko was once more irritated with Rostovich, he didn't seem at all displeased or put down and now he was ordering her around. Sighing in resignation she followed him.

The coffee shop was a Starbucks; it could have been a Starbucks anywhere on the planet, the only people besides the staff was a couple of American talking loudly in English. Glancing at them he led Kimiko to a table on the other side of the room He then bought both Kimiko and himself a cappuccino.

Kimiko looked Rostovich in the eye; she wasn't going to let anyone push her around. Rostovich might not be any better than one of those losers that tried to grope her at Anna Millers. She smiled then; little did he realize that coffee was her weapon of choice for dealing with that sort of thing, <What is the meaning of this, Rostovich-san? >

Rostovich was startled; she had never been this abrupt. He had seen her interview tapes; he had watched her on the surveillance cameras. Where had this aggression come from?

<Well, can you tell me some more about Ping? >

Kimiko frowned, <What is there to tell? >

Rostovich leaned forward; <There are some very strange things in her d iagnostic logs. I was wondering if you had ever seen her do anything out of the ordinary. >

Kimiko paused, <She's a robot girl, how would I know what's out of the ordinary for her? >

Rostovich nervously licked his lips, <her logs show that a few days ago she invoked something called an Expert System: Pistol. Tell me, have you ever seen her with a firearm? >

Kimiko shook her head, <No, I think I'd have to call my friend Sonoda Masamichi who is with the police if I did. I would be afraid. >

Rostovich nodded, <I'm really sorry to have asked you to come here like this but I was afraid to talk to you in the building. > He looked around, <Our system administrator say that there is something strange in our computer systems now. What is strange is that things are running smoother than they should. Nosy hackers are not probing us; it's like something is blocking them before they can even try. > The big man shook his head, <I had advi sed those fools to keep the surveillance system separate but they ignore me so now it's part of the computer network. >

Kimiko suddenly felt afraid, <Who do you think is doing this? >

Rostovich looked unhappy, <We think that Ping is responsible, that she may be trying to protect you somehow but we're not sure. >

Kimiko felt relief washes over her, <Do you want me to ask her? Ask her to stop? >

Rostovich shook his head, <No, we'll keep an eye on things> he then took a deep breath, <What do you know about her first user, Tsubasa? >

Kimiko shrugged, <Only that he went to America to search for his true love. >

<What if I told you that there is no evidence that he ever left the country? >

<What are you saying? >

Rostovich leaned closer, <Tsubasa is listed as missing, and there is no record that he bought a plane ticket to go to America. >

Kimiko looked at Ros tovich and pondered what he was implying. She thought of how gentle and sweet Ping was to Piro. <No, I don't believe that. Don't ever say such things about her. >Kimiko stood, <Thank you for telling me this, Rostovich-san. But I must tell you that Ping only wishes to help. >

Rostovich watched as Kimiko left the coffee shop. She was probably right, the robot probably did want to help. He would just have to keep an eye on things.

Rostovich didn't notice the security camera behind the counter tracking him as he left the Starbucks.

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