Ghost in the Shell: Defining the Indefinable

Note 1: Mostly based on the first season of the series, and loosely based on the movies.

Note 2: Italics represent conversation via e-brain.

Disclaimer: I do not own Ghost in the Shell or any of the characters, I am merely borrowing them for this story.

Summary: 3009 is an epoch of vast technology, where the net has reached its true potential. Its boundaries have stretched beyond imagination and have transcended above human limitations. This is a time where humans are the minority and people have chosen to transfer their spirits into artificial bodies, further recreating the definition of what it means to be human. With the creation of artificial intelligence, humanity has redefined the meaning of existence. With the melding of man and machine, the boundaries of humanity have become indistinguishable. In a world where artificial intelligence, makes true intelligence obsolete, when our own minds and memories fail us, only the ghost can determine who is a creation of the net and who is truly alive.

Ch. 1. False Memories

The mournful wail of ambulance sirens reverberated through the city streets, disrupting the calm ambiance of the dismal, rainy evening. Stark, red and blue neon lights flashed harshly against the hoary gray sky like bolts of brightly colored lightening. Their intense light flooded through the small apartment window, casting an eerie glow upon the crime scene. At the base of the first floor, sprawled upon the cold cement, the body of a man in his mid forties lay amidst a pool of his own blood. The neon lights reflected on the thick, milky fluid, further enhancing the macabre scene. Death had come as a surprise to the man., catching him completely unaware. His eyes remained unclosed., opened in shock and horror. His murky black pupils peered through the glossed exterior as if searching for an unanswered question, or the very face of his killer. His mouth hung open, savoring his final word or breath. It appeared as if he were still trying to communicate with the living. Although his ghost had long transcended into the next life, and the body itself could no longer speak, there was still a way for the victim to communicate, and perhaps identify his own murderer.

Thin, threadlike wires traveled from the U-shaped dummy-barrier to the terminals inserted in the nape of Togusa's neck. Holding the other end of the delicate wires lightly between his forefinger and thumb, Togusa considered taking the dive into the man's cyber memory bank. Through his memories, Togusa could view the man's final moments and perhaps even find out who had killed him. He began to plug the loose ends into the victims own terminals, but something caused him to falter.

Togusa, report. Major Motoko Kusanagi's deep, hallow voice contacted him through his e-brain. He cringed slightly at the mechanical ring that was her voice. Its low yet piercing tone startled him from his musings.

Bloody mess. Togusa grimly stated, his own voice thick with sarcasm. It was late, and he was losing his patience early this night. He was accustomed to long nights, being a former detective; however, tonight seemed particularly tiresome. He pulled the hem of his sleeve back to check the hour on his watch. It was a quarter past nine. At home his wife was just sitting down to dinner. She would be dining alone again tonight.

Have you identified the cause of death? Motoko was not amused by his dry humor so late in the evening? She too was impatient to wrap this case up.

I'm not a mortician, but my best guess is that it was the gunshot wounds to the chest and lower abdomen that killed him. Togusa said with the same derisive tone as before. Cause of death is pretty obvious, but as to who and why is another question. Another question is to why Section Nine is involved with a simple case of homicide. Can't the local police handle this case on their own?

Always questioning everything, aren't you, Togusa? Motoko's voice hinted of laughter as she fondly recognized one of Togusa's obvious foibles. She continued in a voice more serious and to the point. A series of unexplained cyborg related homicides, most of them young adults murdering their own families; that sounds like a case for Section Nine to me.

Being the case, Togusa retorted, why has it just come to our knowledge? There's not enough information as to why these murders are occurring, and if they are related to cyborgs.

That's what we're here to find out. Motoko confirmed. The police suspect his daughter, who recently underwent a full cyber- transformation. She may have been involved in the murder.

His own daughter could have done this? Togusa's eyes roamed over the misshapen corpse in grim amazement at what humans were capable of. For a moment, thoughts of his own daughter flickered in his mind. He wondered if his daughter could one day be capable of such a thing. No-he reassured himself, and shook those dreadful thoughts from his mind. Not his little girl.

So far none of the other accused have uttered a word as to why. Motoko's voice sounded frustrated and tired. That would definitely prove if there was a connection or not.

Togusa felt the wires in his hands and reconsidered linking with the man's memories. He knew the dummy barrier around his neck stood between his own brain and anything he plugged into. He felt secure knowing he had this protective device. His own curiosity and impatience outweighed the risks. Quickly, he made up his mind. Major, I'm going in.

Careful, Togusa. Her voice was sharp and full of warning. These murders could be the result of a virus or a ghost hacker.

Cautiously, Togusa inserted the other end of the wires into the man's own terminals, taking the dive into his memories. He broke through the barriers and their minds were instantly linked. Togusa's own thoughts and memories were melded with the other man's. A whirr of voices chattered at once, blurred together as they crashed along the electric waves of the sea of living data. Images and faces rushed along the electric current as the information traveled along the cord into the agent's own cyber-brain, an augmented brain in which terminals had been physically implanted for this and other various purposes. Images, made clearer by the implants, showed the agent the events which had progressed in the man's final moments of life.

Togusa surfed along the collection of data and sorted out the details of the crime. The scene quickly unfolded before his eyes.

An adolescent girl, no older than thirteen, stood before her father; a small handgun held firmly by two small white hands. Her hands shook uncontrollably and her knuckles were nearly transparent from the ever tightening grip around the handle and trigger. Her entire body convulsed as she sobbed in rage and dismay. In a high, frightened voice she shrieked accusations of physical and mental abuse that her father seemed to have no recollection of.

Togusa was aware of the man's emotions, of his misery and hurt, as his only daughter charged him of the unimaginable. Filling his mind were thoughts worse than the accusations. Thoughts of his only daughter believing that he had done those horrible crimes flooded his mind, along with the fear of losing her. Togusa felt the man's anguish as his life was shattered by the series of accusations that he could not fathom. He could not be the perpetrator of such horrible acts against his own child. He had never maltreated his daughter, nor had he ever engaged in abusive behavior toward her. He could not understand where these claims were coming from.

His daughter stared at him with fierce hatred; her teeth clenched, as her hands wrapped ever tighter around the gun. Tears ran down her hot red cheeks, pooling in the dip of her throat.

The man closed his eyes for a moment, hoping when he reopened them it would all be unreal, just a nightmare that he would soon wake from. But when he reopened his eyes she was still before him, her hatred for him apparent. She demanded a confession. He pleaded his innocence. She would hear no more lies from him. Squeezing her eyes shut tight, she pulled the trigger.

Togusa's own body jolted as the bullet pierced the man's flesh, severing his heart. She fired three times, and the last gunshot was met with a rush of static as his life came to an abrupt end.

Togusa ripped the cord from his neck, cutting the connection between him and the body. Gasping, he stumbled back against the nearest wall. He leaned heavily against the cool hard surface as he attempted to regain his composure. He felt the warm wetness of fresh tears traveling down his own cheeks and he realized he was crying. He had known the risk when he dove in, how his own emotions would be under the influence of the other man's. His mind returned to the previous thoughts of his own daughter. He found himself seriously pondering if she would ever be capable of such a horrible act. He felt nauseous, as if he would vomit. He pushed every thought from his mind and concentrated on breathing deeply, slowly in and out, in and out.

He felt his mind clear, his emotions re-stabilize. He was ready to contact the major.

Major, even the voice in his head was quavering and unsteady. I may have determined the killer's motive.

Report. She sounded unusually interested. He wondered if she, being a full cyborg, was also taking this case very personally.

It appears the girl was exacting revenge on her father for years of abuse. Togusa said as matter-a-factly as he possibly could. But what gets me is that the victim had no memories of these accusations. They didn't happen.

Sounds like a ghost hack. The major concluded. My guess is leaning toward a cyber terrorist.

This is serious stuff. Togusa seemed to state it as a question rather than a fact.

Still confused as to why Section Nine is involved? Motoko's voice rang with laughter, echoing coldly, inside his head. Now, he was not in the mood for jokes.

Let's go, Togusa. Motoko returned to her same stoic self. We haven't a moment to waste.

Several hours later the images of the murder were replayed on a large screen in the briefing room at Public Security Headquarters. Togusa stood among the small group of cyborgs and cyborized agents. With only an implanted sub-brain, he alone was the only human in the group. It was this difference that set him apart from the others, that made him special to Section Nine. Togusa cringed as every gruesome second of the murder was replayed before his reluctant eyes. He felt nauseous and the same feelings of anxiety and fear he felt during the dive returned.

Beside him, Motoko's cyborg partner, Batou, leaned casually against the stiff frame of the sofa. The furniture, though firm, succumbed to his massive weight. His small disk-shaped prosthetic eyes focused on the images; his brow furrowed around them. This gave him the appearance of squinting. The deep lines around his mouth were set in a firm frown as he concentrated on the hologram before him. His muscular arms remained crossed over his wide girth. He was a huge man, the muscle behind section nine.

From time to time, Batou would turn his attention away from the screen to make a derisive remark, usually directed to Togusa. He must have discerned Togusa's apparent discomfort, for a sardonic smile stretched across his smug, square face. He gave Togusa a peculiar look, made even more bizarre by his cyber eyes. "Looking pale, there, Togusa."

Togusa sighed impatiently at Batou's school-boy antics, and yet he was relieved to have a distraction from the horrible images being repeated on the screen. Around the room, the other members of section nine watched with little response as the recording came to a finish. With a whirr and a crackle the screen went blank.

"Did you get all that?" The head of section nine, chief Aramaki, swiveled his chair to face his men. His wrinkled, ape like face, which had so christened him with the moniker 'old ape,' was firmly set into a dour frown. Although he was an aging old man, he none the less demanded the highest respect. He seemed to speak to no one in particular as he addressed the team. He waited for a response as he laced his bent and knobby fingers together before him.

"Yes, sir." Saito casually leaned back on the hard sofa, his arms wrapped high above his head. His thin face was almost smug as he addressed the chief. After Togusa, he was the closest member to being human. His expertise was in weaponry and he was an excellent sniper. His eagle eye covered his right eye like an eye patch. Its vision was surpassed by none.

"What I don't get is how this crime is connected to the others." Batou shrugged shifting his weight from one booted foot to the next.

"Well, the murders have all been committed by cyborgs," Motoko Stood, stretching her long muscular legs. Thick bangs fell across her forehead, hiding the expression in her claret eyes. Being a cyborg herself, Togusa continued to wonder if she felt a personal connection to the case. Whether she felt it or not, Motoko remained as blasé as ever. She continued in her usual insouciance. "The victims have all been relatives to the suspects, in most cases they were killed out of revenge for crimes against them."

"That doesn't explain what this has to do with them being cyborgs. Batou seemed to take offence from the generalization. His blatant sarcasm was quickly transcending into agitation.

Motoko waited for Togusa to explain. Since he had taken the dive, he could best explain what he had witnessed. She sensed his unease and answered for him. "Well the victims contain no memory of doing these crimes, yet the suspects believe they did."

"Could it be a virus obtained somewhere during the cyberization process?" Ishikawa, one of the oldest members of section nine, leaned forward, testing his own theory on the case. He was a class-A hacker with an indissolubly calm demure. As he sorted his thoughts he habitually stroked the course brown hair of his beard . "Or perhaps it's a ghost hack?"

"Perhaps." Motoko said simply. "Which leads me to my next point. Each of the accused had recently undergone the transition from human to full cyborg within the past year, which furthers my suspicions of a virus. It's too early to say but we may be dealing with a cyber terrorist, or a professional hacker."

"But why would they target young teenagers?" Togusa asked, his voice rose slightly, revealing his anger. "What could a terrorist hope to achieve by installing false memories into children?"

"That is what we're here to find out." Aramaki said simply. "This could be a very serious conspiracy, or it could be the work of a novice hacker. Whatever it is, we don't have much time to find out." With that he turned to face the rest of the team. "Ishikawa, I need an analysis of the victim's memories and the breakdown of the murders. Tap into the data base, see if it's a virus. Batou, Bulma, I need you two to get down to the police headquarters, see if you can get some testimony from one of the suspects. Dig up as much information as you can."

"Right, Chief." Batou pulled his weight from the couch. The sofa slowly retook its form.

"Major, Togusa," The chief addressed them, finishing his orders . "I need the two of you to return to the crime scene and gather more evidence, see what you can uncover. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir." The other members responded in habitual unison as they all rose to depart.

Togusa waited a moment before he too decided to leave. As he turned for the exit, he felt Batou's large hand clasp firmly on his shoulder. Togusa felt the strong grip of his wide palm and tried no to flinch under his strength.

"One-on-one time with the major." Batou smirked in his usual wittiness. "You get all the fun jobs."

"Are you jealous big guy? Togusa retorted. His humor had long run dry.

Batou raised his hands, palms up, as if to block the very idea. His brows lifted and his forehead crinkled as his face morphed with laughter.

"Hey, Togusa." The major approached him as he made a second attempt to leave. As she walked over to him, she slowly pulled on her jacket, the trademark article of her style.

"What's up with you today? You seem distracted?"

"Family man." Batou laughed, his broad shoulders rose slightly with the chuckle. "Probably thinking about his grocery list."

"Yeah, and I suppose dog owners never think about buying dog chow." Togusa replied, referring to the countless stops they had made after work to buy dog food for Batou's basset hound, Gabriel. "Do you boss?"

"That's enough you two." Motoko strode past them, un-amused. Her red, inhuman eyes seemed to have taken on a fierce brilliancy. "We need to get down to business. Togusa, we leave in ten minutes."

Togusa held his nine millimeter Mateba in his right hand, relishing its simple familiarity. With the world so high-tech and complicated, it was refreshing to hold on to more sentimental possessions. For some unknown reason he clung to outdated relics, even his own wife could not get enough of old twentieth century movies.

He held the gun with both hands and wrapped his fingers along the obsolete firearm. He looked down the hall to the target and fired three times. The weapon's voice seemed to speak to him as it gave its ear-piercing cries. Smoke swirled about the gun for several seconds until finally transcending out of view. Within moments the light came on behind the target and he could see the bullet holes illuminated near the center of the bulls-eye. He smiled slightly, 'Accurate. Nice,' he thought, 'Still got it.'

He was unaware that the major was standing behind him, leaning casually over the railway that separated the shooting range from the rest of the room. She had an amused look on her face and he knew what she was thinking.

"Wouldn't it be much easier to invest in some prosthetics?" She teased. "Or you could at least move up to a more advanced firearm. That nine-mil is so outdated."

Togusa searched for a response, careful not to offend her with his reasoning against cyberization. Instead he had a question. "Major." He searched for the right way to risk a reoccurring inquiry. "If you're so concerned that I might not measure up as a human, why did you select me in the first place, why?"

"It's simple, Togusa, as I've told you before." She chuckled lightly, a sound like tinkling brass bells. "Predictability is a weakness; strength is found in diversity. It's your being human that makes you unique."

"Different more like it." Togusa mused, fondling his firearm. He felt as obsolete at the antique weapon.

"Except for your e-brain you are completely human, and you're a family man, that's what makes you unique." She reminded him. "It's necessary in this world of cyberization. Our differences are what make us human."

"So why do you insist that I go full cyborg?" Togusa was still a bit confused.

"It's just a suggestion." She laughed slightly. "It couldn't hurt."

"I'll pass, thanks." Togusa slid his gun back into its case. He glimpsed briefly up at the Major. Her back was to him now, and he could clearly see the terminals in the back of her neck. Occasionally, he forgot that she was a cyborg, and not a human. He remembered that she had undergone the transformation as a young girl and he couldn't fathom what it must have been like for her.

As if she realized what he was thinking, she turned to face him, a blend of both agitation and amusement on her face. "Now are you done socializing so we can get the investigation under way?"

"Right." Togusa nodded quickly as he stood, slinging the gun bag over his right shoulder. He still had one more question. "Uh, major."

"What now, Togusa?" She seemed to be leaning more towards agitation.

His voice stuck in his throat and he lost the nerve to ask. "Never mind."

"Then let's go." Motoko stretched her long muscular legs and strode out of the room. Togusa sighed, repositioned the gun bag around his shoulder, and reluctantly followed the Major back into the storm.