Nicklaus Nightwood Backstory

[Translator's Note: The following article is taken from the Japanese Spy Fiction website.]

          A fisherman finds a pearl in the Danube -
          but the oyster refuses to open.
          The fisherman is left with no option...
          he turns back to the fortress against the sound of bells.



A coded e-mail had arrived in the tactical director's mailbox.

          ...A pearl in the Danube.

After a moment's thought, the director cracked a grin.

          Oh, brother...we got a real live one here, I see.
          And to think he's come this far in just two months...

He was a special operative who appeared only in winter. He could be counted on to accomplish any mission - but come springtime, he would vanish without a trace. No one knew his true identity; no one had even seen the man's face...they'd first learned of his existence a mere two months ago.

Their current assignment was to track a syndicate of arms smugglers in Eastern Europe - to identify its de facto mastermind and neutralize the pipeline of weapons to the Third World. Three and a half years ago, however, they missed a big drop that went down in Prague, and the operation ended in failure. After that, their target went underground, and the gun runners became more vigilant.

This man was, in a sense, a Hail Mary last resort.

The director fished a raggedy cigarette out of his burgeoning ashtray. He put it to his lips and turned his eyes to his desk.

There sat a "red package," its seal hastily torn open. It had been sent to the director the other day - special intelligence with no return address.

          Better get it together...
          Winter's almost over...

So he muttered, lighting up the cigarette and putting a "ticket" in an envelope.

          Count the stars   on a cloudy night
          five stars    on the Danube
          Tap tap tap - a visitor at the door
          and when the sky clears - a shooting star


The director faces the monitor and begins typing on his keyboard. Taking in a deep drag on his cigarette, he gives a last look to the coded message he's written on the screen. Satisfied, he slowly presses the button to send.

Several days later...
in the Sofitel Atrium, a five-star hotel on the banks of the Danube.

The people crowded within were each acting out their individual roles in their own busy mornings. Lost in thought, the front desk clerk tapped the end of his pen on the table. A woman busily punched the keys on her register. A porter went by, irritated by his struggle with a broken wheel on the carry-on he was tugging behind him. A tourist awoke flustered to the sound of his alarm clock. A man beat out a rhythm with the coin he flipped in his hand.

There was another man in the lobby. He was reading a French newspaper, drinking a cappuccino. He seemed for all the world like just another businessman on a trip abroad - a temporary visitor in town to broker his latest deal. (And, indeed, those around him thought no differently.)

Upon finishing his cappuccino, the man took out a cigarette. He fished a lighter from his pocket and flicked it open.

As if on cue, a police officer appeared. He held a nightstick in his right hand, and tapped it in his left as he spoke.

          You gonna light that?...Don't you know this is a no-smoking area?

The officer looked down with a smug smirk.

          *Tsk tsk*... You'll have to pay a fine.

The officer had seemed to have been lying in wait for the man to light his cigarette. The man seemed to chafe at the situation but decided to cooperate and pay.

          Excellent. Here's your ticket.

The officer tore off the ticket, put away the collected fine (in his own pocket), and left. The porter and other guests looked on with sympathy.

          Pretty lousy trick to pull...

The man slowly rose to his feet and left the hotel. He clutched his "ticket" firmly in his hand.

Two weeks later...

a new coded e-mail appeared before the director's eyes. One that made his heart sing.

          The oyster rises to land
          Most probably, it will open its mouth this very night...

When he finished reading, he fished through the mountain of ash in his ashtray, as was his habit...and pulled out another raggedy stub.

          I can't handle the cold nights...
          but give my deepest thanks to Frosty.

Years of bitter fieldwork had, it seemed, finally borne fruit.


A man sat in a motel room on the outskirts of Budapest. A raspy voice could be heard over a wireless - the type of voice, one might conclude, whose owner had a cigarette perpetually dangling from his lips.

          This is the first time we've heard each other's voices...

          Not what you expected?

          Welllll...not far off.

The director greeted the heretofore-unheard voice on the other end as if he were reuniting with an old friend.

          So...what did you have in mind?

The silence on the subject broken, the director opted to keep the man in suspense a little longer.

          I thought we'd talk about your new assignment once you got back to headquarters.

          I see...

          Or would you like the pleasure of my company a little while longer?

The man cracked a small smile in response.

          Love to, but can't. Spring ain't far away, y'know.

          Of course...what would we ever do if you melted away on us?

A laugh broke out between the two men that only they would understand. The ash from his cigarette looked like it would fall out any minute.

          We'll run a cipher in the Help Wanted of tomorrow's morning edition. Crack it for us.

          Roger that. No problem.

The director continued speaking through his cigarette smoke.

          By the way, what's your name?

          My name?... That's right; I suppose I'll have to say goodbye to Snowman for a while...

Out the window, his eyes caught a lone neon sign that hung over a nearby club.

Club "N or D".

After a brief silence, the man opened his mouth.

          My name...
          is Nicklaus.
          ...Nicklaus Nightwood...

Upon hearing this, the director took a long drag on his cigarette.

          Pleased to meet you, Nicklaus Nightwood. Welcome to your afterlife.

                                                                                PHANTOM LIVE-057 BACK TO BASE

Explanation of the Coded Messages from Michael Kwan

[Translator's Note: The following article is taken from the Japanese Spy Fiction website.]

Mechanics specialist for Team Phantom Michael Kwan here. It's my job to explain the coded messages that popped up in Nicklaus's backstory.

Why's the tech expert doing the decoding, you ask? Well, the answer is that I just *happen* to be ex-CIA R&D - top of my profession, y'know.

Let me put these messages into words even you can understand. You can thank me later.

To start, if you break down the first message, it goes something like this -

"A fisherman finds a pearl in the Danube"...

"A pearl of the Danube" - meaning, the pearl of the Danube: a reference to the capital city of the republic of Hungary, Budapest, also known as the "Rose of the Danube." One Napoleon Bonaparte hailed her as the "Maid of the Danube."**

Next we have the "fisherman," which refers to the author himself, and the "oyster," which is his target's hideout - or maybe the target himself. The "fortress" to which the fisherman is returning is Budapest's tourist mecca of Fisherman's Bastion. From the surrounding geography, we should probably take the "bells" to be those of neighboring Matthias Church. He can hear the we can probably infer that he's keeping on eye on the church from the Bastion.

With me so far?

Next, we have the Director's reply, and I'll call your attention to this part here:

"Count the stars   on a cloudy night"...

Well, stars don't come out on a cloudy night, do they. Stupid thing to say, isn't it.

So he's not talking about a real star; he's talking about a figurative star. And the "five stars" in the "five stars on the Danube" bit is a big hint.

What does "five stars" mean to you?

...The answer: a five-star hotel. Any numbskull could see that.

Well...hold on a minute. A real numbskull could mistake the stars for a restaurant rating. The Michelin restaurant ratings go up to only three stars, though.

Back on topic: from these two lines, we can infer that the message refers to a five-star hotel on the Danube. We got that much. But if we suppose that the "cloudy night" part has a covert meaning as well, we can suppose it to be referring to cigarette smoke. Hungary didn't have any anti-smoking laws in effect until 1999. Up until then, adults and kids alike could smoke as much as they wanted... But in November 1999, they passed legislation making smoking illegal in any public area.

Well, right now they say the laws aren't really that strictly enforced in hotels that cater primarily to foreign tourists - business reasons, y'know - but..., back then, it was a different story.

Well, coincidentally, *just* after the law was enacted, there was a neverending parade of policemen hounding tourists in search of pocket money. They had no shortage of easy marks.

Anyhow, the "visitor": that points to the "cutout," the intermediary contact from the agency. Almost all of 'em are rank-'n'-files - liaisons between the organization and stakeholders on some end of the equation. From this, we can surmise that "visitor" is used here to mean "someone from the agency."

That leaves...

"Knock knock knock" and "at the door" are signals to help distinguish the cutout from the plebes. Most probably some sort of sound, maybe a rhythm being beaten out.

Finally, "and when the sky clears - a shooting star"... A "shooting star" is a symbol of good fortune, so it probably means some kind of support package. And if we remember that "cloudy" = "tobacco smoke" from before, we can infer that "when the sky clears" means "when the cigarette goes out" other words, "when the cigarette goes out, we'll give you something"!

You follow?

So the final message is pretty simple -

"The oyster rises to land" means death. In other words, the oyster is caught in a trap. And since a dead oyster opens its mouth as a reflex upon death...this means the operative's mission is at an end.

Put it all together, and we have...

          A fisherman finds a pearl in the Danube -
                    I found the target in Budapest -
          but the oyster refuses to open.
                    but he's not giving much away.

          The fisherman is left with no option...
                    So I've decided to take a wait-and-see approach.
          he turns back to the fortress against the sound of bells.
                    I'll continue the stakeout near his hideout.

          Count the stars on a cloudy night
                    Take some cigarettes and look for a hotel -
          five stars on the Danube
                    a five-star hotel on the Danube.
          Tap tap tap - a visitor at the door
                    The cutout will make contact upon an audible signal.
          and when the sky clears - a shooting star
                    Once you put out your cigarette, he'll give you a useful gift.

          The oyster rises to land
                    The target has fallen for the trap.
          Most probably, it will open its mouth this very night...
                    Everything will be settled tonight.

How's that? You clear now?
How 'bout some gratitude for the vital intel!?

[** - Translator note: I can find no evidence of Napoleon imparting any such nickname to Budapest. The raw Japanese for the title Michael claims, "Danau no Otome," is the Japanese title of a composition written by Johann Strauss II called "Danauweibchen" ("Maid of the Danube") in its native German. (The same composition is usually titled "Danube Mermaid" in English.)]

Dietrich Troy Backstory

[Translator's Note: The following article is taken from the Japanese Spy Fiction website. It contains spoilers for Spy Fiction's true end, the one that occurs upon beating the game twice.]


Budapest. At the restaurant Kifli* on Váci Street. Business is taking place in the back room.

Miklós, second-oldest of the Gogolák boys, was deep in negotiations with a man in black. Viktor Gogolák, the man who truly called the shots, had been waylaid by illness for a week. The battle within his family to be his successor had already begun. Many of his underlings supported the quick-witted eldest son, Aurel, but the brash, reckless Miklós had his charms for some.

The Gogoláks, the so-called Hungarian mafia, had connections to numerous power players in Eastern Europe. Obviously, the Gogoláks didn't differentiate between "clean" and "dirty" business.

Moreover, the godfather Viktor had gained his current position through dramatic conflict; he was a radical, a dyed-in-the-wool warrior. The sons through whose veins Viktor's blood ran would think nothing about killing each other - an attitude hardly uncommon in the world of the Mafia.

The man in black placed a red package on the table and whispered something in Miklós's ear. Upon hearing it, Miklós sat down as well, eminently satisfied.

*kifli = Hungarian croissants

Several days later...

The Sofitel Atrium, a five-star hotel on the Danube. Business is taking place in the lobby.

A businessman, probably here on an overseas deal, sips a cappuccino and reads a French newspaper. Probably had an appointment here for some business negotiations or something. No one worth noticing; no one to fear. He did, however, seem a little nervous. He was reading a newspaper, but he kept craning his neck ever so slightly from time to time, as if he were looking for something...

And then, when he had finished drinking his cappuccino, the business took place.

Once he had put the cup on the table, he deliberately took out a cigarette. To him, it was probably habit - but it was a problem in this country. The republic of Hungary had enacted anti-smoking legislation in November 1999, and smoking in public places was punishable by fine. (So it had been decided, anyway.) Moreover, in the wake of the legislation, there was no shortage of police officers looking to prey on tourists for pocket money.

Unfortunately, this businessman was no exception, and his gaffe warmed the heart (and wallet) of a nearby policeman. He was a large man, strangely striking, who had a habit of tapping his nightstick in his palm.

Before long, the self-satisfied policeman had disappeared, and the businessman had left the hotel lobby.

To their deep regret, neither one of them took notice of the man who was observing them both.

Two weeks later...

A tiny office building downtown. Business is taking place in a room inside.

A lone operative stared at his monitor. The mission that had occupied him for these past two-and-a-half months would be drawing to a close this very night. The ensuing report occupied his mind.

...But he found that the words wouldn't come to him. Something was weighing on his mind.

          This...this has all gone too smoothly...

He deleted his half-written report and began a new sentence.

          Operation suspended.
          ...Come back next winter.
                    - Snowman

It was his sixth sense - his animal instinct, you might call it. Perhaps he had finally recognized the true danger that had been lurking in the background all throughout this mission.

He finished writing and began opening a connection to an encrypted network. He entered his user ID and password, scanned his retina...his normal routine. But the seconds felt like hours.

          I've got a bad feeling about this... I've got to hurry...

And then - just when the network connection had been confirmed...

          You're sweating just dreadfully...
          Don't tell me you're going to melt away from the heat now?

...The voice came from behind him.

The operative leapt into action instantly. Without turning around, he took out his gun and fired toward the source of the voice.

But the bullets missed their mark, ricocheting instead off a small speakerbox behind him.

          Your aim is a little too accurate. We'll have to do something about that.

Before he knew it, a man was standing right behind him. The operative felt the barrel of a gun against the back of his neck.

          Who...who are you...

          ...An enigma.

The voice seemed devoid of emotion.

          At the hotel...
          you were listening for a signal...

          A certain rhythm, perhaps?...
          A pen tapping against a desk...
          The chatter of a cash register...the wheels of a suitcase...
          The whine of an alarm clock...

          The sound of a coin...

So saying, the man began flipping a coin in the hand that wasn't holding a gun.

          from among those, you correctly identified the sound of the nightstick.

The operative tried to peer over his shoulder in the reflection of his glasses.

          Even if you kill me...
          you won't stop...this operation...

But he shouldn't have looked. There stood a man with eyes cold as ice - eyes so cold one glance was enough to instill despair in the man.

          You seem to misunderstand...I have no interest in your penny-ante operation...

The man slowly brought his face closer.

          An operative whose true face is known to no one...
          The man without a face... "Snowman"...

The operative felt the sweat from his neck run down his back.

          I've been looking for a man like you.


The man flung the operative's body aside without a thought and turned wordlessly toward the monitor.

          The oyster rises to land
          Most probably, it will open its mouth this very night...

And so, silently, he pushed "Send"...and the fateful message was transmitted.


A run-down motel on the outskirts of Budapest. Business is taking place in a room within.

A lone man entered through a cheap door that looked like it would pop out of its frame at any second.

As soon as the man stepped into the room, he opened the nightstand drawer and took out the Bible. From the midst of its pages, he extracted a card and headed further back into the room. When he reached the closet, he inserted the card into a wall safe there. The light on the lock switched from red to green, and the safe opened.

The man took out a wireless from within the safe and inserted it into his ear.


After a bit of static, a raspy voice came forth.

          So how's your winter going?

          Cold and comfortable - just my style.

The man answered with a voice that was quiet but robust. The voice on the other end shot back:

          This is the first time we've heard each other's voices...

          Not what you expected?

          Welllll...not far off.

Translated by R. Capowski, 12/7/2013. Spy Fiction is property of Access Games and Sammy; this translation has not been sanctioned by any of them.