Shin gave a mystified look towards the soldier in the blue uniform of the Republic army who murmured with a trembling voice. They were in the 86th district of the Republic, the frontline base of “Spearhead” Squadron, First Ward on the Eastern Front. Half a year after he was reassigned to this base, Shin stood before the barracks that had faded under the weather and sunlight.
The walls were completely discoloured, and on it was graffiti of an upside-down Republic five-colored flag.
The soldier stammered and tried to brush it off, averting his eyes. He was a skinny, timid soldier belonging to the manpower division, and did not have the disposition of a proper soldier…the Eighty-Sixers were not deemed as humans, but for some reason, their intel were not provided by the military armory, but by the manpower division.
The ethos of the Republican army was an ‘Advanced Unmanned drone and humane defenses’, and thus they had no combatants. As a result, the Republican soldiers who would only look at the procedures during the monthly airlift of resupply and redeployment obviously could not be called soldiers. One had to wonder if they knew how to fire a gun, and some were still terrified of the Eighty-Sixers, who were deemed inferior to them. They were facing caged beasts, but they were terrified like kids.
The soldier before him was one of those timid ones.
Shin nonchalantly witnessed such unsightliness. He did not know how the Republic citizens viewed him. At this point, the Eighty-Sixers were like animals, feared like beasts, scorned as domesticated livestock in human form.
The soldier closed his eyes, as though trying to escape the emotionless eyes.
And thereafter, with an extremely official tone that was initially shocked and rattled.
“—Internment number E022-23093. Retake the photo. Over here.”
The term of service at each ward of the Republic’s 86th district was half a year in principle. Every half year, the squadrons would be reorganized and redeployed. Such was a measure to prevent the Processors from colluding and planning an insurgency.
Every reorganization would require a reshoot of photo, and after his photo was taken for official documentation, Shin arrived before the soldier. He raised his numbered plate at the wall where the height measurement was drawn upon, and the photo resembled one of a convict. The Eighty-Sixers were not deemed as human, and all personal information, including their names, would be erased from the Republic’s administration system, only to be recognized as their serial numbers.
As it was casually written by hand, the words were a little skewed. Suddenly, he noticed the number shown.
The first four digits denoted the camp number, while the latter five were the internee’s. The last numbers would be used whenever there was a photo shoot after every reorganization, every communication during battle, and every battle report. He could remember it no matter how he hated so.
And there were many who had forgotten his name.
Suddenly, he heard someone call for him. He looked over.
He could not forget…not his comrades.
Simply put, names were similar to this serial number, just a symbol for identification purpose—
However, the process of taking photos and reassignment was merely a necessary one for the Republican Army, and was worthless to the Processors.
Though they were just taking photos again, they required all twenty four members to take turns. They were all in their teens, at the age of vigor. Around him, his comrades were unable to withstand their loneliness, and started a ruckus.
Kurena, who had returned from having her photo taken, kicked a little pebble that was one the grass. A boy called Kino seemed to have his competitiveness piqued by this unexpected scene, and kicked a scattered nail farther away. In a short moment, it ended up as a contest to see who could kick the thing furthest.
The Republic soldiers wielding guns were in charge of transport, and while they were appalled to see the livestock fool around, they would not stop them….base included, all the facilities in the 86th district were hundreds of kilometres away from the Gran Mur, and they were isolated from the Republic mainland by the anti-human/tank mines. Even if left unmanaged, the Eighty-Sixers had nowhere to escape to.
Theo killed a rusted screw towards the upside-down five colored flag. In an instance, the rules of the kicking contest changed to one where points would be given for which colors they hit. Unwittingly, they stopped kicking, and ended up throwing.
Shin always thought it was messy, for usually speaking, it would end up as some mysterious game where they would kick something upside down. Thus, he intended to keep his distance away from this commotion.
Daiya, probably guessing what Shin was thinking, smiled,
“Shinei-kun? Stop watching and show off once in a while, will you?”
No way out since he was called out.
He looked down at the double-headed bolt at his feet, stomped on it hard to let it fly, timed it right, grabbed the bolt that was spinning in the air, and threw it in one fell swoop.
Swoosh, in an instant, the long-shaped double-headed bolt pierced the middle of the five-colored flag.
After that, everyone fell silent, including his comrades, the mechanics who were half stunned and smiling, along with the Republic soldier.
“I guess the…”Headless Undertaker of the Eastern Front’ is the real deal…”
It was all a coincidence.
Though it was, Shin did not want to explain, and merely remained silent. Raiden, who had been assigned to the same squadron and spent the most time with him, understood the reason for that silence, and laughed silently.
The soldier from manpower division seemed to have taken their photos before Shin realized so, for the former approached.
“Nice friendship you all have…are you familiar with them?”
Shin raised an eyebrow. It was rare for a Republican soldier to not insult them, let alone chit-chat with them.
“…Yeah. We’re all assigned here after all.”
First Ward on the Eastern Front, First Defensive “Spearhead” Squadron, comprised for Processors who had served the longest—the squadron of elites that had survived several years on this deadly battlefield.
At that moment, the soldier quieted down…so, only some of you? One could hear his murmur.
Shin ignored him and looked at the camera in his hand. It was a Polaroid camera that would develop photos on the spot, a rarity nowadays.
The Eighty-Sixers had no grave to rest. The photo taken would be discarded when they died or be reassigned.
But even so—
“Can I ask of you…just one?”
The silvery moon-like eyes did not look back…Shin continued on, pointing at ‘that’.