Chapter One – The battlefield With Zero Deaths
On that battlefield, there were zero dead.
“—Now then, today’s battle reports.”
“The Empire’s unmanned armored corps <Legion> invaded the seventeenth area, and were repelled and exterminated by the automated drones of our San Magnolia Republic. In contrast, our side has suffered minimal casualties, and none KIA—”
Located in the first area, the capital of San Magnolia, was the Main Street of Liberté et Égalité, so peaceful and elegant it was impossible to imagine this country being in a state of war over the past nine years.
The white façades of the ancient-stone Western-styled buildings had various carvings upon them. Under the Spring sunlight and blue skies, the greenery of the trees and the antique rusted black street lamps formed a contrast with the blue sky. At the café located at the corner of the street, there were students and lovers, born with silver hair, laughing and chirping away.
Situated on the blue roof of the city hall was a statue of the revolutionary Saint Magnolia and the five colored flag, symbolizing freedom, equality, fraternity, justice, and purity. The stone tiles on this main street extended straight out to the suburbs, paved after much careful city planning.
A young man with silver, moon-like eyes was passing by, his hands held by his parents as he passed by, laughing out loud.
Perhaps they were simply out on a stroll. Lena smiled at the family, and turned back to the massive holographic television screen, the smile wiped from her white-silver eyes.
This sixteen year old girl was dressed in the Republic’s cyan-collared female officer uniform. She had a snowy white pretty face, as delicate as glass, the elegant demeanor of hers a testimony to her noble upbringing. The silky silver hair of hers had light curls and the luster of satin, and she had large eyes that were of the same color, beneath her long eyebrows; such were the proof that she was one of the nobles with the Selena blood, a pureblood, of those who lived upon these lands long before the Republic was born.
“Under the outstanding leadership of Handler, the high capability drones continue to battle, capable of completing the mission to defend the country without having to send into manpower to the dangerous frontlines; truly the capabilities of this advanced combat system are undoubted. It is likely that the <Legion> will cease operations two years in the future, but surely the evil Empire shall be vanquished by the organization of justice that is the Republic. Vive San Magnolia. Glory to the five-colored flag.”
The Alabasta-type female broadcaster with snowy white hair and eyes showed a proud smile, yet Lena’s face was shrouded in gloom.
Such a battle report kept airing over and over again ever since the war started, so much that it was more surreal than just optimistic, yet most of the citizens had no further doubts about it. Ironically, the reality was that, half of the Republic was conquered six months once the war started, its boundaries pushed back; ever since then, the lands were unable to be reclaimed.
Lena turned her head around, looking over at the Main Street shrouded in the light of Spring that was akin to a portrait.
The female broadcaster, the students and lovers in the café, the pedestrians walking down the streets, the family that just passed her by, and Lena herself.
As the first modern Republican country in the world, San Magnolia boasted itself for accepting immigrants from other countries and rewarding them. The Republic was historically a nest for the Albas, and other countries had people of different skin colors living there. Whether it was the Aquilas who were as dark as the night, the golden light of Aurata, the bright red Rubella, or the Caerulea with refreshing blue eyes, they welcomed Colorata of all colors within their borders.
But at this point, on the bustling Main Street of the capital, no, even in the capital, or all eighty five legislative zones, none that were not a silver-haired, silvered eyed Alba could be found.
Yes. Of the soldiers that were officially listed as humans on the battlefield, it was true that there were zero KIA to be countered.
“…What kind of zero KIA is this?”
A corner of the Blanc Neige Palace that had existed since the Imperial era, the military headquarters designed with dazzling late Imperial era design was Lena’s destination; located in this palace was the Great Fortress Cluster, the <Grand Mur>, surrounding all the political sectors, and all soldiers of the Republic were there.
Outside the <Grand Mur>, on the frontlines more than a hundred kilometres away, there were no soldiers stationed. The only ones on the frontlines were “Drones” — the “Juggernauts” — and command was carried out in the control room of the country. There were at least a hundred thousand people controlling the “processors,” and lined behind them was the defense line comprising of anti-personnel/tank mine area, automated interception cannons. They had yet to fail before. Of course, the forces inside the <Grand Mur> had never experienced a single battle. The other positions were simply to introduce processed operation strategies in a manner akin to logistics. The Republic Army at this point had no personnel in actual combat positions.
Lena scented upon the pungent stench of alcohol breath from the passing officers, and frowned. It was likely they had been watching sports on the large screen in the commanders’ room. She gave them a reproaching look, only to be met with sneers.
“Look at this doll lover.”
“Oh, scary… are you going to keep talking with the important drones you keep in your room?”
She turned back without a second thought.
“All of you—”
A voice came from the side, and turning around, she found her peer Arnett.
The technical Captain of the research department was the only one of the same age and year as Lena, her only friend of the same year.
“…Morning Arnett. Sure woke up early when you always sleep in.”
“I’m going back. Spent the entire night working…. don’t associate me with those idiots. I’m working. We’ve got a problem only this genius technical Captain Anrietta Penrose can solve.”
Arnett let out a yawn like a cat. She had short, Selena silver white hair, and large eyes that were of the same color.
During the greeting, Arnett glanced aside at the drunk officers who slipped away, and shrugged, her eyes basically saying it was pointless to lecture such imbeciles. From those silver eyes, Lena realized that Arnett was trying to stop her, and went beet red.
“Ah, speaking of which, you have an alert on your intel terminal. I’ll help you settle it.”
“No need for that… sorry, and thanks for that, Arnett.”
“No problems. Try not to get too close to those drones though.”
Lena wanted to respond, but shook her head, and went to the control branch she was affiliated to.
The cramped room that was occupied by inorganic controls was dark and damp. The hologram main screen on standby gave a faint light, and the floor and walls were silver.
Lena sat on this futuristic armchair, put on the stylish looking ring, the RAID device, combed her long silver hair behind her, and proudly looked up.
At this place, where the frontline was far from this <Grand Mur>, this cramped room was the only battlefield within the Republic’s eighty five areas.
“Begin identification. Major Vladlena Millize. Commanding Officer of the Eastern Front, ninth battle area, third defense forces.”
After the voice and iris verification, the control system was activated.
Following that were massive bundles of data appearing one after another on the hologram screen, obtained from the observation auxiliaries installed at the distant frontline. Appearing on the main screen was a digital map showing all the blinking spots, indicating forces of both ally and foe.
There were seventy blue spots showing allied machines, and of those, twenty four were in the third squadron under Lena’s charge, while twenty three were under the second and fourth squadron respectively. The red spots indicating enemy forces were overwhelming in numbers.
“Para-RAIDs activate. Synchronize target, ‘Pleiades’ central processing unit.”
The blue crystals at the nape of the RAID device immediately sizzled. This was not heat coming from the crystals themselves, but a hallucinatory heat where the senses were being activated and synchronized in this Para-RAID process.
The amplified virtual nervous crystals began to calculate. Through the established virtual nervous system, a specific part deep within the brain was being activated, the Nighthead (unused regions), one abandoned in the long process of evolution or forgotten in the tide of time.
It passed through Lena’s consciousness and subconsciousness, seeping further within. Typically, it was impossible to access that section consciously, but the “passage” of the collection of subconsciousness, the “subconsciousness” shared with all of humanity, was gradually opened, connected towards the consciousness of the third squadron commander’s Personal Name “Pleiades” processor
The senses of the “Pleiades” were one with Lena.
“Para-RAID complete. Handler One to Pleiades, Please take care of me today.”
Her voice was calm and stable. After a pause, the “voice” of a youth, about a year or two older than her, responded,
“Pleiades to Handler One. Para-RAID is fine.”
That “voice” sounded sarcastic. Lena was the only one in the control room, and this voice was not from anyone else; instead, it was the voice of the “Pleiades” processor unit that had synchronized with the senses, giving an audio hallucinatory effect.
This “Juggernaut” built in hasty response to the war had no communicative functions. It had no complex thought ability that could be considered feeling or consciousness.
This Para-RAID was derived from the collective consciousness of the human race.
The anti-personnel landmine zone, a defensive line set up to withstand the enemy armored forces.
That was an intense frontline where drones on both sides massacred each other, zero KIA, but in fact,
“Sure is tough work to studiously greet us Eighty Sixes who resemble humans, Albas (humans).”
They were the last bastion of paradise the Republic (humans) were left with when the ‘Legion’ swept the continent — human shaped pigs resting in the unhuman zone (eighty sixth legislative zone) beyond the eighty five legislative zones.
That was the derogatory term used for the Colorata, those who were living as citizens of the Republic, yet deemed inferior to humans by their own countries, living outside the compulsory shelters outside the <Grand Mur> and on the frontlines.
Nine years ago. Year 358 of the Republic’s calendar, Year 2139 of the Anno Astrum.
The Northern continent country, the Geade Empire bordering to the East of the Republic declared war in all directions. The first wave of completely unmanned battle drones <Legion> forces began invasion.
Faced with the overwhelming forces of the military superpower Geade, the Orthodox Army of the Republic crumbled in half a month.
Back then, the military gathered all of its manpower, and as they continued with demoralizing delaying tactics, the Republic government made two decisions.
One was to evacuate all Republic citizens to the eighty five legislative zones.
The other one was to initiate Presidential Order 6609, the Special Wartime Security Act.
This Act had all Colorata residing in the Republic deemed as enemies allying with the Empire. They were rid of their citizenship, watched over, and isolated in the shelters outside the eighty five areas.
Surely this was a betrayal to the legislation and five colored flag the Republic was so proud of. Any and every Colorata born of the Empire, except for the Albas, were dealt as beings to be contained, so brazenly a case of human discrimination.
Naturally, the Colorata protested. However, the government suppressed them through military might.
There were quite a few Albas who protested. However, the majority of the Albas permitted it. The eighty five legislative zones were unable to contain the needs of all its people after all, whether it was resources, land, or positions.
The rumors of Colorata Spies ruining their country was much easier to accept than admitting the harsh reality that their country had fallen behind.
And with the enemy forces laying siege on them, humans needed scapegoats to vent their rage and resentment..
Racial supremacy instantly gained recognition and justification. This noble, regal, and humane first modern Republic established in the world ended up recognizing Albas as the most outstanding of them all, while all Colorata of the old-fashioned, inhumane Empire were inferiors, who were simply foolish, barbaric swines who took on human appearances and could not evolve successfully.
All Colorata were contained in Concentration Camps, and while serving in the military, they had to build the <Grand Mur> fortress walls. All property of the Colorata was confiscated and appropriated, while the citizens heaped praise upon the humane government for allowing them to evade military service, labor, and additional wartime taxes.
The discrimination against Colorata and Eighty Sixes (inferiors) occurred amongst the Albas two years later. They had the soldiers, all members of the Eighty Six, on active service, and sent them enter the battlefield as drones.
The drones built from the outstanding technology gathered all over the Republic could never achieve operationally active status.
However, how was it possible for the Albas, so superior to others, to build something inferior to the drones built by the inferior Empire?
The Eighty Sixes are not humans, so what they will be piloting are not manned, but unmanned.
The Republic Military Industry (RMI) created the automated unmanned fighter machine (drone), the “Juggernaut.”
It was deemed a humane weapon where human casualties were reduced to zero, and introduced into battle with rapturous praise from the citizens.
It was an unmanned machine installed with Eighty Six pilots as a processor, with a capacity for persons to ride on.
Year 367 of the Republic’s calendar.
Among this intense battlefield of zero KIA, the soldiers that were not counted as dead and treated as spare parts continued to sacrifice their lives on this day.
Lena saw that the red lights indicating the <Legion> were headed East towards their occupying area and retreating, and she relaxed a bit.
There were seven units lost in the third squadron, and a bitterness rose up her chest. The seven “Juggernauts” exploded with their processors within. There were no survivors.
The “Juggernaut,” a name chosen by its developers who hailed themselves as intellectuals; it was named after the foreign gods from ancient mythology.
The people who yearned to be saved gathered together, only to be crushed under the wheels of the chariot.
“…Handler One to Pleiades. Confirming all enemies have retreated.”
She heaved a sigh, and through the processor of the “Pleiades,” she spoke to the Eighty Six pilot who fought for himself and his family to regain citizenship.
Through the use of synchronized hearing to transmit or receive voices, the Para-RAID was a brand new communication system, more up to date as compared to past versions which were easily affected by distance, weather, landscape, and the EMP of the electronic jammer (Eintagsfliege).
In theory, this method could allow the senses to be synchronized, but only the hearing was synchronized in this case. The visual signals were too much for the user to handle. Hearing alone would be enough to transmit the bare minimum of information. Experience-wise, it was similar to a communicator or phone, and thus a low risk of confusion.
However, Lena assumed that was not simply all to that.
Without a synchronized visual, she would not have to witness. She would not have to witness the heinous looks of the enemy machines before her, the devastation of the allied machines close up being blown apart, and the colors of blood and organs being ripped from their bodies, oozing out.
“Surveillance will be carried out by the Fourth Squad. Third squad, please return.”
“Pleiades here, understood… thanks for watching over the pigs with your telescope there, Handler One.”
Upon hearing the reply from Pleiades that was dripping with sarcasm, she lowered her eyes.
She was an Alba, one of the hated who victimized others. At the same time, the fact remained that one of her duties as a Handler was to watch over the Eighty Sixes.
“Good work, Pleiades. Everyone in the eam, and to the seven deceased… my honest sympathies.”
There was a sharp, blade-like coldness in the silence. The Para-RAID only allowed synchronization of hearing, but as it was connected through various consciousness, the emotions of a conversation could be conveyed through this.
“…Thank you for your usual kind words there, Handler One.”
Lena was left perturbed by the tone of cold condescension and malice, a stark contrast to the usual rage and hatred.
The following day, the news reported the usual, that the enemy took heavy losses, the Republic took minimal casualties, no one was dead, that the morals and progression of the Republic would prevail; one might even suspect if it was a repeated footage being replayed. There was a logo of a sword and a severed foot aired on this national channel. It was the Attribute of the revolutionary San Magnolia, its meaning being the toppling of the dominion and destruction of oppression.
“…And also, considering that the war shall end in another two years, the government has decided to reduce the budget. First off, the 18th area on the Southern battlefront shall be abandoned, and all forces within shall be dismissed—”
So the 18th area in the South has fallen. Lena sighed.
This was not an issue that could be settled via changing the account of the situation. Even after losing the lands, it was preposterous that they had no intention of getting it back, and even planned to reduce the military budget.
The finances confiscated from the Eighty Sixes had already been depleted, the massive military spending resulted in the budgets for public duties and social benefits capped at a bottleneck. The government was unable to ignore the calls from the citizens to downsize the military.
Seated opposite Lena and dressed in an aged dress was her mother, opening her bright red lips as she spoke tenderly.
“…What is the matter, Lena? Enough with the long face and eat.”
The breakfast was laid out on the dining table, and of them, most of them were foodstuffs synthesized in the production plants.
The country had less than half its land left, and still contained at least eighty percent of the population, other than the Eighty Sixes; clearly there was no place to plant seed. With the <Legion> attacking and jamming, communications with other countries had become impossible, let alone trade, and one might even be wondering if they remained. Lena took a sip of the red tea that tasted different from her collection of hazy memories, and sliced the synthesized meat made of wheat protein that differed completely from real meat.
The compote accompanying the tea was the only real deal, made from the raspberries grown in the garden. This one item was a luxury, considering that the Republic at this point had no land for various trees, let alone a garden.
Her mother said with a smile,
“Lena, it is quite time for you retire and wed another family’s son.”
Lena quietly sighed. The news’s war reports remained the same every day, and so were her mother’s words.
Pedigree. Social status. Standing. Bloodline. Superior blood.
The glamorous mansion was built when the Millizes were still nobles. The silk dress she wore was befitting of the mansion, but would be dismissed as aged once she stepped outside it.
The blissful times seemed to have stopped there.
She seemed to have shut herself away from the outside world, locked in her little, euphoric dream.
“The noble Princess of the Millizes must not be involved with this <Legion> or those ‘Eight Sixes.’ It is true your deceased father was a soldier, however, this is not the era of war.”
Not the era of war, or anything else; at this point, the country remained in war against the <Legion>. The citizens living so far away from the battlefield had yet to experience the war, the depictions only remained in film. They had long forgotten, whether it was reality or first-hand experience.
“Dear mother, it is our duty and honor as citizens of the Republic to protect our country. Also, they are not called Eighty Sixes. They are like us, undisputedly citizens of the Republic.”
The thin, delicate bridge of her mother’s face immediately showed a scowl.
“Filthy Colors, what citizens of the Republic? Goodness, the herds of livestocks won’t work without bait, yet the government allowed them to set foot on the lands of the Republic.”
The Eighty Sixes joining the army would be given citizenship along with their families. Due to blatant, radicalized racism in all the eighty five areas, their residences were never revealed over the past nine years, ever since the war started. However, there were many who probably returned to their old homes and spent the rest of their days.
That was a reward as to be expected of their irrefutable contributions, but unfortunately, there were some amongst the beneficiaries who showed much reservation towards this. This person before Lena, sighing away as she shook her head, was one classic example.
“Ahh, filth. Absolute filth. Just to think, ten years ago, these creatures appearing just like humans were jumping about on the Liberté et Égalité, and now it’s happening again, ahh. For how long shall the freedom and equality of the Republic be trampled upon?”
“…It does seem that your words right now are trampling upon freedom and equality, dear mother.”
“Hm? What is wrong with you?”
Upon seeing the skeptical look on her mother, it was Lena’s turn to sigh.
Truly, her mother did not understand.
It did not apply only to her mother. At this point, the citizens of the Republic continued to be proud of the country’s Republic government, the five colored flag symbolizing freedom and equality, fraternity, justice, and purity. They were taught, through history textbooks, of the things past monarchies and dictatorships had committed, and would show hatred at the oppression, outrage at suppression, disdain at discrimination, and decry genocide as the act of the devil.
However, they could not understand that the same actions were repeating on the lands of this Republic. If Lena pointed this out, they would give looks of pity, asking,
Are you unable to distinguish between humans and swines?
Lena bit onto her faint pink lips.
Words were convenient, able to easily change the nature of things. Once a nameplate was dropped, humans would become swines.
Her mother frowned, looking slightly perturbed. However, she seemed to have understood something as she chuckled away.
“Your father certainly cared for those livestock, so we too should view them as equals, no?”
Her father opposed the deportation of the Eighty Sixes until the very end, requesting for the law to be abandoned. Lena truly respected her father, but she could not bring herself to fully commit to his ideals.
Still, she remembered.
The burning flames. The silhouettes of the four legged spiders.
The crest of the Dullahan skeleton embedded upon the armor.
The hand reaching out to help. The bright red and black that shadowed her ever since birth.
We are citizens of this Republic, born and raised in this country.
Her mother’s unrestrained voice broke the silence.
“Still, Lena, the livestock will have their own rules as livestock. You cannot hope for those foolish and barbaric Eighty Sixes to understand the exalted ideals and virtues of humans. You simply have to lock them up and manage them.”
Lena wordlessly finished her breakfast, wiped her mouth with a napkin, and stood up.
“I shall be leaving mother.”
“You wish for me… to switch divisions?”
In the headmaster’s office adorned with dulled gold and maroon wallpaper. The headmaster Carl-Stahl was seated upon an antique chair, and when his command was conveyed, Lena blinked her silver eyes in confusion.
In fact, many officers would be swapped around due to squad reassignment. The intense fighting on the frontline meant that squads would be worn down until they were unable to be maintained. Thus, it was commonplace for squads to be dissolved and regrouped. Lena never intended to reform her current squad, but many were completely obliterated.
Truly, the <Legion> was powerful.
The Geade Empire, being a military and technology powerhouse, lavished its vicious philosophy and advanced technology upon development, and in return, obtained devastating weaponry and stunningly agile drones. It amassed all of the superior Artificial Intelligence nobody else of its era had, which would never be fatigued, irate, or terrified as these were actual unmanned drones. No matter how many were destroyed, the fully automated factories located deep within the lands of the <Legion> would continue to churn out new machines, and send in new massive armies like swirling black clouds.
Unlike what the citizens knew, the <Juggernauts> were no match in capabilities, and naturally, the amount of damage incurred would certainly not be minimal. In fact, a large number of casualties would be incurred from every sortie, and only continual replenishments could maintain the frontlines.
However, the squad Lena was in charge of did not incur many casualties.
Carl-Stahl’s scarred face relaxed. He was tall and burly, with wide shoulders, the beard on his chin giving off a steady, commanding presence.
“Not to say that your squad will be reformed. In fact, the commander of another squad has retired, so there is an urgent need to select a commander to succeed him.”
“So that squad is in charge of defending an important base?”
It seemed they could no longer wait for the superiors to decide on the successor.
“Right. Eastern Frontier, First Defense Forces of the First Battle Area, codenamed Spearhead squad. It’s a selection of veterans chosen on the Eastern Front… in other words, the Elites.”
Lena was increasingly perplexed, her adorable eyebrows curling into a frown.
The First Battle Zone was the defensive area most prone to taking the brunt of the <Legion> invasion. The First Defense Forces were the premier squad operating in that battlefield, bearing completely different responsibilities from the Second, Third, and Fourth Forces who were in charge of night surveillance and support, and only head out for battle when the First Forces couldn’t sortie.
“A new Major like myself might not be up to such a task…”
Carl-Stahl gave a grimace.
“How can the youngest girl of the 91st Group, and the first to be promoted to Major, say such things? Being excessively humble will bring about disgust, Lena.”
“My apologies, Uncle Jerome.”
To Carl-Stahl, who referred to Lena by her first name, the latter humbly lowered her head. Carl-Stahl was a good friend of her deceased father, and the two were the rare few survivors from nine years ago, when the Republic’s main army was wiped out. When she was young, he often dropped by to play with her, and after her father died, he took extra care of Lena, from funding of the funeral to other various matters.
“To be honest… nobody is willing to be the Handler for Squad Spearhead.”
“Are they not the elites? Is it not utmost honor to command them as a soldier of the Republic?”
Not all Handlers would fulfill their responsibilities earnestly. Lena had heard rumors that some would remain in the control room, playing video games, that some would not bother to command in the control room, and that some would not provide their forces with intel, watching the units they were handling die one by one like a thriller, competing with their buddies to see which squad was eliminated faster. In fact, the ones who would actually command seriously were a rarity, but that was a different matter altogether.
“Hmm, the squad does contain the elites…”
Carl-Stahl spoke with a heavy tone.
“…The leader unit of Spearhead, Personal Codename <Undertaker>, has quite some history.”
Undertaker. Such a strange name.
“Those that know him call him the ‘God of Death,’ and stay away from him out of fear… rumor is that he broke his old Handler.”
Lena could not help but exclaim. Typically, it was the other way around.
A Processor broke a Handler?
“Some strange story?”
“I have no time to talk about such tales to my subordinate while on duty… but the truth of the matter is that strangely, many Handlers who took the squads Undertaker was in had either requested a change of squad or retirement. There was even one who immediately requested a change of forces after the first operation, and another one who committed suicide, though the correlation is undetermined.”
“…Suicide, you say?”
“Truly unbelievable words… I heard that those retired still hear the ‘voices of the dead.’”
Certainly, it did some to be some sort of phantom story.
Carl-Stahl noticed that Lena was silent, and thought of something, consoling her,
“You can tell me if you are unwilling, Lena. It is fine for you to remain at your current squad. I did say Spearhead contained veterans. It’s understood that it is impossible to synchronize with them all when they sortie, so the bare minimum surveillance will do. Command-wise, you can leave it to them…”
Lena pursed her lips.
“I will do this. To manage, command, and lead Squad Spearhead.”
It is a duty and privilege as a citizen of the Republic to protect the country. To be the leader of the Vanguard would be an utmost honor for her, not something she could allow or desire to refuse.
Carl-Stahl narrowed his eyes. Seriously, this child,
“Just the bare minimum will do. Nothing else more than that… and please refrain from communicating with the Processors under your charge.”
“A commander has an obligation to understand the subordinates. Communicating with them is a must, for as long as I am not refused.”
With a gentle grimace, he sighed. He took out a bundle of documents from his desk, and waved it before her.
“Again, I shall chime in a little. Do not record the number of casualties in the report. We have currently declared that there are no humans fighting on the frontlines, that anything recorded that is not supposed to exist will be ignored… your form of protest will be heard by no one.”
“Even if you do say so, I cannot accept this quietly… and the laws to contain the Colorata have no basis to them anymore.”
The Geade Empire, which swept the continent through the powerful military might of the <Geade>, seemed to have been wiped out four years ago.
It was a rarity to tap the wireless signals controlled by the Empire due to constant jamming from the Eintagsfliege; four years ago, however, they suddenly vanished, and were never heard of again. One had to wonder if it was due to the <Legion> going rampant, or other reasons, but in any case, the Empire should have been obliterated.
The Concentration Camps of the Eighty Sixes were built on the premise that they were “descendants of the Empire,” and the basis and justification for them lost as a result.
However, the people were unwilling to let go of this entertainment called discrimination they had obtained. As they continued to trample and abuse, they were increasingly deluded in a sense of superiority, that they were victors. They chose the simple way to obtain delight, not to break, but to conceal the current scenario that they were sealed by the Empire and their drones, and the feeling of setback.
“Ignoring a fault is a bigger fault at that. This is already unforgivable to begin with…”
The poised voice called for Lena, and she kept quiet.
“You may be a little too idealistic. Not only for others, but for yourself. Ideals are too high and unable to be attained.”
Carl-Stahl’s silver eyes eased up, giving a bitter glint in the nostalgic gaze.
“You are really so similar to Vaclav… now then, Major Vladlena Millize, from this day forth, I hereby order you to be Handler of the First Defense Force in the First Battlefront. I hope you will work hard.”
“Thank you very much.”
“So you accepted? What got you interested, Lena?”
A change of squadron meant changes in many other things, and one of them was the Para-RAID settings, wherever the Para-RAID was to be connected.
The Head of the Para-RAID Development Team was Arnett, and she was also in charge of Lena’s settings changes and adjustments. Lena, who had taken a checkup on her advice, was changing into her military uniform.
She carefully hung the nonwoven fabric gown on the hanger, buttoning her blouse as she answered Arnett. Arnett was in the observation room, separated by a glass panel.
The Detached Palace from the Imperial Era was used as the Research building, and though it looked as regal as it was during the mid-Monarchy, the metal and glass sheets seen everywhere gave a cold, hard feeling. One of the glass walls depicted a mural of tropical fish and coral reefs.
“That’s simply an excuse made up by them. They won’t work hard, and made it up.”
Lena curled her lips into a smile as she latched her garter onto her stockings. She had been going through periodic checks related to the use of the Para-RAID; Arnett really was worrisome.
“It is true that someone actually committed suicide.”
Arnett, who was behind the glass wall and the holographic screen, modified the values of the settings, and took a sip of coffee from her mug… or whatever that thick, mudwater-like thing was… so she said,
“The ghost thing might be something some bored old men came up with, but it was said the dead man blew out his brains with a shotgun.”
Lena put on her skirt and blouse, rolled up her sleeves, and turned around. She reached her hands out for the silver hair draped over her shoulder, and combed it behind her.
“They had me investigate if it was a malfunction in the Para-RAID. Leaving aside whether he was a commander, it’s not a good thing if news of suicide is leaked.”
Arnett simply shrugged, as a matter of fact.
“Who knows, huh…?”
“He’s dead. Where else am I supposed to investigate? The RAID device is normal, checks were done. If possible, bring the ‘Undertaker’ over? So I asked them to bring the Processer, but the idiots at the logistics branch just went ‘This flight has no room for swines~’”
She folded her arms angrily, leaning on the wall lazily, snorting away. So pretty and posh she was, yet her demeanor lacked in feminine charm.
“If they had brought him along, I would have investigated him thoroughly, even in the head. Goodness sake.”
Lena frowned at her unfiltered terms. She knew Arnett did not intend to say so, but she found it unbearable.
“…So, what about the processor?”
“Not from me, but those guys at the Military Police said so. I read their report, and it’s basically nothing. He just said he had no idea, and it ended. Who knows what happened?”
Arnett curled her lips into a sarcastic sneer.
“He was told the Handler died, and so he answered, ‘Is that so?’ The tone was basically so what? Well whatever, he’s just a mere Eighty Six. Even if his superior died, there’s no other reaction to be expected.”
Lena went silent, and the sneer vanished from Arnett’s face.
“…Hey Lena, you should join the research team after all.”
Lena blinked in confusion, and saw Arnett raising her eyebrows like a cat. The silver-white eyes were showing unexpected sincerity.
“The army right now is just a detention center for the unemployed now. Our research team is still fine, but the other forces are just a bunch of idiots from the high numbered areas that can’t work to save their lives.”
At this point, the legislative zones of the Republic consisted of Area 1 at the center, and numbered starting from a centered square number. The greater the number, the worse off the living conditions, security, education levels, and the higher the unemployment rate.
“Two years later, when the <Legion> is gone, what do you intend to do? The tag of a ‘retired soldier’ on your shoulder isn’t going to help you find another job.”
Lena could only grimace.
All <Legion> drones would cease operation within two years.
That was a fact discovered from the capture of a few <Legion> drones. Their central processing units contained a fixed lifespan that could not be modified. Every new edition of the system could only last fifty thousand hours at most, or approximately six years. This was probably a failsafe in case the drones went rampant.
Since the Empire was confirmed to have been wiped out four years ago, the central processing unit for the <Legion> drones should cease function completely within two years. In fact, based on frontline observations, the numbers of <Legion> had been declining, possibly due to the machines being worn out, unable to be enhanced.
“Thanks. But we’re still in a time of war.”
“Then you don’t have to go out and do so.”
Arnett did not back down. Once the data was configured, she switched off the screen with a wave of her hand, and leaned forward.
And then, she loathingly spat.
“Real or not, you are going to handle the troublesome Processors. Who knows how that will end up… and the Para-RAIDs might not be completely safe.”
Lena could not help but open her eyes.
“…Isn’t it completely proven that the Para-RAIDs are safe?”
Arnett seemed to have blurted it out accidentally. She gave a look of a child who was caught, and hushed her voice,
“Lena, do you not know this country? You cannot take what they say at face value.”
The Republic, so proud of its superior genetics, would not allow for any flaws in their technology. Even if there were, they would not admit it; this applied not only to the Para-RAIDs… but also the <Juggernaut>.
“In fact, I might say it’s kind of like a superpower, or something? We had such people investigated, and figured out that agitating this part of brain will cause a Para-RAID effect… the same as this thing.”
She pointed at the RAID device in her hand. The posh-looking silver ring was engraved with blue crystals. Several cables were connected from the crystals to the terminal, as the data being overwritten into the former.
“These ‘superhumans’ were siblings, synchronized with each other, so we simply wrote a modified parent-child genetic code into the RAID device of a Handler and the Processor units. As for why that could get them to synchronize, we’re still not sure.”
“But… this was your father’s reseach, right?”
“A collaborated research. The basis of the research, or the hypothesis, came from the collaborator. Father only prepared the research environment, and had the test subjects replicate the phenomenon.”
“So, you can get the collaborator to work again, right?”
At that moment, Arnett’s eyes became cold and dull.
“Impossible… he’s an Eighty Sixer.”
The Eighty Sixers, not deemed as human in any way, would not have their names recorded, simply allocated a number when they were assigned to Concentration Camps. As to which ones they were at, nobody knew.
“The RAID devices have safety features to prevent this from happening, but when the Para-RAIDs are activated by multiple people, the brain will overload, and at maximum synchronization, it will lead to mental breakdown. Also, there’s the issue of too much activity that leads to one being ‘lost’… you know about my father’s mishap, don’t you?”
Arnett’s father, Professor Joseph Von Penrose, unfortunately went berserk in an experiment soon after he had published the thesis on the Para-RAIDs and completed the RAID device, and died as a result.
It was said the activation of the RAID device was accidentally set to the theoretical maximum value. Some deduced that he might have slipped into ‘a certain place’ deeper than the subconscious collection, and ended up in a subconscious collection of the world itself, viewing humanity as ‘a whole’ instead of ‘individuals.’
“If used over a long time, who knows the effect it will have… one or two Eighty Sixers dead won’t matter, but what will happen if something bad happens to you?”
Lena instinctively gave a displeased look. She knew Arnett was simply worried about her, but she could not help herself.
“Don’t do that… that’s sleazy of you.”
Arnett finally waved her hand impatiently.
“Okay okay. You’re a curious one.”
An awkward silence soon filled both sides of the glass wall.
Suddenly, Arnett gave a smile, as though to purge the silence.
“Speaking of curiosity, Lena, want some Chiffon cake? Something new I made from eggs.”
Lena’s invisible cat ears seemed to have perked up, and Arnett stifled her giggle.
As a girl herself, Lena had an unconditional craving for sweets. This Chiffon cake had lots of egg white, an item that was a luxury amongst luxuries for the Republic lacking in land to raise poultry. Such enjoyment was only something the Princesses of the von Penroses, who were ex-nobility, had a massive mansion, and reared chickens could possess.
“Erm… that isn’t the type of thing to have some cheese flavor even without cheese inside, giving off black smoke, erm well… looking like a frog… or something like that…?”
Just to note, that was the feedback of the one who ate the profiterole Arnett made.
The last line, to be precise, should be “Like a lumpy, strangled frog.” The appearance, and even the color was the same as a frog’s.
“Relax. This is the normal one. My matchmaking partner came over yesterday, and I tried it on him.”
However, he foamed at the mouth and passed out after eating the fifth one.
“At the very least…. even if you hate him, you could have shared your new creation with him.”
“Of course. I had it packed it really cute, with pink wrapper, a butterfly knot, a kiss on a message card that read ‘To my beloved Theobalt,’ and had it posted to the apartment he’s staying at with his lover.”
Lena was wondering if she should be feeling sorry for the man.
After an enjoyable time of some cake and tea with Arnett, the data transfer was completed. Lena returned home to her room, and had the RAID device placed on her neck.
The silver ring has delicate patterns the Albas loved, and resembled a posh choker. The bead-like crystals ornament contained some mock-neural crystals used for calculations; it dazzled under the light, and it was hard to imagine its true nature being a headset earphone and neck microphone.
She suddenly recalled what she had heard in the die.
The death god. Caused a suicide. Did not care about human deaths—Eighty Six.
What kind of person was he?
Perhaps he hates us all?
She shook her head, and took a little breath.
She activated the Para-RAID. It was a communication for the ages, unaffected by distance, weather, or landscape, able to be contacted at any given moment.
The connection was complete. No problems. There was noise ringing in this room, when it should not have been.
“Handler One here to all members of Squad Spearhead. First time meeting. Starting today, I shall be your handler.”
Following that was a troubled pause.
Lena felt agony.
Whenever she took over a new squad, everyone would show the same confused reaction upon hearing her voice.
The greeting between humans should be something ever so natural.
However, this awkward silence lingered only for a moment. A calm, extremely young voice echoed in the Para-RAID’s hearing.
“Nice to meet you, Handler One. This is the leader of Squad Spearhead. Personal codename <Undertaker>.”
The voice was different from what she expected. It was a precise, clear voice, one as relaxing as a lake surface deep within a forest. From his voice, it seemed he was of a similar age to Lena, very likely born to what was once a middle, upper class family.
“We have been notified of a change in handler. Starting from now, please take care of us.”
Lena smiled as she heard the monotonous voice of what appeared to be a standoffish person.
Yes, if they continued to converse, she would understand that there was no way to misunderstand.
They were all humans.
Not some existence beneath humans called Eighty Sixers.
“Here too. Nice to be in your care, Undertaker.”