Editors: MadTix, Foodpenguin
[While the Federation has publicly denied, our trusted sources have reported that hundreds of salvage corvettes have been sent to rescue surviving troops in the Oden system.]
[The Federation’s stock markets are seeing steep declines in the aftermath, and investments in reinsurance sidecars are quickly growing.]
We returned to our room to watch the television on our own. The Federation’s television networks were still broadcasting the usual screenings like news, sitcoms, movies, and animations, but Critik’s channels were rowdy with the recent developments in the war. Popular Internet communities have also begun spreading the latest word around.
“Damn, I guess it wasn’t a dream after all.”
I quickly explained my earlier vision to the others-- the dreamlike vision with the girl with blue hair. The Kishin that appeared in the Oden system that was too much like Dawnbringer had to be Duskbringer. News reports agreed. Duskbringer had activated the Sole Power of Heaven and Earth and destroyed the majority of the Federation’s fleet.
“In a single activation, forty percent of the Federation’s fleet disappeared. And then…”
The sheer power of the ability caused Duskbringer to black out temporarily, and the Federation attempted to take advantage by capturing or destroying it. But then, instead of remaining paralyzed from the aftereffect of the Sole Power of Heaven and Earth, Duskbringer transformed into Tetragrammaton.
The others were utterly surprised by my story.
“I-I’d normally say that you’re just being crazy, but it’s too believable, coming from a psionic.”
“Given our situation, too.”
Sergeant Aroha and Ensign Meihowa simultaneously scratched their heads as if they had become twins.
“But Lezirth’s ability works differently from future sight or telepathic vision. He does have the ability to teleport, but that won’t take him that far.” explained Admiral Luise, closing her eyes. Suddenly, a soft light emanated from her hair. She must have been using her telepathic vision to observe the Oden system.
“I don’t know too much, but I am sure that there was a gamma-ray burst in the area. There are residues from a supernova, and there’s still an extremely powerful wave of energy passing by at light speed. Thankfully any populated planets in the projected path won’t be affected, but any smaller celestial objects will be destroyed.”
She opened her eyes to fix them on me. “How did you find that out?”
I shrugged. I wish I knew how, too. “I told you, the blue-haired girl told me.”
“Hmm. A blue-haired girl?” Admiral Luise fell into silence.
Sergeant Aroha saw her chance to complain. “Wait a second, does this mean our vacation’s over? We have to pack up already? And we’re going to be back in the war again? I knew I shouldn’t have been too happy getting a month of vacation.”
If the situation in the Oden system was really that bad, the Federation was sure to rally their troops back to the front lines for emergency. They were likely to go all in and fight to the death against the Alliance-- and with that plan, they weren’t going to reward war heroes with vacations that would take them away from the fight.
Our month-long vacation was given out because we were a training platoon that survived a dangerous mission. However, if the Federation decides to go into a state of total war, dangerous missions like that would become the daily life for every troop. When they begin throwing away the lives of every soldier to the war, they aren’t likely going to give away long vacations for those who risk their lives.
Every society, and every able-bodied man and woman of these societies was going to become mindless cogs in the war
“The vacation’s hardly our problem. When we get back to the war, our lives are going to be in danger all the time. ...That’s normal for me, but shouldn’t you try to tell your sister about it and stay away from this fight, Aroha?” Ensign Meihowa worried for Sergeant Aroha.
Objectively speaking, if she decided against joining the war, someone else was going to be forced in to make up for her absence. These fillers-- the grunts that get thrown into the front lines-- weren’t going to be too kind towards those who ran away from their fight.
Yet humans were capable of throwing away their own lives to better the lives of friends and family, and there were many who fought harder to keep their comrades away from dangerous battles. Sergeant Aroha understood Ensign Meihowa’s worries well.
“But… If what they said is true…”
What Fake Luise and Fake Lezirth said in the broadcast had to have some degree of truth. No-- if they were entirely lies, then their words raised even more questions.
The Dawn Corps fought against the Federation in order to save Admiral Luise and I, thereby becoming targets of the Federation. We were left trapped in the freezing chambers, hidden on Ibis-2, until the nuclear batteries in the devices ran out of power and awoke us, a hundred and twenty years later.
If that wasn’t the case, then there were no explanations for this world. If the Dawn Corps remained active to this day, then no one would dare impersonate Admiral Luise and I. If there were many left who remember our true faces, no amount of effort in manipulating public knowledge could make the fakes seem convincing.
Even if they had used some powerful telepathic ability to brainwash the viewers, what about any written material? Even as of now, various discussions on the Internet were bringing up past magazines or advertisements that involved our faces and used them as proofs that the fakes were real. The Federation had been denying their proofs and their original publishers explained that the photos were edits or parodies.
As expected, the Federation was purposefully burying the identities of Lezirth, Luise, and the Dawn Corps.
It didn’t help that the Alliance was also spreading lies…
“So, who are these impostors pretending to be Lezirth and Luise?” Ensign Meihowa asked us. Of course, none of us knew. How was I supposed to know after missing out for more than a century?
“Maybe… they’re just lookalikes from the Replicant rebels. One thing’s very likely: they’re the pilots of Duskbringer and Tetragrammaton. If that’s true, then as Kishin-level pilots, there should be no match for them in the Federation.
At that moment, all of our PDAs rang at the same time.
“It’s about time.”
I opened the PDA, and as I thought, a mail had arrived. It was an order for all soldiers on vacations to immediately return to their respective stations. We were to go to the nearest spaceport and schedule ourselves for an army transport at an army office within a day.
Federation planets aside, autonomous planets and even developing planets had a Federation army office in every spaceport. In twenty-four hours, every registered soldier would be transported back and to the front lines once again.
“I can’t believe our vacation ended before we got to do anything.”
“I know! And I bragged to my sister about how she’ll be getting a nephew soon! Now she’s just going to be angry at me for not keeping up with my promises.”
No, please, I’d rather have you not keep that promise. Were you actually thinking about keeping it?!
I gave a panicked look at Aroha. For some reason, Admiral Luise seemed to be looking at her the same way as I did.
“Well, we still got to find out that Rabbitte and Colorado are here. Even if we’re in a hurry, I think we have time to ask Mayer if he can make a purchase under five hundred million credits.”
With Admiral Luise’s words, I looked up Mayer’s contact information. Unfortunately, his mail account was inactive and it was not possible to call him. It seemed to be true that many people on autonomous planets still had no access to standardized networking services. I became afraid that we weren’t going to be able to get Colorado and Rabbitte back before our time was up.
“How long do we have, again?”
“We have to get to an army recruiter office, starting twenty-four hours from now. We’re on a tight schedule.”
Sergeant Aroha and Ensign Meihowa were frowning in disappointment that we had no more time left in our vacation. We blankly stared out the window in unison, cursing the spaceport that could be seen far away.
“I wish that spaceport would just explode. Then we’d have an excuse for not being able to schedule our flight back to base, right?”
“If the spaceport suddenly exploded, I’m pretty sure that’ll be a problem on its own.” Ensign Meihowa shot a look at Sergeant Aroha’s childish remark, but she looked just as displeased. “We were going to be hiking, and surfing, and skiing… we could have had so much fun.”
“Yeah, that’s why that spaceport needs to explode! Like, right now, there could be a big BOOM--”
Sergeant Aroha’s words stopped right at that moment.
Suddenly, the room’s windows simultaneously turned dark brown. It was blocking off a powerful radiation from the other side by the reaction of graphene coating and iron oxides with electromagnetic waves.
And on the other side of the darkened window, the spaceport was reduced to a huge, black cloud.
“A-Aroha, did you actually--?”
“No way! I don’t have any bombs with me!”
“Whoa! What’s going on?”
Be careful what you wish for, huh?
* * *
[We are the Critik pro-Alliance group, standing against the tyranny of the Federation! We announce the departure of Autonomous Planet Critik from the Federation and we will join the Transhuman Alliance! We will not stand for the Federation’s blatant attempt to enslave us for their own benefit! We will fight for our freedom!]
Televisions and holographic banners around the city now displayed a middle-aged officer in the middle of a declaration. Various signs that once showed advertisements were now repurposed to spread the message. On the roads, old Striker and Spider APCs carried peacekeeping troops around and the skies were controlled by a group of Alter-Armours.
In the lobby of the hotel, a Tri-Walker guarded the area, an autonomous robot that stood on its three legs that extended about a meter and twenty centimeters. It patrolled around the area by spinning around, keeping two legs in place while the third leg rotates and moves forward. It could have been repurposed anytime to suppress a riot by mounting a Colion rifle and a scouting camera, or it could aid in an urban warfare situation should one occur here.
[Citizens! Please return to your homes or the nearest building! I repeat, citizens on the streets…]
The Tri-Walker repeatedly played a single recording, warning any passersby. Some of the walkers were firing warning shots at tourists, which caused a few unfortunate slot machines behind them to explode. The streets were nearly empty as a result, and most tourists in the area were trapped in the hotel.
“Nngh. A coup d’etat by the autonomous government.” I sighed. For all those rebellious spirits who had problems with the Federation, their defeat in the Oden system had been a good excuse for them to start a riot. Still, they didn’t have to cause a violent uprising such as this one-- they could have easily brought this to the Federation Council to start a vote, avoiding violent confrontations. How many militaristic rebels did they have in this government?
“Meihowa! What’s the size of Critik’s rebelling army?”
“About a single regiment’s worth. The leader is Colonel John Rafield.”
A group of rebels formed an entire regiment? That was quite a lot. For an autonomous government, their army dealt with matters of space battles and anti-alien missions. Those missions usually involved no more than a single frigate’s worth of manpower, and maybe even a couple fighters if they didn’t feel that’s worth the effort. A single regiment, on the other hand, was about three frigates strong.
Admiral Luise began digging for information on the planet’s army with her PDA. “John Rafield, Colonel, commander of a Blue Fin-class cruiser and three Bunnies-class frigates. These four ships make up the hyperspace-ready fleet of Critik’s military. The one behind the coup is the main army’s Lieutenant Colonel Islamov Kasik.”
“Eh? A cruiser?”
Cruisers normally were assigned to highest ranking officers of the military. It took at least a one-star general to have the rights to command a cruiser, so how did a single platoon end up with it?
“The number of autonomous governments that own a cruiser is… just one, the government of Critik. Their army is divided between the space combat division and the planetary troops.”
The coup had been set in motion by the planetary division. The space division focused on intergalactic missions with their cruiser, but Kasik’s troops were allocated all available ground arsenal. He was able to use these to destroy Critik-4’s main spaceport and take over the local government and its parliament. The space division was still in orbit, but the raw power of their ships could not guarantee safety of the civilians within the city. A single quantum torpedo from one of their frigates could demolish Critik-4 down to its last blade of grass, but they weren’t about to fire one with innocent people on the planet.
Their other option was to send their landing crew onto the planet to suppress the uprising, while landing ships provide covering fire. This wasn’t as easy, however. Not only did they have to mind the potential of civilian casualties, they also had to watch out for planetary defenses. No sane marine would volunteer to get stuck in a drop pod with a bunch of anti-air guns pointed at them, ready to turn them into space dust at any moment.
“If you were Rafield, what would you do in this situation, Lezirth?” Ensign Meihowa asked. She was an officer herself, so she must have wanted to learn what a high-ranking official would do, as I was before.
“If it were up to me, I’d allocate as many resources as I could to the landing party. The fleet above should pressure the enemy as much as possible, while the landing crew drop right on the edges of the city. The troops can then fight their way into the city, trapping the rebels and forcing them to concede.”
Unfortunately, dropping into a battle was extremely difficult for marines without sufficient training, and the entire mission revolved around the skill of the landing party to deal with any threats. Back when I was commanding the Dawn Corps, my division had the Federation’s greatest marines and I was confident that they could carry out any difficult missions. If it were up to them, they would do an assault drop to divert the enemy’s attention to them while snipers disguise themselves as civilians and take out the key leaders of the revolt.
“Then what would Kasik do himself?”
“Too many factors to give a straight answer. I have no idea how much preparation they had. Critik is too close to Federation-controlled sectors, so this couldn’t have been done without careful planning. If they don’t have the Alliance’s backing, the whole deal is too dangerous.”
Either way, this rebellion would not last without the Alliance helping them. Even if the Federation lost most of its fleet, if they tried to continue asserting their position without a cruiser of their own, all they could do later was take the civilians as hostages against the Federation’s cruisers. Surely Kasik knew this too, if he indeed graduated from a proper military school.
“Aww, does that mean we’re going to be trapped in this hotel?” Sergeant Aroha grumbled.
“Probably. …For the rebels, keeping the civilians indoors is their best bet for holding them hostage against the space fleet.”
The rebellion consisted of a single ground platoon. As long as they had weapons with them, no number of unarmed civilians could overpower them. Yet, controlling civilians took significantly more effort than simply killing them off.
“I guess we have no choice, then.” Admiral Luise sank into the massage chair. The machine whirred and began doing its work, and she soon had the face of total relaxation.
“Uh-- um, by the way, I’d like to try that chair out too.” Ensign Meihowa blushed. She wasn’t the type to be open with her desires. ...Did she like the chair that much?
Aroha followed. “Y-yeah, actually, I’d like it too…”
“Luise? Hey, come on…”
But Admiral Luise was already deep in sleep. So fast!
* * *
Thanks to the utter destruction of the spaceport, we were unable to report to the nearest military office. It was nice that we didn’t have to turn in our vacation prematurely, but we knew we weren’t going to be enjoying any of it. We were trapped in this hotel, kept as hostages by the rebelling army.
The television continued to show nothing but updates on the Federation’s defeat in the Oden system and the rebellion on Critik. Even the Federation’s channels decided that they couldn’t hide these developments anymore, now that they issued a massive draft call. Hyper-Kishin Duskbringer and self-proclaimed Lezirth and Luise occasionally showed their faces on their channels, but their actual speech was cut out.
Still, civilians on autonomous planets had already spread the contents of the speech on the Internet, so most people already knew what had happened. Discussions on the Internet were mostly about whether or not the other Lezirth is real, and how much the fakes’ words could be trusted. The general consensus seemed to be that, even if the Alliance wasn’t telling the whole truth, they could be trusted more than the Federation at the least.
“Aw, man. How long are we going to be trapped in here?” Sergeant Aroha continued to whine, playing a game on her PDA in front of the television.
“Isn’t it bearable when you’re playing a game?”
“No way, playing games on a vacation? Who am I, Pencolt? You’re supposed to do this at any other time, not now.”
“Pencolt, huh.” I sighed, thinking of my roommate. The war in the Oden system worsened over time, and with the draft call, the entire squad’s vacation days expired.
We used a civilian network to explain our situation to the online drafting office. We weren’t going anywhere anytime soon with the coup happening.
“Ugh. What am I gonna do now?” Ensign Meihowa changed the channel repeatedly in annoyance.
Then, one of the channels caught our eyes. On the screen was a man, wearing a very unfitting tuxedo, makeup done very obviously by a team of makeup artists, and a very fake wig-- William Mayer, himself.
[Here we have the head of Manus Solidum, Professor William Mayer.]
After the reporter’s introduction, Mayer proudly strutted forward and stood in front of the camera. He had the getup of a cheap comedian, but he looked like he was ready to take on the world. People usually get embarrassed showing their face on camera for the first time, but that guy was clearly enjoying it. [Hello, citizens of the world! I am the Head of Autonomous Planets’ Manus Solidum, Professor William Mayer.]
[Wasn’t Manus Solidum famous for representing the oppressed male citizens? We had many stories about how the Federation government confronted you numerous times for your anti-Federation statements. What do you think about the latest developments with the rebellion?]
I had to admit, it was courageous for him to ask that in the middle of the coup in question. Or maybe that was just the culture on Critik.
Mayer scoffed before answering and brushed his long, flowy hair back. That’s a wig, right?!
[Hah! We’re only returning to the natural, original way that this government should have worked. Our current government was too busy being a mere colony to the Federation, giving them countless resources and manpower for nothing in return.]
[However, our government under President Cole had been seeing positive net gains in the last four years, and our unemployment rate had been reducing by two percent every year, down to twelve percent from twenty percent. Many seem to disagree with the rebels arresting President Amanda Cole. What do you think about that?]
The reporter’s question was on the spot. The problem wasn’t just that the rebellion was aimed at overthrowing a government that was established through democracy-- The current leader of Critik was Amanda Cole, a brilliant woman, praised for getting things done. Critik was developing very rapidly under her direction, and then this rebellion occurred.
[The mistake made now by the masses is being blinded by the current state of the economy and not seeing the future. Throughout history, there have always been problems when using resources from the future to improve the present. An example we all know is ‘futures contract’, a market based on trading now based on values of the future. Dealing with present worths based on predicted interest and inflation rates, you can create an illusion of a booming economy. But when that future comes, trades occur through the non-negotiable values of the past. Trading like this can and will stimy the growth of economy. It is a tragic, destructive loop, having to pull the economy of the future into the present to make up for the present economy belonging to the past! As such, Cole’s government is blinding you all, degrading the future to make the present appeal to you.]
[So, what are you talking about in specific?]
[Single women, of course!]
We were just as shocked as the reporter. After all that dramatic discourse, what’s this about single women?!
[The Federation had been stealing women from our free, autonomous planets to control the population growth. In return, they gave away paltry bonds to migrators so that the autonomous governments maintain economic stability for the moment. Also, the money sent by migrated families to families still on Critik had been the primary source of currency for autonomous planets.]
[That is expected, yes, but is Critik not already earning more than enough money from the mining business?]
[Yeah! That’s exactly the problem! The Federation is full of lower-class citizens who pillage young, single women from autonomous planets and turn the lives of men of autonomous planets into living hell! Can you not see?! Have you not seen the Federation men around these tourist areas? Who else would get to go on vacations with multiple women accompanying them?!]
The discussion was no more. Whether they had a simple discussion or argument, broadcasts on autonomous planets did not seem to have anyone with a sane mind. And yet, as Mayer finished up his absurd speech, I could faintly hear agreeing shouts and hollers from around the city.
What is this? Throw away logic to capture people’s hearts? Is this what people mean when they say something is “so ridiculous, it’s actually convincing”? I was thoroughly impressed by how willing he was to… break.
[I don’t give a damn about shame! Getting a job isn’t the end-all! The Federation only gave migration benefits to women, so men like us have no future! Just look at our horrible gender ratio! The Federation is not our ally! If it is truly our ally, then it would not ruin the planet and try to train us like animals! Have you imagined what would happen in twenty years with this gender ratio? We’d be slaves of the Federation by then! How can we stand for this?!]
The reporter began trying to argue, but it was too late. The screen blacked out and only the audio was left. It seemed that the broadcast only appeared to be a discussion between two people, when they were only interested in Mayer’s message. Thus, only Mayer’s objective was worthy to the rebellion.
Was he a puppet used by the rebels? Or was that actually the reason for the rebellion?
“Whoa, what was that? What a clown!” Aroha clapped.
“I’m amazed that someone can be that much of an idiot.” Meihowa joined her for clapping.
We were all very amazed by Mayer’s straightforwardness and idiocy.
Instead of clapping like the others, I opened up my PDA. I personally knew little about Manus Solidum, but browsing around in certain Internet communities produced handy summaries. At the same time, the forums exploded with praises and curses at Mayer.
[Wow, how could he do that on camera? What a creep!]
[Yeah, but wasn’t he pretty bold? There probably hasn’t been a crazier guy on camera!]
[Everyone already knows that the Federation treats autonomous planets like doormats.]
[It’s over if all the autonomous planets side with the Alliance! What of the humanity?!]
[What are you saying?! Transhumanity is still humanity!]
[Are you all crazy? Are you okay that the pure human blood is being tainted with filthy alien blood?]
[Oh boy, here we go again.]
[How many aliens have you slept with after white-knighting for them? What’s the point of defending them?]
[Asa! Asa! Asa! Asa!]
[Elcro a best!]
[pls, im talkin about asa traps]
There were also predictions about the Federation’s plan.
[The Federation won’t leave this alone for sure.]
[If they leave Critik alone, then they’d be giving the green light for other autonomous governments to separate, so they have to stop them with full force.]
[But Critik is a tourist attraction. There are at least a million Federation citizens in the area, so they won’t try to destroy the planet, right?]
[If they let the rebels kill them off, wouldn’t it look nice to the Federation?]
[No way! The rebels won’t dare to do that in the first place!]
[Is it true that the Federation has a powerful telepathic psionic who’s controlling them from behind?]
[If there was one, then they would have stopped the rebellion in the first place!]
And then, a new post rose to the top of the page and into my attention. It was rapidly gaining upvotes from its readers. A little too rapidly, in fact--if it wasn’t actually liked by that many people, it must have been the Federation rigging it.
[Hey, I saw something interesting on the Federation broadcast.]
[That’s insane! Are they trying to kill innocent civilians?!]
I quickly turned my attention to the Federation news network.
[A rebellion has begun in the Critik system. We discovered that their leader is Lieutenant Colonel Islamov Kasik. He is currently holding over a million tourists hostage, and they are demanding the separation of Critik from the Federation and the joining of the Alliance.] A young lady reporter with golden, braided hair summarized the events on Critik.
An extremely circular, middle-aged man replied with exaggerated movements. [Isn’t it too soon to side with the Alliance, even with their recent displays of their strength?]
[Yes, it is quite an unexpected development. Is Critik not famous for its entertainment industry? Why would they start a rebellion there?]
[I suspect that it is because of Lieutenant Colonel Kasik’s personal reasons, along with the interests of a local, unpopular protester group. Kasik has not yet married despite his age, and he hardly has any experience with the opposite gender!]
[Aha, I see.]
I became annoyed at how the other reporter was willing to accept the man’s explanation. Was it normal for people to start violent uprisings if they’re single and old? Were they saying that not marrying made him so mentally unstable, so that starting a riot isn’t strange anymore?! What a leap in logic!
[What was the general consensus of his female classmates back in Kasik’s days in the military academy? We asked them to find out.]
The report now switched to a recording of an interview with a woman whose eyes were censored away. She had a baby in her arms, giving a distinct contrast to Kasik, who apparently has not yet married. Definitely intended.
[Islamov Kasik… Oh, that stalker?]
[A stalker? How was he in the academy?]
[He was no joke. He was just the biggest loser of the world of losers back in Critik military academy. One time, I pissed off the seniors at the academy and they made me send a love letter to Kasik, and… I had to do it and, ugh, I just had the worst time of my life. I would have rather gone back and slapped the seniors’ faces instead.]
[You see, as if he wasn’t a loser already, right after he got the fake letter from me, he started planning when and where to have dates, how far we can get on the first day, how many times to date per week, where to station to see each other at work, which military culture centre to use when marrying at the end of the third year of work, and when to get buried after death… He had the whole thing planned in a day.]
[Wow, he’s quite a piece of work!]
The screen switched back to the studio. The female reporter was giggling quietly, unable to stop her laughter.
It was a little funny, I had to admit. A high-ranking officer, who even started a rebellion, was a stalker. But he also had the lives of a million people in his hands-- what were they thinking, provoking him?
Following that, personal insults against Kasik continued. There were countless stories, like how he harassed female soldiers soon after becoming an officer and got an intervention order; how he had the most amount of meetings listed in meetup websites; how he begged the female worker at the matchmaker website to marry him; how he had spent over ten million credits on adult websites. …Not only did they violate his privacy, they beat on it with a bat and spat on it before throwing it away.
Mass media was truly a thing from hell.
At that point, Kasik’s name was completely destroyed. Sure, negotiation was difficult from the Federation’s standpoint, but they really should not have been provoking him while he still had a large number of hostages with him. Was that the Federation’s doing, or the news network going absolutely nuts?
After completely wrecking Kasik, the story further devolved into comedy.
[Next, we will examine Professor William Mayer, who reportedly had been the guiding figure in Kasik’s movement.]
Mayer’s history began listing on the screen. They had no mercy for Mayer, either. They delved into his private life, twisted it around, and showed it to the entire world. This level of violation of privacy was well beyond what was allowed by Federation laws. Yet, despite this horrific disregard for personal life, the viewers of the network and its reporters were casually laughing it off.
“That’s going too far.”
“I never knew that humans were capable of being this cruel to another human being.”
We all froze in place, stunned by the broadcast-- excluding Admiral Luise, who slept through the news. I thought I’d already seen everything in my century’s worth of life experience, but I was clearly wrong.
And, at that moment--