Within the perfectly polyhedral room was nothing but a single monitor. It was like looking into a section of a mental hospital, or a movie’s special effects background done in the Seventies of Earth. If anyone viewed the room from the outside, they’d see how drab the room looked before all else. Was this room intended for torturing people? I had found many issues, but my biggest problem was being the one in it.
“What have you learned while in contact with the Asa? Private Lezirth Dawnbringer?”
An unpleasant voice made an accusation. The light from the monitor had provided a lighting for the Hispanic-like soldier’s face. Perhaps because I’m too used to the standard light from the ceiling, I found the shadows uncanny when the lighting came from below him. I absently looked him in his face and repeated the same words as before. It was the twentieth time. I was like a hamster running on a wheel.
That’s right. I was being interrogated.
It was a few weeks ago in Earth time, I had been on a return trip from destroying the threat against humanity, the Letix Uberlords. My rank at the time was Vice Admiral of the First Space Marines, and my title was Lezirth Dawnbringer, Commander of the Dawn Corps.
It’s embarrassing to mention it myself, but I was a war hero. Despite having the massive social disadvantage of being a Replicant, a humanoid of non-natural origins, I was constantly given attention by politicians and paparazzi were stuck to me at all times. That was understandable, however-- after many battles with the hyperdimensional beings known as the Letix, the Federation had only the Dawn Corps remaining as its last standing army, and the defeat of the Dawn Corps meant the end of humanity.
And one day, the alien threat had gone.
Even in the Space Age, the nature of humans hadn’t changed. Humanity immediately went on to act upon the old proverb, to “eat the hunting dog after the hunt is over.” And unfortunately, I had never expected them to act so quickly.
Before some may say that I was an idiot for not seeing it sooner, my excuse was that the Letix threat had not yet been completely eradicated at the time, despite their Uberlord having been destroyed. So, the battle with the Letix was sure to continue, while the Federation army was sharply decreasing in size until there wasn’t much military power to speak of.
How was I supposed to know that I was getting removed before the war was actually over?
And so, I was forced into a cryogenic stasis for one hundred and twenty years, exiled from the world that I once knew.
I was filled with grief at the unfairness every time I remembered the moment-- but rather, should I be thankful that I wasn’t killed off? A political purge usually entailed an assassination, or an exile into the vacuum of space and then being marked off as MIA. Yet, I had received only the cryogenic treatment.
I felt downtrodden for I had found myself saying “it could’ve been worse”, after having been at the rough end of the situation. I was like a slave who had gotten too used to getting whipped. ...Well, there was probably some complicated story that led up to the decision.
After the unwanted years of cryogenic freezing, I had become Private Lezirth Dawnbringer. Once Vice Admiral, and then a Private? Has there ever been anything else more worthy of the word ‘downfall’?
It had been five weeks since my new life as a Private. A lot of things happened in those five weeks. Within four weeks of becoming a Private, I was stranded on a hostile planet in the Azoran System, and awaiting me in the compensatory vacation was an attack by an Asa group.
In the process, Asa princess Riznah Ereshikigal kidnapped Sergeant Aroha Pereira, and publically broadcasted to the entire planet their attempt at convincing her to defect. Much of the broadcast was denied by Admiral Luise, but the denial was limited to digital communication.
The live broadcast was not stopped. The population that had witnessed the broadcast must have been in the millions. Even though Admiral Luise had amazing psionic powers, altering the minds of millions was an impossibility.
Naturally, as an active duty soldier, I stood out as someone who had a dangerously close contact with the enemy. Although the contact was clearly due to an attack by the opposing party, there was nothing strange about the military security agency wanting to investigate an individual’s contact with the enemy.
“And how did you end up in that situation, Private?”
Which was why I was stuck in a room that looked like it belonged in a mental hospital, being interrogated by a hardened Gunnery Sergeant who I thought would start torturing me any moment.
After being asked the same question over and over again, a normal person would be scared into changing his words. The tone may change, or different words are used, to describe what the interrogatee thinks is the same answer as before. Then the interrogator interprets the change in tone in whichever way they’d like in order to corner the interrogatee into an answer that they want.
Knowing that, I couldn’t fall for the trick. I was in there for eight hours by then, repeating the exact same answers like playing back a recorded line. When the interrogator changed his words ever so slightly, I remarked on the differences for clarification and then repeated the same answers. Repetition was met by repetition, and change was met with change, and so the interrogator let me leave after concluding that there was nothing to gain from me.
Heh. It was totally worth going through interrogation resistance courses during my cadet training. I was proud of myself for remembering a training from hundreds of years ago and successfully using it to defend myself in an interrogation.
But I also had a slight worry.
‘Myself aside, how are Admiral Luise and Sergeant Aroha doing? There’s a possibility that they couldn’t withstand such a harsh interrogation...’
My worries grew worse as I thought that. Were they really safe? They might be thrown into the brig or worse, a military prison. I had to meet up with them to confirm for myself.
The common room was crowded with people.
The members of the newly formed Thirteenth Special Forces Brigade needed to learn about their new workplace and their new brothers in arms. While the same could be said for any other jobs, the soldiers’ lives were on the line when choosing partners. The length of their lives depended on how much they learned who to befriend and from whom to stay away. So, the soldiers couldn’t be blamed for turning the common room into a noisy mess.
Even in the midst of chaos, there was a central point where the attention drew close.
‘There she is.’
I had a gut feeling that the attention was directed towards my colleagues. For better or worse, they were always the center of attention. They were a step above a bad circus troupe, and... they’d get pretty mad if they knew that I called them that.
A girl with blue eyes and silver hair waved her officer hat upon discovering me. The Ensign insignia on her hat flashed brightly against the artificial lighting. Yet, her silver hair was shining more brightly than the metal insignia.
Her sharp-featured face, her blue eyes, and her glamorous body were radiating beauty that was hardly covered up by the standardized uniform. But the bigger attractions were the wings on her back. Those wings, producing a silvery glow, were the features of those who had the Elcro blood. They indicated that she was at least partially an Elcro.
She was currently my upper ranking officer, Ensign Liu Meihowa.
“Took you long. Are you alright, Lezirth?”
Sitting beside the Ensign was another girl, with short, hazel hair, giving me worried looks. Admiral Luise Maynard, the ex-Federation Chief of Staff. She was forced into hibernation for a hundred and twenty years with me. The fact that such a petite girl was a four-star general that oversaw all the military operations of the Federation should have been a surprise, even to those who served in the olden days alongside her.
“Did you get tortured, or something? What took you so long?”
On the opposite side of Admiral Luise was a red-headed lady, throwing a glance at me while resting her back against a bench. As she was almost in a laying down position, she looked like she was almost showing off her breasts as they formed hills on her chest. Some men near her were blatantly staring at them, and really, I couldn’t pay attention to anywhere else either. She was also a higher ranking officer-- Sergeant Aroha Pereira. She was half-human and half-Asa, the latter race being one of the partners to the enemy of humanity, the Alliance. She was having an energy drink with a tired look.
‘It’s fine. Humans are mammals, so there’s no helping it.’ I made an excuse for myself and forced a smile.
“It looks like everyone finished early.”
“Yep. We took about an hour.”
They took an hour, while some poor sap took eight? What’s happening? Was the Federation suspecting something against me? But the one who was kidnapped in the Critik incident wasn’t me, but Sergeant Aroha! There was no sense in Sergeant Aroha being interrogated less than I.
...Did they finally realize that I’m the real Lezirth Dawnbringer?
No, if that were the case, the security agency wouldn’t have sent a lowly officer. Although the interrogator from before was trained very well, if they really suspected me, they would have sent a telepathy specialist instead.
Then, why? Why did they discriminate me in particular?
While I had those thoughts, Admiral Luise whispered. “Uh, Lezirth... did you try to resist them?”
“I mean, well, that counter-interrogation training that you received in the military academy-- you didn’t follow that, did you?”
“I-I did. What’s wrong?”
Sergeant Aroha gave a disappointed look. Ensign Meihowa sighed, burying her face into her officer cap.
They all looked at me like I was an idiot.
Wait, what did I do wrong?”
“Lezirth, put yourself in their shoes. Would you, or would you not think that it’s strange that a fledgling private has an officer level counter interrogation training?”
I felt my face grow hot when Sergeant Aroha finished.
Ah, damn, that was the reason. E-embarrassing. How did I not think of that?
“S-so... let’s have a talk. What’s the situation now?” I sat on a chair and looked around, attempting to change the topic.
Admiral Luise gave a sorry look while Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha continued their ridiculing stare. Moving on, why is there an empty seat?
“Ah... I... the cheeseburgers were all gone, so I bought teriyaki burgers instead. I-is that fine?”
There was a voice behind my back. Behind me was a beautiful blonde lady... I mean, a boy who waddled towards the group with arms full of bread and drinks. He was recognizable as a man by wearing the male uniform, but if he were in his normal clothes, he would not have been seen as one. No, even then, he looked like a girl who just happened to force on menswear.
He was the secretary to an Asa princess, Rizna Ereshikigal.
I somehow ended up taking him a prisoner, so that the Asa princess could not think of doing anything dangerous against us, and also for information. But I hadn’t handed him over to the Federation government. After creating a fake identity of a half-Asa citizen for him, he was placed with us in the Thirteenth Special Forces Brigade.
“Whew. We got a fine errand boy here.”
He was pretty damn good at adapting to his situation. He put the breads and the drinks on the table with great difficulty. The others sat back and watched as he did so.
Even disregarding the Asa and Elcro people, many people around the table were very beautiful-- the common room was already very populated with many visitors going in and out, so there was a lot of attention being pulled to the table with all the pretty women(?) forming a group around it.
Kiske sat around the table, being mindful of the attention being directed to him. The way he timidly sat reminded me of a new bride from a nomadic group from desert lands.
“The news that the Federation lost in the Oden system is spreading. Take a look at this.”
Ensign Meihowa showed me an online broadcast through a military computer. The broadcast displayed the many organized protests around the world by right-wing groups, and a never ending line of people rallying to the recruitment offices.
The Federation, after their defeat against the Alliance in Oden, decided that they could not hide their loss, and instead they admitted their defeat as an excuse to issue war bonds. It took only six hours for the war bonds to be considered and then deployed, and the so-called nationalists popped up like wildfire. Among them were idiots who attacked Replicants as their way of denouncing the Alliance.
“What do you think?”
Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha knew that I was the legendary Lezirth Dawnbringer, who was technically KIA in the battlefield a hundred and twenty years ago. Before coming to an understanding, I was considered a psycho, but they had been seeking my advice after that phase. Of course, having been a Vice Admiral and a squad leader, and managing the lives of many people, leadership had to come as a natural trait.
Right. Now, shall I provide advice to the newbie Ensign as a former commander?
“Enemies on the outside make it easy for the people inside to cooperate.” Sergeant Aroha mockingly replied, before I could say a word.
“...” I felt slightly annoyed, but that was obvious enough to not need my explanation.
“Lezirth? What’s up? You look a little annoyed.”
“...No, no, I was just curious about that. Cooperation is fine, but the problem is that it’s only meaningful if they can solve the problem through cooperation.” I made an excuse, having a cold sweat. But it did sound like a meaningful saying in retrospect.
Kishin Duskbringer of the Alliance-- To be honest, it was not an enemy that the Federation could defeat as of now. They used the silly name “Hyper-Kishin,” but it was indeed much stronger than the average Kishin-class Alter-Armour. Even with the aid of numerous Federation Kishins, they couldn’t take on the lone Duskbringer.
Still, besides Duskbringer, the Alliance was severely disadvantaged in numbers. Perhaps the Federation could defeat Duskbringer through a multi-pronged attack.
But that was not possible for a civilized society. Though they were soldiers, they were Federation citizens and no one should order them to a suicide attack. Throwing them into the battle as expendables, even if it were strategically beneficial, was politically wrong to carry it out.
The strategies that seem great on the drawing board were worthless if they could not be realized. Then how could the Federation deal against Duskbringer? Did they have a secret weapon?
“Hey, Kiske. You were in the Asa Royal Guards, right? Don’t you know anything about Duskbringer?”
“Ah, uh, that’s...” Kiske didn’t seem to know what to do.
“Duskbringer. Is that... made with Dawnbringer’s Alter Core? It looks a lot like a combination of Dawnbringer and Tetragrammaton, doesn’t it?”
Kiske looked nervous when I dug into the topic. As a former guard to an Asa Princess, revealing sensitive information was to commit treason. We had kept him here so he wouldn’t face the harshness and the abuse in the military prison, but we’d forgotten that his heart was still with the Asa.
“Hey now, I’m not even slightly trying to hurt the Asa. Honestly, this war isn’t my thing. But who who was that impostor Lezirth, anyway?”
“...That man is called Reiji Dawnbringer. He is the leader of the Alliance Replicants.”
I shrugged. I didn’t know too much before my cryosleep, but I had heard that the surname Dawnbringer had become common for Replicants.
It’s indeed my own name, but it’s really not a great name to be passed down for generations...
“The Asa is a part of the Alliance, but it’s obvious from the actions and the strategies of the Alliance that the Replicants are given full control. What do you say about that?”
“...How attentive. You speak like you’ve seen the imperial plan itself.”
“So... am I correct, or not?”
“Y-yes, that is accurate. Quite right. The Asa court had opponents who disliked that they were handing over the command to the Replicants, and that they were shaming themselves. But the pressure from the humanity was too great for us to not ally with the Replicants.”
Kiske’s words helped me envision the overall picture of the Alliance. The Alliance was a salad bowl of amazingly different cultures, livelihoods, and habits, and there was no chance that their cooperation was going to go smoothly. I’m not saying that there aren’t any people whose sense of responsibility cross differences in race-- it was simply impossible for all those involved to have great patience, tolerance, and acceptance for all kinds of cultural differences between everyone involved.
“So, that Reiji and that Eiredith are the heads of the Replicants? How so?”
“I mean, anyone who leads an opposition against the Federation would likely be a high-ranking military officer, or a politician, or a respected professor... I realize that the Alliance is in need of people, but there’s no way that they’re choosing leaders without considering their track records. Even if they could handle Kishins, they may be treated very well, but it should be difficult to become a head of the entire Alliance. Without having a nice background, that is.”
And if they did indeed have very well-recognized backgrounds, the Federation would have known about them. The Federation’s response to Reiji and Eiredith was utter confusion and unexpected risk, so I could assume that they had no idea.
“If the Replicants and the Senators backed them, then it wouldn’t be impossible.”
“Yes... the Replicants are controlled by the Senate.The Elcro and the Asa are the face of the Alliance, but the brains are the Replicants and its core is the Senate, which we have not yet seen for ourselves.”
Oh. That’s a very valuable information.
“He was once the Asa’s Royal Guard, but now he’s only a source of intel...”
“No, it’s nothing.”
But it did pay off to bring Kiske along. I learned a lot about the Alliance. Since he was chasing after an Asa princess all this time, he must have overheard well-kept secrets, and he knew about the Asa perspective on things.
After listening, Ensign Meihowa became frustrated. “I can feel that something’s going on... but I’m a lowly Ensign, so I still don’t understand the big picture. Is this making sense to you, Lezirth?”
I shrugged at Ensign Meihowa. “Well, I’m also a lowly soldier for now. Anyway, it seems like a good idea for us to act together.”
“Right now, we’re all placed in the same squad. I’m the squad leader... we’ll be placed with most of the Bomb Cadet Squad, plus new soldiers, into the assault squad. The new faces are also Replicants and part-humans.” Ensign Meihowa had a gloomy face. It couldn’t have been by sheer coincidence that the squad was formed with just Replicants and minority races of the Federation. Were they really using us as expendables?
“Assault squad? We’re not even marines, and they want that? And honestly, when was the Bomb Cadet Squad qualified for that?”
There may have been the mandatory assault drop training as a part of the recruit training, but assaulting a planet wasn’t exactly easy. It was obvious why they were placing recruits without marine training into the assault squad, despite the fact that we had a brigade-sized army, and there had to be qualified marines. It was a section of the military that had the highest casualty rate.
On top of that, the Bomb Cadet Squad was mixed up in a major incident in the middle of that mandatory training. Was the Federation going crazy, to put us in the assault squad?
“Hey now, remember who was being treated as an advisor to the Bomb Cadet Squad? When did you get so cocky, Lezirth?” Sergeant Aroha joked. Psh... how long ago was that, anyway?
“Doesn’t it feel like a repeat of the recruit training? Are we going to be cannon fodder again?”
But I had felt an even bigger trouble brewing. My instincts were usually accurate at times like these... I had hoped that I was wrong this time.
And my instinct was right.
But I don’t mean that I was sent off as cannon fodder. I was looking at my assigned room, and I sighed. When the Federation military has no shortage of space, they assigned as much room as they could afford. Claustrophobic environments were bad for the soldiers’ mental health, the galaxy was big enough, and the improvements in construction technology allowed more space to be used.
When it came to a spaceship, there was a problem. Alter-Drives and cold fusion technology was incomparable to the hydrazine rockets of the old times, but a spaceship was still a spaceship-- there wasn’t going to be free space.
The lowliest soldiers naturally could not receive any more than the minimum required space. With engine parts, outer armours, and miscellaneous components filling the inside, there were bound to be inconveniences like overly tiny three-man rooms.
And my room was that room. Ventilation pipe and power lines crossed the room, so on one wall was a two-shelf bunk bed, and the other had a tiny single bed. But the bigger problem were the roommates.
“I’m keeping this space all for myself!”
Pencolt immediately occupied the single bed for himself. Well, that was fine, but...
“Can’t you move this out?”
“These treasures?! You can’t even buy these treasures anymore!”
Crowding the room were unopened figures, models, and various toys. I sighed. The room was already tiny enough that I didn’t even have room to stand, but the toys reduced the space even further.
“Hey, what’s this? Why did you buy the same thing twice? Thrice?”
“One’s for storage, one’s for display, and one’s for practical use!”
“Practical use? Displaying it is the practical, isn’t it? How do you use this in a practical way? What the hell does that involve?” I sighed, and turned my attention away. Behind me was the meek, blonde-haired girl, who was nearly plastered on my back with her head down. Uh, nope, ‘girl’ just isn’t right. No, it was the Asa boy, Kiske Risner.
“O-Onbira are made to use the same room? The Federation is filthy-minded!”
“B-but of course guys would use the same bed. Is it normal for the Asa to have men and women share the same room?” I mumbled, remembering that Onbira meant males in the Asa castes. Since it seemed too challenging to try and take the bed away from Pencolt, I went for the bunk beds.
“Hey, Kiske. Are you going to be bottom, or top? Should I take the top?”
Kiske’s face flared up brightly in red. Wh-what’s going on?
“...I-I’m bottom... it’s my first time, so please be gentle.”
“R-really? Isn’t it normal to enjoy being top? Well, if you’re letting me have it, I’m happy.”
I sighed again, making room to move my feet by shoving the figures aside. Pencolt growled at me, but quickly whimpered away when I glared at him.
“Ugh. I’m worried about the future, especially when my roommates are already like this.”
“I’m worried too!”
“I’m talking about you, you jerk. Can’t you move this away? Get rid of it while I’m still being nice.”
“G-get rid of it?!”
Of course, I already knew that Pencolt wouldn’t get rid of them. But it was outrageous that he’d try to take all the space in this tiny room for himself.
Maybe because the Thirteenth Special Forces was hastily formed, people were getting busy with the organization of the crew. The upper ranking officers were almost dying through the slow process of investigating the new crew’s profiles and placing them in the right squads, while the simple foot soldiers were having an easier time. I was personally busy filling in my knowledge gap for the last hundred and twenty years. Normally, I would take out my PDA and study mostly through internet surfing, but the Special Forces was in the middle of an operation. The only connection to the non-military network was in the common room, and all connections established in there are recorded and watched by the military investigations unit.
Therefore, to fill my knowledge gap, I had to spend all of my free time in the common room.
And when I got up to head for the common room... a shuffling sound came from somewhere, and soon, Kiske appeared with his uniform on, standing and looking at me with sparkling eyes.
“If... y-you’re heading for the common room, let me follow you.”
I had no reason to decline, but it was getting awkward for him to follow me around every time. For Kiske, he was in the middle of enemy territory, and I was the easiest one for him to talk to, so it was almost understandable.
But the other soldiers didn’t seem to think the same.
...Did I have a choice? Kiske was a valuable source of information, and... he was a bargaining chip with my negotiations with the Asa princess.
“Alright, come with me.”
“H-hey, let me go too!”
Pencolt, as he stopped rolling around the room while watching an animation through his head-mounted display, jumped up and followed me, too.
“Huh? Why you?”
“Lezirth is slow! Don’t you know how other soldiers act against Replicants and half-aliens?”
“Huh? Is that so? But how come nobody ever says anything to me?”
I’ve heard that civilians have recently been increasingly causing acts of terror and vandalism against Replicants and non-human races. But was that true for the military, too?
“Because Lezirth is... an enhanced human! Even if a lot of people hate Replicants, there aren’t idiots who would touch a Combat Replicant!” said Pencolt, gluing himself against my back. When I walked forward with my left leg, he moved his left leg too, and when I moved my right, he moved his right. “If I match my movement like this, I can stealthily follow any target.”
“There’s no way!”
I dodged away from Pencolt and walked away forward. But then,
The door to the utility room opened and a private first class sprawled across the ground. A few marines walked out of the room, uniforms tied around their waist. They were all very muscular, but seeing their particularly thick neck and abs on their bulbous belly, they were clearly repeat steroid users.
“Hey, man, just do this nice little thing. That’s it, you know? Hmm? It’s going to be really fun.”
They pushed a special neural-connection PDA into the lying PFC’s face. When they saw my surprised expression, they looked at each other and grinned. One of them winked at me, and then stepped on the man.
“Hey, hey, are you gonna try it out? Huh? You dirty Replicant spy! You’re resisting because you have something to hide, aren’t you? Huh?”
“Hey, you guys should keep moving. Or do you want to play with us, too?”
“Haha, isn’t that an Asa? You’ll be playing with us later, anyway.”
Their crude threats scared Kiske and Pencolt. They kicked the fallen PFC and held him up by his neck. The skinny soldier was helplessly pulled around like clothes on a clothesline. They tried to put a red-coloured head-mounted display on him.
That machine was a virtual reality machine that had recently become illegal. It forcibly intercepted a person’s brain waves to incite desired dreams on the user, and it was initially a massive financial success.
But the virtual machine had a critical side effect. People were getting addicted to the enjoyable thoughts that were incited by the machines.
The people who originally bought the machine to play online games offered by the platform were slowly addicted to the direct, unfiltered happiness that was offered by the system. Of course, there already have been addictive substances that directly provoked happiness in the users that have been made illegal, but the when people began enjoying the effortless rewards, such as eating the world’s tastiest food and having relations with beautiful people without the social step, the virtual reality lost all other purpose.
Grind an entire day to level up, and fight the bosses? For what? Why not just get the princess at the start, and spend the effort in the fiery night after?
And so, the players had become disconnected from the society after becoming addicted to stimulus. When a massive number of people were found dead with the HMD on their heads, the Federation government declared the machine as a type of an addictive substance and made the connection to the virtual reality illegal.
And these people were not only assaulting a man, but also forcing an illegal device onto another.
“Hey, if you get lost right now, I won’t tell the military police.” I said, while laughing at the ridiculous sight.
The marines ignored my words like I was some random seagull crying at the beach.
“Don’t shake up the bee’s nest! Let’s just move on, please?” Pencolt shivered.
Kiske looked just as scared. It wasn’t unfitting for his gentle, girly looks, but hasn’t he been in multiple battles where his life was on the line? Why so scared?
Setting the questions aside, I walked up to a marine and put a hand on his shoulders.
Suddenly, something zoomed past my head. He had swung his fist at me. I easily avoided his punch and locked my leg around his weight-bearing leg.
He lost his footing and hobbled away, but he didn’t fall down. At that moment, the rest of the marines had turned their focus on me.
“Hey, this Replicant private is insane!”
“Don’t you know who we are?”
They tried to surround me, but I stood against a wall. “Do I know you people? I know that you’re all idiots who’s going to have a hard time in the military prison. Electronic drugs are one thing, but you’re also forcing somebody else to break a law, aren’t you?”
They grabbed wrenches, spanners, and other random tools from the utility room. Those tools were more dangerous than an average Medieval flail. Getting hit by one was guaranteed to break a body part, and seeing them go for the tools without a second thought made me even more disappointed.
I didn’t know if they had a particular reason to do this to the private first class, but using weapons against someone who just said a few words, despite having the number advantage, was cowardly. If they had come at me with their fists, I would have been mad but not much else. ...But now, their cowardly attitude had left me with pure hatred.
“I’ll warn you now-- if you don’t want to have a group funeral, put down whatever’s in your hands, hmm?”
“Too late, you...”
Before a marine could finish his words, I threw a jab at him. He stepped back in surprise when he felt my fist against his face. Blood poured down his face.
After eating a double punch to his nose and his chin, he walked backwards with a dumbfounded expression until he collapsed.
“What was that?”
“You’re getting beaten up, that’s what. Dear customers, you’ve earned free beatings for racking up enough points in our reward program.”
I threw a straight kick at one of the marines who hadn’t understood the situation yet. He was pinned to the wall like a preserved bug in an insect collection.
Another marine came to and charged at me with an iron pipe. Instead of dodging, I grabbed the pipe with a hand.
The iron pipe deformed to the shape of my fingers. The marines were shocked at the sight.
“An enhanced human?!”
“Is that a Combat Replicant?!”
“What are you wasting time for? If you don’t take a beating when your friends did, that would be discrimination! I don’t know if you’d die from it, so you should take just one hit each.”
I grabbed the two marines who spoke last and gave a punch each in their stomachs. The sight of them collapsing while hugging their stomach was refreshing.
“It’s been a long time since I fought off-duty. Ah, it’s a nice feeling.”
“Nobody said we’re fighting off-duty...”
The collapsed marines spoke, but I ignored them and helped the fallen soldier get up on his feet.
“Are you alright, Private First Class? You don’t seem alright. I’ll call the military police and take care of these punks.” I said, and then the man looked at me like I was crazy. He had a small build and looked like he had no energy. Why did he look at me like that?
“But... they’re the military police.”
What? These punks were the military police?
“Uh oh, we’re in big trouble! Lezirth, how are you going to deal with this?!”
Pencolt looked distraught from fear. But I had only grown curious.
“What do you mean, deal with this? What did I do wrong?”
“Isn’t this assault? And on the military police, too!”
“They used weapons against me, so it’s just self defense! And what, these are the military police? This won’t do.”
I grabbed one of the fallen marines and put him on his feet. He looked at me, confused.
“You bastard! Praying won’t save you now! Your time is over!” He said the most generic evil henchman line that I’d ever heard. Isn’t he embarrassed?! I almost cringed.
“That’s enough of bringing down the troop morale! That’s it, it’s time to speak to your parents-- I mean, your superiors!”
“What? A-are you right in the head?!”
The military police members lost their confidence from a minute ago and appeared surprised. When I began using the military line to call the military police chieftain, everyone was utterly shocked. The criminals were understandably shaken, but even Pencolt and the victimized soldier were looking nervous.
The soldier exclaimed to Pencolt, “This is terrible! He’s crazier than I thought!”
“Right? He’s like this every day!”
What’s the issue? Isn’t it normal to complain to the superiors of the military police, just as I’d talk to the parents if a child does wrong?
“Hm, let’s see. Special Forces officers list is here... Who’s the military police chieftain? MP Commander Supredi? Hmm?
I had noticed a familiar name in the middle of the staff list of the Thirteenth Special Forces.
“Huh? Brigade Tactical Commander Liu Kwanshin?
Isn’t that Ensign Meihowa’s father?
I gave up on accusing the military police punks to the upper commanders after the victimized soldier and Pencolt talked me out of it. It wasn’t that I, the former commander of the marines, turned a blind eye to a blatant disregard for the law. It was only because the victim himself did not desire the situation to blow up further, and for whatever reason, everyone seemed to think I was the insane one, so I went with it.
‘Everyone thinks of me as their advisor, but when I’m the crazy one, I should follow the general consensus.’
I had decided that I shouldn’t completely trust my own judgment after a hundred and twenty years of sleep. How should I know how the world changed while I was gone?
“But why were you bullied, anyway?”
The soldier looked thankful that I asked. “B-because I’m a Replicant. Those bastards said that they will see if my thoughts are clean, by... peeking into my mind with that dream machine. I got away with an attempted assault, but I bet there were a lot of people who had worse.”
It seemed that the society and the Federation were both becoming nationalistic and xenophobic at a greater rate than I had anticipated. After knowing about the defeat at Oden, people’s feeling of dominance over minor races were turning into fear and dissent.
When fear spreads over an entire society, people are guaranteed to act overly defensive. It would be helpful if these defensive feelings led to a friendly attitude that makes the Federation apologize for its crimes against Replicants and aliens, and then befriend the other factions, but human history says that will never happen.
‘I’ll kill them before they kill me!’
These nationalistic attitudes instead turn into a violent uprising. These attitudes were the nature of the population to preserve their gene pool, and even if the humans were to spread across the galaxy, we could see that human psychology was ultimately governed by their DNA.
So, does it justify the abuse of the nationalistic mobs, because their genes told them what to do? That wasn’t it, either. Even if you were to get beaten up by a man whose tragic past could fill a book, you were going to get hurt and angry just the same.
“I don’t know how to thank you. Can I maybe offer you tea?”
“Well, you don’t have to do anything for me.”
“It won’t feel right if you decline. Oh, I’m Private First Class Koscheck.”
“I’m Lezirth Dawnbringer.”
“This guy’s a Vice Admiral, you know?”
“... I-I’m a private.”
Pencolt giggled at my response. Hmph. What a nuisance. Still, the man would have known my rank by my insignia.
“I-is that so? I wasn’t sure, but you look like you’ve had a lot of military experience...”
“No, I... I-I’m a natural, you know?”
I did indeed have a lot more military experience, but it wasn’t something that I could publically announce. Looking back, I had been talking with no respect to a private first class as a lower ranked soldier. Wait, I suppose that wasn’t important after how I dealt with the officer-class soldiers from a minute ago.
And despite properly introducing my rank, the private first class maintained his careful, formal tone. He was a good man for behaving based on who the people were, and not their ranks.
When I was the Vice Admiral myself, I would have had nothing to learn from him myself, but as a private, I wished that everyone would behave like he did.
PFC Koscheck went to buy coffee, milk tea, and snow cones with nanomachine bandages on his body. Coffee was for Pencolt, milk tea for me, and the snow cone for Kiske. I refused repeatedly but he still went ahead and bought them-- what a nice guy.
“Eh-- How do I eat this?”
Kiske was confused at the paper-wrapped snow cone. He gave looks at Pencolt to get him to notice, but Pencolt perfectly ignored him.
“Gee, what kind of backwards place have you been living in? Give me that.” I took the snow cone and removed the paper wrapping.
Kiske looked amazed. “L-Lezirth, you really are a powerful Onbira! Not only can you defeat strong enemies, you can also remove skins off of a complex food! You’re a great hunter.”
He compared removing a food wrapping to skinning and butchering an animal or a fish. What.
What is this feeling? I thought I’d become the father figure in a stone age family who went hunting for his family.
“Hahaha, you guys look very close. Like... Um...” PFC Koscheck alternated between looking at Kiske and I in search of appropriate words. Well, rather than appropriate words, he seemed to be looking for a way to say whatever that wasn’t going to offend Kiske or I. Was he checking us out?
Before he could say anything strange, I took the initiative. “Anyway, were those bastards from before actually acting on official business?”
That couldn’t have been true. The bastards became ghostly white when I said that I’d tell the military police chieftain, so their act was more like lynching rather than an official matter. It had to be illegal officially, but... it seemed like an act that was close to becoming the norm of this society. Even now, the soldiers around us weren’t giving us kind looks.
“Not officially, but... the world is becoming dangerous. Especially for us Replicants...” PFC Koscheck spoke, shrinking in fear like a scared little animal. It was sad to see him.
“Ugh. It’s a pretty complicated problem. Are we going to run into more of these later?” I was distressed that the Federation had turned into this, after I’d given my life to protect it. It was like the feeling of a parent watching his child become a worthless being.
“Whoa! This is delicious! It’s soft, and it’s sweet... I can’t believe such a thing exists in this world!”
“...I-is that so? At least you’re not worrying.”
Kiske was in ecstasy while he licked the snow cone. Well, seeing him incredibly happy made me smile, too. Seeing others happy had a magical power to make people around them happy, too-- unless they’re nemeses, I guess.