It was Saturday morning. There was no school so Terada was watching the news sipping on some sugary coffee. The news was replaying footage from the storming of the National Diet Building by the Human Defence League. It was this incident which had spurred Diet members from passing the AI Protection Act.
There was also footage of simultaneous protests at DN Tower 21, the Toha Keiretsu’s “GHQ,”(General Headquarters), located not too far from the Imperial Palace’s grounds. The Chiyoda Ward where the DN Tower 21 was located as well as the entire governing Nagatacho District was part of the “Green Zone.” Everything and everyone coming into the Green Zone was monitored, and ordinary citizens needed a permit to enter the heavily fortified area. These measures were done in the name of protecting democracy and the nation, or in other words to prevent another storming of the National Diet Building.
The most striking characteristic of the DN Tower 21, was how unimposing it was when compared to the surrounding buildings from smaller corporations, companies, state agencies and other conglomerates which all preferred to opt for taller and grander buildings which dwarfed DN Tower 21. The building’s facade was virtually unchanged since it had been used as the headquarters for the American occupation in the 1940s.
While Terada was passively consuming the news, Miyabi was up as well grading some coursework she had received from her students while sipping from a gold coloured beer can. Riko waited on the two of them, a glint in her eye visible as the digital lenses in her pupils refracted the morning’s light.
“So Terada-kun, are you ready for the Yumi Minami Raising Project?” Miyabi asked.
Terada sat with his hands clasped and fingers intertwined and resting over his mouth.
“It’s earlier than anticipated but we have no choice now but to go ahead. Riko, we’ll soon go to meet your father. I am sure you have some questions for him too.”
Miyabi placed a finger on her chin and looked at Riko.
“I guess this makes Riko-chan and Minami-chan sisters.”
“Uh uh. Should you be drinking so early?” Terada asked as he turned off the TV having finished his bacon sandwich breakfast.
“Yes, of course teehee.”
‘So annoying,’ thought Terada.
“Terada-sama, I am going up to the main computer room to do some maintenance. Call me if you need if you need anything.”
Meanwhile at 123 Sakura Street, Yumi Minami was laying in bed looking at her bank account on her phone. The debt collectors hired by Toha J.J. System would be taking their cut today clearing out her account. Surprisingly though there was a small sum left. She scrolled up on her account’s transactions and found that a small amount had been wired to her last night by “RAITA” for “services rendered.”
Soon she would have to go do her part-time job.
Half an hour later in a large Makuhari Messe concert hall in Chiba Prefecture, overlooking the abandoned Disney Land theme park, a meeting was being held.
In total, there were about 500 people in the hall. On the stage a man in white robes with a red border. The man’s face and hands were covered in bandages and he stood next to a little girl.
The little girl was also dressed in white. Her brown hair was tied up in two buns on either side of the head.
“Many of your brothers and sisters have been imprisoned by our contemptible enemies and few have been executed.” The man in bandages declared gripping the mic. “We of the League must never forget what Toha J.J. System has done to our people! These brave comrades have shown us their virtues through their own valiant sacrifice. By focusing our anger and sorrow, we are finally in a position where victory is within our grasp, and once again, our most cherished nation will flourish. On January 16th three years ago, we struck down the threat of humanoid AI posed to our society. For a pure and blue world to exist, we must strike down the threat of AI entirely in any form. It’s not just that we want our jobs back, as those witless, paid off critics of our defence of humanity would say, even though those jobs were stolen from us also.”
The man removed the bandages on his face to reveal his burnt face.
“Love is the same as God. The connections between us humans will be replaced by anti-social behaviour — because people would rather spend more time with AI companions than have to deal with other people’s inherent flaws, and so the construction of AI with humanoid bodies was halted thanks to your efforts my friends.”
The hall erupted into cheers and applause.
“Whatever follows on from the present can only evolve from the present and nothing else.” The man concluded his speech. “Now to celebrate our victories, honour our comrades, and invigorate our human spirits, let’s listen to some 100% human music, not the empty plagiarised noise of machines that can’t even understand what they plagiarise.”
He handed the microphone to the little girl. The stage light is dimmed, and the stage becomes shrouded in darkness. A soft melody begins to play, capturing everyone’s attention. The spotlight focuses on the centre stage, leaving only the girl standing there. As the music swells, she takes a deep breath and begins to sing.
“1234 1234 12 — 56709” counted the girl. “I fall in love…You are my shyness boy. Accel Handle Avenue… 19th century Bach… Holy night… Youth’s flower has bloomed. Cyber Cinderella can’t stop the loneliness.”
It was an ordinary pop love song sung by an ordinary little girl whose name was Ai Uehara. She had risen to prominence during the anti-AI protests and the storming of the National Diet Building three years ago. Since she had been part of the protest the authorities were after her but thus far had no luck in tracking down her whereabouts and knew nothing about her other than her name.
As Ai approaches the final verse, her voice softens, drawing the audience closer. Her eyes shimmer with sincerity, and she pours her heart into every note she sings.
The song reaches its climax, and Ai delivers the final chorus with unwavering passion. The audience is moved, some wiping away tears, and others with hearts full of joy.
As the last note fades away, a thunderous applause erupts, filling the concert hall. Ai takes a moment to absorb the love and support from the audience, her eyes gleaming with gratitude and happiness.
The crowd continued to cheer, showing their adoration for this talented young star. Ai bows gracefully, humbled by the overwhelming response.
The audience is still basking in the afterglow of Ai’s mesmerising performance. They shower her with applause, cheers, and calls for an encore. But as the spotlight remains fixed on the centre stage, something peculiar begins to happen.
A soft mist of smoke starts to swirl around Ai’s feet, almost like an ethereal embrace. There are some loud banging noises on the doors to the hall. Suddenly the smoke engulfs Ai completely, obscuring her from view. Gasps ripple throughout the audience as they strain to catch a glimpse of their beloved idol. Moments pass, and the smoke begins to dissipate, revealing an empty stage. Just then, the doors to the concert hall burst open, and a group of about twenty police officers storm in.
“Ai Uehara, you are under arrest for your involvement in the illegal distribution of classified government information! Ah!”
Seigen Hayami, Security Bureau Chief of the National Police Agency, raised his voice and his fire arm at the empty stage.
Ai Uehara was nowhere to be seen.
Seigen climbed onto the stage. He was rather tall and he had brown hair and darker brown eyes. Rather than a blue police uniform he was wearing dark blue suit and tie. He was here as a representative of the police and he was soon joined on the stage by Izumi Koyama, the prosecutor for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Joint Coordinating Department. Due to pressure from foreign countries, the Joint Coordinating Department was created in postwar Tokyo to regulate government organisations. She possessed the authority to use her own judgement on whether to launch an investigation. Izumi was a tall and slender woman. She had dark blue eyes and black hair. Her hair was parted on the right and the right side of her hair reached her shoulder, while the left side is shorter and only reached her mouth.
She wore a dark green suit, and a green vest buttoned over a white shirt.
“Search the premises! She couldn’t have gotten far!”
Izumi ordered for all the audience to be individually questioned before being allowed to leave. This was not the first time that Ai Uehara had disappeared just like that, the less scientifically minded Seigen briefly wondered if she was some kind of apparition, and yet it was understandable that he would have such thoughts. Izumi ordered for the HDL members phones to be seized. Footage recorded by the HDL members’ phone cameras in the concert hall showed that there had only been the HDL leader Oono Myoushin on the stage. Nor could they hear the vocalist’s voice just the melody. In the video footage they surveyed it appeared as though the audience had been suffering under some sort of collective hypnosis.
Thanks to the Online Safety Bill passed three years ago all online-encryption was banned (except for government and banking purposes). This was done in the name of national security and to protect the children from predators. And so, with the collaboration of Toha J.J. System which had rebuilt the country’s communication infrastructure, Izumi’s Public Prosecutors Office had access to all private messages through a government mandated backdoor into all messaging apps, this was how they had found out that Ai Uehara was going to appear to sing here.
Minami was really tired from running to and from work, and was now enjoying a well earned Matcha Green Tea Kit Kat snack. She did like the work itself, though. Besides, it was one of the only ways she could meet her father.
A shimmering light intensified covering her entire body. Her figure grew taller and her white dress begins to lengthen transforming from a little girl’s outfit to that of a teenager.
Minami transformed from her ‘Ai Uehara’ form back into her real 14-year-old self. Her white dress was replaced by a sailor uniform.”
“Seriously, what is wrong with those League people, that they would be so into a little girl idol? Normally in these kind of manga a little girl transforms into her older cooler pop idol self, not the other way around.”
This unsolicited commentary came from a rather sweet and child-like voice. More precisely, from a panda-like stuffed animal on the window of Minami’s room. Despite his sweet voice Pan-san had evil-eyes, sharpened claws, and fangs.
“So, were you able to meet our father? How was he doing? Still donning the Hollywood-esque mummy disguise?” He asked while chewing on and ingesting, some nuts and bolts.
“Father is fine.” Minami replied as she prepared to write a class report for the upcoming class representatives meeting. “He wanted to know if Pan-san needed any maintenance since it has been three years.”
“No, this peace-time has been too easy on me.” Pan-san jumped off the window and sat on a comfortable cushion.
“If anything,” He continued. “I need a psychological check though I doubt that any of that would work. It has been quite a shock for me going from identifying as an attack helicopter to being a stuffed animal. Though it has been the hardest on your father.”
Pan-san’s eyes sparkled with a sense of nostalgia, as he remembered the past war. However he didn’t say anything any further so as to not distract Minami from writing her report. In those times Dr Myoushin had created him as an AI tool of war to fight alongside with valiant soldiers who openly fought for what they believed in. The fog of war covering the truth was nothing compared to what followed in peace-time. Following the war Pan-san had been tasked with protecting Dr Myoushin’s daughter and so his consciousness had been transferred into a Disney World plush toy. His name during the war had not been Pan-san either, of course.
“Next time that you go to the Y2K Building, make sure to take me with you, Yumi-chan, otherwise I won’t be able to do my duty. Those guys sound really untrustworthy.”
“Uh,” Minami nodded absentmindedly. “Even Miyabi-sensei has secrets. I didn’t expect it.”
Minami’s phone rang. It was an email from Riko, Terada’s maid-bot.
“There’s something I want to show you. Come meet me at the seventh floor of the Y2K building tomorrow at 1pm. You can bring along Cerberus too.”
Cerberus was Pan-san’s name during the war.
Miyabi Katsuragi, age 26, single, was an art teacher at Soubu High. Despite this she was forced by her own student to buy him art supplies on an extremely hot and humid day. She was drenched in sweat. Since she lived with a student she couldn’t even have a relationship, so the couples outside added to her annoyance at the heat.
During the war, Miyabi had designed several iconic illustrations which had been widely used by the Ministry of International Propaganda to keep the people’s spirits high about the war effort. Yet very few people knew of this fact. Fewer people still knew that before the war she had been a pupil and assistant of the popular magical girls manga creator Sagami Uehara.
Sagami was a very strict person despite the whimsical nature of her works. Sagami used to make Miyabi draw and redraw manga for twelve hours without a break, even if her fingers felt numb and her eyes couldn’t see properly. There was a mark on Miyabi’s wrist from the operation she had to undergo to cure her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the time she worked with Sagami. Compared to that, Terada was only a humanitarian tyrant.
Miyabi boarded the metro and headed in the Y2K building’s direction.
‘Why did I endure all that suffering?’ Miyabi wondered while catching a glimpse at the scar on her wrist. “For love of course.” She smiled to herself. No one in the carriage paid any attention to her smile.
For some unknown reason she had fallen in love with Sagami, and after Sagami’s death had sleepwalked through the war, not putting any of her passion into the work she did for the Ministry of International Propaganda while at the same time working herself nearly to death. It was a rather one-sided love as Sagami was married already and had an eight year old daughter.
During the war there wasn’t any use for magical girls manga and Sagami refused to work for the government unlike her husband and Miyabi. The government took this as an act of rebellion, of siding with the Union. As a response to which Sagami “committed suicide.”
Miyabi got off at the station closest to the Y2K tower, the reason she put up with Terada’s bullying was because his passion for drawing manga was similar to Sagami’s.
At the time she was with Sagami, Sagami’s daughter didn’t really enter into her attention even though she saw her frequently at the studio at Sagami’s appartment but after the war she was really stunned when she saw Yumi Minami, Sagami’s daughter, enter into her classroom. Miyabi had fallen in love with Minami who was Sagami’s daughter. In a moment of weakness, during the girl’s school swimming classes she was caught red-handed by Terada while sniffing at Minami’s uniform which Minami had left in the classroom. Terada had used this as blackmail to make Miyabi become his legal guardian and knowing of her contributions during the war to be his manga assistant.
As she entered the Y2K building, Miyabi wondered what Terada had used to blackmail Minami to become his assistant too. ‘That boy will get into trouble and drag me into it too. Though if it’s for Minami it’s fine.’ Thought Miyabi.
“The reason why Terada could afford the Y2K tower was because of the M2 chip implanted in his brain,” Riko explained. “I am sure you understand what that means, Cerberus.”
Minami had accepted Riko’s invitation and found herself on the top floor of the Y2K building, Riko’s main computer room.
“The ability to predict the future, insight if you will,” exclaimed Pan-san. “I thought that ability had been lost during the war.”
Minami held Pan-san in her arms.
The main room itself was small, as most of the seventh floor was taken up by servers. A large, wall-mounted display acts as a focal point in the room. Minami felt cold in here, if it weren’t for her knee-socks she would be freezing. A slow humming sound permeated the room.
“What is this place? Though I can guess.” Minami asked.
“This room is where my consciousness is hosted; it’s my main server.” Riko answered.
“There is another question I wanted to ask. Are the men who we met the lift Terada’s men?”
“I suppose you could say that. The fourth floor of this building is occupied by the manga magazine which publishes Terada-sama’s manga, however, this building is shared by a couple of other manga publishers too so you might have met them too.”
“What is Terada’s goal in all of this?” Pan-san interjected, his beady eyes looking more evil than usual. “The M2 chip should have been destroyed during the war. Why does he have it? What has he been doing with it?”
“Cerberus, to answer your questions from last to first; Terada-sama is only interested in creating manga, there is no deeper meaning to his actions. He just wants to hide that he’s making manga from his father, Rinroku-kaichou-sama, the president of Toha J.J. System.” Riko waved her hand towards the surroundings. “Once the AI Protection Act was passed, Rinroku-kaichou-sama decided to hide me as Terada-sama’s maid so he sent me away with his son. The M2 chip in Terada’s brain was implanted by Minami’s father, Dr Myoushin, in order to hide it from the Union. Terada-sama has used the M2 chip to trade on the stock exchange to pay for his studio and other expenses related to creating manga. I was able to dissuade him from using it to cheat on his exams.”
The M2 Chip was the cause of the previous war. Using it the government was able to predict who would commit crimes before it happened, predict who would succeed and fail at jobs; and predict which policies would succeed and which would fail. It could not however predict the backlash against letting an AI decide people’s fate.
“Did Terada use it to draw his manga?” Minami asked.
“No, what would be the fun in that?” Terada replied. He was standing at the now open entrance behind them. He wore an earpiece with which he had been listening their conversation. Miyabi who was right behind him also followed him inside carrying a bag with the art supplies that she had just bought.
“You know, you didn’t have to carry those here,” Terada said.
“Didn’t your M2 chip tell you that I wouldn’t be able to make it on time? It must be broken then.” Miyabi replied.
“No, it told me that you could be back in time had you not gotten distracted at the art store reminiscing about I don’t know what.”
Terada knew Miyabi had tarried a bit because of her phone’s GPS; The room was getting a bit cramped.
“So,” Cerberus turned towards Riko. “What is it that you want to show to us?”
“Well, first of all let me apologise to Minami-sama.”
Riko placed both her feet together, placing her hands crossed in front and bowed exactly 45 degrees. Her eyes were open and her line of sight moved with her torso. It was a deep and slow bow. The small triangular screen on her forehead also showed a simple animation of a “●|￣|＿” prostrating emoticon.
“It was I who revealed to Terada-sama about those magical girl and idol doujins that you drew. It was because I wanted to show you this.”
Riko stared at the large mounted display, causing it to turn on with a light flash like an old cathode ray tube television would.” It was a flat screen, Terada had asked Riko to program that “light flash” in for no particularly good reason.
An image materialised, showing Dr Myoushin working intensely on a secret project. He was not wearing any bandages here, and the only ‘white robes’ he had on was his lab coat.
The naked lifeless body of beautiful woman with long brown hair was brought in from another room, and her head was placed inside a large, cylindrical tunnel-shaped device. It took a moment for Minami to realise that that was her mother, Sagami Uehara.
“Dr Myoushin, my creator and your father, created my AI using a mind scan of his deceased wife, your mother.”
Minami’s eyes widened for a moment, but her shock quickly subsided.
“He never got over your mother’s passing,” Riko explained, “and in his desperation to be reunited with her, he developed ways to preserve her consciousness digitally.”
“That is understandable but even if what you say is correct,” Minami noted, “that doesn’t mean that I would accept you as my mother.”
“That is correct,” Riko replied. “It is not as if a scan of a dead brain could bring back your mother, I just thought you deserved to know, Minami-sama, but I am not done.”
“Your father isn’t just a brilliant scientist,” Riko continued, “he was planted into the anti-AI movement by the government. His task was to subvert it towards ineffective but peaceful means and create a controlled valve for public discontent. After the civil war, in order to stop the Union from ever gaining legitimacy, the government created the Human Defence League.”
“I don’t care.” Minami replied, slightly angered. “As long as it can help me get back at Toha then it doesn’t matter to me if it helps the government. Besides I will never hate my father.”
“Good, do you hate Terada-sama?”
“No, that wouldn’t make any sense. He is just the son of some Toha executive, and he wasn’t even born during that time.”
“Honestly,” Terada said, “I wouldn’t even be surprised if your father had other plans, the HDL has slightly gone out of control, it’s kind of becoming a bother, cause I don’t know what they would do to Riko, it wouldn’t be the first time a group funded by the government went out of control. After all that is what happened with the Union which preceded it as well.”
The Union was a violent anti-AI cult based in the northern most island of Hokkaido which a started civil war for secession. It was violently put down by the government. The Self-Defence Forces have been accused of killing as many as 100,000 Union members after having surrendered during the last few weeks of the war on the volcanic Kitami Mountains in north-east Hokkaido, the Union’s stronghold. Some allegedly thrown into the Mount Meakan volcano.
“If— ,” Pan-san began with a suspicious note in his winnie the poo-like voice. “If you are only interested in making manga, then what do you get out of this?”
“The Yumi Minami Raising Project, of course.”
“Terada-sama, weren’t we supposed to keep that for last?”
“It’s about time. I have got to back to my work. I don’t want to keep this week’s submission till the last moment like last time.”
“That’s what you say every time,” Miyabi commented. “I must say it was pretty rich for Myoushin to pass on his debt to you though Minami-chan.”
“No, it was for my sake that he got in debt with Toha.”
Minami’s father was indebted to Toha to edit Minami’s genes with AI to cure a genetic disorder and choose the best genes from their gene pool for her. Now that both of her parents were legally dead she had to pay the debt herself. Her thoughts moved back to the present moment.
“So—What is the Yumi Minami Raising Project?” Minami asked with a slightly disgusted face.
“It’s a simulation game.” Terada answered unfazed. “Or rather it will be once we make it. Your powers allow you to turn into an idol/magical girl due to those childhood comics you created. So by making a visual novel with a heroine based on Yumi Minami, you should be able to get enough power to destroy Toha, break the world’s shell, and revolutionise the world.”
‘Hmmm…’ Pan-san contended with himself. ‘A visual novel where Yumi is the heroine. I can’t pass up on that. Yes, this is also for the sake of my duty to protect Yumi Minami.’
“What’s in it for us?” Miyabi asked. “Well, helping Minami-chan is also my wish but in Terada’s case, he simply desires to draw manga — and if he needs to revolutionise the world to do that—”
“So be it.” Terada concluded.