Chapter 35

Dec. 29th, U.C. 0051, 5:50 AM

Aina strolled the passageways of the Macedonian, checking each room for cleanliness. Although she touched up a few spots, she needn’t have bothered. The crew had done a great job cleaning the ship, and they were returning it in better condition than they found it in. Not that it would have been difficult. The previous crew had not valued cleanliness. When she had finished, she exited the ship, strolling out into the field to return the Macedonian to her rightful captain at the agreed-upon 6 AM.

“You look better without the mask,” The captain greeted her gruffly. She held out the cap she had stolen from him, and he took it, placed it upon his head, and strolled towards the ship. His new crew followed close behind.

“I stand relieved,” Aina replied sarcastically as he passed. She was far from angry though. Chikako, in a move to assert her power, had insisted on returning the Macedonian herself, but her new responsibilities had kept her too busy. Aina was happy to return it. She had been the one to steal it, so it was only natural that she give it back.

“Oi!” A voice called out to Aina. The field was illuminated only by the soft glow of the GINZUISHOU above, but Aina could make out the form of Koharu jogging towards her.

“Ohayou gozaimasu, Koharu-shousa,” Aina greeted her as the two drew near. “I do hope you’ll forgive me, but I’m in a hurry. I’m scheduled to testify before yon committees today.”

“I’ll walk with you.”

“I walk rather quickly. Can you keep up?”

“Do you remember Ikue-san, the mahou shoujo we fought alongside the other day?” Koharu asked, ignoring what Aina had said.

Atarimae,” Aina replied impatiently.

 “She’s disappeared. Her employer filed a missing persons report.”

Sou ka? I didn’t realize they had you doing keisatsu work.”

“She’s a powerful mahou shoujo. It’s my job to keep track of them. It’s not just her, either. Many of the mahou shoujo associated with your parents’ lab have disappeared.”

“And this has brought you to me because?”

“Do I really have to spell it out for you?”

“I suppose you do,” Aina said, disinterested. They continued to walk briskly in the direction of the city, but Aina could tell Koharu was sizing her up.

“She knows who you are and where you live, so you have plenty of motive to silence her.”

“You know those same things, but I haven’t made any moves against you. I’m fond of Ikue-san—of many of them, actually. Besides, my days of anonymity are over. I’m Naomi-sama’s successor now, and that means I’m a public figure. I couldn’t hide myself anymore even if I wanted to, and if I can’t protect myself at this point, I’m not worthy of succeeding Naomi-sama. Ikue-san can protect herself too. I’m sure she just put out the word that I’m still alive and went into hiding. I may be fond of them, but they’re frightened of me.”

“I hope you’re right, but it’s still my job to find them.”

“Best of luck to you then.”

“To you as well. Soshite, be careful.”

“Let’s get this thing started,” the elderly MP announced into his microphone. Two dozen MPs sat in two rows of raised semicircular desks, looking down at a desk with a single microphone, at which Jin sat, looking back up at them. Behind Jin were chairs for the audience, but they were only half-filled.  “This is a closed session, so I’ll dispense with the theatrics. Arigatou to all of you for agreeing to be here on such short notice. I believe I speak for this entire commission when I say we were impressed by the quality of the written statements submitted for this hearing. Every last one of them began by protesting the name of the commission. I think we all have our reservations about it—me, I think CIIUPDRSI is a terrible initialism—but no insult was meant by it. The word ‘unhuman’ was used because we needed a term that included gynoids without the baggage of the word ‘inhuman.’ Otherwise, we would probably have used ‘superhuman,’ as cliché as that is. Regardless, just about everything about this commission was rushed, so we apologize if we offended any of you. With that, I’m going to yield the floor to Jin Caruana-san for our first testimony.”

“Arigatou, minister,” Jin said, activating her own microphone. “Since it sounds like this commission has already read my written testimony, I shall follow your lead and skip the theatrics. I yield the floor to questions.”

“Jin-san,” a sharply-dressed, middle-aged minister began, “your report on Kiyoshi-dono’s death was very detailed, except when it came to the reason he took his own life. According to your own testimony, your emotions were intimately linked to his, so could you share some insight into his reasoning?” Her tone was calm, professional, and not accusing, but Jin could detect ulterior motives from her.

It was not an unexpected question, and Jin and Aina had spent a lot of time strategizing on how to best answer it. Using Akira’s influence, they had acquired copies of every report of suicide filed with the Neo Crystal Tokyo police over the last three years. Although they only had access to reported suicides, their data showed that there had been a significant increase in suicides beginning the same day that Kiyoshi inherited his late father’s title, larger than any two-week increase in the past three years. Although they couldn’t rule out other causes, it appeared that Kei had done something to increase the chances that Kiyoshi would commit suicide. What’s more, it had affected the entire city. This was a great chance to denounce Kei, and it might even be enough to strip her of her title, but the existence of this commission gave them pause.

While it was true that current government policy underestimated the threat from magical girls, if they weren’t careful, they could swing things disastrously in the other direction. If the government attempted to crack down on magical girls too harshly, it could result in another civil war within the city, and a victory by either side could result in an even more dystopian society. Of course, the magical girls could decide to rebel on their own, at which point Aina and Jin would have missed their chance to condemn Kei for nothing, but they both agreed it was a chance worth taking. Convincing Sora not to testify against Kei had been difficult. He eventually relented, seeing the logic of their arguments, but not trusting himself to hold back his emotions, he had not attended these hearings.

“I believe Kiyoshi-sama was trying to protect his self-identity,” answered Jin. “As an early newtype, he found a role model in Char Aznable, and sought to emulate him, to achieve the goal that Char could not: to bring jinrui to uchuu. When confronted with the genjitsu that uchuu was even less hospitable to life than Chikyuu, rather than change himself, he searched for a way to change genjitsu. He believed that by abandoning his physical karada, his spirit could survive in uchuu. If he could inspire other newtypes to follow him, he would have at least achieved part of Char’s goal.”

“Did it work?” another minister asked. “Is he floating out there, somewhere?”

Shiranai,” Jin admitted. “If he is, he may have doomed himself to a sabishii existence. I doubt he will come back to Chikyuu, out of fear of being weighed down by its gravity, and unless I’m mistaken, we’re unlikely to launch anyone else into uchuu anytime soon.” While she was speaking, she could feel disappointment from a few members of the commission. Most likely, they were hoping she would testify against Kei.

“Jin-san,” another minister cut in. “In your written testimony, you reject the label ‘newtype,’ and state that it is your personal belief that newtypes don’t exist. Demo, you were able to pilot a Gundam equipped with a psychoframe, and together with Kiyoshi-dono, were able to generate a psychofield. That, to me, appears to be proof that newtypes do exist, and you even used the word twice just now, yet I have heard others, both in reality and in various Gundam series, express doubt as to whether they exist. Naze is it that you say they don’t?”

“Hai, minister,” Jin acknowledged the question. “The debate is over semantics, not whether people with special powers exist. I used the word because it is a convenient way to communicate that I am talking about a group of people with specific powers, but I do not see them as a new type of ningen. Extraordinary hito have existed throughout history, but you wouldn’t call a record-setting athlete a newtype. I view my powers in that same light. Just as athletes have stronger physiques than most people, I have stronger mental powers, but we are all just ningen.

“The term itself was coined by Zeon Deikun, who believed that ningen would adapt to living in uchuu in the same way that they had previously adapted to living in industrial societies, and this would make them superior to the ningen who remained on Chikyuu. To the colonists, who were being treated as inferior by the ruling government, this was a seductive idea. Demo, it was a political idea, not a scientific one, and in this environment, hito with enhanced mental powers emerged. They were hailed as newtypes because it was politically beneficial to do so, but no real effort was made to determine if they were actually a new, superior, type of ningen. Despite their powers, they are shown to have the same weaknesses and character flaws as the rest of us, suggesting that they have not truly evolved beyond the rest of jinrui. Even so, there were those who looked to these so-called newtypes to lead jinrui to a better mirai.

“The mondai with that, though, is that if you believe in the concept of newtypes, you also have to believe in the concept of oldtypes, splitting jinrui into ni tribes, leading to more war. Neither side is actually more qualified to rule, but the belief in inferiority or superiority of one’s rulers are both damaging in their own ways. That is why, at the end of After War Gundam X, we are admonished to discard the concept of newtypes.”

“If you don’t deny you have powers,” the minister followed up, “can you read minds?”

“I cannot, but my powers are regulated by a neural implant. In general, newtypes cannot read minds, but they can perceive certain thoughts directed towards them. For my part, I can feel emotional impressions from others, and due to this ability, I have a pretty good impression of what you’re really asking me. If I may be so presumptuous, you want to know if newtype powers can be used to detect mahou shoujo and discern their intentions. They cannot, and although the technology exists to detect mahou, I would urge you not to use it as you intend.” Jin was about to lay all her cards on the table, which she didn’t like doing, but she had agreed with Aina that, if it appeared the commission was heading in this unpleasant direction, it was their best chance to convince the government to change course. “The Soviet attack made it clear that there are mahou shoujo powerful enough to burn holes in the otherwise-invincible GINZUISHOU. The day before, you saw them as a kakkoii feature of our anime shakai, but now they are a force to be concerned with.

“Maintaining rule requires controlling the forces that apply hard power: the keisatsu, the guntai, and the meido. Both hard and soft power are used to corral those forces, and you currently enjoy full control over them. Demo, if enough of them turned against you at once, you would lose all power. Democracies have been overthrown by guntai cou—uprisings. Dictatorships have fallen when the guntai and the keisatsu could no longer stomach brutalizing their own populations, or when those populations rise up against oppression. Maintaining a grip on power requires a delicate balance. If you lose control over any group that can apply force you risk losing everything. You’re now worried that mahou shoujo could disrupt that balance. They may not be amenable to the type of control you exert on the other forces. Even if they’re not strong enough to overthrow you on their own, they could, for example, team up with the mostly-French keisatsu to take out the guntai and return control of the machi to French hands.

“Worse, the rate at which they are appearing is accelerating, and there are even some mahou danshi now. In a few generations, the mahou individuals may outnumber the non-mahou, assuming anyone is still alive. If you’re thinking rationally, you have to wonder what kinds of limits there are to mahou. Violent criminals come from the general population after all, and if one or more of them became much stronger than everyone else, or if someone became so tsuyoi that they couldn’t control their chikara, they could completely destroy shakai. At the very least, they could cause massive damage on a regular basis.

“If mahou abilities appeared at birth, or by a certain age, you could solve this problem simply by killing anyone who became mahou by that age. Even if you culled hachi-jyuu paasento or kyuu-jyuu paasento of the next generation, you could claim it was necessary to protect jinrui, and if mahou shoujo could ever become powerful enough to destroy the sekai, you would be right. It would certainly be the surest way to maintain your hold on power. The equation changes if mahou individuals start appearing outside the machi, however. Then you have to trust the rest of the world to follow your example, and subjugate the nations that won’t. Not only would this require an extremely costly and bloody sensou, you’d have to build an oppressive dystopia to be sure no one in the entire sekai escaped detection. Demo, because there are ni superpowers in the sekai, conquering it is impossible for anyone, so your best option is to cultivate your own group of mahou defenders, and hope they can deal with any threats that can appear, accepting the damage they cause, and hoping it’s not too bad.

“The Soviets realized all this before you, and have been kidnapping mahou shoujo to build up their own group. Now that you’ve realized the situation, you’re scrambling to come up with a keikaku of your own. You’re actually in a better position than you think. The Dai-ichi Mahou Chutai is an amazing group, they’re already loyal to this government, and they have an understanding of how powerful mahou can be. You should work with them to draft a policy that makes mahou individuals feel as though they are an integrated part of shakai. If you treat mahou shoujo as normal ningen, they will see themselves as normal. The best way to avoid conflicts with any group of people is to prevent an us-them dichotomy from forming to begin with. If that’s not enough of a guarantee for you, you strengthen the chutai so that they will become a powerful deterrent against any who would use mahou to the detriment of this shakai.”

Jin glanced back at Aina, who was seated a few rows behind her. Aina nodded at Jin, an approving look on her face.

“Arigatou, Jin-san,” the chairman thanked her. “You have quite an imagination, but some of your ideas were very useful. Are there any other questions for Jin-san?”

“If I may have just a moment more, there is one more statement I would like to make,” Jin requested. After receiving no objection, she continued. “If there is any group of hito that deserve to be called newtypes, it is the gynoids. The way they experience the sekai is much different than ours, and once Chikyuu is no longer capable of supporting life, they will be the only ones who can carry the torch of jinrui.”

Having finished her statement, Jin turned and walked away from the desk. She expected to see a smile on Aina’s face, and was surprised to find a frown instead. Jin wasn’t disappointed though. Being wrong about someone for once gave her a rush that nothing else could match.

The testimonies had continued for over an hour, and the frown had not vanished from Aina’s face.

“You should all be thanking me, not condemning me,” Hideaki raged. “The defense minister was a threat to most of you.”

“We are thankful,” the chairman shot back, “but we can’t overlook the threat your gynoids pose.”

“Because that komusume called them shin newtypes? Even if they are, they’re incapable of disobeying. They are no threat.”

“Incapable of disobeying whom?” one of the ministers pressed. “You? If you’re willing to violate the ban on dangerous weapons, how long will it be before you turn them against us?”

“It’s not like that,” Hideaki said. “I created the gynoids to benefit shakai, not me personally.”

“Then why won’t you share the secret of their creation? It really seems like you’re trying to build your own private guntai.”

“Because if I do that, the first thing that will happen is that companies will start mass producing sapient sexaroids without any concern for the ethics.”

“What’s wrong with that?” another minister asked. “Sexaroids are very anime.”

“Sexaroids are fine,” Hideaki sighed, “as long as they’re not sentient. If you really think it’s acceptable to force intelligent beings to—Iie, never mind. I’ve heard rumors of how you treat your meido. You’d be just fine with that.”

Maa, maa,” the chairman said, trying to defuse the tension. “This doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s not our intention to punish you, Hideaki-san, but we can’t reward you for your actions either, and we can’t ignore the threat you pose. If you can agree to remove the combat programming from any gynoids you personally own, and surrender your weapons, we can put this all behind us.”

“Agreed,” Hideaki mumbled, sinking back into his chair.

“Next up,” the chairman continued, “we have testimony from one of the gynoids, R. Kazue.”

“Do we really need to bother?” another minister asked.

“As Jin-san said, they experience the sekai differently than we do,” the chairman answered. “I have often found their unique perspective enlightening. R. Kazue, you have the floor.”

It was Sena, not Kazue, who activated the microphone at the desk. The gynoids had all voted Kazue to be their representative at these hearings, but Kazue did not want the responsibility of speaking for all gynoids. Sena mentioned that she had something she wished to say to the commission, and Kazue had agreed to allow her to take her place. They hadn’t bothered to update the commission, because they couldn’t tell the difference between gynoids anyway.

“Arigatou, minister,” Sena began. “Before I begin, you may order me to be honest, if you wish. I cannot disobey such an order.”

“Hideaki-san,” the chairman said, “I know she won’t disobey you. Would you be so kind as to give that order?” Hideaki did so, and Sena stood from her chair, leaned over the microphone, rested her palms on the desk, and looked directly at the chairman.

Watashitachi wa ningen da.” she declared.

“Nani did you say?” The minister who had asked about Kiyoshi’s death gasped.

Sena straightened up, turned to face the minister, and repeated, “Watashitachi wa ningen da.” She spoke loudly to ensure she would be heard, but she did not sound emotional in the least.

Bakana,” the minister replied. “You’re just making an allusion, ne?”

“I was ordered not to lie,” Sena reminded them, without actually answering the question.

A heavy silence hung over the room. Jin snuck another look at Aina to find that her frown had disappeared. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t frowning either. Hideaki was covering his face with his hands, but Jin could feel a mixture of frustration and elation coming from him.

Clearing his throat, the chairman reasserted control over the proceedings. “Looks like we’re going to have to rename this commission after all,” he joked.

No one laughed.