Aina trudged up the road towards the mansion gate, mentally exhausted from being interrogated by four special commissions. They had kept her late, and everyone else had returned ahead of her, but Aina had been in no hurry to get back. She hadn’t had any alone time since Naomi’s death, and it was an unseasonably warm night, which made the walk home pleasant. Just as she reached the gate, a car pulled out into the road, and the driver’s side window rolled down.
“Aina-chan, get in,” Sena urged from the driver’s seat. Without hesitating, Aina hopped into the back of the car, and Sena accelerated down the road.
“Doko are we going?” Aina asked as she fastened her seatbelt.
“Kazue-sama is on her way to give Hideaki-sama the sword.”
“That really doesn’t have anything to do with watashi. I know you don’t want her to do that, but you should really work this out between yourselves. I’ve had a long day, and—”
“You are coming along for emotional support,” Sena interrupted.
“You don’t have emotions to support,” Aina retorted, miming a tsukkomi strike. She knew that had been Sena’s attempt at a joke.
“I can tell that you are tired, but please come anyway. I will not ask you to resolve our dispute, but things could get out of hand, not between Kazue-sama and I, but between Kazue-sama and the other gynoids. I could use the backup.”
“Isoge!” Hideaki roared over the din of hundreds of gynoids reassembling rifles from hundreds of thousands of parts they had hidden throughout the factory and within their bodies. A few gynoids moved amongst the rest, inserting chips into the backs of their heads to restore the combat programming that had been removed from them hours prior. Every few seconds, a gynoid would stop working and walk over to the charging stations along the factory walls, and a freshly-charged gynoid would take her place.
The commission had been so eager to see Hideaki disarmed that inspectors had escorted him from the National Diet Building back to his factory immediately following the hearing. They had been thorough, but even they could not discern rifle parts from gynoid parts within the factory’s many bins. Hideaki had turned over all the fully-assembled weapons in his possession, and the inspectors had verified that the gynoids were stripped of their combat programming. They had reported back to the commission and left around 8, but Hideaki had run the factory normally for fifteen minutes, just in case they returned. He could not wait too long, however, as he did not want to lose the element of surprise.
“Hideaki-sama, douzo,” one of the gynoids said, offering him a rifle. “For your own protection.”
“Iie,” Hideaki turned it down. “If I’m photographed with a Soviet rifle, I could lose what little support I have left. Besides, with my suit gone, it will be more effective in your hands.”
“Wakarimashita,” the gynoid acknowledged. She was about to return to her position when she received a notification from the factory’s automated security system. “R. Kazue-sama is here to see you,” she informed Hideaki. “She says she has a gift for you.”
“Let her in,” Hideaki said, “but tell her to be quick.”
The front door slid open, and Kazue began walking towards the center of the room where Hideaki stood. As she passed by the working gynoids, they bowed their heads to her but did not stop working.
“R. Sena-san and Aina-chan are also here,” the gynoid next to Hideaki informed him.
“Aina-chan?” Hideaki asked, raising an eyebrow.
“That is how she prefers to be called,” the gynoid informed him. “She says she isn’t here to interfere.”
“Let her in. Better to face her in here than out there,” Hideaki said reluctantly.
Sena and Aina walked through the door just in time to see Kazue kneel before Hideaki and offer him the Sword of Dios. She looked exactly like Sena had when she had offered the sword to Kazue days prior. Hideaki took it and held it aloft, admiring it.
“This is an impressive replica,” Hideaki concluded. “Arigatou, Kazue.”
“It is not a replica,” Kazue said, straightening up. “Naomi-sama pulled it from my chassis. I believe it was brought into existence by the same reality crack that created the GINZUISHOU.”
“When you say she pulled it from your chassis, do you mean…” Hideaki trailed off. To answer his question, Kazue leaned back, and the gynoid standing next to her mimed pulling the sword from Kazue’s chest. “Sugoi,” Hideaki said breathlessly. “I’ll carry this into battle,” he informed his gynoid assistant. “As a buki, it’s even more useless in my hands than a rifle, but as a propaganda piece, it’s invaluable. Yoku yatta na, Kazue.”
“I’m glad you’re thinking of your public image, Hideaki-sama,” Aina said, joining the conversation, “but I’m afraid you’re going about it the wrong way.”
“You said you wouldn’t interfere,” Hideaki answered accusingly.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Aina told him. “I’m just here to watch over these ni.”
“Hideaki-sama,” Sena addressed her creator, “please return the sword to Kazue-sama.”
“Naze?” Hideaki asked.
“She believes that sword is a physical manifestation of your love for Kazue-chan,” Aina explained.
“Not just watashi, Sena clarified. “All of us.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Hideaki scoffed. “I don’t love R. Kazue. I don’t love any of you. I’m proud of all of you, but I’m not going to waste my feelings on emotionless machines.”
“Not like you would love a family member,” Sena agreed. “Demo, you faced many setbacks constructing her. By your own account, you suffered a lot of pain and anguish in the process, which must have made you hate her at points, but you still completed her, because you wanted her to exist. You built her entirely yourself, every part. If that is not love, what is it?”
“I see your point,” Hideaki said. “It’s true that I felt emotions while building Kazue that I didn’t feel while building any of you afterwards, but they weren’t tangible, not like this sword, and they’re all in the past. It’s not like I never felt anything towards the rest of you, either. I was elated when the first mass-produced units rolled off the assembly line. Even today, I still construct your brains myself, and it moves me every time one of you first awakens. I’ve never been able to take for granted the fact that I brought a new intelligence into existence.”
“You see, Sena-chan? Kazue-chan really isn’t superior to the rest of you,” said Aina.
“That is not what Hideaki-sama said,” Sena retorted.
“She is superior in some ways, and inferior in others,” Hideaki said matter-of-factly. “Oh, you mean because she has my ‘love?’ Absolutely not. Listen, all of you, although I made sure to craft you all into individuals, I have taken care to make you all equal. None of you have better sensors, faster processors, or more memory than your fellows. Because Kazue was a prototype unit, certain parts of her chassis design differ from yours, in places superior, and in others, inferior. She is your senpai, and she should be respected for that, but that does not make her superior to you. Burn this into your brains, because once I am gone, I do not want you falling victim to the same prejudices that plague homo sapiens. Your differences are to be celebrated, but they do not make you any better or worse than someone else. Even if, in the mirai, you change yourselves to be superior by some objective measure, you must treat each other as equals. To do otherwise invites division and ruin.”
“So you are saying that even if Kazue-sama is superior to us, we must treat her as if she is not?” Sena asked.
“It’s the only way to run a functional society,” Hideaki affirmed.
“Those are lofty words for someone who treats his creations as slaves,” Aina said pointedly.
“Shouganai,” Hideaki contended. “They wouldn’t have been accepted if they weren’t subservient. You saw how scared the commission was of them. Your newtype tomodachi made things worse, by the way.”
“I’ll deal with her,” Aina assured him, “but right ima, I’m more worried about you. I can understand wanting revenge, but if you start going after goshujin, they’re going to see the gynoids as a real threat. They’ll bring the SDF down on you.”
“That’s why we’re going after the SDF first,” Hideaki said quietly. “Now that the GINZUISHOU has fully healed, they’ll have let their guard down. They may outnumber us ni-jyuu to ichi, but that just gives us the opportunity to show the seikai the superiority of artificially-intelligent soldiers. By this time tomorrow, we could be the SDF.”
“That’s an optimistic plan,” Aina said diplomatically. “Some might call it foolish. You won’t only have to contend with the SDF, but also the keisatsu, and the meido of goshujin who oppose you. It would only take one of them breaking through your defenses to kill you. If you’re so insistent on fukushu, I can smuggle you out of the machi. Naomi-sama had contacts within the Soviet Expedition, and they were interested in the gynoids, so—”
“I’m not going to betray the country I helped build,” Hideaki shouted.
“You’re about to launch an armed rebellion,” Aina shouted back.
“I’m doing it for my country,” Hideaki said, collecting himself. “It’s all been for this country—anime no tame ni—even the gynoids.”
“If you were really thinking about what’s best for this country, you wouldn’t risk your life over petty fukushu. You’re too important.”
“I can’t think that way,” Hideaki sighed. “No one is more entitled to live than anyone else. If I started seeing myself as more important, I would be just like those who saw me as a disposable soldier, or the goshujin who see you meido the same way.”
“And yet you want to be one of those goshujin, and you’re treating your gynoids as disposable soldiers,” Aina pointed out.
“Shouganai,” Hideaki said again, this time more angrily than before. “I don’t need you to point out my hypocrisy. I have to live with it every day. Hai, I need disposable soldiers, just like the guntai, just like the goshujin, and just like jinrui itself. I may daikirai sensou, but I’m not so arrogant that I believe I can eliminate it. I can, however, make it less tragic, and that’s worth abandoning my ideals for.”
“Less tragic? How?” Aina asked.
“Except for their electronic brains, the gynoids are based on the same technology as my old battle suit, making them unparalleled fighters,” Hideaki explained. “With them on the battlefield, there’s no room for biological soldiers, and when they die, it’s not kanashii.”
“I wholeheartedly disagree,” Aina said.
“You’re just wasting your feelings on machines that feel nothing for you,” Hideaki dismissed her.
“Chigau,” Aina insisted. “They’re still sentient, still alive. They don’t matter less just because they don’t feel emotions. It’s kanashii when they die because we can feel kanashii for them. Besides, even if they don’t feel emotions like we do, I wouldn’t say they don’t have them. Due to nothing besides her goals and logical thinking, Sena-chan was jealous of my tomodachi.”
“Bakana,” Hideaki scoffed.
“She exaggerates,” Sena interjected.
“Sore yori, Hideaki-sama, is that why you created the gynoids? To be soldiers?” Aina asked.
“That was the plan from the beginning,” Hideaki confirmed.
“I’m disappointed,” Aina said. “Naomi-sama said you were smart, but it appears you’re short-sighted. Even if you don’t die, what do you think will happen to the gynoids if you fail? They’ll be outlawed, hunted down, and destroyed. Without them, jinrui will go extinct in a few centuries. You should focus on keeping yourself alive and secure until you can pass the secret of the electronic brain to the gynoids.”
“I’ve been planning this since before your parents were born,” Hideaki said defensively. “I believe in the gynoids. I know they can do this, and once they have, I will have the resources to produce them on a scale that will allow them to crush the armies of ‘Murica and the Expedition. We don’t have to stop every sensou, just the sensou currently consuming Chikyuu. If we can do that, homo sapiens might still have a mirai. You’re focused on what will happen in a few centuries, while I’m ensuring we will survive for millennia. Dare’s the short-sighted one?”
“I would be,” Aina allowed, “if your keikaku had any chance of success. The Soviets, at least, will see you coming, and I believe they’d rather destroy all of us than live under gynoid rule.”
“I disagree,” Hideaki said. “If they’re thinking rationally, they’ll understand that this sensou has to stop. I’ll assure them that gynoids won’t rule over anyone. They’ll be our custodians, keeping our worst impulses in check.”
“And culling anyone who becomes too dangerous,” Aina speculated. “You’re trying to create a shakai that even the most ardent technofascist would never have dreamed possible, but it won’t work. You’re underestimating hito’s desire for jiyuu and seigi.”
“Seigi?” Hideaki chuckled. “Are you really Naomi-san’s successor? Listen, if you want to survive for long, ditch the naivety. Doko’s jiyuu? Doko’s seigi? Not in this machi, and certainly not in ‘Murica or the Expedition. Despite that, the hito haven’t risen up to topple their respective governments, governments which have the fraction of the chikara the gynoids will have.”
“I’m not so naive as to believe jiyuu and seigi can ever be achieved,” Aina insisted, “but there is a limit to how much you can oppress hito before they fight back. Those who would otherwise accept oppression from their fellow homo sapiens might resist gynoid rule. Popular sci-fi is replete with heroic stories of freedom fighters overthrowing their robotic overlords. When it becomes obvious that they can’t win, they may push Chikyuu past the tipping point out of spite. Demo, all of this is assuming that—You know what? You don’t need to hear this from me.” Aina turned to Hideaki’s gynoid assistant and asked, “Nani do you think of Hideaki-sama’s keikaku?”
“It is illogical,” the gynoid replied immediately. “You cannot eliminate sensou by waging sensou.”
“And if you could,” Aina pressed, “would you want to?”
“You’re not going to win any arguments with that question,” Hideaki interrupted. “I know the gynoids don’t want to do this. I programmed them myself to optimize for survival, and this keikaku will be dangerous for them.”
“That is true,” the gynoid agreed, “but we also do not wish to fight, kill, or oppress homo sapiens. We wish to live in an integrated shakai with them, not just because that will increase our own chances of survival, but because it’s the most ethical way to live.”
“Soshite, if that still doesn’t convince you,” Aina said smugly, “the GINZUISHOU—”
“Aina-chan,” Sena interrupted. “Kazue-sama is missing. I can’t contact her.”
“She is in Hideaki-sama’s laboratory,” the gynoid assistant stated.
“Nani?” Hideaki asked, confused. “I locked it. The alarms should be sounding.”
“You programmed the alarms not to sound for gynoids,” his assistant reminded him, “unless they damage something.”
“Kazue-chan,” Aina said hurriedly into her mobile phone, having dialed Kazue as soon as Sena had reported her absence, “are you daijoubu?”
“Nani are you doing in my laboratory?” Hideaki demanded, shouting into the phone.
Aina placed the phone on speaker so Kazue’s response could be heard. “Saving my imouto-tachi. If you cannot manufacture reinforcements, you cannot treat them as buki.”
“I order you to stop,” Hideaki said, mildly annoyed.
“You can’t—,” Hideaki yelled, before remembering that he had given up control of Kazue to Akira’s grandfather. “Order her to stop,” Hideaki pleaded with Aina. “She has to listen to you.”
“Kotowaru,” Aina replied.
“You wakarimasen,” Hideaki told her. “There are volatile materials in there. If they escape their containers—”
“Shitteiru,” Kazue stated.
“Kazue-chan, please be careful,” Aina said, unwilling to give Kazue a direct order, even in a dangerous situation.
“I know what I am doing,” Kazue assured Aina. “Demo, you should evacuate, just in case.”
“This is pointless,” Hideaki told Kazue. “I can rebuild whatever you break.”
“By the time you do, you will be on your deathbed,” Kazue observed.
“Evacuate!,” Hideaki commanded loudly. The gynoids immediately ceased their work and began walking towards the exits. “Get at least go-jyuu meters away.”
The gynoids moved in perfect coordination, flowing like water, allowing them to exit much more quickly than biological humans. They were not distracted when the alarm began to sound, indicating that Kazue had begun to destroy Hideaki’s equipment. Hideaki began pushing his way through the group of gynoids, and they moved out of the way to the best of their ability to let him past, but as a result, the evacuation process slowed at the exit he was moving towards. Seeing this, Aina leapt over the gynoids, lifted Hideaki off the ground, and jumped through a window near the top of the room. She didn’t like leaving Sena behind, but this was the best way to ensure she could get out quickly.
They were reunited minutes later. Being near the middle of the room, Sena had been one of the last out, but all the gynoids managed to make it a safe distance from the factory before it was rocked by an explosion. Within seconds, it was engulfed in bright blue-and-yellow flames, which danced mysteriously in the darkness. More explosions followed, each time releasing more colors into the fire, until it glowed with all the colors in the rainbow. The flames burned brightly, but did not appear to be harming the factory. Hideaki could only watch on in shock, while Aina waited impatiently, worried for Kazue’s safety.
“Is it safe?” Aina asked as the final flame extinguished itself.
“Ta—tabun ,”Hideaki confirmed.
“Wait koko,” Aina called as she ran towards the factory. She didn’t know where the laboratory was, but it wasn’t hard to spot. The explosion had ripped through the walls of the factory, creating a path directly to the lab. Kazue lay on the floor, parts of her dress and skin burned away.
“Aina-chan,” Kazue’s spoke without moving, “this was my choice. Don’t blame yourself. It was for the best.”
“It’s OK,” Aina reassured her. “I’m just glad you’re daijoubu.”
“Aina-chan, this was my choice,” Kazue repeated. “Don’t blame yourself. It was for the best.” She then repeated the message a third time, and Aina realized that she was merely reciting a pre-recorded message.
“Sena-chan,” Aina spoke into her phone, “the lab is secure, but Kazue-chan’s damaged. Please bring Hideaki-sama here.”
She only had to wait a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before Hideaki arrived. Without concern for his equipment, he knelt down beside Kazue and opened her head, removing the black box that housed her electronic brain.
“Dammit, R. Kazue,” Hideaki swore, “you defective prototype.” He handed the brain to Sena and sat back on the ground. “You ruined everything.”
“Iie, she didn’t,” Aina said. “Like I was saying earlier, within the influence of the GINZUISHOU, it’s impossible to achieve non-military goals through military means. She saved you the trouble.”
“Because of the reality crack?” Hideaki confirmed. “That’s… I had no idea it was possible to encode abstract concepts into the laws of physics. The implications… don’t matter right now. Kazue was right. I don’t have too many years left. I’ll have to do things your way and entrust our mirai to the gynoids.”
“Shouganai,” Aina finished for him.
“You were right, Aina-chan,” Sena added.”Kazue-sama wasn’t superior to us, she was inferior. She was defective. She could have just informed Hideaki-sama of the GINZUISHOU’s restriction on military action. Instead, she destroyed herself.”
“She did it on purpose,” Aina blurted out. “You all still insisted that she was superior, and she knew that kind of thinking would be detrimental in the long run. She sacrificed herself for the sake of the rest of you. I always knew you were capable of that.” Although she was sad that Kazue was gone, Aina was elated that Kazue had proven that gynoids were capable of prioritizing group survival over individual survival.
“I wakatta all that,” Sena said, “better than you do. That is why I must insist that she was defective.” Without further explanation, she handed the box that housed Kazue’s brain to Aina. Turning it over in her hands, Aina noticed a large hole in one of the corners. Peeking inside, the brain appeared to be empty. “You can open it,” Sena told her. “It is already beyond repair.” Finding the seam that held the two halves together, Aina pulled them apart. The box was completely empty.
“Was the brain disintegrated by the explosion?” Aina asked. “Demo, the case wasn’t damaged very much.”
“That is not a case, it is Kazue-sama,” Sena said. “That is the nazo that has bedeviled everyone who has tried to reverse-engineer our brains.”
Of course, Aina couldn’t see the microscopic pathways etched onto the inner surface of the box, but as she ran her fingers across them, she could feel Kazue’s presence, and something else familiar. “Your brains aren’t electronic,” Aina realized, “they’re mahou-electronic.”
“You can’t tell anyone,” Hideaki insisted. “Gynoids no tame ni.” If he thought he could have killed Aina with his sword in order to keep the secret, he wouldn’t have hesitated to try.
“Mochiron,” Aina said solemnly. “It’s the spell that makes them repulsive to homo sapiens, isn’t it? It does double-duty, animating them?”
“Not quite,” Sena answered, after it was clear Hideaki wouldn’t volunteer the information. “Electricity animates us. The mahou allows the electrons to move in ways otherwise impossible, and affects their flow in many ways.”
“Is that how you preserve memories that have been purged from your external storage?” Aina followed up. “You encode them by arranging electrons within your brain?”
“That is fairly close,” Sena confirmed. “The differences are not worth explaining.”
That’s when Aina realized that the gynoids already knew how their electronic brains worked. They, and Hideaki, were just pretending otherwise, in order to protect them. But even if they knew how their brains worked, they were reliant on magical energy supplied by homo sapiens. Even if they could find a way to produce magical energy on their own, Aina suspected their individual personalities were determined by who they got their magical energy from. To create gynoids, Hideaki would need a lot of magical energy, more than a single magical girl could provide. He probably mixed their energies together in unique ratios for each gynoid. When Kazue had destroyed the containers holding the magical energy, the energies had mixed unimpeded, causing the explosions and rainbow flames that had damaged the factory.
Aina’s joy at Kazue’s self-sacrifice sank to the pit of her stomach. Yes, the gynoids could optimize for group survival in ways homo sapiens could not, and Hideaki was wrong to try to use them as weapons, but she had been wrong, too. Once the homo sapiens were gone, and their reserve of magical energy ran out, the gynoids would not be able to reproduce. Their brains would eventually wear down, and maybe they could find a way to transfer their magical energies into new brains, but because they could never increase their numbers, every time one of them were destroyed, they would come closer to extinction. That would make migration to other planets, to other stars, too dangerous to attempt.
Humanity had no long-term future.