Chapter 30

June 1st, U.C. 0164, 6:36 PM

“In conclusion,” R. Mikan, the designated speaker for the gynoids, announced, “the incident was caused by a failure of communication at multiple points. The training and materials we provided did not properly emphasize that, while voting on decisions is unavoidable in a group this large, the purpose of these meetings is to find solutions that are workable for as many as possible, not just those in the supermajority. In this case, a plan that allowed for the evacuation of the most vulnerable members of the group would have been more beneficial for both the gynoid population and those who remained to fight, as they would not have had to worry about protecting weaker members. During the vote itself, we stood aside in order to not block consensus, but we did so after explaining that we would only be a hindrance fighting the keisatsu. We believed the group understood that we planned to evacuate when they voted.

“Our proposal provides additional training on consensus decision making and will require gynoids and homo sapiens to verify unstated assumptions with each other. As self-government is inherently difficult, we cannot guarantee this proposal will prevent all misunderstandings in the future, but it should prevent most.”

After a round of polite applause, R. Mikan walked away from the podium to be replaced by R. Kiki, the head facilitator for this meeting. After checking with the temperature takers and facilitators from the other locations, she made one final call for speakers on the issue. When none came forward, she initiated the vote.

There were a few who voted against the proposal, not because they thought it was a bad idea, but because they felt the gynoids should still suffer some form of punishment. However, they did not feel so strongly about it as to delay more important matters. They also recognized that their opinion was an extreme minority. The gynoids had been right in retrospect, their explanation had been reasonable, and their contributions to the free meido had been invaluable.

“The proposal passes,” R. Kiki announced. “Elections for the committee to implement the proposal will be held using the smartphone voting system ichi week from today. If you would like to nominate yourself, please do so before then.

“We have ichi more item on konya’s agenda. Given its contentious nature, we may be unable to come to a decision during this meeting. In that event, emergency meetings may be called to continue discussion within the next few weeks. We will send out notifications at least a day in advance. For now, we shall hear prepared opening statements from groups advancing or opposing proposals and then open the floor to comments. First up is Kaiya Linville, speaking in affirmation of the proposal.”

The large monitors hanging from the ceiling of the warehouse turned on, showing the face of a meido in her early thirties. She was speaking from one of the other meeting locations. “Shokun,” she announced, “the facts are clear. Daiki Osborne-san, abusing his position as the son of a goshujin, brought a nuclear warhead into the machi. Although the worst-case scenario was prevented, a wing of Horikoshi Gakuen was destroyed. Yon-jyuu roku students and teachers were injured, san critically. Despite this, and despite violating the taboo against nuclear weapons, the prosecutor general today announced that charges would not be brought against Daiki-san.

“He claimed that Daiki-san was acting under the influence of mahou, but declined to explain dare would cast such a spell on Daiki-san, or for what purpose. I believe this is an excuse to provide political cover for the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency, which would bear the brunt of the goshujin’s anger for Daiki-san’s trial and execution. This is an outrageous abdication of responsibility by the prosecutor general. Not only do the facts of the case not support his decision, but the crime is entirely consistent with Daiki-san’s past behavior. I served the Osborne household, and I can guarantee you that his kazoku supports what he tried to do.

“What we are witnessing now are the goshujin caste’s extreme attempts to reassert political power. Although this plot failed, the prime minister has regained control over parts of the guntai and the keisatsu. If Daiki-san goes unpunished, it will send a message to the goshujin that their plans, no matter how dangerous they are to others, pose no risks to themselves. If we allow this to happen, their eventual victory is assured, and we will all be re-enslaved.

“In order to combat this threat, we must keep the goshujin under constant surveillance. They cannot be allowed to move freely or bring more buki into the machi. Furthermore, we should march to the Osborne residence and arrest Daiki-san ourselves. If the prosecutor general won’t prosecute him, we will. If the court system won’t hear our case, we’ll hold our own court. Soshite, when he is found guilty, if we are denied access to the gallows, we shall build one ourselves. None of this will be easy, or pleasant, but it is necessary for our survival. Please, join with me and vote in affirmation of this proposal. Domo arigatou gozaimasu.”

Loud applause followed the speech, but the mood within the warehouse was far from jubilant. Many meido sat with their arms crossed, refusing to signal their approval, and even many of those clapping had sour looks on their faces.

“Next,” R. Kiki announced, “we have a statement in partial opposition from Chobi-san.”

Noriko watched from the stands as her employee made her way up to the podium. Chobi was walking cautiously, her tail tucked down by her legs. But Noriko wasn’t worried. She had taught Chobi to put on a brave face when the situation demanded it. That was how Chobi had been able to face Aina so bravely, send her a message by wrapping her weapons in oilpaper, and even to threaten her. Chobi had been terrified the entire time, but she never showed Aina an ounce of that fear. And now, when she stepped up to the podium, her entire body relaxed, like she had cast off a heavy weight.

Minnya,” Chobi said into the microphone, “I’m speaking to you kyou not as an individual, but as a representative of the free meido’s younger generation. While we believe it is prudent to increase surveillance of the goshujin, we unyanimously oppose the proposal to take seigi into our own te.

“Although we do ocassionyaly arrest criminals in our neighborhoods, we have never endeavored to be a full-fledged keisatsu force, nor to enforce the law outside our neighborhoods. Our reasons for becoming meido differ, but our actions have always been motivated by a desire to serve our community and make our machi a better place to live. The proposal being debated would go against that principle, seeking to supplant shakai rather than improve it.

“It is true that the government has failed to live up to its duty to prosecute Daiki-san, and that the goshujin are a threat to our continued existence. It is also true that killing them would be the most expedient solution to that particular problem, but it is nyat the best solution. We must also consider the other effects this would have. It would put us at odds with shakai. We would once again face antagonism from the keisatsu and the guntai, and the populace would begin to fear meido once again. Soshite, they would be right to fear us. I would fear us. We would have demonstrated to the sekai that we are a group that is willing to take matters into our own te when we disagree with shakai, and that we’re willing to kill to achieve our aims. Any parallel court system we created would have no checks or balances placed upon it, and thus be easily susceptible to corruption.

“Worse, this court system would be the first hierarchical structure created by the free meido. When we have had problems amongst ourselves, we have not resorted to a court system, where a single, powerful judge delivers verdicts. We have discussed our issues, and we always strive to resolve them in ways that benefit minnya. In contrast, many of us have seen what happens in the courts. Rather than resolve their differences, both sides flatter and grovel before a judge, hoping for a resolution that benefits only themselves. Even if you have never seen this yourself, you have seen the results. A court is a system which helps a small group pick winners and losers in shakai.

“Some of you may rightly point out that I am advocating against replacing a shakai that has picked winners and losers. If Daiki-san was not from a goshujin family, it would not be so difficult to prosecute him for his hanzai. Demo, I am not advocating that we withdraw and accept the decision of the prosecutor general. We are a part of this shakai. We must engage with our fellow citizens and demand seigi from the government. We must organize protests, circulate petitions, educate our fellows, and nyan-violently resist this government. It will be a lot more difficult than killing Daiki-san, and there’s no guarantee that we will prevail, but it is the best chance we have to save our shakai—and ourselves.

“If we push ahead with this proposal, we will become the very thing we seek to destroy. Throughout history, every revolution has ultimately failed because it has replaced one hierarchy with another. In the short term, the benefits are obvious. In the best case, the oppressed are granted jiyuu, wrongs are righted, and the new rulers can govern judiciously. Demo, the demands of hierarchy always warp shakai over time until it is as cruel and oppressive as it had been before. We must break this cycle that perpetuates itself through short-sightedness and violence. Please join me in opposing this proposal.”

The applause for Chobi was more muted than the applause for Kaiya, but her speech had obviously made a bigger impact. It was the first time many meido had considered these ideas, and many had not applauded because they were too busy thinking about what Chobi had said.

“Before we open the floor for comments,” R. Kiki addressed the group, “we have an unusual request. The seitokaichou would like to address this assembly. We do not usually admit outsiders, and we are already behind schedule, but I believe she has information which may be beneficial to this discussion. Is there any opposition to hearing what she has to say?” After waiting for a couple of minutes for anyone to register an objection, R. Kiki gestured the student council president up to the podium.

“Minna-san,” she said, bowing at the podium, “arigatou for allowing me to speak with you. First and foremost, I must apologize for the situation we now find ourselves in. I had received a warning that Daiki-san was planning something dangerous, but I underestimated his threat. Rather than informing the authorities, who I thought would look the other way when it came to Daiki-san, I attempted to score political points by taking care of the situation myself. As a result, many students were injured, and I understand that some of them were relatives of free meido. The free meido were among the first to respond and render aid after the explosion. Because of your fast work, san students were saved from death.

“I am deeply indebted to you, and that is why I cannot stay silent while you debate a course of action that would ultimately result in your destruction. Kaiya-dono is correct that the goshujin are a threat, not just to the free meido, but to the entire machi. She also correctly identified that the goshujin will continue to pursue strategies which present no risks to themselves. That is how they have operated for centuries. You can only beat them by being proactive. By the time you react to their moves, it’s too late. At the same time, Chobi-dono is right. As naive as much of her speech was, attempting to unilaterally solve shakai no mondai by force will benefit no one.

“The heiwa treaty explicitly forbids the acts you are proposing. That you mean to hide them behind a sham trial in a sham court system will not protect you. Demo, even though our government has decided to spare Daiki-san, he undoubtedly attempted to use a nuclear warhead to affect political change. It is only a matter of time before he is assassinated by a licensed agent. In the meantime, I promise to use my position as seitokaichou to make his life miserable. And if, in time, it appears that the rest of the sekai is content to let Daiki live, I will deal with him myself.

“I know this is a lot to ask, especially after I failed to handle the situation to this point, but I ask you to trust me, not so that I can score political points, but because I must take responsibility for my own mistakes. I cannot allow them to be a burden to you. I am also uniquely qualified for this task. I have consistently outmaneuvered the goshujin politically for the last ni years. I will make it clear to them that there are consequences for their actions.”

June 3rd, U.C. 0164, 3:34 PM

Aina removed the captain’s hat from her head and twirled it on one finger. She was reclining in the captain’s chair of the Macedonian, one leg crossed over the other, as a photographer circled around her. Meanwhile, the museum’s curator stood just outside the softbox.

“At the time, I thought he was a good kyaputen,” Aina said. “He was hard on his crew, but he took good care of his ship. If I had known he harbored anti-government sentiments, I wouldn’t have saved him. We only stole the Macedonian from him in order to keep it out of the defense minister’s hands.” The curator furiously scribbled notes, but before he could ask another question, Aina noticed the photographer crouching low, bringing the camera near the floor. “Watch the angle,” she warned him.

Shinpai shinaide,” the photographer assured her. “I can’t see up your dress. I just want a shot that looks like you’re towering over the viewer, confident, domineering—”

“About to step on them,” Aina finished for the photographer. “I’m not a sex symbol. You wouldn’t take that shot if there were an otoko in this seat, but I’m no less of a kyaputen. Show me some respect, or I guarantee you will regret it.”

“O—of course, Aina-sama,” the photographer stammered, rising quickly to his feet.

The curator was about to ask his next question when Sena poked her head around the softbox.

“Gomen,” Aina apologized. “Something’s come up. If you have further questions, I’d be happy to do this again.”

“Domo arigatou gozaimasu, Aina-sama,” the curator said, accepting the hat from her as she handed it to him. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Gomen for interrupting,” Sena said. “It looked like you were having fun. I haven’t seen you this happy since that unpleasantness With Emi-san.” She was wearing her meido uniform again. Although she didn’t need it, dirt and debris would find their way into her charging port more easily when she was nude. The extra cleanings had become bothersome.

“You’re exaggerating,” Aina protested. “I’m happy. Emi-san was a beautiful onna, but I didn’t feel the same way about her as I do about Fumiko. My ego was bruised when she left, sure, but I wasn’t unhappy.”

“You can’t fool me, Aina-chan,” Sena said. “You were always blissfully happy after your dates with her. Perhaps you didn’t love her. Perhaps you just wanted a warm body to hold at night—”

“We didn’t get that far,” Aina interrupted.

“But you were imagining it,” Sena said. “This was more than just a blow to your ego. You were depressed to learn that koi isn’t always as easy as it was for you and Fumiko-chan. You’re worried you might never find a partner again.”

“You didn’t interrupt me to psychoanalyze my sex life,” Aina snapped. “Nani happened?”

“Daiki Osborne-sama has been killed,” Sena informed her.

“It was only a matter of time,” Aina sighed. “Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long.”

“It wasn’t you then?” Sena confirmed.

Naze? Was there something about his death that implicated me?”

“He was killed using a poison common among meido.” Sena said. “You and Jin-sama are the only licensed meido left, so if it wasn’t either of you, the free meido will most likely take the blame.”