Chapter 6:

The Sweeper and The Girlboss

Work, Please! ~From World's Greatest Sweeper to the Far Future's Salaryman~

   Neo Shibuya.Bookmark here

   It is said that this city was the beating heart of the future.Bookmark here

   Home to countless Japanese citizens, Neo Shibuya grew from the small city of old Shibuya, after the first central Cyberbrain entity was created in its hallowed streets. From there, the district of Shibuya grew in influence that no other cities within Tokyo called ‘city wards’ could deny the utmost importance of this place.Bookmark here

   While every existent map called Tokyo the same as it ever was—Tokyo—for the citizens within its confines, they eventually grew to simply call the place Neo Shibuya.Bookmark here

   To anyone, it sounded like an ego-trip… because it was. While the rest of Japan still existed, the citizens of Neo Shibuya had not actually seen the outside of their city even without the existence of physical walls. The same was true of every city in Japan, and, as far as they knew, the world.Bookmark here

   Ever since the use of Cyberbrains propagated, travel industries have been left to rot. When Neo Shibuya offered every human possibility and pleasure within arms’ reach, citizens saw no reason to leave their city. Even the feeling of travel was achievable with the use of sending your consciousness back into the central Cyberbrain to experience the sights and sounds of another land. A literal ‘spritual journey’.Bookmark here

   But the nature of the human heart cannot be altered so easily.Bookmark here

   Corporations and the government are still run by people, and even worse that once their heart had been corrupted by humanity’s natural fallibility, even death cannot tear them from their thrones. This led to heavy-handed laws and shady dealings between private companies and the government for mutual benefit that ultimately served to make life miserable for the common folk, while involved parties prospered.Bookmark here

   Riots and rebellions became a frequent occurrence even in Japan, which kept its reputation for being one of the most peaceful countries in Asia for more than a century.Bookmark here

   To protect their interests, they created the Security Knights: iron-clad enforcers packed to the gills with the best military tech available, whose sole purpose was to protect important entities within Neo Shibuya. Their motto was ‘to protect and serve the public of Neo Shibuya’. In truth, any intention of serving and protecting the public was incidental to its real purpose. A great irony, indeed.Bookmark here

   And over time, even the Security Knights’ integrity became compromised to human greed and ambition. The privatization of the Security Knights was not too uncommon, spoken mostly in hushed whispers, but only made the public distrustful of an already distrusted group.Bookmark here

   Such was the history told to Kuroiwa, by way of his most recent colleague from the Security Knights.Bookmark here

   And one such private group was that of Security Knight Sei’s, with a grand total of two employees: herself and the sweeper, Kuroiwa.Bookmark here

   They had received an anonymous tip that the same protest group was going to make another attack at the same location as the last time. Their reason remained unknown in the reports, but Kuroiwa knew what they were going there for.Bookmark here

   Payback.Bookmark here

   He imagined they’d be weaker in numbers this time, considering more than half their force lost every useful limb they had.Bookmark here

   But before any deployment could be done near Kengo’s Law Office, Sei and Kuroiwa were elsewhere, just a few blocks away from the place that would become their battlefield: A small, traditional food cart and shop sitting in the middle of a filthy, deserted street.Bookmark here

   The grill sizzled as strips of meat were placed on top of it. The smell of fatty meat being cooked mixed with the strong scent of beer, while the dirty, smelly air of Neo Shibuya’s streets sullied what should have been an appetite-whetting atmosphere. A middle-aged man with a neat, straight-styled haircut and an apron hummed himself a tune as he carefully watched the meat cook.Bookmark here

   While Kuroiwa wore the standard-issue kevlar, Sei herself was dressed in plain yoga pants and a tank top that exposed her toned abdomen. Just a few feet from her was a huge pile of metal that was her Security Knight armor.Bookmark here

   “Ahh!” Sei moaned in delight as she guzzled half an entire mug of beer in one go. Her face was flushed, and the heat of the grill made her sweat, her skin glistening from the lights of both the city and the cart’s dim fluorescent bulb. Her demeanor was closer to that of the casual and wild side from the other night’s riot, a pleased smile etched on her lips. “Nothing like a drink before work.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa took a sip out of his own beer and said, “I never pegged you for someone who drinks before work.”Bookmark here

   Sei giggled. “And I never pegged you as one who troubles themselves with such trifles.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa wasn’t sure how to reply. Up to now, he’d only met Sei at Security Knight’s HQ before his shift and wasn’t aware she was the type to booze herself up before work. It was odd, but he thought this made her… a little attractive.Bookmark here

   “I… I’m not troubled by it. I’m just surprised.”Bookmark here

   “Surprised?”Bookmark here

   “Yeah, I mean,” said Kuroiwa in an attempt to articulate his in a way that wouldn’t offend her. “You always did seem like the stern, serious type when it came to work. Didn’t think you’d be the type to, you know, do this.”Bookmark here

   “Heh, is that how I carried myself?” chuckled Sei. “I could not blame you, though. There is a certain level of decorum expected of a Security Knight, even if I do possess my own detail.” Sei turned to Kuroiwa and cocked her head ever so slightly. “I do this on my own all the time. Nobody knows of it but I. However, I do not mind sharing with you.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa laughed nervously. “Oh, I’m honored. But I’d like to ask: why me? What about your other friends?”Bookmark here

   “Oh, Ser Kuroiwa,” said Sei in a low voice. She leaned closer in Kuroiwa’s direction, glorifying certain assets of hers at him. “You’ve already seen a side of me I never bear to others. You are plenty honored, already.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa flinched, his face turning reddish not from the beer or its scent, but from a most pleasant sight. Dammit, she’s so close!, he thought as he tried to utter the bare minimum of a response. “U-uh, I guess? Surely your other friends have seen that side of you?”Bookmark here

   “None of them…” said Sei bitterly. She relaxed her pose and sat straight up on her own chair. “None of my comrades as of recent know.”Bookmark here

   “Really now…”Bookmark here

   “Yes, unfortunately. All my colleagues are of government ranking in some shape, way, or form. It would be unsightly if I revealed such indecent natures to them. Perhaps I would be shunned, or at worst, reconstructed and have my memories altered.”Bookmark here

   “That sounds awful.” said Kuroiwa, gulping his beer. “Not even like, a friend from years ago? Before you were a Security Knight?”Bookmark here

   Sei stared into her glass wistfully, her eyes focused on what seemed to be a distant memory.Bookmark here

   “I used to have such acquaintances. But when I reached adulthood, I had to cast them aside for my career as a Security Knight. Having friends who could only be classified as outcasts or rebels would tarnish the reputation of my organization.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa scratched the back of his head and nervously asked, “If I may, Sei?. What were you like back then? What kind of friends did you have?”Bookmark here

   “Oh, Ser Kuroiwa. You are curious?”Bookmark here

   “Well, of course I am. When I see a straight-laced lady like you start acting like a biker punk who owns the world, of course I’d be intrigued. I’d wanna know more.”Bookmark here

   “My, my, Ser Kuroiwa. Calling me a lady like this and expressing your interest… you’ve a way with words.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa laughed timidly, trying to dissuade Sei from thinking he had any dubious intentions. “Now, now! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Think of it as building rapport with your workmates.”Bookmark here

   Of course, it’d be a complete lie if he denied his interest in Sei as a person. The kind of person she was right now was always the type of woman Kuroiwa liked back then. But right now, he’d deny his attraction with the incessant thought that Sei was an android with a cyberbrain—not human in a way he understood.Bookmark here

   “Workmates, huh…?” uttered Sei under her breath.Bookmark here

   “Sorry, what was that?”Bookmark here

   Sei jumped and replied with a soft “Ah!”. She took a swig of her drink and pretended to not have said anything. “Very well. If you ask with such gusto, then I can only return your request.”Bookmark here

   “There’s no need to share if it makes you uncomfortable.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa couldn’t help but be just a little considerate.Bookmark here

   “It is fine. I reckon it would be best if I shared this with another.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa straightened out and turned his full attention to Sei. As the chef from beyond the counter finished cooking the last of the meat strips, he paid the last of the bill for Sei’s sake. Sei also straightened herself out, continuing to alternate between swirling the beer in her glass and taking periodic sips from it.Bookmark here

   “It may be a long story. Last warning to back out.”Bookmark here

   Kuroiwa laughed. “Sure. As long as the story finishes before our shift.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

   Neo Shibuya.Bookmark here

   It was said that this city was the beating heart of the future.Bookmark here

   Seven years ago, a certain rambunctious group wandered its street while they rode monsters of metal on wheels. The engines of motorcycles roared across the streets every other night, as their riders shouted profanities into the dead of night, becoming a public nuisance any time they rode out.Bookmark here

   They were seen in a similar vein as protestors and rioters, but it wasn’t right to say they were the same. That would be an incorrect assumption. Rioters create chaos in order to make a change—so that their voice may be heard as they shout into the abyss, hoping whatever lives within answers back. And answer back they do, with lethal force more often than not.Bookmark here

   But this group was not interested in making a change. No, their howls did not speak of liberation—Bookmark here

   —they spoke of freedom.Bookmark here

   A desire not to change the status quo.Bookmark here

   But a desire to rage against the machine.Bookmark here

   At night, blinding headlights would flash from down the road and the sounds of their heavy-duty engines would deafen even the most augmented eardrums. Not long after their iron steeds would pass, a police siren or two would follow closely behind.Bookmark here

   Their group had no name, not even one they called themselves. People didn’t even give them one, satisfied with lumping them together with the rest of the riotous protestors. However, they could only be described as one thing: A biker gang.Bookmark here

   This biker gang was composed of an all-female cast, including a particular lady named Sei.Bookmark here

   In this group, she was known only as ‘IZUMI’.Bookmark here

   She even tampered with her cyberbrain’s databanks to read ‘IZUMI’ if they scanned her for identification. No one knew who she really was except herself.Bookmark here

   She wore a white overcoat with crude kanji scrawled on it, styled after biker gang coats of old. She paired it with pure white slacks, while she only wore a thick strapping of bandages under the coat, binding her bosom up. IZUMI would never have been seen without a special blade she jury-rigged herself: a blunt sword with a large, gaping hole on one side, that when ignited, produced a blade of energy capable of cutting even shipping containers with a well-placed slash.Bookmark here

   IZUMI commanded a great deal of respect from her gang of eight. She trusted them like family—a word that has lost its meaning in the New Era, but lived on in the hearts of someone like her.Bookmark here

   One such girl was Yui, a young lass with indistinct features, save for her short, violet hair and perfectly square glasses, which was a permanent fixture on her face, considering it was part of her cybernetic construction.Bookmark here

   It was a night like any other. IZUMI and her group of ‘zealots’, as she called them, hid out in a warehouse by Tokyo Bay(now known as Neo Shibuya Harbor).Bookmark here

   “IZUMI… we’ve lost another of our zealots to the authorities.” said Yui begrudgingly.Bookmark here

  “Is that so?” said Sei, her face grimacing from the news. “Then she’s lost to the cause. She got punked ‘cuz she was weak.”Bookmark here

   Her group participated in nightly shenanigans and public disturbances, not for profit or gain, but for the mere satisfaction of rebellion. In her own words, she described it as ‘fucking shit up for no reason but to fuck shit up’. It wasn’t the most graceful of phrases, but Sei never considered decorating her words at the time.Bookmark here

   “IZUMI! We can’t go on like this!” Yui shouted in desperation, clutching her chest as if she were in pain. “That’s the third member we’ve lost in the last year. Mika already had her mind wiped, and she’s restarting high school with a new body, but she’s nothing like herself now. She’s… a good girl. A goddamn goody two-shoes. I—”Bookmark here

   “Afraid of getting wiped? Yui, I ain’t take you for a wuss.”Bookmark here

   “I’m no wuss. I just think you should be more concerned for our family.”Bookmark here

   “Family?” said Sei, gritting her teeth. “That some oldfangled word you learned from science class? If you’re dissuading me from running our glorious crusade, then forget it.”Bookmark here

   “You don’t know what it means? It’s—”Bookmark here

   “I know what it means.”Bookmark here

   Sei spat out what seemed to be a long withered reed, making her disdain known in front of the whole group. Her ‘zealots’, from a team of eight, had been reduced to a mere five, including her and Yui. Their numbers were dwindling in the face of the authorities locking them down at last, but Sei remained steadfast.Bookmark here

   Or at least she made it seem that way.Bookmark here

   Her resolve, too, was beginning to fade. She cared more about the rest of the gang than she let on, only hiding behind a facade of ‘weak and strong’ speeches. Of speeches, it was then that she made one more:Bookmark here

   “Listen up, zealots. You don’t freakin’ forget that we’re doing this for ourselves. You get your shit whacked, that’s on you. But…” Sei clutched her blade close. She curled her hands into fists, the circuitry in her body starting to heat up and emit smoke from every pore in her skin. “We can start doing this to wake the sheeple up. So that they learn what it means to stick it to the man. You either get caught trying, or you just do it. You ain’t against that, right?”Bookmark here

   Yui’s eyes welled up with tears. “Boss…”Bookmark here

   “And if no one wakes up, who’s gonna give a damn? At least we can say we tried. Security Knights don’t know jack about what it really means to protect and serve the public. So what say we give them a lesson?”Bookmark here

   The rest of the girls she called ‘zealots’ also teary-eyed at her impassioned speech.Bookmark here

   Sei flipped her coat and rested her blade on her shoulder. She took one step, then two, and then more, marching towards their motorbikes within the warehouse. Each member mirrored her steps, as if following their leader to the gates of hell.Bookmark here

   “Girls? How about one last ride?”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.