Chapter 7:

Last Preparations ( part 2: No Uniform for Asahi! )

The Dusk of Revenge

  As I arrived at the training room, I saw a box on a table where everybody, except for the recruit, was standing around it, waiting for my arrival. The white box with the word “JSDF” written on its cover, the word that stands for “Japan Self-Defense Forces”, was a sign from the government that they were starting to consider us really as a part of its forces.

The commander, who was looking at the table seriously looks, smiled the moment I arrived and said: “… Since you’re all here now you can open the box and take a close look at the uniforms.” Shuna, who was standing next to him, was waiting for that moment to ask him a question which didn’t make any sense to us at that time: “… These types of boxes usually come with a fingerprint lock. Am I correct, sir?”

“… Yes, it did. Since I didn’t want to waste your time here waiting for me to open the lock, I finished that job earlier this morning.”

“… Hmm!” She took a few steps towards him as she said: “I see… I was wondering why it was already open, but I didn’t think of that reason…” Her eyes were shining as she looked at him in the eyes. “It looks like you’ve changed a bit, sir.”

He looked at her with a puzzled face and replied: “In which way?”

“… You started caring about time!”

With a confident smile on her face, Rin, who took an interest in that small chat, interrupted the laughter of Mr Kazama who thought he could end the conversation just there: “… Don’t let him fool you, Shuna!”

“Eh?! Wasn’t he thinking about the wasted time?”

“… There is no way he was thinking about that!” as the confident smile transformed into an arrogant one, she turned back and asked: “Am I correct, commander?”

“Hahaha, I have no idea what you are talking about right now!”

“… Your uniform is missing from the box, isn’t it?”

The commander smiled an awkward smile, which, for us, meant that he took his uniform and hid it.

“… Was it that bad, commander?”

He turned around to see who asked the question. And to his surprise, he saw that everyone became interested in the conversation. He smiled again and looked at Akira, then answered with a sad tone: “… It looks like they have mistaken my size… It’s okay, I will resend the measurements again.” He continued talking as he returned to a regular serious tone: “… More importantly now, you have 2 minutes to go change clothes and return to the training room to start the special tasks.”

“… Yes sir!”

We stood in a line so that everyone could take his uniform and leave to change his clothes in turn. Asahi was standing last, and I was just before him. That’s what helped me to notice that he doesn't have a uniform. When the turn was mine, I looked at the box to find that there was only one uniform. I didn’t know how to react until I saw Rin, who was supposed to go to change clothes, waiting for my reaction. She knew when she picked hers that this would happen. Each uniform was put in a plastic bag on which one of our names was written. This made it clear that the only one who was not going to get a uniform was him. Maybe it was like that because he is the recruit. Maybe they’re going to send it later or something like that.

With all these thoughts in my mind, I looked at the commander who pretended not to notice anything while he knew everything and said with an annoyed tone: “… What is the meaning of this, sir?! There are no more bags here. Is it a mistake or something?”

He walked toward the box to check it and then asked: “… You didn’t get a uniform, Shinji? Maybe someone took yours by mistake. I remember leaving 6 bags in the box…”

“… What about the recruit?”

“You mean the temporary recruit?” He answered without hesitation.

“… Wait! what? Since when did the ministry of Defence recruit someone temporarily?”

“… Shocked? I bet you are! Well, with the large attack that was planned, the JSDF found themselves having a shortage of technical experts, so they asked the ministry for additional members. That's when the minister sent these people to help.” He faced the door to walk toward the exit as he continued talking.

“… Although the government has forgiven them, the JSDF does not forget that once we met those people as enemies, even if they weren’t conscious about it at that time…”

“… They weren’t conscious about it?! What is that supposed to…?” I took the last bag from the box and verified that my name was written on it.

“… There’s no reason for a simple temporary recruit to have a uniform.”

Although his words were convincing, to the point where Rin left without saying anything, I wasn’t convinced. There are a lot of things he mentioned that don't seem to be correct. The process of recruiting new members in the JSDF or employees in the ministry takes longer than just two days. If we say that the information about the future attack arrived at max a week ago, which is barely impossible, then it is impossible that the recruit is here today because of that.

For him to be here because of that, the strategists of JSDF should’ve devised the plan to counter the attack, assign the roles to the different squads of special forces and then they would’ve noticed the shortage they are having. If they asked for emergency backup from the ministry to recruit, then they would’ve received experts in cyber security who weren’t in prison at that time. They wouldn’t just blindly recruit prisoners… The negotiations with them would take some time. It isn’t like they went blindly asking criminals, “Will you help us? If the answer is yes, then we will give you your freedom back.”

I looked at Asahi, who looked disappointed a bit and decided to give some thought to the problem and act after having all the details that I need to know. For the time being, I went to change clothes and start the training.

The special training was mock battles in a training facility where the area was designed to look like the area where we are going to fight in two weeks. Each time we did the training, the enemy had a unique style of attack. The robots who served as targets this time had simple attacks. This training wasn’t to train us how to fight. We’ve already trained for two years to know how to do that. This special training was for the sole purpose of training our mind and body to different forms and tactics to counter the terrorists and keep the damage to its minimum.

Asahi’s role was to assist us with the information we need while we are on the battlefield, which includes scouting the area for enemies, pinpointing their location on the map and informing the leader who would take the optimal action to attack or prepare an ambush. I was the leader of the group in the training. Mr Kazama said that he has enough knowledge about these things and that he didn’t need to participate. From time to time, he interferes to give additional orders or ask about the reasons behind the decisions I make. It all went smoothly thanks to the detailed information I received second by second from Asahi.

He sure talks a lot when it comes to his job. His role wasn’t just assisting us from a distance, he had to prevent any hacker from causing a disturbance in the area where we were moving. Sitting in a safe place while looking at three screens simultaneously wasn’t an easy task. Each of these screens shows different information. The first one was showing the map of the area with our movement and the enemies as he pinpoints their locations each time.

The second one should be showing the administrator’s side of traffic control of every moving car, bus, train, or anything else. It helps him to notice any sudden change, which means there is a cyber-attack on the system. The third screen is the one he looks at when he prepares his counterattack and ensures general security. He is going to be physically okay after the training, but he’s going to be as tired as we, the ones who move on the battlefield.

While we were in the middle of the fight, during training, I received a notification from Ai that said that the research about the recruit’s past was complete. I had to wait until we finished training for the day, which was about 4 p.m. and is alone in my room to take my time looking through his past.

As I sat on the bed, I opened the holographic screen mode to read the files that Ai saved in the badge:

The name: Asahi Toudou

Age: 22 years old

Conviction: guilty of assisting the terrorist group known as “Red Claws” by manipulating traffic in one of the cities they attacked, causing general chaos which prevented help from arriving at many places in the city at the right time.

Indirectly responsible for the death of ten people who were confirmed after further research that help would have reached them if not for the chaos that was a direct result of his actions.

“… This is a bit vague!” I murmured. “… Is this all that you’ve found, Ai?”

“Master, I have other info that wasn’t saved there. Asahi was a hacker at the age of 13. Although being tricked into hacking the system and giving access to the terrorist which was clear to everyone in the courtroom by looking at the conversation, he had with one of the criminals who sent a copy of the security system asking him to hack it, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison as he was, for in the eyes of the jury, guilty considering the minor crimes he committed before that was revealed during the trial which gave the upper hand to the accusation party.”

“Hmm… So, he had a criminal record before that crime?”

“… No, the culprit, Asahi, who surrendered at a local police station in the city where he lived, had no intention of appealing to lower his sentence, which was considered at that time by even the jury itself “a bit harsh”. He revealed every small crime he did in the past, although none of them was proven.”

She went silent for a few seconds, then resumed talking with a sad tone.

“… My apologies master, the special forces cyber security program denied my access to the rest of the information. Although I used your ID to continue, it denied me.”

“… Well, this is strange,” I answered “… Thanks for the help, anyway.”

Suddenly I heard knocks on my door, so I shut down the hologram projection and went to open the door. And to my surprise, Asahi was standing there with the same smile on his face. It looked like he forgot about the uniform problem that had happened this morning.

“… I must say, you’ve done a good job searching through my history. For an old system like the one you have, I am pretty amazed. This shows again that it was a good call to add human feeling to intelligent robots. You should consider updating Ai’s system.”

Ai, who always acted cool, uttered “Humph” and went silent for a moment, then said with a dissatisfied voice: “… After all, you’re the one who denied my access to the information.”

He walked in without waiting for my permission. “… I felt that Shinji was going to search for my past. That's why I was about to deny his access when I found that he was already searching. I forgot that he could give you orders while in training. I know he’s a…”

“So, why did you come here?”

“… I thought that maybe you want to hear the rest of the story from me since you found out…”

“No thanks, you can go now!”

[Woah! Ai doesn’t hold her punches at all!]

I was silent the whole time as the two of them were having this conversation. It was the first time I heard Ai quarrelling with someone, probably because she didn’t have many opportunities to interact with many people.

I pushed a chair towards Asahi and told him to sit. The moment I did that, Ai said in a disappointed voice: “… Master!”

C’est JK
Haru Yumera