Kuro

変機 (Strange Machines)

Kuro

November 2, 2046, Friday

For the students of Meishū Gakuen, most days began like this: A morning routine, a leisurely breakfast, the walk to school. Indeed, the day began much the same for three students: Achika Matsuoka, Himawari Hoshino, and Otoha Hoshikawa. But by the end of the day, they would all be involved in something beyond normal ken.

The Student Everyone Relied On

Achika Matsuoka was the very picture of an honor’s student. Everyone looked up to her, and she seemed to have time for anyone. Though for a student of her caliber, she strangely belonged to no club, electing to leave school early on most days. It is enough to spark the interest of not just fellow students, but also some of her teachers, including one Makoto Kurosawa, a PE teacher with a checkered past. She brushes off most inquiries directed at her, saying that she only studies and goes home to her family, which is enough to placate most people away from her true purposes.

A Day in the Office

Mori Usagi didn’t usually make a public appearance, and when she did, it was short, and few and far between. But with the deaths last night being caused by apparently two different Mori Biomechanical androids, she might have to, to make a public statement. Though her secretary (an android version of her younger self) urges her to do so, she concludes that nothing would be gained from her appearance, and that a press release must be held that trots out the usual assuring lines. Though she is deep in thought about what could have caused them to go rampant (or indeed, if they were rampant at all; after all, even the rich yakuza could sometimes afford black market, scrubbed, and unmarked androids to perform their kills), there was no time to dwell just yet. After all, that evening, she had another interview with Achika Matsuoka, the student from Meishū Gakuen.

In or Out

Otoha Hoshikawa was a member of the kendo club, but a recent incident forced her to receive a prosthetic limb. Though it was a perfect replacement, she was still getting used to the quirks. However, the incident had affected her enough to make her quit kendo club altogether. She was having lunch with her friend, the famous pop-star idol (and fellow student) Hoshino Himawari, on the high school building’s roof. It was there that Hoshikawa’s kendo club captain, Michiko Natsuomi, confronted her to try to get her back into the kendo club. She could see that Hoshikawa had lost something of herself since quitting the club, and in an attempt to put the spirit back into her, she challenged Hoshikawa: a duel. If Hoshikawa loses, she has to go back to the kendo club. If she wins, she can do whatever she likes. Reluctantly, and at the urging of her friend Himawari, she accepts.

The Perfect Excuse

After school on this particular day, Matsuoka at least has official school business to conduct: an interview with Usagi Mori, CEO of one of Shin-Edo’s leading biomechanical laboratories. She was writing a paper about the Genocracy, Shin- Edo’s eccentric, reticent, and wealthy upper class. Usagi Mori, herself the daughter of Genocrats, seemed like the most accessible source. The interview gave her a peek into the private life of one of Shin-Edo’s sterling machinists, which was both fascinating, and suited Matsuoka’s ulterior motives… Though the interview for the evening ran short, she was compelled to stay around Mori Biomechanical’s headquarters, as strange events began to converge…

A Friendly Challenge Turns Serious

That afternoon, they engaged in what started as a well-fought duel, with them checking each other’s strikes deftly. Hoshikawa found that she could maneuver her prosthetic arm more dexterously than she ever could before. However, something happened to it that quickly dispelled all joy. Some unseen force overtook her arm, and made it do something truly out of the ordinary. Beyond Hoshikawa’s own control, her arm swung the bokken wide, in a strike so fierce that it knocked aside Natsuomi’s own practice sword, smashed into her side, breaking the sword, and a few of Natsuomi’s ribs as well, knocking the poor kendo club captain unconscious. Needless to say, it not only horrified her, but Himawari, and the substantial audience they had gathered as well. Himawari managed to have someone call an ambulance, while Hoshikawa tended to her wounded friend.

In short order, Himawari’s manager arrived, shielding her from the media and press that had already gathered in the school (information travels fast in the Internet, and surely one of the audience must have Tweeted with a pod). Forced to separate from her friend, Himawari was led away, giving only the barest of comments to the media. It was only later that night, in a clandestine visit to the hospital, that Himawari managed to sneak out and visit Natsuomi. There, she found Hoshikawa at her side. Though Natsuomi took it all in stride and humor, they nevertheless speculated on what could have made Hoshikawa’s arm behave so strangely. As the prosthetic was a normal replacement limb, and not an augment, such a thing should not have been physically possible. With her influence, Himawari pulled a few contacts of her own, and managed to get them right to the source of the prosthetic: Mori Biomechanical, and Usagi Mori herself. They resolved to pay a visit to the scientist that very night.

Routine Checkup

Kazuo Michida had the job of his dreams. He got to take care of androids, and he always had the chance to watch over the object of his affections: the superstar idol Hoshino Himawari. He watched over Himawari’s backup dancer team of androids, and was the man that maintained them daily, doing everything from microphotonic checking to drudge work like scrubbing records. Today was one such maintenance check day. When checking the androids, one of them seemed to hold a record of travelling a certain distance in the middle of last night. As Michida established a radius of where the android could have gone, the line fell on a worrying place: Ueno Park. A murder had been conducted in Ueno Park just last night. Checking the optical camera records yielded nothing, only static; another oddity. Normally, if the android was active, the camera would record automatically. Under these mysterious circumstances, he elected to bring the possibly defective and dangerous android to its manufacturer. Fortunately, due to a previous incident involving the same androids, Michida had a direct line to their creator and inventor, Usagi Mori.

A Vision

Ichirō Hanamichi meditated in the afternoons to find peace. He could always find peace in the dojo. Even though he nominally ran a yakuza crime family, here in the estate, it was quiet, when he wanted it to be. Serene and peaceful. But something attacked his mind tonight, a vision that couldn’t be ignored. As he meditated, eyes closed, he heard the voice of his younger brother. The brother that was groomed as atotori—the successor—over him. The brother that had given up that succession, many months ago, and was lost. Hanamichi heard his voice, and opened his eyes. He was still in the dojo, but in front of him stood the familiar form of his brother. The vision asked for a fight, taunting Hanamichi for his inexperience. They fought, like they had once fought for the right to succeed, like the match that his brother voluntarily gave up. But this time, his brother was not like the one he knew. This vision had no intention of giving up. And when Hanamichi threw the vision of his brother to the ground, he found it dead.

That jolted him from his reverie. He found a man in pain lying beside him on the floor; one of his own men. He complained and asked Hanamichi why he attacked him. This puzzled him. He had never lost control before, or blacked out in such a way. Before they could puzzle out what this meant, however, they had other business to attend to. Trouble was brewing down in the harbor…

Bayside

With an impending divorce, a daughter that he cared for (but didn’t reciprocate), a failing labor union, and jobs running out, Hitoshi Saito was not the happiest man in Shin-Edo. With a previously mostly human workforce now almost completely replaced by androids, Saito was fast running out of excuses or even a purpose to be the leader of a union that had little reason to exist. Days were spent in the hiring hall, or the harbor office, waiting for inter-island ships to come in when they could (which in the face of the blockade and dwindling supplies, was a rarity). No international shipping was coming in, due to the international blockade. Days, and sometimes weeks went by with no work. But today, it was about to get a little bit more exciting.

An alarm sounded, which Saito and his co-worker immediately recognized as a malfunctioning android. Heading over to the site of the trouble, they find a port authority officer standing beside the body of an android, its body crushed in micro-fractures that indicated the impact of a shockgun. The port authority officer explained that the android allegedly attacked her, and she had to resort to force. It was then that Ichirō Hanamichi came on the scene, demanding to know what was going on. Hanamichi owned a slice of the docks; not officially, but through influence. He used the harbor as a base for smuggling goods. Of course, any violence on his harbor would need to have a really good explanation. Unfortunately for Saito, he didn’t have one, and neither did he have the skill to really pry apart the android and look at its microphotonic memory unit. He’d have to take it to its manufacturer, Mori Biomechanical, and see what their maintenance personnel could pull out of it that could explain its irrational behavior.

Wear a Badge for a Night

After a full day at Meishū Gakuen, Makoto Kurosawa was almost ready to relax and hit the hay. But he was apparently having none of that tonight. A knock on his door late at night heralded the arrival of an old friend from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, one Shirō Narutaki. They reminisced on old times for a while, and caught up with each other, but it wasn’t long before Narutaki revealed his real reason for coming to Kurosawa’s house at that hour. Narutaki was investigating the android killings that had occurred the previous night. According to Narutaki, there was no lead save for the fact that the androids were made by Mori Biomechanical. As Kurosawa had been dismissed from the force while investigating the cold case of the old terrorist attack on the Kurosawa Genocrat family, Narutaki thought that having Kurosawa along would be an asset, and he could let the man relive his detective days for one night at least. Seeing his point, and not wanting to turn down the young detective, Kurosawa donned his old coat, and headed to the corporate headquarters of Mori Biomechanical, where they were going to ask some questions.

Convergence

It all seemed that they arrived at the building with their problems all at the same time. At least, that what it seemed to Usagi Mori. While she was sure they were just minor malfunctions, two of the guests had reason to meet her personally (Michida and Himawari). The other one (Saito) should probably have been dealt with by customer support, but Mori’s secretary urged her to meet with the man as well. With Himawari present, it might be good for public relations, which they are seriously lacking. Grudgingly, Usagi Mori accepts.

Meanwhile, Matsuoka watched all afternoon and evening as Mori took call after call after call of potential complaints, and now she would finally get to see her research subject handle actual people instead of the strange bioroids that populated her office laboratory. Imagine her surprise when, of the four people emerging from the elevator, two of them—Himawari and Hoshikawa—were students at Meishū Gakuen, the same as her.

Introductions were scarcely over when a few minutes later, the elevator pulled up and open once more to reveal two tall men dressed in large coats. One of them immediately flashed a badge, identifying himself as a homicide detective in the Metropolitan Police Department, who was here to ask questions about the recent android killings. He introduced his associate, one Makoto Kurosawa. The mention of the name makes the three Meishū students jump in familiarity, and when Kurosawa and the three Meishū students make eye contact, they wonder what exactly their teacher is doing in a place like this.

Comments

Here’s a hoping we find time to get this up and running again

変機 (Strange Machines)
Cokesakto Veloranz

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