Battle of Haibi Chapter 1

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FHD Remix: The Battle of Haibi

Chapter 1: Kikotsu no Haibi (気骨の配備, Deployment of Souls)

"He's becoming active, Doctor," the female technician at the screen says, "I think we should move the machine out of here, it might freak him out when he emerges."

The doctor, with his stethoscope on the big haibane cocoon says, "You don't understand haibane, Kammy," he shifts his stethoscope a little bit, stretches his white wings momentarily, and then tilts his head towards the technician in such away that the glowing halo over his head draws a shape almost like a treble clef in the air above him, "the emergence of an ashfeather is always an upheaval. You, see, unlike human babies, we can't understand the environment a newborn haibane existed in before. If the presence of a big low-field magnetic resonance imager is going to make any difference, I'll be quite surprised."

Kammy, the middle aged human lady always regarded Hagane (鋼) as an elder, even though she's physically ten years older, and by the calendar, twenty one years older than the dark-haired teenager. Not for the first time, she wonders how it could be possible that not one of those black hairs on his head is grey, for the man carries himself like he's near retirement, and he is solid as a rock in the face of any medical emergency, able to smile and whisper even as his veins bulge with panic.

Hagane pulls the stethoscope from his ears and declares, "About one hour." He pulls the clipboard out from under his arm and starts scanning it, flipping a page, then, with his free hand, reaches behind him and starts absently preening one of his wings. "So, the first part of his brain to develop was his basal ganglia and cerebellum, no surprise there."

"But," Kammy says, "the next part was his amygdala, which was larger than his hippocampus until just a couple weeks ago, when the latter finally started to develop. His frontal and visual cortices were last and became active overnight, along with his hippocampus."

"That must be the cocoon dream," Hagane reflects. He turns to the technician and says, "When we come into this world, we are typically quite emotional and need some time to settle down. We remember our skills and abilities. I must have been a doctor in my past life before I emerged seven years ago, because I flipped through a medical dictionary and anatomy text, and challenged the Western University graduate program final exams when I was just eight months old." Then he frowns, "While I'm absolutely certain of that past life ... I can't remember the face or name of a single patient from that life."

"No wonder you're an organized neat freak in this life," she says with an admiring smile.

"Maybe I was that before," he shrugs.

Kammy looks down at her screen, then back at Hagane in concern, "Dr. Hagane, back away, he's already through the liner."

Hagane hears the shell crack, backs away and softly says, "Must be in a hurry."

The shell busts a hole open, gushes cocoon milk until the level is down to the level of the opening. There is some coughing inside, and the newborn haibane says, "Nurse! Is he alright? Page Doctor- ... Wh- ... What the heck?"

Hagane and Kammy look at each other in confusion.

"Page?" Kammy asks.

The doctor shrugs, then turns back to the cocoon.

"Okay, uh ... how did I get in this jacuzzi and commando in a white scrub?" the young man in the cocoon asks.

"You're in a whole new world, Doctor," Hagane says, "Come check it out. Don't worry about breaking the ... we call it a cocoon," he smiles, "Once you're done with it, it's garden fertilizer."

He breaks out, steadies himself on Hagane, then bawls, "I lost him, didn't I?"

"Who?" Hagane asks as the newborn, apparently an early adolescent with a slim build and short blonde hair, looks around and gets his bearings.

"My patient, where is he?" he sniffles, "or ... is it her?" He turns to the doctor and bawls, "What's wrong with me? I was in the middle of a-" he dredges his empty mind for a word.

"Uh," Hagane offers, "Procedure? Operation? Surgery?"

"Yeah," the boy squeaks, looking around, "A whole new world?" Staring at the cocoon, he gasps, his hand still gripping a chunk of the fibrous jelly from the edge of the hole he climbed out of, looks at the big beige ring wrapped vertically around it, with holes cut in the floor, the roots of the cocoon plant wrapping around it in the floor. Then, he collapses into a wheelchair offered to him by Kammy, he regards Hagane's wings and halo and sighs, "Heaven's not what I expected at all."

"It's not heaven," Hagane says grimly as he wheels him to the recovery room. "Here, get some rest."

The doctor retreats to the side of his MRI technician and whispers, "It always hurts more to watch." He then straightens up, tucks in his right wing, inclines his head towards his right lapel and whispers in regular, even notes, "Ashfeather Council, Hagane of Western University, Cocoon 11315 has hatched." He then relaxes his wing from the mike switch on his back and bows his head. There's nothing more to say at that moment.

Row upon row of plants in this garden nestle under lights and a seven foot ceiling Samurai must duck slightly to keep his halo from dragging on it. His far shorter companion follows close behind. They march down a dirt aisle between the rows of plants. "Roku (六), welcome to Defense Tower Six," the tall, grey winged uniformed warrior intones.

She smiles, "Try not to get us mixed up." [Roku is Japanese for six.]

They arrive at the far end, as Samurai (侍) opens a steel door, beyond which is a descending stair, Roku turns to see a Communicator. She's surprised.

"Miss?" the Washi asks. Real wings splay from her back, white feathers. The Communicator lifts her mask, to reveal a very old face furrowed with lines from a lifetime of gracious smiles. "I'm Ruby," she offers her hand.

"Roku," the younger redhead takes it, "It's actually Rok'hyaku Rokujuu Roku (六百六十六), but they just call me Roku for short."

"After your cocoon dream?" Ruby asks.

"I was executed by humanity's last government for not taking an implant." She smiles, stretching her right wing, "I'm not the only one, so I got named after the implant's number."

"I don't think I'll ever get used to his sense of humor," Ruby sighs.

"Whose?" Roku asks as she retreats down the stairwell at Samurai's insistence.

"The Saviour's," Ruby says with a blush.

Down at the bottom of the passage, in the suit room, Samurai pulls off one of the big, plated robes, a big one for himself and a smaller one for Roku. "Our latest," Samurai says, "Wearing one of these drops your exposure by over three thousandfold. Take good care of it."

Roku looks it over, and then realizes that you just pull it over your head. She drapes it upside down from her hands, leans down into it, and comes up wearing it, "Kinda heavy, no?"

"Can't have too much protection against delta radiation," Samurai grimly intones, "Those herbs in that eight story garden are part of it. Thanks to a human Dr. Vanessa Bradford executed four years before Deployment at the beginning of the False Peace, people can survive up to five greys of delta radiation exposure. The ancients had no idea how to treat it, and could survive only a fiftieth of that dose."

As Roku easily keeps up with Samurai climbing up the stairs on the other end of the passage, she pants, "Wait, you mean the Soul Cube inhabitants didn't know how to treat delta radiation?"

"Nope," Samurai says, "I was no less surprised considering-" he opens the door into the moat space inside the wall, "-this!" On either side of the moat are brass tags, covered in Toganese glyphs, glowing in a somber crimson light. "This wall is designed to deal with levels of delta vector thousands of times what we've seen so far." The glyphs change on one of the tags as Roku reaches out to it with a finger. Somehow it all seems vaguely familiar, especially when she looks up and sees the grey stone of the wall structure.

"Six-three, please," Samurai asks the boat operator as he stops in front of them, beckoning to them to get on. The boat's operator is another haibane, halo glowing softly over the hood of his robe.

"You're San?" Roku asks the boat operator curiously. [San is Japanese for three.]

"No, I'm Kioko, and you would be-?" he asks.

"Roku," she blushes, "I take it six-three is where we're going?"

"It's where we are, Roku-san," he says with a giddy grin, beckoning to the catwalk on the inside of the gentle curve where Samurai has stepped off.

Samurai taps on gently on one of the Toganese tags, reaches for its side and pulls it away from the wall, revealing that it is a carefully hidden door leading to a carefully hidden elevator. He invites Roku into the tiny elevator, then says, "Don't worry, I'm right behind you in the next pod ... see you at the top."

Seconds later they are on the top of the wall, Roku a little wobbly from the speedy ascent. Her heart skips a beat as she beholds what she can't see from anywhere inside Deployment, the city enclosed by the wall. Green, snow-topped evergreen forest as far as she can see beyond the wall, to distant gentle hills nestling under a deep blue sky that, for some reason, has a purple tint above the far horizon. Hearing a hum beside her, she turns to see a man on a turret, dressed just like her, with a halo just like hers, manning a gun with a glowing blue muzzle, vigilantly on guard for the enemy that surrounds humanity's last bastion.

"Like the flying featherwings before us," Samurai says, "In love, we ashfeathers safeguard and serve those without wings."

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 2: Old Hat

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