Battle of Haibi Chapter 2

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 1: Kikotsu no Haibi: The Deployment of Souls

Chapter 2: Old Hat

"...and the Soul Cube left Jack and Devon Campbell on the November first the year Deployment was founded," Ruby explains in her soft old voice. "It was a sad moment," a tear falls from her eye to her cheek as she recalls, "Three hundred, fourty-one times you have called upon us in battle ... never once you failed to say thank you."

The newborn listens intently to the Communicator's story, examining a small model of the elaborately ornamented object that created this new world he has emerged in.

"We knew they could not survive ... The Saviour had called upon us to Deploy ... we worked on this city's design for over four thousand years and finally," she sighs, "we were asked to use it. We searched for two weeks, and finally settled on this spot," she taps her foot on the floor, "on November sixteenth ... seventy-six years ago today." She smiles, "Such a quiet day. You wouldn't have guessed a population of a hundred and sixty-fife thousand, would you?"

"It is quiet indeed," the newborn nods.

"Haibane are named after their cocoon dreams, in Japanese," Ruby explains, "I'm the last of the original Soul Cube inhabitants, which is why I don't have such a name. I was put into the Soul Cube while still a child, I still remember us all singing as the teleporter beamed us in ... we sang it over and over again to distract us from the fact that we were being dismantled from our bodies and reassembled particle by particle into a device the size of this napkin basket," she indicates it sitting on the exam room bench.

"Featherwing, featherwing, fly away with me
Fly away, fly away, new heaven you will see
Featherwing, featherwing, fly away with me
Fly away, fly away, share your wings with me"

Ruby sighs at the end of her tune, "That was ... almost four thousand six hundred years ago."

"I'm Hagane," the elder says, "I was killed by a vehicle that rolled on rails of iron ... I-" he shrugs, "...don't know much about it, I've searched through all the Jane's at the library and it doesn't jog anything. My precursor could be from anywhere on Earth in a period from about four hundred years before Deployment to about one hundred years before Deployment, and that's assuming the dream isn't somehow symbolic." He points at the big magnetic loop sticking out of the damaged floor, the cocoon already cleaned up, "This was to try to figure out how these dreams come about. It didn't tell us much."

"Show me a picture from it please," the newborn insists, "The patient I remember in my dream ... I was working on him, had him open like," he runs a finger down the center of his ribs, "like this."

Hagane shows him the terminal. The newborn gasps, "It's so ... so clear and ... in color!" The newborn continues to be amazed as Hagane rotates the image of the newborn's own body just before he emerged from his cocoon. Finally, the new haibane points, "What does this do? I know, but I don't know any words for it."

"That is your heart," Hagane says, "It pumps the blood throughout your body." He zooms in on the organ, then plays the file, showing the new haibane how it beats.

The newborn gazes in wonder and familiarity, reaching for the image of his own beating heart, "I know ... so much about it," he says. He points, "Uh," he searches, "It's made of three flaps and lets the blood travel only into the heart chamber here."

"A valve," Hagane says.

"I replaced those in some of my patients," he weeps, "In others I would put a small metal device here (pointing just above where he did before) and in others, I would replace a length of a blood pipe for the heart itself," and he points at the coronary arteries.

"Let's call you Shinzoo (心臓)" says Hagane, "after the open heart surgeon you were," he shrugs, "probably about two hundred and fifty years ago." He then says, "It's all endoscopic today, so you'll need a refresher course." He extends his hand to welcome his charge, "Ashfeather Heart, welcome to Deployment."

Ruby pops open the halo mould she brought from Defense Tower Four, "Careful, it's hot." She releases it over Shinzoo's head, whence it hovers tentatively.

"I'm a haibane?" he gasps, "Do I get wings too?"

"You should have noticed by now," Hagane says, zooming out and rotating the MRI image, showing the pent up bones folded up on his shoulder blades."

"That must be this tension I feel ... It's been getting worse, and I was about to ask you about it," the youngster says with a professional tone.

"It's normal for a newborn," Hagane explains, "Regretfully, I can't give you anything for the pain until after they're out ... all painkillers cause undesirable complications. The emergence of our wings is something that all new haibane go through."

Ruby rubs her shoulders, "I, uh... hadn't fledged when I went into the Soul Cube, so I've experienced it as well, a few days after Deployment."

Ruby takes Hagane's hand and says to him warmly. "I knew this day would come," she weeps, "You may cry but please don't grieve ... It is for all haibane who escape their circle of sin to leave the nest. Farewell."

With that, Ruby rises to her feet, and walks away.

"Leaving the nest, what does that mean?" Shinzoo asks the weeping Hagane.

"It means that she's going away into another world, and we'll," Hagane shoulders bob as he weeps, "never see her again in this one."

Samurai is showing Roku around one of the plasma turrets this evening when she suddenly turns her head. A beam of light rises from a small grove of trees a few hundred metres from the wall. Quickly she lifts her binoculars to her eyes to look at the source.

Samurai takes her hand gently, "We're ... not supposed to do that," he explains, "The Day of Flight is supposed to be a private moment for departing haibane."

Roku lowers her binoculars slowly as the light show continues. "Departing?" Roku gasps, "as in, we'll never see her again?"

Samurai says, "In the next life perhaps." He looks at the beam stretching into the sky and says, "Must be just one," he sighs, "We usually go in groups of at least fifty. Did you see who it was?"

Roku nods sadly, "I ... wanted to get to know her better ... the old lady in that strange mask."

Samurai weeps, "Oh, Ruby!"

"You were close?" Roku asks.

Samurai shakes his head sadly, "She's the last of the original Praeleanthor ... I so loved hearing her stories about ... Tatakai"

"Ashfeather Battle?" Roku inquires, "Sounds like the perfect name for a Defender."

"Operation Battle," Samurai clarifies, "Jack and Devon Greenborough ... Campbell," he winces at the error, "the wielders of the Soul Cube during the Final War, extended humanity's ticket by seven years, and fought on civilization's behalf for another four."

Roku quietly reflects while looking at the light. "Why that-" she starts.

After a few minutes of watching the beautiful beam of light, Samurai asks, "What are you thinking?"

"That all sounds," Roku huffs, "eerily familiar. Is it possible that my precursor knew them?"

"Entirely possible, but," he shrugs, "the way Haibane memory works, your precursor memory could be seeing them in the news, or working with them for the entire Final War, and we'd have no way of knowing."

Just as suddenly as it appears, the light goes away.

Roku suddenly hops onto the turret, pops the glowing hikarinium carabiner out of her battle robe's pocket, clips it onto the designated part of the frame, flips down her mask, and looks through the scope. She lowers the elevation to the horizon and slowly scans.

"Try to identify something I've told you about," Samurai orders his trainee.

Roku obviously seems to be old hat at this, her fingers dancing around the switches without a glance. Unlike Samurai, who was skilled in swordplay, Roku seems to be familiar with modern warfare. Suddenly, she starts reporting in English, "Echo, Juice contacts at two-seven-two, Chompers many range one-four-two-three-zero," she tilts the turret down, "Contact two-seven-four, Guardians five, range eight-five-" she stops with a gasp and pulls her face away from the scope, suddenly turns towards Samurai and blurts in Japanese, "How long was I out?"

Samurai is stunned witless, "Roku, what the heck?"

Roku is shaking as she looks again at the scope, in Japanese, "Five Guardians at heading ... two-seven-four, range ... eight point five kilometres"

Understanding, Samurai rushes into the turret and pushes his head into the scope to get a look. No Seekers, they're just out for a walk. He sighs with relief.

Roku is quivering, "I thought I was dreaming, but-" She tilts the turret back up, then whispers in English, "Nick, where are you?"

One of the three friendly crows eating seed at the feeder suddenly lifts its head and looks at her with one eye, but seems to think nothing of it and returns to his snacking.

Back to speaking Japanese, Roku says, "I must ... have been in the Final War ... This is all ... far too familiar."

Samurai says, "Let's see how familiar. Plasma weapons didn't exist until Deployment less twenty-five years, and the ones in the Final War are quaint compared to these, but still run on the same principle."

Samurai releases the field strip release and pulls the guts of the weapon into the turret's cramped interior. Roku immediately points at an unremarkable grey box near the back of the intricate glowing blue circuitry and asks, "What's that?"

Samurai closes the action and says, "Read the manual and tell me, because I really have no idea how this thing works, only how to replace the parts that burn out the most often." Finally he asks, "How much of it have you seen before?"

Roku says flatly, "Everything except that grey box."

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 3: Growing Pains

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