Battle of Haibi Chapter 5
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 4: Birth Without Violence
Chapter 5: Council Meeting
Samurai huffs as he marches into the Central Tower's first floor auditorum, a round affair with a big, round, cylindrical can in the middle, "I hate meetings, especially when they have thick agendas. Speaker's starchy enough as it is."
"Speaker?" Roku asks, "The person in charge of Haibi?"
Hagane, on Roku's other elbow, explains, "Speaker is the computer that runs the meetings. The Haibane Renmei doesn't really have a leader, unless you count Taka (鷹, Hawk) Things are decided, voted on my consensus, there's a stiff set of rules for running these things, and an even stiffer computer."
"It's nice to have only two hours a week in session," Samurai says, "A two hours, I'm pretty sure no one looks forward to."
Hagane splits off to his own section, Health and Well Being, while Samurai and Roku proceed to Defense.
Just a soon as the auditorium fills, three shrill, bell like tones that surprise no one, since screens all over the foyer and beside each entrance were counting down to. The Speaker, the cylinder in the middle comes to life and dims the lights, a holographic display of Haibi appears. A soft female voice says, "Come to order, come to order. The Haibane Renmei is now in session."
Roku looks about, noticing that everyone has wings. Most are grey, but a few are white, like her own. She's surprised to notice that Samurai's wings are white. She wants to ask, but now is obviously an inappropriate moment.
"Attendance registration," the insistent voice of the computer intones as the first item on the agenda of any meeting. All present press two fingers against a pad on their table, including Roku, and the computer has counted and identified all 122 haibane in the room in less than thirty seconds.
Old business items run through quickly, mostly production orders related to trade with the Toga. Roku was surprised just how much business this isolated city had. She was also surprised how much of it was handled in just 40 minutes. To vote yes, you'd extend your right wing, no, your left. To abstain, you'd tuck both wings back. If you had a point you wanted to make, you would raise both hands to your chin and spread both wings and wait to be recognized by the Speaker before you could speak. Nobody ever spoke out of turn, and Roku started to get rather curious as to what the respected computer would do if someone did. She wasn't about to tempt it.
All the new business had been registered at kiosks in the foyer. The listing showed up on the central display. Samurai looked very concerned as he saw this. Roku recognized why. Nowhere on the screen did the word Wraith appear.
"Due to multiple submissions regarding one item," the computer intones, "Speaker moves to override the standard order of issues, and present Gate Path Mining as the first issue of new business." The fifth issue on the new business agenda is highlighted. Samurai is about to extend his left wing when Roku grabs his elbow and points at her display. Samurai extends his right wing.
"Speaker recognizes Haibane Taisuisou (帯水層, Wellspring) Health and Wellness," the computer intones.
Roku turns and sees a young blonde lady in the proper posture. She raises her head and says, "Speaker, the item I submitted regarding the slashing murder of six children near Western University does not appear on the agenda. Please clarify."
The screen extends a bullet point under the highlighted issue of "Gate Path Mining," and the words appear, "Slashing Murders, West Sector Mid-Five." The computer then says, "Haibane Taisuisou, automated defense analysis has determined that your submission is related to the priority issue." This gets quite a few of present twisting their heads to each other and tapping on their table touchscreens.
Samurai has a very worried look on his face.
"Motion to deal with priority issue passed," the computer intones. Then, to everyone's surprise, the Speaker says, "Speaker recognizes guest member Haibane Roku."
Roku, in the proper posture to bring forward an issue, is the most surprised. After ten seconds of stunned silence, the computer says, "Haibane Roku, do you have an issue to bring forward?"
Roku nervously says, "Speaker, I have detected Wraith creatures entering the beaten zone. I uh ... killed one yesterday outside the wall of Sector Four."
The Speaker says, "Haibane Roku, please look at your screen. Defense analysis has determined a high probability that the Wraith type creature committed the West Sector Mid-Five murders." Roku looks at her table and recoils at scene images of the six dead children. "Haibane Roku, Speaker would like to assign you an action item for Haibane Samurai to bring forward at next week's meeting. Would you be able to analyze and confirm whether these murders were committed by a Wraith-type creature?"
Roku, now barely able to stand, looks at the wounds, and knowing intimately how the wraith maneuvers when it strikes, already knows. "Speaker," she sobs, "I can confirm that now. These children were killed by wraiths ... probably two of them."
Samurai extends his wings and raises his wrists.
"Thank you Haibane Roku," the Speaker says, "Speaker recognizes Haibane Samurai."
"Thank you, Speaker. I request a recess to brief the Defenders on the potential of these intruders."
"Speaker moves to adjourn the Gate Path Mining issue snd continue the meeting with other business until your return, Haibane Samurai."
A whole bunch of right wings extend, and the motion is carried in a matter of seconds. Samurai practically drags Roku out of the auditorium.
"My God," Samurai gasps as he gets out into the foyer, "Why children? A creature like that, if it got in here, it would be worse if it evaded detection and read us like an open book. Could there be one in that room?"
"That's probably what it did," Roku says, "Kids can be perceptive, and if they saw the tracks or heard them, they may have followed them into the Western Grove as they were trying to get away, or ... dispose of them as witnesses to their presence."
"If they're scaling, or finding some other way in, how do they return to report their findings?" Samurai asks as he furiously alerts the defenses through a kiosk.
"I don't know," Roku confesses, "but if one of them dies in Haibi, it's body will burn away, and we'll never know it. These could be suicide missions."
"Well, the wall's defense analysis is pretty good, as you can see, I don't know why it stuck with the title Gate Path Mining, but hey ... it might be because that's the oldest submission. It came up when we were meeting the Toga last week."
Back in the meeting, the Speaker brings up the "Gate Path Mining" issue again and suddenly says, "Speaker would like Haibane Roku to brief us on the Wraith type creature."
Roku is very nervous as she stands. Very timidly, she describes everything that she knows, most importantly that they can't stay invisible for more than forty-five minutes. After she is done, she sits down.
"Speaker recognizes Haibane Yamabato (山鳩, Turtledove)"
Yamaboto is a relatively old man, "Thank you, Speaker, I would like to address Haibane Roku," then turns to her. "Roku, it would seem to me that you are sore afraid of these creatures, what are our prospects for dealing with them?"
Roku stands, very nervous.
"Speaker recognizes Haibane Roku"
"Uh," Samurai gives her a tap. She looks and sees a small smile. "I would like Haibane Samurai to ... uh ... speak to that."
"Speaker recognizes Haibane Samurai."
"Haibane Yamabato, I think what you're perceiving is actually stage butterflies," he says, "Roku is a fine warrior, and it is obvious to me that her precursor was in the Final War. She recognizes all UAC technologies."
Roku looks up at Samurai and whispers, "UAC?" but Samurai continues without even a glance at her.
"She is the only one among us to have killed a wraith, and that is why I've brought her as a guest to the Haibane Renmei. At the Speaker's request, she has gotten an awful lot more floor time than we expected." Samurai takes a breath and says, "I'm quite certain that any fear you're seeing is not of the enemy, but of public speaking."
As soon as Samurai sits down, she says, "Thanks, but-"
Samurai taps on the table and brings up the UAC logo on her screen. The triangle is familiar to her, as is the United Earth Government globe and laurels.
Hands cuffed behind her, she is shoved down to her knees. Her body, the larger one she inhabits in her dreams, has several plasma burns on it.
"You refuse the Triple-Six implant at the cost of your life, Saviour-spawn," a voice growls. She looks up at the banner of the United Earth Government. Suddenly she leaves her body, and has no control over where her eyes are pointed. To her horror, she realizes that her soul occupies only her bouncing head. It stops, and she sees cut strands of her own red hair blow by her eyes as she loses consciousness.
Roku gasps as she comes back to her new reality as a haibane. She runs her hand over her hair to make sure it is still all there.
"Roku, you okay?" Samurai whispers.
She squints and nods, but she realizes that there's no way he could have missed the tears that spilled onto her cheeks.
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 6: Trade Disruption