Rise of Glie Chapter 55

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Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 54: Little Rascals

FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie

Chapter 55: They Aren't Crows

"Sir," the young teenaged haibane with the dark hair squeaks, "Series Three is um..."

Fushoku gently interrupts his task at the new microscope station. He leans back for a moment, brushing his hand through the now grey hair under his halo.

"Go on, Mamoru," Fushoku says.

Mamoru continues, "You're not going to believe this, sir."

"What? They're actually working?" Fushoku scoffs. After a few too many seconds of silence, he opens his eyes and looks at the boy's face.

Rather than the fear of being punished or the disappointment of failure, the boy's eyes are lit with excitement, "Come see." It is easy for Fushoku to see in his mind's eye the rest of the boy's face, hidden by the bunny suit.

Fushoku rises to his feet and strides across the floor to an excited cluster of haibane far younger than he is, all bunnied up, complete with gloves both for their wings and their hands. Mamoru's wings rode higher than usual as he scurried down to the other end of the mostly automated production line.

"That's four!" one of them whispers.

Fushoku gets his first glance at the LCD monitor of the test display. It breathes living color thanks to the production advances made by Wire Factory since he emerged from his cocoon almost forty years earlier. The screen says that the test series has advanced to the twenty-sixth whole die on the wafer that they are working on. It fails, displaying briefly the two DFT circuits and their resulting logic errors, clearly the result of production defects.

The twenty-ninth one passes. "Five!" a quivering voice cheers.

"Aya?" he asks, "There's no reason to get all excited until we get the test report back from the Temple." He wasn't expecting the dreamless haibane back, since she had gone to the Temple eight days earlier, quite desperate to end her sin-bound and dreamless condition. Fushoku has learned to be patient with such problems. He was also expecting it to delay the Haibane Renmei's delta radiation and logic qualification tests, so that the report might not even come back with her.

"Fushoku-san," the big-eyed blonde physically seventeen haibane girl emerges from the crowd. Of course, the hundred-class bunny suit hides everyone's hair and feathers, and so they've learned to recognize each other by speech alone. "They had me help with the logic qualification while I was at the Temple."

"Your dream?" he asks.

"I got that, too," she cheerfully whispers, "and my wings are grey again, nearly white. I can't wait to show you."

"What is it?" he asks.

"No big deal," she says, "At least not anymore."

He smiles, "I'm happy for you, Aya."

"So the logic qualification results," she reports squirmily, "I'll give you the details when we break for lunch."

"In a nutshell?" he asks.

"The Haibane Renmei have released the current design to production," she happily reports, "and the delta radiation tests show that these things will last twenty-seven years in regular service outside the wall."

"For real?" he gasps.

"Really!" she squeals, "The paperwork is in your grubby office, and it's your turn to cook, so you can check it out right now."

Fushoku has his inspection and testing lab, which the other haibane have called his "clean" office because it is maintained to the same fastidious air cleanliness standards of the production floor, lest dust pollute and destroy the microchips that they build for a living. His "grubby" office adjoins the lunch room on the first floor, and while very neat and tidy, it is not a cleanroom.

That day, he discovers that somehow, the troubled Series Three has suddenly snapped into perfection, with a sudden end to all the process problems, all the delta life problems, and all the logic problems in the microprocessor. Suddenly, today, they can start producing the microprocessors, memory modules, chipsets, frequency generators...

And that will be it, he realizes. He'll die of old age before he can finish the next generation, and there isn't enough manpower to support it anyway. By the time the old world had reached this level of semiconductor technology, literally thousands were employed in its development and manufacture. Over the last thirty-nine years, it has happened with no more than twenty haibane working on it at a time, designing it for the deadly foibles of delta radiation.

On his way to work that morning, as he meandered from Old Home before the sun rose, King came to him to share the news that Hell Knight Forge had abandoned its research into diamond semiconductors, having produced only a handful of working transistors.

At lunch, Aya smiles, and says, "We have thirty-eight operational microprocessors on that first wafer, sir."

Another haibane points out, "And the yields would only be better with all the other chips."

Aya, at that point, sniffles, "I'm going to miss you, sir," and jumps on Fushoku in embrace.

The other haibane are more muted, but with the same expressions. Their wings, all in various shades of gray, and some with patterns that include dark grey and white feathers, droop as many rub his shoulders.

"What's the matter?" Fushoku asks, "I'm not leaving."

"I first noticed it last night," a dark-haired boy says softly, "I've only been in Glie for a month, but they've warned me."

"Noticed what?" Fushoku nearly giggles, thinking that this must be a joke.

"Your halo's flickering, sir," Aya sobs, "You haven't noticed?"

"Oh," Fushoku says. He realized that he was going to go inventory the lightbulbs because they were flickering ... but not every lightbulb in both Old Home and Wire Factory can start flickering at once. "I'm sorry," he blushes, "I missed it."

"The Communicator wants to talk to you, tonight," Aya says as she pulls back to look at his face, "He said something about going over the numbers? Maybe he means the test results."

"I know what he means," Fushoku assures her, "Those numbers aren't in the test reports, so I'll leave them on my desk for you." A tear appears on his lower eyelash as he says, "I mean your desk, Aya." He points at the door to his office, "That's your office, now."

"I don't know how to do what you do, sir," she says, "I don't have any idea how to design the next generation."

"You don't have to," he assures her, "Just do your best to produce these ones. It'll be easy for a few years, but tough times lie ahead. You'll be ready."

"Sir," she says.

"I'll miss you, too," he says, "But we'll all be together again. I can't wait to introduce you to Shoukai, Shiden and Aware, the haibane that I grew up with."

He spends the rest of the work day assuring himself that Wire Factory is in good hands, and prays that these youngsters would be ready for when it all falls down. He will soon follow and Teisei and Hane, and Fly.

Once he leaves, he goes to the Temple. He takes a slight detour to the human graveyard at the old camp site. There are still some outlines of the old houses that used to be there. He hopes to meet Stanley, Janice, Keepsie and Jose again in the next world. [BTW, the latter two are named for the IBM facilities at Poughkeepsie in New York State and San Jose in California, which respectively invented transistors and hard drives. While the former didn't invent the transistor, they did invent various forms of transistors and automated production lines to make them cheaper. San Jose, however did invent the hard drive.]

Once there, the Communicator doesn't utter a word. Neither does Fushoku, even keeping the bells on his wrists and wings silent. She puts her hand on his shoulder and gently guides him to one of the rooms set into the Temple's remaining wall. Gently, she pulls on the latch handle.

As the door opens, Fushoku can hear the sobbing of an old man. He looks inside to see a white haired man, gripping a dim halo, and a crow is standing on each of his shoulders, as though eating his head.

He stoops beside him, and starts to sign, "You said you only police-"

They aren't crows.

"Oh, no," Fushoku cries. He touches one of the black haibane wings and the man screams in agony, turns his head and Fushoku sees his desperate face.

The man's face turns angry, and spits at him, then he buries it again, crying.

"Taka," Fushoku gasps.

"I hate you," he bawls.

"I've been so worried about you all these years," Fushoku stammers, "I had thought you'd Flown, but it always bothered me that I didn't see a light."

"You never appreciated my dreams," he sobs, "Never really tried to see who I was."

"Taka," Fushoku says softly, "Whatever it is, I'm sorry. Please forgive me. You're a wonderful being. Maybe you let your curiosity get a little too much of you and spied on the crows too much... I was upset about that, but you had a gift, different than mine yes, and in some ways far more fascinating and incredible. All the birds in Glie seemed so sad when you went away."

"You..." Taka turns to him again, "really thought that way about me?"

"Yes, Taka," he says, "I've missed you, and I'll keep missing you because I'm Flying soon."

"What becomes of me?" Taka asks.

"Hopefully, you'll find it in your heart to forgive me," Fushoku says, "and then you'll become the new Communicator. You don't need to tell me why you hate me, but I'm listening if you'd like to."

"No," he grunts, "what if I don't."

"Tiindare will hold the fort until you're ready in any case," the gentle voice of a grandmother explains.

"Who's that?" Taka asks.

"The former Communicator," Bangou says, stooping, and smiling, "Unlike you, I volunteered my wings for this job. Taka, you're losing your wings, like it or not. Make the best of a bad situation. Forgive Fushoku, and follow in my stead, and one day, you'll Fly as well."

On his way to the shrine in the northwest, Fushoku passes through town, while Bangou takes another route, so as not to be seen. Crystal looks up from far away and sees him. Turning to her husband, she says, "It's okay." Then she runs into his arms and cries, "You're going away like a haibane, right?"

"Yes," Fushoku answers, "I know Glie is in good hands. For now, at least."

"Good bye," she says, then walks away.

That night, the light splits the sky. Only a few eyes are sharp enough to notice that two beams of light are braided together for this Day of Flight, and upon it, they pin no signficance.

[Author's Note: Mamoru and Aya (Spirit) are named for characters in Ayashi no Ceres. It's obvious who the latter is named for if you've ever encountered it, but Mamoru shows only for a few pages in Volume 8, Maya. His name means Protector, and is one of Maya Hirobe's two dogs. It might seem rather belittling to name a haibane after a dog, but if you read the scene where he appears, hopefully, you'll have just as much respect for him as I do.]

Next: Rise of Glie Epilogue

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