End of Arcadia Volume 1 Part 2


2


            Arcadia—the system of miracle which granted mankind the ability to conquer death.

            This momentous feat was made possible by the advancement of cloning technology along with the digitization and compaction of human memories.

            Firstly, each soldier was equipped with a choker device that constantly converted their memories into data in real time. And when it perceives the death of the wearer, it takes the data, known as the Mindstate, and installs it in the brain of a clone copy.

            What this results in is the same entity as that of the target right before death.

            It wasn’t restoration, but reconstruction. Or to put it in another way, the continuation of memories.

            That was the Respawn granted by Arcadia.

            In all, Arcadia referred to the overall system maintaining the complete flow of the respawning process, and the storage of Mindstates.

            When this system was unveiled for militaristic purposes, countries all over the world—in particular, the two great nations, the Lorelia Federation and United States of Elmea, were more than happy to adopt it.

            This was because of the growing complications in the current state of war, which chiefly employs unmanned weapons in an ever-continuing race of sophistication.

            Due to the unending arms race, the number of drones, which excelled in land, air, and seas, were accrued at an increasingly unsustainable rate. In the end, their numbers far overtook the size of armies back when unmanned weapons were not employed. As a result, the price of military drones rose far above that of a human soldier.

            To make matters worst, mass-produced drones of the like used in warfare were principally remotely controlled by AI at the commanding base. With the exception of a small portion of costly high-end drones equipped with onboard AI, this made them extremely weak to EMP attacks and enemy jamming.

            In the end, the need for human soldiers on the battlefield could not be eliminated.

            Without solving the need for human lives, the defence spending budget only grew unilaterally as more and more metalwork automata were produced—

            That was when the panacea known as Arcadia appeared.

            The constituents for clone bodies were easily and cheaply available due to existing developments made in food printing technologies.

            In addition, human soldiers were capable of immediate deployment, and did not suffer from transmission latency or inflexible combat algorithms common to drones. Their individual decision making also lessened the need for micro-management.

            And as the cherry on top, they do not die.

            Cheap, able, and no lives were lost.

            Indeed—Arcadia changed the very definition of warfare.

            However, even this near-perfect system had a flaw.

            —That is, the overwriting of Mindstate by Arcadia was only feasible in those the age of 19 and under.

            The sun setting over the mountain ridges in the west was covered in a red hue like a molten glass bead.


            Underneath the indigo-blue skies where an unusually bright moon hung, the heavy beats of dance music seemed to blow away the oppressive heat.

            On top of a makeshift stage, the commander of the 3rd platoon was serving as a DJ and raising his arms to the beat. Along with it, screams of cheers roared out from everywhere.

            This was a barbeque party with over 1,000 youngsters that took place every once a week.

            Heaps of meat and sausages were being ferried over from the lodge in the shadow of the mountain to the neighboring wide plains where the barbeque pits were located.

            Akito was standing in front of one of those pits, tending to the meat as he wiped sweat off his forehead.

            When he looked up, he could see the aircraft parking apron beyond the roof of the lodge. Next to it parked the JOINTs and the Aegis battle tanks.

            They were currently at the Elmea Army Reikyo Outpost canteen and the public square next to it.

            “Aki, is the meat done yet?”

            The blond girl, Amashiro Rena, asked with her fork at the ready.

            “Just a while more, Rena. We managed to get our hands on some natural meat today, so it’s going to take some time—Hey Ryoutarou, that one’s still pink!”

            As he held back the starving Rena, the sub-commander of the Liger Platoon with flashy red hair—Hagi Ryoutarou scooped up a piece of meat on the opposite side with his chopstick and put it into his mouth.

            “It’s okay, I prefer it slightly rare anyway—what the heck, this’s real meat! And chicken to boot!”

            “I warned you! Don’t come crying to me tomorrow telling me you want to Respawn due to a bad stomach.”

            “…Like hell I’d Res for something that lame.”

            Heaving a sigh, Akito took out a random can of carbonated drink from the cooler box next to him. He popped the tab and took a swig of the artificially sweetened and unknown-flavored drink to wash down his fatigue.

            The chitchat of another platoon nearby came into their ears.

            “Seems like Liger Platoon got wiped out again. And their enemy personnel kill count is the lowest among all platoons too. At this rate, their scores might even go into the negative.”

            “It’d still be preferable if they could keep that score. At worst, they might even be made to disappear.”

            “…Hey, don’t even joke about that. Isn’t that just a rumor anyway? Well, they may be underperforming, but we still want Liger Platoon to put in some effort for us. Especially their leader Ichinose.”

            The members of his platoon hung their faces.

            Not again, thought Akito was a sigh as he ignored them and flipped the cultured beef sirloin. Next to him, the disposable chopstick in Ryoutarou’s hand snapped in his clenched fist.

            Then, he turned around angrily and roared at the members of the 2nd platoon grouped around the table.

            “What’s that, assholes! How do you think we managed to prevent the defensive line from collapsing today!? It’s all thanks to us in Liger for covering your sorry asses from Lethal Blue! …Well, it’s mainly Akito but anyway!”

            “…Tch. Shove it, Hagi. No one cares about defence, it’s all about how many you kill. Yet, our great former ace Ichinose is chickening out now and can’t kill the enemy anymore. And he even stops you subordinates from getting kills too. Perhaps you guys should just call youselves the Puppy Platoon for being such burden to Elmea.”

            The guys in 2nd platoon snorted disinterestedly and left for the lodge with their empty plates.

            Left behind, a heavy atmosphere hung among those in Liger Platoon.

            After staring daggers at their backs for a while, Ryoutarou turned his glare towards Akito.

            “…You’re part of the problem too, Akito. I hate to say it, but it’s just as they say. You aren’t getting any kills at all. What happened to the infamous Blood Naught which turned any battlefield he went to into a sea of blood.”

            Faced with his standoffish gaze, Akito only laughed dryly.

            “Like that name implies, I’m thinking of fighting in a manner which doesn’t involve spilling blood nowadays.”

            “Stop with that tasteless joke.”

            Akito shrugged his shoulders.

            “Anyway, our drone kills are number one. Isn’t that good enough?”

            “And I’m saying that our human kills are in the red! What you’re saying only gives us an average in the overall scores! Makes me dream of back then when we owned the top spot!”

            “I don’t really care about my own score. As long as we Ligers can maintain our current scores, that’s good enough for me.”

            “That’s what I’m talking about! That sloppy attitude is why the team’s—”

            “Alright, that’s enough! Hurry up and flip the meat already, Aki! It’s gonna turn black! And Ryou, stop talking and start eating! It’d be such a waste if a feast like this went cold!”

            “Hey, Rena, stop it, I’m not done—”

            “You know, Ryou, all I’m hearing is you blaming Aki one-sidedly, but what about yourself? If you’re not happy with the way he does things, then how about beating his score this year and becoming the leader in his place. That goes for your guys too, okay?”

            When Rena said so with her hands on her hips, Ryoutarou and the rest of the team went mum.

            And then, she pointed a finger straight at Akito’s nose.

            “And you, make sure you get back the top score. You do realize everyone’s feeling uneasy because our score’s dipping, don’t you? Do something, Leader.”

            “…All right.”

            Akito and Ryoutarou exchanged glances and exhaled deeply. It was always like this, they had never been able to win against her. Akito then placed a piece of steak on Ryoutarou’s plate.

            “It’s all your fault that we got yelled at.”

            “What do you mean mine, huh.”

            They whispered to each other in low voices.

            “And anyway, Ryoutarou. Will you stop calling me by that name? I don’t use it much anymore lately, and more importantly, it’s embarrassing.”

            “What are you saying after all this time, it’ll be confusing if you change it now. …And I thought it was cool when I first posted here three years ago.”

            “I just don’t get your naming sense.”

            “Can it, you deserve it for leaving the name up to me.”

            After that, Akito passed around the juicy steaks which were grilled to perfection starting with Rena.

            She quickly wolfed down the steak with a sparkle in her eye and gave a sigh of supreme satisfaction. When she finished, she gazed at the distant cluster of skyscrapers in Reikyo city.

            It wasn’t directly visible from there, but beyond that sight lay their longtime enemy—the frontline base of the Lorelia Federation.

            Akito murmured with a sigh.

            “—I wonder when will this war ever end?”

            Ryoutarou seemed to have caught it, as he replied.

            “Maybe when hell freezes over. This war is what the whole world’s running on now, there’s no stopping it. I mean, I can’t have it end on me so suddenly. How else am I going to earn points anymore.”

            “I’m surprised to hear you’re actually thinking about the future.”

            “You tryna pick a fight, huh!? When I finish service, I’m gonna travel the world as a weapons trader. Then I’ll make bucketloads of money and spend the rest of my life loafing off. At the time, I could even spare to provide for a more person, what do you say—”

            Said Ryoutarou as he peek a sideway glance at Rena, but she was lost in her own dream.

            “For me, I’d like to buy a house in the backwater and design clothes there while surrounded by nature. I’ll become so famous that people would pay a premium for my modelling data.”

            “You? A designer? Hard to imagine someone who randomly sprays 9mm be able to make clothes.”

            Unfettered by his remark, she continued brightly.

            “Don’t you regret it when I make it big. …I’ll probably be rather busy when my name is out there, so you’ll come along and help, won’t you Aki. You like taking it easy, right?”

            As she turned to him with a beaming smile, Akito seemed to avert his eyes as if it was too bright.

            “I’m not that knowledgeable about clothes so I don’t think I’ll be that much help… Besides, I’m too busy just trying to survive now that I’ve never given much thought about what comes after.”

            “Really? I think that you have a rather good fashion sense though. But well, I guess we’re counting our chickens before they whatever. First we have to start earning points, everything comes after that. Let’s do our best to defeat the enemy!”

            “Points, huh—”

            Akito mused softly.

            Day after day, they return to the battlefield to try to repaint the map of influence while drenched in the bloods of enemy and friends alike and enduring the pain of death—that they were repeating this hellish routine each time they greet the sun was all for the sake of this so-called points.

            Based on what Akito and the rest achieves on the battlefield, the large nation rewards them with promise of the future.

            The greater their accomplishments the higher their rank, and when they leave service at the age of 20, those high rankers would be able to choose their future path with a vast degree of freedom. For example, they could choose to become high ranking officials in the army and determine the future of the country’s defence. They could also enter the industry and become a global trader. It was said to be even possible to become a cameraman located as far away from the battlefield as can be.

            On the other hand, those with low scores would not have much of a choice in their future vocations. They would typically work at the super-fish farms where they handled dirty jobs, or work as a cleaner in the Ruined City, or even work high-risk jobs in weapons development—.

            The range of possiblities available ultimately boiled down to the result of their 19 years.

            That was why as the leader of Liger Platoon, Akito had a personal responsibility to ensure all his members steadily accrued points.

            However, he also held doubts towards this system where their entire future was based upon military accomplishments.

            “Wouldn’t it be best if both sides could reach a common ground and sign a cease-fire? …I can’t celebrate a victory achieved by total annihilation of a single side.”

            His mutterings seemed to have been heard by Ryoutarou.

            “Huh? What are talking in your sleep about, Akito. As if those Lots would accept a cease-fire. Didn’t you hear they massacred all of the Elmea citizens in those areas they occupied. There’s no way they’d accept peace.”

            Akito turned away at his words. What entered his view instead were the pieces of meat lined up on the grill.

            They reminded him of what he saw half-a-day before on the battlefield.

            “Even so, we should keep searching for an avenue to converse. …In the end, what we’re doing is none other than manslaughter.”

            When they heard him, both Rena and Ryoutarou turned silent.

            Nothing moved in that instant.

            Then, the two of them turned to look at each other, and Rena said to Akito.

            “So what about that?”

            Her tone held not a trace of malice, only genuine doubt.

            Akito took a soundless gulp.

            Despite knowing that that was the obvious response to his words, he was shaken by the shock he felt inside. Perhaps, he had been expecting a different answer from them.

            Still, he couldn’t help but say it.

            “It’s true that we don’t die thanks to Arcadia. …But, that doesn’t erase the fear and pain we feel, both us and them. We mustn’t take death for granted.”

            “Come on, what are you saying, Akito. Tell us something we don’t already know. This is what you call a war.”

            Rena added.

            “It’s not like I don’t get what you’re trying to say. But, does it really matter? —After all, we can come back to life.”

            This time, Akito was truly speechless.

            Starting from sometime, the rest of the group had stopped what they were doing and were listening in to their conversation. And they were all nodding in agreement with what Ryoutarou and Rena were saying.

            I have to tell them that’s wrong—the moment he thought that, he realized they would just be going in circles.

            Just then, Rena put the final nail in the coffin.

            “Not to mention, we’re all doing it, no? Killing, that is.”

            Akito came to a realization.

            —I see, the strange one is me.

            That they were looking at different pictures.

            “We just have to kill our enemies and rack up points. As long as we get a good score, our futures will be bright. Since no one dies, there’s no problem. What’s so bad about that.”

            “I don’t know what the adults are thinking, but the rails are already laid ahead of us. To grasp a better future, there’s no option other than to charge full steam ahead.”

            Turning to Ryoutarou who said those words while pointing his chopsticks at him, Akito returned a question.

            “…For that, we have to keep on killing others? Young men and women the same age as us?”

            “Just think of them as enemy, which is what they really are.”

            “They’re enemies so to speak, but they’re different from drones… they’re humans in the flesh and blood!”

            “Ain’t nothing different about that. Destroy them and they get rebuilt and come back again straight away. What do you call that if not the same?”

            Sending children to war, this kind of thing—

            When Arcadia was first introduced, surely all the adults would object to their use—that was what he thought.

            In reality, that wasn’t the case.

            The reasons were simple.

            Firstly, children were already serving in the army as drone operators due to their fast learning speed and cheap training costs.

            Secondly—the main reason so to say—that nobody died.

            The world changed according to the times.

            That applied to moral values as well.

            It’s not like anyone actually dies—that single sentence had become a free pass everyone accepted without a second thought.

            It became an excuse to send children to the battlefield.

            “Man, I just wanna earn more points! If only I had the strength to beat that Lethal Blue into a pulp too!”

            Likely for the same reason, soldiers like Akito and the rest also came to think this way.

            To diffuse the stiff atmosphere, Rena shouted into the night skies exaggeratedly.

            Akito only stared at her from the corner of his eyes with complicated feelings.

            “Akito, you’re really not acting yourself lately.”

            Ryoutarou directed at him after chewing down his diced steak.

            The rest of the squad also turned to look at him.

            Akito closed his eyes tightly and came to a conclusion.

            —I’m the only one who’s strange.

            So he faked a smile and patted Ryoutarou’s shoulder.

            “Don’t worry, I won’t become as weird as you.”

            “Now you’re trying to pick a fight, aren’t you!? Huh!?”

            “I was considering if we should change our approach to focus on getting kills, and wanted to see if any of you guys were against that, that’s all. But from what I see, there’s no problem on that end.”

            “I see… so it’s just that.”

            Rena breathed a sigh of relief.

            “I was seriously worried if there was something wrong with you.”

            Everyone laughed heartily.

            That’s it. This is fine.

            Just laugh along with them like usual.

            I can’t change their way of thinking. It’s not that easy.

            So I’ll just continue to pretend.

            Because I’m the only one who’s strange—


Back to Part 1 | Table of Contents | Forward to Part 3


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s