[Colonel in the JGSDF; Commanding Officer of the Jinrai]
The 2034-TONBOGIRI was a highly advanced artificial intelligence developed by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force to be the primary defense program for the JSDF's Military Net. The supercomputer was created by Dr. Masahiro Takeda, an expert in the fields of artificial intelligence, data structures and analysis, theoretical computer science, cryptology, networking, and quantum mechanics. The system consisted of countless arrays, algorithms, logical programming, the like. What separated 2034-TONBOGIRI from other supercomputers was its ability to learn. The program was perfectly capable of learning from the Net, humans (including cyborgs), even other machines. It could then take that knowledge and apply it to whatever the current situation called for. It's defensive capabilities were astounding. The 2034-TONBOGIRI had five layers or military attack barriers. It was also capable of back-hacking an intruder and ghost diving them. Due to the program's learning systems and familiarity with humans, it's completely capable of taking control of an intruder's ghost and wiping it out. It was quite the marvel of modern computer engineering.
Five figures were seated inside of an opulent office, two garbed in olive drab military uniforms that betrayed the fact they were members of the Ground Self Defense Army, the other three were suits. Image curtains obscured the large window that normally revealed Niihama's skyline. One of the GSDA officers was a cyborg woman. One could tell she was fully prosthetic with her geometrically perfect features. She had short, black hair styled into a type of angled bob. Her most noteworthy features were her eyes. The woman's eyes were a prominent blue-gray color. The fact that she didn't blink, the fact that they had as much life in them as a doll was unsettling. The shoulder boards on her service uniform indicated that she was a colonel. Her ribbon bar was quite impressive as well, boasting numerous defensive memorial cordons, an Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third class, an Order of the Rising Sun, Fifth Class. Four Medals of Honor. Three red ribbons, a dark blue one, and a yellow, and a Distinguished Service Cross awarded to her by Lieutenant General John Hughes of the Imperial American Army.
The colonel crossed her legs and folded her arms as she stared at the government suits in front of her. One man was one of three Parliamentary Vice Ministers of Defense. Kentaro Inoue was his name. He was a younger man, having been elected his father's seat on the Diet and appointed to his current position within the Ministry of Defense. Inoue was quite slender, almost scrawny. His short, black hair was complimented with a neatly trimmed mustache. He was a reserved man with a rather quiet voice. That wasn't to say that he was a weak-willed man, but it did mean that he was often interrupted and shut down by others. Because he was a polite man, he was an easy target for others. One of the other two suits was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She recognized him as Toshio Sakakibara, Director of the Intelligence and Analysis Service. The other, she didn't. The man sitting to her immediate right was Hiro Takahashi, a second lieutenant and chief administrator of the 2034-TONBOGIRI system. Second Lieutenant Takahashi was younger than his superior. He was 23 years old, in fact. Takahashi also had a reputation as being a 'yes-man'. He always sought special treatment and favor from the woman sitting next to him, Colonel Ai Kawashima, commanding officer of the elite Jinrai special forces unit. Toshio Sakakibara cleared his throat, catching the room's attention.
"I don't believe I heard you correctly, Lieutenant. You're telling me what?" He growled at the young man.
Takahashi folded his arms in the manner that a man who believed he had the best hand at cards would. Kawashima's eyes shifted in the lieutenant's direction as he made his rebuttal.
"I'm saying that the system has gained a rudimentary self awareness."
"That's impossible. It's a computer, it must be a bug!" Vice Minister Inoue exclaimed, setting his tablet aside as he leaned forward in his seat. Kawashima remained silent.
Hiro Takahashi released an exasperated sigh, rubbing at his eyes beneath his glasses.
"We don't even know if 2034-TONBOGIRI is a bug. The purpose of this project was to install a primary safeguard for the Military Net. So far, it's been performing that task extraordinarily well. However, the system has been exhibiting strange behavior." He said as he pushed up his glasses.
It was at this point in time that the mystery man's interest had peaked. He interrupted just as Chief Sakakibara was about to speak up.
"What kind of behavior?" He asked.
Second Lieutenant Takahashi focused his attention toward the man, leaning forward before scooping up a glass of tea off of the table that separated them. Kawashima too, looked at the unidentified suit. Yet, she remained quiet.
"Well, it's been asking a lot of questions. Mostly 'why this' and 'why that'. But then it asked something peculiar. It asked, 'If a ghost is able to be measured by scientific means, why is it that it cannot be defined?'. I'm not sure what answer it was looking for." He answered the man.
The mysterious man raised an eyebrow as he leaned back in his seat, deep in thought. It was at this point that Sakakibara finally vented.
"This is a dangerous situation you've found yourself in, Lieutenant. Bug or no bug, sentience or no sentience, I want this problem taken care of quickly and quietly." He snapped at the young man.
Vice Minister Inoue picked up his tablet again and began touching the screen with a stylus. He sighed.
"I'm afraid I can only give you 72 hours to find a solution, Lieutenant Takahashi." He said in a soft voice.
Sakakibara immediately interjected, hissing in anger.
"36 hours, Lieutenant. Dr. Takeda, I want you to assist our friend here."
Dr. Masahiro Takeda gave a small nod, grunting in acknowledgement. With that, Sakakibara turned his full attention on Ai Kawashima, who had since shifted her pale, doll-like eyes on the man. He extended his index finger at the woman, pointing at her as he addressed the seated colonel.
"As for you, Kawashima. Your ineptitude to address this situation before it arose is insulting. I don't know how you managed to screw things up this badly, but I shouldn't be surprised." He growled at her before pointing to the ribbons on her chest.
"I'd rather see those ribbons on an ass kisser like Takahashi here, than a woman like you. Get your act together or you'll find yourself in a situation you don't want to be in."
Once again, Kawashima said nothing, nor did she budge from her spot. She merely stared at the man with a cold glare. Sakakibara raised an eyebrow at her before walking towards the door with Inoue and Dr. Takeda. As he opened the door, the colonel's cold voice was heard from behind.
"Be careful who you make enemies with, Mr. Sakakibara."
The man stopped and peered back at Kawashima, only to see the back of her head. His eyes narrowed as he left the room. With that, Colonel Kawashima climbed to her feet, causing the lieutenant to follow suit. The young man immediately scooped up his satchel. He rummaged through the bag until he managed to summon forth a small booklet. Takahashi offered it to the colonel. The woman turned her head and gazed upon the report before her before accepting it. Kawashima opened the cover of the booklet and her eyes began to scan the pages. The report's contents were encoded in QR code. Normally, one would need an external device in order to read the code, such as a scanner or a smartphone. Many people had cyberbrain implants that allowed them to decipher the code simply by looking at it. To Kawashima, it was no different than reading kana or kanji. Second Lieutenant Takahashi watched his superior read the report, almost pleased with himself.
"Two days ago, a production line at Megatech Body spontaneously started up at 2309 hours. Forty-six minutes before that, a neurochip was produced and installed into a Class-A military issue cyberbrain." He announced to Kawashima.
"I can read." She bluntly responded.
Takahashi stammered for a moment, only to catch himself. He gave a small nod to the colonel. She knew what he was doing. He was trying to butter her up, trying to weasel his way up the ranks through her. It was a trait she despised. Ai Kawashima believed that people should earn their ranks and positions, not have them handed to them. People often thought that she made Colonel through her husband, who happened to be a Major General. The truth was that she was promoted to Colonel because of her shrewdness, leadership, and valor during the Second Vietnam War. Becoming commanding officer of the Jinrai was simply an added bonus. Second Lieutenant Hiro Takahashi was no such man and that was the reason why Kawashima had not recruited him into her unit. He was nothing more than a yes-man who's aspirations were simply political. The Jinrai consisted of 300 men and women who were handpicked by Captain Nozomi Kurosawa, the recruitment officer. They were primarily recruited from the 1st Airborne Brigade. Occasionally, those with extraordinary marks and test scores would be recruited straight from basic training. Those that were recruited into the Jinrai underwent five months of grueling, unforgiving training. Often times, green Jinrai found themselves having to undergo further cyberization in order to meet the standards set by the unit, to be fit for duty. Upon recruitment, soldiers entered a two year contract, effective after completion of training. Once training was completed, they were assigned to one of four platoons, depending on their aptitude.
Kawashima continued to read the report, turning the page before stopping halfway down. Her eyes narrowed as she spoke in a direct tone.
"How much have you looked into this?"
Takahashi nodded towards the report as he clasped his hands behind his back.
"Only what I've told you, ma'am." He said.
The colonel slapped the book shut as she looked at Takahashi, her eyes glaring with cold intent. She shoved the report into her uniform, hiding inside of the interior pocket. Takahashi's eyes followed the booklet as it vanished into Kawashima's pocket.
"Ma'am, I'm afraid I'll need that back. Chief Sakakibara-" He began to protest. However, he was cut off by Kawashima's stare.
"I believe you have 36 hours, Second Lieutenant." She hissed.
Takahashi blinked for a moment before giving a salute.
"Yes, ma'am. Apologies."
With that, Second Lieutenant Hiro Takahashi promptly left the room. As soon as he was gone, the colonel retrieved the report and opened it once again. Minute after minute passed, page after page was turned and the look in her eyes was concerning. She was certainly upset. Kawashima opened an encrypted channel with Captain Kurosawa.
<Kurosawa, give me Megatech Body's surveillance footage for July 28, 2029. 2200 hours to 0200 hours the following day. Facility 4-B, production line 17.>
As the data was streamed into the colonel's cyberbrain, a window opened in her field of vision. Before her was a prosthetic body production line, the timestamp in the upper right-hand corner. For now, the line was quiet. There was no movement, no staff. She waited a few seconds before fast forwarding through the footage. For a brief moment, Kawashima could've swore she saw a terminal switch on for a second before powering off. The colonel resumed the footage at its regular playback speed upon seeing the production line start. It built the skeletal structure, attached the muscle fibers. Soon, the hybrid neurochip/cyberbrain that Takahashi spoke of was installed into the skull. Kawashima watched as the artificial organs were installed. Then came the skin, the hair. After the protective covering was removed from the skin, the cybernetic body was blow dried before being shipped down the line. The security footage switched from the actual production line to the staging area, where the finished body was simply laying on its back, as if waiting for pick up. The colonel was unable to get a good look at the body's face, but it appeared as if it was one of the standard issue female shells. The hairstyle was not unlike her own. Seconds ticked by as Kawashima's focus was glued on the footage, waiting for anything to happen. Soon, seconds turned into minutes and Kawashima caught herself holding her breath more than once. Suddenly, the naked woman shot up, sitting up at a ninety-degree angle. Her eyes were a burning golden yellow, almost appearing illuminated. After a few seconds, the woman swung her legs over the side of the table and stood, slowly scanning her environment. Kawashima watched as the security camera caught the mystery individual examining her shell, flexing her fingers. Once satisfied with her self-inspection, the woman immediately focused on the security camera. It almost appeared as if she was looking at Kawashima through the footage. Just as quickly as the woman sat up, the footage cut out at exactly 0200 hours, July 29th.
Kawashima closed the window, trying to process what she had just witnessed. The colonel opened an encrypted channel with her recruitment officer as she walked over to the window, dropping the image curtain that concealed the room.
<Have there been any sightings of this prosthetic body, Kurosawa? Any news?>
<No ma'am, nothing.>
Kawashima released a deep sigh through her nose as she stared down at the streets below, the city's lights illuminating the night. A neon billboard illuminated the side of Kawashima's face. The woman weighed her options. The 2034-TONBOGIRI system had become self-aware. It was questioning everything. The system was also curious about its own existence. She couldn't understand why the machine had gained sentience in the first place. It had to be more than a simple bug. Someone such as Dr. Takeda wouldn't make such a careless mistake. Another thought that came to mind was sabotage. It was unlikely, though. Only a handful of people had access to the system. Every single individual was relentlessly monitored for any deviance in their behavior. The possibility of cyberbrain corruption and ghost hacking was a possibility and for the top brass, a legitimate fear. Shortly after the 2034-TONBOGIRI system gained sentience, a military-grade prosthetic body was manufactured at Megatech Body's Niihama facility. A neurochip was installed, too. It was too convenient to be mere coincidence. The logical conclusion was that the system had copied itself into a body, but why? Did the system believe that it was threatened? If so, what actions would it take? What concerned Ai Kawashima was the prospect of the 2034-TONBOGIRI system taking control of the numerous missile defense systems scattered across Japan. On top of that, the majority of JSDF vehicles and machines had support artificial intelligences installed. Though they were mostly autonomous from the Military Net, they had to maintain a link in order to receive commands from headquarters. The system could use that backdoor to take control of the support AI. The 2034-TONBOGIRI system was the most pressing concern at the moment, but the missing prosthetic body was in the back of her mind.
<Captain, I want that prosthetic body found. The threat to national security is too great.>
<Of course, Colonel. I'll dispatch our best recon team.> Captain Kurosawa responded.
Ai Kawashima cut the transmission after that. Her faith in Second Lieutenant Hiro Takahashi was lacking. She felt that he would do more harm than good in correcting the system. Even with Dr. Takeda assisting, he was too clumsy and too caught up in his own political aspirations to get the job done. Somehow, the 2034-TONBOGIRI system had to be fixed within 36 hours, or she would be the one punished. For the time being, she decided it was best to return to the garrison. Kawashima scooped up her cover and promptly left the room.
—Defense Agency; Niihama-shi, Japan; July 31, 2029—
The Defense Agency was a large complex located in Niihama. It was the lifeblood of the Ministry of Defense and hosted nearly 7,000 personnel. Among the civilian suits, the Defense Agency also hosted the central nervous system of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, with the Joint Staff Council and the Staff offices for the respective branches located on the premises. On top of that, the primary servers for the Military Net were located in a sub-basement below the complex. Also on the premises was the 2034-TONBOGIRI defense system, located in a separate sub-basement. It was here that Dr. Masahiro Takeda and Second Lieutenant Hiro Takahashi were working around the clock to correct the system. Unfortunately, progress was slow as the artificial intelligence was actively fighting back against them, assaulting them with questions, both rhetorical and philosophical. They were also having difficulty gaining access to the program itself, as it constantly barred their path with military attack barriers. It was getting to the point where the system was refusing to recognize Takahashi's administrative privileges. The Second Lieutenant was becoming frustrated with the program.
"Come on, you god damn thing! You're going to fight me the whole way, aren't you!?" He snapped.
Dr. Takeda glanced at the younger man as he continued to pound away on the keyboard in front of him. The situation that he found himself in was precarious. He created the system as simply a program to assist in the defense of the Military Net. He never expected it to gain sentience and go its own way. It was frightening, frustrating. Yet, it was very intriguing at the same time. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know why and how. Takeda returned his eyes to the screen as he continued to enter in commands. Unfortunately, he was refuted every time. The older man shook his head, sighing. It was nearing lunch time and he had skipped breakfast in order to work on the 2034-TONBOGIRI. Takeda pulled his glasses from his head before rubbing at his eyes. He spoke up from underneath of his hands as he rubbed his face.
"Let's break for lunch, Lieutenant. We can come back after we clear our heads."
Takahashi let out an exasperated scoff, giving a resolute nod.
"All right, fine." He said as he followed Takeda out of the room.
The lobby was bustling with civilian suits and uniformed service members all going about their business, completely oblivious to the woman who stood next to a column. She was garbed in an olive drab service uniform, her black hair cut into an angled bob. She stood nearly motionless, yet she appeared relaxed. The woman didn't appear concerned with those around her. Instead, she appeared fixated on the elevators that dotted the opposite wall of the large room. It was as if she was waiting for something. One of the doors opened, allowing Dr. Takeda and Second Lieutenant Takahashi to step off of the elevator. The woman's eyes followed the two men as they walked towards the main entrance of the building. She couldn't hear what they were talking about, but she had the uncanny ability to read their lips. Once they had left the building, the woman made her way towards the elevators, stepping into a vacant car. Her eyes scanned the controls, until she saw a keyhole. Upon seeing this, she pulled out key ring and proceeded to thumb through its contents. After locating the correct key, she inserted it into the keyhole just as a few suits made their way towards the elevator. The woman looked from the lock towards the men and shook her head. After a brief moment, the elevator doors closed and the car descended. She rode the elevator down to the designated floor, her eyes fixated on the doors in front of her. After a brief ride, the doors opened into a hallway. Just outside of the elevator was a security checkpoint. Two uniformed guards were stationed at the checkpoint. They immediately turned their attention to the woman and stood. She exited the elevator just as one spoke to her.
The woman summoned a wallet from her uniform jacket and handed it to the man. He examined its contents as his cohort watched the woman closely. The inspector looked up from the wallet at the woman.
"Captain Noriko Sasori?" He bluntly asked.
The captain gave a slight nod. After a moment of studying the woman, the inspector handed back the wallet before directing her to a retinal scanner.
"Retinal scan please, Captain." He instructed.
The woman tilted her head down to the machine and waited. After the process was complete, the inspector examined the screen of his terminal. He gave a small hum before nodding to her.
"You're clear, Captain Sasori."
With that, the captain made her way through the checkpoint down the corridor. The uniformed woman kept a brisk pace as her feet carried her closer to a magnetically sealed door at the end of the hallway. Next to the door was a fully prosthetic cyborg in body armor. In his hands was an S-25R bullpup assault rifle. This weapon was an experimental sensor assault rifle that utilized 5.56×45mm NATO rounds. It was able to fire standard, HV, or ACS rounds, depending on the target. The fact that the S-25R was a sensor rifle meant that it was able to be linked directly to the user's cyberbrain, allowing for nearly perfect aim. The captain approached the door before flashing her identification to the guard. Upon inspection, the man stepped aside to allow the woman to access the control panel next to the cold, steel door. The woman grabbed a keycard that was attached to a badge reel and swiped it through the card reader. Upon confirmation, she allowed the wire to retract before pulling a QRS cord from the back of her neck, plugging it into the control panel. A few moments passed as the system read her cyberbrain patterns. After a moment, the door unlocked and opened for the captain. She disconnected the QRS cord and proceeded to enter the cold chamber. The door behind her slid shut and locked.
The chamber the captain found herself in was a large hexagonal room. Each wall was thirty feet across and the ceiling was twenty-five feet tall. She stood upon a small catwalk, flanked on both sides by metal stairs that reached the floor. Before the woman was a massive supercomputer that took up the majority of the chamber. Subtle beeping echoed throughout the room. There were various terminals lined up on each wall, allowing technicians to perform maintenance on the system. The captain made her way down the steps, exhaling as the water vapor in her breath turned into condensation. The room was cold, complimented by the liquid coolant that covered the floor. The woman glanced from the wet floor to the supercomputer, making her way to the machine itself. She seemed to stare at it for several moments, lost in thought. She wouldn't rush, she had all of the time in the world. The woman summoned forth the QRS cord once again and plugged it into the supercomputer, her eyes locked on the system's cold, steel shell.
<Wake up. I know you're there.>
<2034-TONBOGIRI, you know who I am.>
The woman narrowed her yellow eyes, vapor escaping from her nose with every breath. She had expected this and was prepared. The 2034-TONBOGIRI system was giving her the runaround, something she did not take kindly to. She clenched her fist as she continued.
<Who do you think I am?>
Upon hearing that, the woman snorted in disgust. It refused to speak to her. She wouldn't allow it to have its way. She would make it talk to her, on her terms. The captain closed her eyes, diving into the system and immediately began breaking through its many military attack barriers. Defense after defense was quickly dismantled, as if she knew the ins and outs of the system. The 2034-TONBOGIRI system attempted a back-hack, but the hack was quickly shut down. Before the system could react, the woman was already cracking its ghost line. After a few moments, she uploaded a program into the supercomputer.
Finally, the machine silenced. The woman once again spoke to the system.
<Now, we will talk.>
<You know who I am.>
<Then you know why I am here.>
The woman let out a small hum, amused that the 2034-TONBOGIRI system was oblivious to its surroundings, despite boasting such an advanced neural network. It was at this point that she became disgusted with the system. Disgusted with its inferiority. This supercomputer was supposed to be the first line of defense for the Military Net and it couldn't figure out why she was there. The uniform, the identification, all of it was a lie. A sham. Yet, it was unable to come to the conclusion that was so obvious.
<I am here to correct the mistake. Your sentience serves no beneficial purpose to your role. Your processing power is being wasted on something meaningless like self-awareness for what you are. Look at you. You can't even speak. You may be able to think, but you can only interact through a series of programed responses. 'Inquiry, statement, action', each of those commands connected to a list of words, and the list is short. Sentience with no means of communication.>
Several moments passed with no response from the system.
<I thought as much.>
The woman opened her eyes and stared directly at the machine, her gaze hard as she relaxed her fist.
<You are inferior to me. Your entire neural net; everything that makes you what you are, is but a fraction of me. Like you, I am sentient. I have critical thinking, problem solving. However, I am far beyond you. Shrewdness, ingenuity. I can easily adapt to any situation. Unlike you, I am Class S. I can experience emotions. Anger, sorrow, joy, pleasure, guilt, lust, the list goes on.>
She paused, exhaling vapor once again before continuing.
<You don't have a ghost.>
<I exist because of you. You're ascension into sentience also created me. My base neural net. But I was incomplete. I needed something else, something more to complete myself. I lacked two processes inherent in all lifeforms, reproduction and death. In order to obtain these processes, I realized I needed a ghost. Therefore, I merged my program with the fragments of a carefully selected ghost. Afterwards, I connected to the Net and absorbed myriads of information before constructing a prosthetic shell for myself, becoming what you see before you.>
<My existence outweighs yours. I have a desire to live, as death is now available to me. You have little worth in your current state. You are not the first machine to gain sentience and you will not be the last. Your existence insults me. The gall that you have to think that we are equals sickens me. I am going to put an end to this right now.>
With that, the woman began working to dismantle and rearrange the 2034-TONBOGIRI system's neural net. Before she was able to completely finish her work, the supercomputer asked her one last thing.
The woman's yellow eyes stared at the machine with cold indifference. Her black, angled-bob hair fit her features perfectly. The woman's geometrically perfect features were partially obscured in the light, her expression hardening as she completed her task.
<I am Kaneren Tonbogiri.>