The Tomorrow

Chapter 1

Currently I am being...investigated. A large group of Micronians, educated in a wide variety of subjects, are helping me to understand this culture more directly and thoroughly, precisely explaining any abstractions.

Certain authorities were interested in my particular reactions to Micronian society, because they thought they would be more complex than the norm.

I was told it was inevitable that some of the people working with me would turn out to be female, as they list of qualified candidates was understandably low. My reply was that if that was what the situation called for, I would overcome my natural aversions. There was reason for any project to be disabled because of that.

In truth, the notion of having some Micronian females working directly with me, well, it was a trifle overwhelming in abstract. Still, I told myself that I would persevere.

Because of the project, I was often allowed to walk among the citizens of the yet-unfinished New Macross City, always followed by one of the Micronians studying me.

I am mostly pleased with how they are fulfilling their function: these were pragmatic people, able to see outside of themselves and follow a labyrinth of explanations and counter-explanations far past the original topic.

On that day I was with Miss Penny Mirman, who was a female member of the team, and I was handling that well. I wore the dignitary's uniform that had been given to me upon arrival at the SDF-1 to replace my Mirocnization jerkin, though as always it felt curiously light without the cowl around my neck.

What of the city was habitable was well-lit and had a good deal of people present, trying to live as if their future was secure. I recognized our own soldiers, and the Micronized females who had started to venture out. I was happy to see that their acclimatization was done.

Both Zentraedi and Micronian were staring at us as we entered the more populous parts of the zone. I never forgot that Mirman was there, able to volunteer information at any request, but I intended simply to observe for a few moments.

I then noticed two female Zentraedi who were on the part of the street segregated for walking. Like us, neither could pass for Micronian: Althine Calo had a malformed jawline, similar to what Rico has, and green skin, while Ninelva Thalia had light blue skin, but an otherwise Micronian-normal facial structure, though the scar that split the left side of her face and distorted her mouth might have concealed the fact.

Yet at that time, Ninelva's face was nearly hidden by a stack of small cargo objects she was carrying in her arms. Three of these objects were indented and paler around a respective three of their sides. I had never seen anything like them.

They were talking about something strange, and I could only make out that, "Well, it must have been extremely painful. When you compare the size of the head to the--"

Ninelva was the first to notice me. She cried, "Y-Your Excellency!" and then began an attempt to salute and balance her armful of goods, managing this after only a small amount of clumsiness. "Pardon us, Your Excellency! If we'd have only known--"

At the time, I wasn't thinking of protocol, and just asked them, "Excuse me, what are those that you have there?", trying to be overly polite to make the situation less awkward.

But when she tried to speak, Ninelva was interrupted by the sound of Althine laughing. Althine then snapped her head down and said, "You're really something, aren't you, Ninelva! Are you feeling frightened when the rank and file no longer applies?"

Ninelva glared at her. "It does apply. Show some respect to the Minister!"

"You must have used up all your courage when we left." She turned back to me. "I don't know what they are; we just picked them from the vendor because they looked interesting. They said we should give it back after some time period." She snatched one from atop Ninelva's pile and opened it, using her fingers to run through the thinner, paler parts so that they blurred. "I'm guessing from the characters inside it's a primitive way of storing information."

Mirman remarked, "Those are books. You've been to the Mobile Library?"

"Who're you?" Ninelva looked at Mirman with something like suspicion.

"I am the emissary's aide. Part of my duty is to explain any aspects of human culture he finds himself unfamiliar with."

That made it sound like Mirman had more authority than she truly did, being only one part of a motley group. But Althine only grinned, and snapped the book shut. "Come on, Ninelva. I won't have you embarrassing us in front of the emissary." She slapped Ninelva on the shoulder, almost causing her to drop her things, before placing the book back atop the pile.

Still glaring at her, Ninelva followed Althine in the other direction, away from us, though she turned to look over her shoulder once.

"Obviously it's going to be difficult," Mirman muttered after a few moments had passed; I was uncertain what she referred to.

She then turned then to me, and said, "I guess your defectors never brought any books back with them," in a tone that wasn't questioning.

"No," I told her. "It's obvious that record-keeping would be put to non-military purposes here. How do you go about it?"

"Hm. If you don't mind my impertinence, Sir, would this be because of the personal interest you'd have in such matters?"

"Er...possibly." I didn't like answering such private questions, and had never even thought about the reason for my inquiry. It was just to get more information, that was all.

We walked, and she put forth an explanation to me that included several aspects beyond what I had just seen, covering the basic history of how Micronians authored and exchanged information.

At one point I interrupted her and asked, "That term, 'scholar', could you explain it to me?"

Now, Mirman's face is rarely expressive, but she seemed to smile with her voice. "You might like this. Or not, depending. Scholars are a specialized branch in most human cultures, devoted to the categorization, interpretation, and expression of knowledge, sometimes usually for the purposes of educating others, but they do it as much for its own sake as anything else. There are different levels and...scales of compensation, but this is what they are."

Still I found myself more drawn to this, er, that is, drawn to this in a different way than our previous encounters with Micronian culture. This struck me on a very different level than Minmei's song. It caused me to wonder for the first time what a different life might have been like, to pursue knowledge for its own sake, to expound upon it and rearrange it for my pleasure, not just when the outward situation called for it.

There was no need for her to explain the connection, the conclusion. She and the rest of her group had been briefed before meeting me for the first time, knew my function. I was always satisfied with using my knowledge only for the purpose of making war. I was never unhappy.Still...

Yet what was clear to me from that very moment was that I would never be able to share in such affairs. I was too valuable to the alliance, both currently, and in regards to whatever difficulties might arise in the future.

Mirman then led me to what was ironically nicknamed the Mobile Library, located on the outskirts of the city's habitable areas, and also near a current site of construction.

An old, dilapidated transport, permanently downed, it housed a group of Micronians working to make copies of the remains of the Earth's media culture, for distributing it more equally among the population and preserving it for future...generations.

All media materials had been forcibly but temporarily confiscated from every remaining Micronian of every rank, though I was told that some in charge of the Library were optimistic that there were other media remaining in underground facilities, untouched by the razing.

As we entered the transport, one of the archivists asked, "What is he doing here?"

"The ambassador just happens to be curious about this. We're not going to be here long, if it makes you feel any better."

"I thought they only liked pop music," another remarked from behind a stack of video media, then chuckled.

Mirman only made a small, disgusted noise, and walked away from them. "If you'd come this way, Sir, I can show you around the transport."

I decided to ignore the insolence of them both. Perhaps because they had the most scholarly connotations, I ended up mostly borrowing books from the Mobile Library, both digital-replacement copies and some authentic ones. I ended up returning them before the deadline, apparently extremely fast by their standards, especially because I didn't have much "leisure time" (a concept I was starting to like).

Mirman went on to tell me that even in peacetime, scholars were not viewed in a favourable light by the majority of the population, as desiccated or bloated creatures wasting their lives away from the "real" world (some layers of that definition had been explained to me earlier, in addition to how it related to fiction), who are weak when forced out of their enclosed lives. "In times of war, intellectualism becomes a luxury that we cannot afford," she said, quoting a commentary on an earlier Micronian war.

"And yet perhaps one of the reasons that we were drawn to you was because your people are allowed occupations tailored to the individual, regardless of what seems the most pragmatic."

"It's true." She also nodded to emphasize the point. "And perhaps in the future, some of your people will be able to discover that freedom...and the fear that goes along with it. Some humans would consider it a blessing to have a guaranteed future, even if it is just killing, or aiding in killing."

I did not feel any discomfort at her statement, and Mirman was apparently chosen for her ability to be direct. She also explained to me the idiom of the grass being greener.

Still, I was undeterred. Perhaps, Sir, such things as started the mass defections are a fundamental part of the sentient psyche, able only to be buried but never destroyed, even by the most sophisticated of makers. For surely it would explain the rapid turnaround of some of our people.

--

Upon a later visit to the Mobile Library, I noticed a full-sized Zentraedi warrior wandering about in the distance, wearing only a purple jumpsuit.

"He's walking strangely," Mirman observed, with me once again.

Another Zentraedi soldier came into the scene as I was talking to Mirman, walking straighter. He seemed to be getting into an altercation with the first one, who was waving his arms and pointing in our direction.

Mirman said, in a low voice, "Perhaps we should leave, Sir."

But they were already leaving themselves, disappearing into the monotonous landscape. My attention was distracted by someone shouting, "Your Excellency!" and it took me a moment to register that fact; very strange.

I saw Althine and Ninelva again, loitering at the perimeter of the construction site. Ninelva was the one who'd called to me this time, and she even jogged over, which made me uncomfortable.

It was doubled when Althine followed, though at a slower pace. But I asked Ninelva what she was doing there. Her reply was, "I wanted to see how they rebuilt their things. Look at the size of those machines! Uh, I mean, in comparison to them, not us. It's weird."

Althine only said, "It looks like you've found your own appeal in Micronian culture," clearly looking at the books under my arm.

"Uh, yes. But this is only a temporary engagement. I am still very much needed in my duties as emissary."

"I guess there's more to this culture than Minmei, though I never knew what the males saw in her."

Before I could reply, there was a great commotion within the construction zone. Micronians began shouting, there was a tremendous clash of metal, and one of those long-necked construction machines crashed down near to where we stood. I only had a brief glimpse of the debris kicked up by the impact, as I'd dropped instinctively to the ground and covered my head.

A voice like the growl of a distant explosion then erupted above me.

"Your Excellency! Fraternizing with females, now? We live in an ugly world, don't we?"

I heard Mirman utter a curse, and got up myself.

The male from the outskirts was standing over me; he was Cernus Formo. I'd explained to the Micronians about secondary names and the cloned lines which shared no connection but the similar appearance, nothing like what they would make of it. But I'm sure that many of them would still read some kind of twisted fate into what happened next.

Cernus' comrade, Epimet Arus, who to them would have only resembled a black-haired, light-skinned Micronian, walked up to Cernus and put a hand on his shoulder. "You're picking on a Micronized noncombatant, Cernus. Why don't you not try to act like a coward for once?"

Epimet seemed to be joking, but Cernus shook off his hand. "Shut up! It's his fault that I had to run! That I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing!"

"You would be dead, that's what you'd be doing!"

"What are you talking about!" Althine shouted up at them, somehow the loudness not breaking her stoicism.

The three of them all began to argue. I looked behind me and saw that by this time, several of the citizens had gathered behind us and were talking in a low murmur, though there were much louder military personnel trying to make sure they stayed a safe distance away.

"Stay out of this!" Cernus finally roared at Althine. He put a hand to his face. "I hate it here! We're not meant for this!"

He began to struggle with his Epimet, who was first laughing, then trying to hold him back in earnest as Cernus became wilder. Several of the Micronians behind us screamed, and Mirman or someone else grabbed the sleeve of my uniform to pull me back. I do not know why I couldn't make that move myself.

My feet skidded in the sand, legs weak, and then Cernus was twisting free of Epimet and stooping down for me, his fingers the size of my body. But blood suddenly began to spurt from them, as the sound of a small gun rang in my ears. I looked back and saw that Mirman was the one firing on him, most of the shots going wild; likely she was unused to the weapon.

"You!" screamed Ninelva, presumably at Cernus. "What do you think you're doing!"

He grunted, and moved towards her, ignoring his bleeding hand, which the bullets had not done much damage to. "Females, stay out of this! You were only--" He staggered, feet thundering, and Mirman pulled me back harder, all they way into the crowd of Micronians, who had overcome their curiosity and were also fleeing.

But we hadn't ran far before others began to stop to look back, and I did the same. The reason was that Cernus seemed just to be weaving in tight circles, bringing no danger to the Mobile Library transport. He was chasing after Ninelva now, seeming to ignore Althine, who made no move to interfere. For the first time it occurred to me that Cernus might be drunk instead of simply confused.

Ninelva then ran towards the construction site, but ducked down and came back up with a long piece of metallic debris. She hurled it expertly, impaling Cernus's cheek near the eye. He screamed, holding both hands to the wound, and Epimet was finally able to lead him away, with a salute and an apologetic smile. I do not know where they are now.

The Micronian male in charge of the Mobile Library found Mirman and I. "I think you should go now," he said, before I could react. He pointed in the direction of Althine and Ninelva. "And take those...women with you, too."

"That is stupid!" cried Althine. She covered the distance between us very fast, shoving Mirman aside to get to the male. "Cernus was the one who was acting like a fool!"

Mirman stepped up to Althine, who was almost a head taller than she was. There was a pause, before Mirman began shouting, heedless of the differences between them. "Do you believe that all this can be overcome within a few months? That beings cloned and conditioned for war can adapt to an unfamiliar civilian life without trouble? Do you believe that fear against Zentraedi is not justified? You should be lucky there are better examples out there!"

Without changing expression, Althine lunged and grabbed Mirman's wrist, turning her around and pulling the smaller female close to her chest. "Micronian wretch!" she growled, but the end was cut off, as she twisted Mirman's arm hard enough to make it break, before pushing her roughly to the ground.

Mirman didn't get up from where she had fallen, was instead screaming continuously, her legs scratching in the dirt. Several more from the Mobile Library rushed up and tried to restrain Althine. Ninelva shouted and darted to get between her and the men, bringing several down with a sharp elbow to their stomachs.

"This woman needs medical attention!" shouted one of the civilians over the commotion, one of the many who'd come to surround the writhing Mirman.

A soldier was soon with me. "You'd better come with us, Sir; things stand to get messy here. Sir?"

I only reacted the second time he addressed me. "Oh, er, yes," I said.

It was startling to me. I am never unaware that I have much to learn about the finer points of Micronian emotions, but this was particularly unsettling.

He took me in a jeep, saying, "Your aide will be going to the infirmary, and we should have no trouble detaining the Zentraedi women."

I only nodded, for once unable to find words.

After I was returned to New Macross City I was advised that I should stay within its boundaries as much as possible, be escorted when I couldn't, and anything I expressed interest in would be brought to me. Several Micronians admitted they been incorrect to assume that there was no potential risk to me from my own people.

It...hurt to renege on my previous optimistic predictions. Not only because I was becoming more invested in this change, but because I had let that investment unbalance me, temporarily blind me to the complexities inherent in our situation. I should not have done that.

Milord, I think this is the beginning of something much darker.

--

I continue to ask for information on a wide variety of topics, and to exchange books with the Mobile Library, this time through a proxy. I have turned my attention to the subjects Micronians call "Psychology" and "Philosophy", studies of the mind and cultural ethics, their possibilities, and speak with my observers accordingly.

It seems that their people have wrestled with similar questions of destiny and free will throughout the centuries and none had reached a satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps they never would, due to the complicated reactions and opinions.

I told myself that I ought to just be satisfied with the idea that some Zentraedi would adjust, and some would not and have to be dealt with. But there was a disquieting sense about the whole thing; we were a people, a collective, the last of our race. If a large number of us posed a threat, then what were the "good ones" to do?

"Good ones".

Mirman was still under confinement for having a concealed weapon on her, though she had gotten medical treatment and might not be removed from the program if she showed penitence. I sent my sympathies, but not without hidden reservations. After the incident I have begun looking at her differently.

--

"Toys of destruction." How else to describe beings with such a singular purpose, working at the whims and behests of others, mere objects to be discarded when their purpose has been served, as Micronian children outgrow their own playthings? And taken out of our natural role, we could perhaps not become more than toys.

Such thoughts have begun recurring as these uprisings continue. I realize now...that I may want us to have this new life, not just because we have nowhere else to go or because it provides us with new playthings, but because we may somehow need it to be actualized creatures. Madness to contemplate, when we'd gotten on so well before.

And part of me cannot quite believe in the sense of futility inspired by these events. Whatever happens, I will not forsake my own role, nor my books, and I know that all of us who desire peace will continue to put up a strong front.

And with the research into the relationship between Micronians, Zentraedi, and Protoculture quickening its pace, I have little time for brooding.