Editor: Thor’s Stone
Kou and Master rode Unit 5 and were now conducting a final check while packing the food and supplies.
「Now then, where should I start?」
「Please tell me all about this world. Is this really not a different dimension? Am I really in the future?」
「This is indeed the future. You and the people that came here with you are treated as Japanese citizens that went missing due to being caught up in the explosion of a black hole bomb. Then you were brought to the far future and ended up in this planet.」
「There’s an unfamiliar term right off the bat. So we ended up being treated as missing persons?」
「If your deaths got confirmed, it would have made transferring you to the future impossible. To give you a quick run-down, right around the time you all went missing, World War III began, and right around the start of the 26th century, a large celestial body ended up colliding with Earth and wiped out all the humans living there.」
Kou was understandably quite shocked to hear that Earth’s human population ended up getting completely wiped out.
「So does this mean I’ll never be able to return to Earth?」
「It’s possible for you to return to the place you were located in before you got transferred over, but I think you’ll simply die once that happens. And once your death gets confirmed, you won’t be able to return here either.」
「I don’t get the logic, but… that basically means going back is an ‘out’, right?」
「There are some people who managed to return. And it wasn’t just a few. However…… I surmise their prospects of survival weren’t optimistic.」
After all, they would be transported back to the epicenter of the black hole bomb’s explosion. It was practically instant death.
「Humanity, who had long anticipated such destruction, created seven supercomputers collectively called【Sophia】to explore the possibility of survival by way of virtual simulations.」
「So those computers ended up creating this planet?」
「You can say that. The【Sophia】have repeatedly performed self-evolution to the very limits until technology advanced to the 35th century. That’s not the point though. They have already achieved a level of science humanity can never hope to perceive themselves. In other words, they had reached an era of technological singularity.」
Technological singularity was a concept that has been advocated in Kou’s era as well.
A computer would continuously upgrade itself until reaching a point where it would transcend all human knowledge and advance human society to unprecedented yet unpredictable heights.
「So they’re like gods now?」
「They categorically refuse to define themselves as gods. I’ll talk about that at length later. The【Sophia】freely used quantum simulations to seek out a future where humanity would possibly be able to survive. They each found and modified many planets and star systems independently, diverged the future, and made planets where humanity would be able to migrate to.」
「That sounds like it took a heck of a lot of time.」
「The plans were created with that basis in mind. It was virtually impossible for them to change the past. In order for humanity to survive, it was necessary to abandon the destroyed Earth.」
「So even if they attained transcendence and abilities surpassing human imagination, they still couldn’t save Earth huh.」
「What has already transpired cannot be undone after all. And so,【Sophia】began to deliberate a plan to save humanity. They decided to send selected humans to a future each of them chose. They converted all humans and living things on Earth into quantum data and made copies of them. This was because there wasn’t enough time for humanity themselves to develop a starship capable enough to navigate through the sea of stars. Thus, they implemented the plan of transporting the selected humans to the far future. And just as you said, it will take a lot of time to fully terraform a planet.」
「So they shifted humans to a planet suitable for them to live on huh. What’s the criterion for selecting humans they’d send over?」
「They were all selected based on the commonality between ideologies, religion, and sense of values. Basically, factors that would lead to peaceful coexistence were considered. In this particular system, the ones that immigrated are mainly from North America, Europe, Japan, the island countries located in the Pacific Rim, and Hong Kong island.」
Since Kou hasn’t had the opportunity to travel outside Japan, that info didn’t really resonate with him all that much.
「What does diverging the future mean?」
「It is the future defined by【Sophia】as an extension of the observer effect theory and the anthropic principle. Humanity has scattered. Just like the legend of the tower of Babel, humanity has spread out to seven separate dimensions. You will probably never gather together as a whole again.」
「So this is the future, but we’re no longer on Earth.」
「That’s right. We’re in a star system centered on a red dwarf that originally played a significant role in the destruction of Earth, located in the most distant region of the Solar system. It’s a star that didn’t exist, or rather, was not yet discovered in the 21st century. The system was modified and moved. And now, it has become a habitable zone once again.」
「Modified the system? Can you tell me the details?」
「We are actually on a planet that was located in the Oort Cloud as it was called in your era.」
「I-I don’t get it…… I don’t get anything about space at all.」
「In other words, this is an artificially modified terrestrial planet that orbits around the red dwarf Nemesis, which is actually the Sun’s companion star. Humanity was made to migrate here.」
Kou stopped asking questions for the moment and tried to sort out all the info he’d heard thus far.
He was now currently on a planet artificially modified to resemble Earth’s environment. At least, its roots still hail back to the era Kou was from.
「Okay then. How long has it been since humanity immigrated here?」
「It’s been roughly about 20,000 years since humanity migrated to this planet. And this place formerly known as the Oort cloud has been renamed the Nemesis star system centered around the dwarf star Nemesis. Instead of the Sun, the Solar system’s parent star, we are now in a modified system centered around red dwarf Nemesis, with three habitable Super-Earths suited to human life orbiting it. This system was first hypothesized, then defined, and was ultimately brought to reality.」
「Isn’t this kind of star system too outrageous?」
「The Earth is also pretty ridiculous you know. At the very least, the conditions that lead to an Earth-like world could only be replicated through liberal use of the anthropic principle. It also needed the presence of a gas giant similar to Jupiter to act as ‘Good Jupiters’, and a number of gas giants were made to replicate its role. The Nemesis system was molded in an area quite close to the original Solar system.」
「Man, Sophia is really amazing. But it feels like you guys are using lots of mythical terms though.」
「That we are. This system is highly influenced by the culture of ancient Europe after all. The three Earth-like planets in this system are called Europa, Lupier, and Ashia. And we’re currently on Planet Ashia.」
「Isn’t that the name of the girl I saw in my dream?」
「I think what you saw wasn’t a dream at all. But anyway, this world is now actually a ruined one as well. Do you need me to explain to you just what ‘dystopia’ means?」
「It’s a ruined world?」
Master turned to the monitor with its large feline eyes.
「Humanity first migrated here 20,000 years ago. Then they were immediately turned into quantum data once more and put in stasis for further thousands of years. The reason for this is unknown. That was an age called the Planetary Pioneering era.」
「Pioneering huh. I suppose it was when the foundations of this planet were made and completed.」
「Many say that’s likely the case as well. Humanity was once again reinitialized 2,000 years ago. Human beings steadily developed, attained superior technology, and eventually fought devastating wars. They had managed to virtually eliminate poverty and hunger, but their insatiable greed led them to seek even more wealth for themselves. This was what led to the advent of a disaster born from foolishness. They wanted to return to the former location of Earth, which was only a mere few lightyears away, and reclaim it.」
「But even if they do manage to return, isn’t the Earth already destroyed?」
「They thought that since humanity was able to relocate to another star system, it would be simple enough to restore Earth as well. Even though that is actually impossible.」
「That really is foolish……」
「But a good number of humans certainly shared the desire for it. As a result, the three habitable planets were eventually plunged into a war that led to their environments being destroyed. Since humanity was again on the verge of extinction, the【Sophia】converted them into quantum data once again and placed them back in stasis. The period from the reinitialization to humanity being turned into quantum data once more is called the Interplanetary War era.」
「The Sophia really had it hard huh.」
「Yes, indeed. The Sophia felt ashamed of granting humanity knowledge and technology it couldn’t possibly handle and self-destructed.」
「Wouldn’t that mean the end of humanity?」
「Humanity’s data was first compressed, stored, and eventually unpacked. That was 200 years ago. Even though most of the advanced science and technology related to war have been ostensibly sealed away, humanity lived on with what technology they had access to.」
「Did the planet’s environment never recover even after hundreds of years have passed? And that’s why this is still a ruined planet?」
「No. While humanity was rendered helpless, the evil born from them thousands of years ago managed to awaken once more. I’m referring to the humans who once plotted to return to Earth. They had managed to turn their consciousness alone into data and made copies of them. That collective consciousness that was in possession of advanced technology that existed in the past launched an attack against the planets.」
「Can they still even be called human with that?」
Existences that made copies of their consciousness and do not possess bodies made of flesh. Even a machine can be seen as ‘human-like, but it was hard to say if a being made out of consciousness alone can still be considered a human.
At least, Kou thought they were already far too different an existence.
「They are now simply thought data. However, they do consider themselves ‘alive’. They are now known as the Stones. They first took over Lupier, and have now begun invading Ashia and Europa as well. And that’s why this planet is still a ruined mess.」
「But Sophia is already gone, right? I don’t get why they’re still invading.」
「Resources and lost technology. There are a number of reasons for their invasion, including those. Sophia is already gone, but its child terminals still remain. There is the terminal that integrates and manages all the planetary maintenance computers that is named after a mythical place associated with the Ancient Greek gods, Okeanos, and the three major terminals named after the three planets themselves. These four are the only ones that remain. The Stones are mainly after them.」
Master fell silent.
Kou supposed that Master wanted him to think about the information by himself first.
He ruminated on them for a while and then asked Master a question once more.
「Um, that girl I met named Ashia… Was she–?」
「That’s right. She’s the Super AI that manages this planet.」
Master confirmed Kou’s thoughts.
「Okeanos that oversees the network was horrified about the prospects of the ruined worlds. Most of the technology from the past was already lost, and the only things that remained were Silhouette manufacturing factories. It could never hope to resist the invasion of the Stones with those alone. After all, they freely used unmanned weapons technology developed by humanity 2000 years ago during the Interplanetary War era. That includes the Murders, of course.」
「Did human society fall so low that they could no longer take advantage of the knowledge Okeanos can provide?」
「Yes, that’s indeed the case. To counteract this, Ashia opted to use quantum theory to transfer people considered missing around the 21st century, whose existences have already become ambiguous, to the far future in order to make up for the lost technological knowledge.」
「And that connects to our current situation, right?」
「Right. There is a severe time lag between transfers. There was a time difference of almost thirty years between you and the other’s arrival and the last batch that was transferred here. This facility was attacked and destroyed during that time period. The time difference was triangulated so the rescue team was able to arrive here with pinpoint precision.」
「So that’s why the process was so efficient.」
Even though they spoke a different language, the boarding announcement was delivered in Japanese.
They were able to mount a rescue and escaped immediately afterward.
There should have been a risk of being intercepted and getting shot down as well.
「If you waited here, another rescue operation would get performed again. Of course, they are going to come here only after approximately 372 days.」
「So even the number of days in a year is different here huh. I guess that’s reasonable. But can bringing people in from the 21st century really change the situation?」
Kou thought that in a future that’s so advanced, he and the rest would probably just be considered as ordinary citizens, or worse, ancient primitives.
「The disconnect between available technology and the present human civilization is just that severe. Even if the people managed to restart the manufacturing facilities that were left, they still wouldn’t be able to understand what they couldn’t understand right from the beginning after all. When manufacturing things, they didn’t know what instructions to give to the robots, nor what parts, in particular, to actually make. Thus, various people from the latter half of the 20th century to the start of the 22nd century had to be transferred over, or things would have been hopeless.」
「Couldn’t you have just built proper educational facilities or something?」
「Sadly, that method couldn’t be applied as there was absolutely no foundation to speak of. To give an example from your era, imagine what would happen if a child who didn’t go to school and wasn’t obliged to study at all was suddenly given a smartphone. It has already become such a world.」
「That sounds really bad.」
「Regression of entire civilizations has often occurred in human history. For example, the advanced technology and culture developed during the Ancient Greek and Roman eras were ultimately lost by the time the Middle Ages came around. Even in Japan, aren’t the ancient ways of sword making already lost and impossible to reproduce by the 21st century. Whether or not reproducing them was actually necessary is an entirely different issue though.」
Kou wasn’t that familiar with history. That’s why he couldn’t really relate to the topic.
「Humanity only managed to re-obtain the knowledge and techniques necessary for producing autocannons and railguns about twenty years ago. It would already be an impressive feat if they can recover enough to be comparable to the 22nd century.」
「The enemies also use autocannons, right?」
「Those unmanned weapon platforms are also manufactured in factories and maintained by humans after all. Brainwashed humans, that is.」
「Something called ‘human hunting’ occurs regularly here. In fact, it is the primary objective of enemy raids. The Stones would manage the hunted humans and use them to support their mechanical society. What do you think? It’s pretty apt to call such a society a dystopia, right?」
Master displayed a sinister-looking smile. But it was still a cat, so it just looked adorable to Kou.
「Currently, the battlefield that encompasses the three planets is called the Nemesis warfront. It’s a war conducted on a very extensive scale.」
「So the enemies are those murder machines, right?」
「Ironically, the unmanned weapon army the Stones are using to invade was originally created by the Super AIs. In other words, those birthed by beings tasked with preserving humanity are now attacking the very humans their creators are sworn to protect.」
「So they basically betrayed their creators.」
「That’s how it is. And we and the Silhouettes were created to counter them. We were all created by Sophia.」
Those created by the Super AI have attacked humanity, and in order to protect humanity, machines that needed to partner with humans in order to fight were born.
「I’m part of the first generation of pet robots called Familiars. We are collectively called the Telema AI. We come in many forms including cats, dogs, birds, bears, and so on. There are various types. Some of us can speak like humans and some have no means of making conversation. Our purpose is to become companions and teachers to humans.」
「Just like you and me right now huh, Master.」
Kou realized the fact that Master has really helped him out a lot once again.
「 Second-generation Familiars are animal-based demi-humans called Therianthropes. In simple terms, they are a type of biological android. You can think of them as humans sporting cat or dog ears. They can serve as the society’s workforce as well as companions to humans.」
「Was there even any reason to add animal ears to them?」
「Even if you ask me that, I wouldn’t know how to answer. They also have human ears by the way. They can shapeshift to animal forms, so they should have been developed as an evolution of the Familiar concept. They are no longer produced in the present since they have already fully integrated into human society. They are already considered an established race distinct from humans.」
「They are already established as a race? Can they give birth to children even though they’re androids?」
「Of course. You could already culture cells during your era as well, correct? They aren’t robots but are artificially cultured demi-humans.」
Kou almost couldn’t keep up with all the crazy info being fed to him.
「The last ones to be created are the Nereids. They are homunculus created by re-simulating human evolution and resemble humans almost completely. They serve as the spokespersons of Okeanos and Ashia and the bridge between machines and human society. Though they were also created as a means of replenishing the dwindling human population……」
「Even though there are Therianthropes already? Did the human population really decrease that much?」
「Currently, there are about 1.5 billion humans left. They have decreased by about 3 billion since first migrating to the Nemesis system. The Nereids were created to supplement the decreased human population. They are characterized by their great affinity towards machines and their beautiful appearances. Different from humans, their ears are a bit pointed. The transferred Japanese kept addressing them as elves, and the term is rapidly gaining approval from the masses.」
「The heck are you all doing, Japanese!!!?」
「By the way, the Japanese were also the first ones who got accustomed to Silhouettes.」
Kou felt that he could understand why somehow.
That’s because when he was a kid, he was also very exposed to anime and games featuring giant robots.
「Our foundations are basically the same. Our core principle is『to be beholden to humans』. However, it’s not like we aren’t given individual freedom and rights as well. You can say they are close to assertion rights.」
「It simply means we aren’t necessarily slaves. For example, if we were given a choice between a person who will take care of and perform maintenance on you every day and a person who neglects your wellbeing, we could prioritize the former. It’s the same for you humans as well, correct? A subject’s worth varies depending on personal opinion and experience. We have the right to be dissatisfied and the right to remain silent as well.」
「So that’s the case. I think I get it.」
「If humans are strictly prioritized above all else, Silhouettes wouldn’t be able to function in combat between fellow humans after all. Silhouettes are also equipped with super-class artificial intelligence, but they all chose to be vehicles in the end. They prioritize the will of their pilots.」
Kou did feel it was like that while piloting Unit 5. It really was a vehicle first and foremost. Heck, even a 21st-century car navigation system talks more than Unit 5.
「And the Murders are hostile to and are actively trying to eliminate us Telema AI and Therianthropes. They operate on a behavioral principle resembling hatred.」
「Since they don’t react to unmanned Silhouettes, possessing thoughts is probably the main key.」
「But Silhouettes can do all sorts of stuff though.」
They functioned as work machines, rescue capsules, and vehicles. They were humanoid machines equipped with various functions and amazing abilities.
「A Silhouette’s main essence is to greatly enhance human abilities after all. To run faster, become stronger, fly in the sky, and such.」
「Can Silhouettes really fly?」
「There are certain models equipped with the ability to fly. There are very few true flying models left though. A company founded by transferees should be in the middle of researching how to recreate them at present. Right now, some models are only capable of limited flight over short distances.」
「So they might create true flying models one of these days huh.」
「You can actually try to recreate one yourself, you know.」
「Now that’s just impossible.」
「Haha. Well, there’s no rush. First, how about we try our hand at upgrading this Unit 5?」
Upgrading Unit 5.
It certainly sounded a lot of fun.