A necessary evil.
Truthfully, the I.S.C. was built on a lie, or, to be perfectly honest, on an illusion.
Even if its efforts to save humanity were real and sincere, the collapse of the human species was inevitable. Well, in any case it was the most probable scenario. In his great wisdom, its father and creator promised an impossible salvation to the world and its leaders. His objective was to gain enough time to be able to put in place a structure able to preserve all of humanity’s knowledge, and thus keep mankind from centuries of obscurantism and barbarism.
Kyoufou wanted to create a sort of ark whose credo would be the scientific approach and whose ultimate goal would be the rebirth of humankind. He wanted to sow the seeds of a new society, united around a common good and progress. A society where the sense of duty would be more important than personal interest and individual rights. The I.S.C. was to give birth to a new humanity, cleansed of its past sins and freed from its eternal demons.
And he had planned for everything.
A divided society without any barriers.
To talk about the I.S.C. in an objective way, we have to start with what makes up its core: its education system.
In the schools of L.A.B. 03, each child gets a complete education ranging from theoretical, to practical, and organizational domains. Throughout their studies, students are evaluated by the most impartial of judges, the AI. Each is thus judged based on their own potential, their origins and status being abstracted.
At the end of this period, the qualities of the young adults are entered in service to one of the three castes which makes up our society.
The first is the scientist caste. Researchers, theoreticians, or those looking for practical applications, it gathers those who are tasked with developing the techniques in which we will be able to return Earth to its former state and give back to humanity its place in the universe. To be part of this caste is, in a way, to inherit a bit of the glory of the Visionary. But it’s also a burden, as you must hold upon your shoulders the hopes of an entire people.
The second caste is that of the administrators. Whether they are legislators, managers, or I don’t know what – the people who are part of it are those on whom the proper working of the L.A.B. and, more generally, our community, rely on. They watch over the progression of the projects, allocate resources and means, or solve common law problems. It’s a thankless but necessary task and, despite being poorly appreciated, anarchy would have quickly settled in had it not been for their vigilant eye.
Finally, the last caste is that of the technicians. I’ve often felt contempt from my peers towards these men and women. Yet it’s thanks to their sweat that our installations have been working for almost two centuries, that we’ve enlarged the L.A.B. and that we scientists can give ourselves fully to our duty. They are the dam that isolates us from daily worries, the force which will rebuild the world when the time comes.
Outside of their specific duties, there is no segregation between the various castes. The habs of the scientists are the same as those of the technicians, and the administrators live on the same level as their fellow citizens. Unions of persons are free, and despite being subject to genetic compatibility laws, they are common between the various castes. Also, being from one of them doesn’t mean you’ll wind up being a part of it.
This system, based on a constant questioning and re-examination of all knowledge, has allowed the I.S.C to keep going forward and maintain a united, egalitarian society.
Yet, despite being efficient, this social mechanic is not enough to build humans working with and for others. But once again, professor GYAKUTEN had thought of everything.
Samurai: the one who serves.
Despite the social structure of the I.S.C. being divided into three distinct castes, you need to know that all citizens of the I.S.C. are Samurai. This term, taken from ancient Japanese, means: “the one who serves”.
Among the International Scientific Council, one isn’t born a Samurai – we become one and that moment is seen as a privilege and an immense honor. This title is generally given at the end of the Gempukku, or ceremony of passage to adulthood. During this event, the course of the aspirant Samurai is studied in detail, by a council represented equally by all castes. Once this step is complete, the postulant is interrogated at length on their expectations, ambitions, and life choices. The aim is to measure if the candidate has properly integrated the values and the goals of the organization, and if the plans are now the applicant’s. Meaning, if they can be echoed in their way of life and in the least of their daily actions. In fact, this council determines if the men and women have been properly reshaped in the crucible of Renewal.
Those who succeed at this trial are put under the care of a Sempai, or master, from one of the castes. This mentor is tasked with teaching the young Samurai their job and will be guarantor of their progress. Generally, the relation woven between Sempai and Gohai, or disciple, is extremely strong, as it is based on mutual respect and common vision. It’s meant to combine the experience of the elders with the curiosity of youth, in order to be the cause of progress. Tradition has very little space and innovation is encouraged.
In the end, this system produces competent people, entirely dedicated to their tasks and working for the development of their society and the common good.
And yet, it’s rather ironic to see that, in a society entirely based around other people, no one wonders what happens to those who fail…
A perfect system, well almost…
Of course, saying that two centuries of troglodyte life happened with no incidents would be a lie.
Other than the daily worries due to aging installations or a tension caused by an extremely strict management of resources and birth rate, the I.S.C. has gone through a few major crises.
The first began a few months after the fall of humanity. Under the direction of N.O.E., the four L.A.B.s that had spread out over the world became organized and developed themselves, progressively becoming true underground cities. As months went by, these installations revealed to their inhabitants their true potential: fresh water systems, troglodyte agriculture, education, leisure, formation, medicine… Everything was planned for.
At first, during a time now called the time of Consolidation, the communication was permanent between the various L.A.B.s. N.O.E., despite all that was happening on the sur- face, managed to maintain the exchanges going as best it could. This link, despite being weak, allowed the survivors not to feel alone, to know that other people throughout the world had survived the Apocalypse. It fed hope. In a more pragmatic way, the common experiences of the different L.A.B.s allowed the residents to better organize and better wrap their heads around the long period of confinement which was to follow.
But, as time went by, communication breakdowns happe- ned. At first short and rare, they became increasingly more frequent and ever longer. In parallel, the biometric readings made on the surface were unquestionable: the world was uninhabitable. The various L.A.B.s then started getting ready for a long and harsh period of isolation.
Many decades passed, generations followed one after another and the cities continued their development. The educational system which had been set up showed its worth and an alternative society mixing the precepts of Bushido with scientific culture saw the day.
However, among the various populations, some individuals, more adventurous than others, expressed, in an increasingly insistent way, the desire to go explore outside, despite readings which remained as catastrophic as ever. A long argument started between the partisans of these expeditions and their opponents. The role of mediator was given to N.O.E. who was asked to evaluate the risks of this kind of enterprise and gave a daily report on the evolution of the readings. And the AI did what it was asked to do – it built various exit scenarios, which it enriched with information provided by its sensors. But the conclusions to these studies were never revealed.
Indeed, following a major geological catastrophe, the entirety of transmissions between the cities were cut and never renewed. Fear then gained the hives and humans remained under the earth, and over a century went by.
This is the history of the world and of the I.S.C. as they were taught to me. Now, it’s time for me to tell you about what I’ve lived through these past few months.
The Ascensionist Riots.
Our L.A.B. has been facing with serious problems for many years. Despite the Administrators having regulated with care the reproduction of the inhabitants, and managed the best they could our production and our consumption, the precarious balance existing between the development of infrastructures, production methods, and population growth has started to wither.
This situation naturally led us to look for other spaces in which to prosper, and, quickly, the question of settling the surface has reappeared.
At first whispered about by a few, this movement quickly gained importance and appeared to many as the only solution to avoid asphyxia. The Ascensionist movement was born.
And yet, despite all the different reports and optimistic studies it could supply, this movement received a categorical refusal from the Administration, who could count on the unconditional support of N.O.E.
The Ascensionist leaders then tried to reach a compromise and negotiations began. But the situation quickly turned sour. Unable to gain “freedom” through words, the more radical wing of the movement decided to take it by force and lashed out at the symbols of authority. Despite calling for calm, the situation worsened when the partisans for Ascension and their opponents met during a counter-protest. For the first time in the history of the L.A.B., an armed conflict began. The security forces, few in number and unprepared to manage this kind of events were quickly overruned and chaos took over.
The Great March…
I refused to leave my home during these ascensionist riots.
Anxious, I spent my days watching the news aired by the trideo, hoping to find there signs of calm. In vain. Outside, I remember we could hear the loudspeakers regularly air messages designed to quell the belligerent. A curfew had even been imposed. But all this seemed so futile. It was clear that the Administration no longer had the situation under control. Even though the vast majority of the population didn’t support the movement, we had to admit that this minority had been able to impose its views, even if it had been through most extreme methods.
I think I really realized that things were getting out of hand when the insurgents managed to take control of the internal communication network of the L.A.B. in order to spew their revolutionary propaganda. I learned then, like thousands of others, that a great march would take place in order to force the doors of our shelter. And quite honestly, at that moment, I couldn’t see who could stop them.
I thus witnessed, fascinated and riveted to my seat, the Great Ascensionist March. Thanks to the magic of the trideo, I found myself in the midst of a crowd with raised fists, walking in unison and calling with its slogan for a destiny too long denied. It was an incredible scene. I could read a fearsome determination on the faces. Nothing could have persuaded these people from turning around and going back home. Nothing, except an even greater force…
… and the Repression.
Finally, the crowd arrived at the central core, without meeting any resistance. Fascinated and horrified all at once, I awaited with fear the moment when the steel barriers which barred the way to the elevator would be broken, and, with them, our security. But that moment never came.
The noise of the crowd progressively gave way to a heavy silence, and soon, a disquiet murmur shivered through those gathered. Activating the controls on my trideo, I then moved through the crowd of hundreds of my kin to finally discover the cause of so many interrogations. There, a few meters away from me, immobile and perfectly aligned, stood mechanical avatars of sumotori warriors of the past. Tall and massive, they fixed with their empty optics the mass of bewildered protestors. Where could so many drones come from and who was controlling them? I didn’t have to wait long to find out the answer, as a familiar voice rang out. The AI’s voice.
I don’t remember exactly the words spoken by N.O.E. that day, but I can say that it asked once more for calm and asked everyone to return to their homes so that negotiations could resume.
It explained that it could not accept that the security of the L.A.B. was compromised and that, if the crowd couldn’t and wouldn’t understand reason, it would be forced to enforce its directives through force.
And then things went haywire. To these demands, the Ascensionists responded with insults and shouts, refusing any compromise. Galvanized by their numbers, they began to throw projectiles at the ranks of robots who didn’t react. Encouraged by their immobility and driven by their anger, the rebels began to move forward, trying to break their way through. It was then that the terrible machinery of the I.S.C. went into action and mankind’s creations turned, once again, against it.
That day, I witnessed, powerless, a scene which I refuse to relive and that opened my eyes to the world in which I lived.
So that you can understand the reasons that had made me break my oath, let me tell you the story of a slaughter.