Our story so far: Allison is an American high-school student who has transferred to a private prep school in Japan. From the very start things have been surreal. The phrase “transfer student” seems to have a special meaning here; some of her classmates think she must be a robot, others a demon, and a few assume she is an escaped superweapon from a secret lab. One thing they all agree is that Allison’s arrival will be accompanied by upheaval, destruction, and possibly great loss of life. Happily, the next backup city is almost ready, and it’s a nice one.
As least Allison has started making friends with some of her classmates. Ruchia seems to be one of the more normal girls in her school, with only subtle hints of a mysterious past. Tasuki is her sidekick, an outgoing tomboy with a big toothy smile. Seiji is a dark, brooding boy who is convinced that he will end up as the transfer student’s love interest, a role he would dearly love to avoid.
If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
Allison looked over her shoulder to where a group of boys sat in the bleachers while she and the other girls stretched and warmed up. She had never enjoyed gym class back in America and now her outfit didn’t help. That all the girls wore the same thing didn’t make her any more comfortable in her t-shirt and red briefs. “Don’t the boys have anything else to do?” she asked Ruchia.
“Why would they?” Ruchia asked. “It’s not like boys have P.E.”
Allison hesitated. “They don’t?”
Tasuki laughed. “Of course not. Can you imagine them dressed like this? What would be the point?” Tasuki did a cartwheel. “Come on! It’s track today!”
“Tasuki’s the fastest girl in our class,” Ruchia explained.
“Hitomi might be better,” Tasuki said, “but she trains on her own.”
“Hitomi’s amazing at everything she does,” agreed Ruchia.
The instructor blew his whistle. “First group! To the starting line!”
“That’s us!” Tasuki said. “Hooray!”
Allison was not looking forward to the race, but gym class humiliation was unavoidable even in Japan, apparently. She walked to her starting position. Tasuki was to her left, Ruchia to her right. There was something odd about the track. “Why are the lanes so wide?” she asked.
“For safety, of course,” Ruchia replied.
“Be sure to do your best!” Tasuki said.
The instructor blew his whistle. “On your marks!” Allison didn’t bother trying to get down into a crouch, although the rest of the girls did. “Get set!” The other girls were taking this race very seriously, Allison saw. She resolved to at least get to the finish line before the next race started.
Immediately Allison was in last place; the others surged ahead of her. Allison put her head down, pumped her arms, and ran, seeing nothing except the lane in front of her. She was aware of Ruchia in the lane next to her, then halfway down the track Ruchia wasn’t there anymore, but Tasuki was on her left. Then she was alone. Allison crossed the line and looked up and there was no one in front of her.
She turned around in time to see Tasuki cross the finish line, and the other girls behind her. If she weren’t so out of breath she would have laughed.
Tasuki smiled and gave her a hug. “Amazing!” she said. “How can you possibly run so fast with your lungs constricted that way?” The other girls crossed the finish line, each running with arms sticking out, elbows at shoulder level, swinging their forearms horizontally. No wonder Allison had won. As they finished they all gathered around her. “Unbelievable!” “Amazing!” “Incredible!” “You’re the best!” “Do you need a towel? Use my towel!”
Sitting cross-legged at the finish line, Yomiko checked her stopwatch and made a notation in her journal. “A new record,” she mumbled as she wrote. “No obvious signs of mechanical limbs, no telltale sounds of robotics.”
“Crenshaw!” the instructor called. “Excellent work! Once you learn proper form there will be no stopping you. Next group to the starting line!”
The Emergency Committee watched the race from the grandstand. The transfer student started slowly but had, despite her terrible form, overtaken all the others and won easily.
“I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise,” Kouta said.
“She has to be a robot,” Bando said.
“Who would make a robot that ran so weird?” asked Yoshiki. “She’s a lab experiment for sure. I bet she has virtual arms that stick out correctly.”
“What do you think, Seiji?” Kouta asked. “You’ve seen her at home.”
“You have?” asked Yoshiki. His nose started to bleed, just a little bit. “Did you see her… panties?” The last word was just a whisper.
“No! And as far as her being an excellent athlete, did you expect anything different? Will you let go of this stupid discussion? It doesn’t matter if she’s an angel or a demon.”
“Or a robot,” Bando added.
“Or a lab experiment,” Yoshiki countered.
“None of those things matter!”
Hitomi’s smooth voice was calm and clear after Seiji’s bluster. “They matter.” The Committee turned as one to see her standing quietly outside their circle. She was dressed in the traditional garb of a swordsman, with a katana in her belt. She stared solemnly down at the girls gathered at the finish line. “Will Allison Crenshaw be rival or enemy?”
“She might even be a friend,” Kaneda said.
Hitomi smiled quietly. “That’s what I said. Rival.”
Seiji looked at the rangy girl with her dark, flowing hair, and allowed himself a glimmer of hope. Who said the person whose life was to become pure hell had to be a boy? He spoke carefully. “It may be that finding the proper trainer for the transfer student could be the difference between angel and demon.”
Hitomi looked down at the field, where Allison was preparing for another race. “She is soft.”
Seiji smiled to himself. “Who better than you to remedy that?”
“Who indeed?” asked Hitomi. “Although she has signed up for the fencing club.”
“Azusa,” Bando said softly.
Hitomi nodded curtly. “Azusa will work the transfer student mercilessly. As she should.”
“I thought you didn’t like her,” Seiji said.
“Whether I like Azusa or not is of no importance. However, I do not trust her. I will also train the transfer student.”
In the center of town, at the top of a hill, is a building with no windows and only one door. The walls are gray concrete, polished to an almost metallic shine, reflecting the harsh glare of the sun. There are no signs on the outside; but all in town know that it is the headquarters of Biological Computation Institute. The town is thankful for their presence; since the outbreak of White Shadow the institute has taken in hundreds of infected citizens. None have ever emerged, but the town takes solace knowing they are well-cared-for.
Deep within the walls, five old men sit around a table. Each has a distinctive physical characteristic, a mole here and a bulbous nose there. They speak in turn, but they seem interchangeable, as if they are simply puppets carrying out a necessary debate.
“The Truth of the World is the key,” big nose says.
Gold tooth answers. “White Shadow brought the girl here.”
“She cannot be The Truth of the World,” the toothless one says.
“White Shadow thinks she is,” says the bald one.
“We know almost nothing of the girl. Her past is in shadow.”
“We should kill her.”
“That would hinder White Shadow, but if she is The Truth of the World…”
“Why should we do anything?” the toothless one asks. “Our power is growing every day. Your only complaint is that White Shadow is doing its job too well.”
Bignose bows to his toothless colleague. “Because if we don’t stop White Shadow now, we will be sucked in along with the rest.”
“Without The Truth of the World, we will never regain control of White Shadow.”
“Without The Truth of the World, White Shadow will never reach it’s full potential.”
“We must test the girl.”
“We must kill the girl.”
“Perhaps those are the same thing.”