The Last Testament of a Pacifist in Tokyo, 2047
"We three strangers must stick together, give me your hands on that."
All too eagerly they stretched out their hands.
I climbed into my cubicle--smaller than the usual bullet hotel in Tokyo--and turned on a show about touring the snake-infested moat around the Imperial Palace, when someone reached in to shake my foot quite violently. Naturally, it broke the spell of my twilight world, and the pain ballooning in my ankle only worsened when he said, twisting my middle toe, "If you're going to leave your screen on so loud then shut your hatch, man."
He was indeed the barrel of a man I had spied checking into the next box over, and who I later came to know as Brother Yamamoto. He certainly didn't sound like a Brother. And I felt that I made a terrible "guest worker," already ticking off a member of the clergy.
When I reported to my workstation the next morning I felt the power drivers had minds of their own, as if I just had to plug my body into my station and my arms and hands, shoulders and musculature would automatically gyre and set themselves into motion. I don't know what they put in the tea, but I wasn't complaining.
While my body made wooden furniture like tables and chairs, the rest of my mind was left available to think about other things, like the evening meditation and readings of tales of the Diamond Sutra. As long as I could make a contribution to society I felt good inside. And the drugs made sure of it.
Contrary to my expectations, it was more of a factory than a temple. Standing in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, it had been carved out of an ancient temple complex recovered from jungle overgrowth during the consumer movements of the 2020s.
Though most religions collapsed--unable to survive without their tax-exempt status--investors eventually rebuilt the wooden temples in even grander industrial gray concrete, left beautifully unpainted in homage to the traditional Zen temples.
"It's not what I expected," I told Brother Yamamoto.
"What did you expect?" he queried.
"To be sent to an active temple, one where I could make a difference, pray for peace. I told the draft board in Ikebukuro, 'violence goes against all I know'. The chair of the board said 'China is on the rise,' and they all looked to one another and smiled. One with a soft, kind face said, 'Would you like to serve in a Buddhist monastery?' They said I could pay off my debt to society there. I thanked them, naturally, and here I am."
After a few days I began to accept my new vocation. The scent of mahogany grows on one. I presented myself at my assigned station and let my body carry on while my mind drifted, contemplating lines from the Sutras, as seemed important, while my right hand began to drill into my left hand--not just once, as in an accident, but repeatedly. I backed away, but the foreman came by and swatted my hindquarters so that I lost balance and found the drill continuing its mission into my left hand. What could I do?
I entered a middle time between shock and meditation, focused upon the meaning the characters for "obligation" and "the way," while in this eternity my left hand had been mangled beyond recognition--at my own doing.
The Master came to my station and said, "Very good, young Tanabe. Fine progress indeed." He casually unrolled a long white cheesecloth towel from his belt and, keeping my spurts of blood at arm's length, said, "Wrap it in this." He then pointed to the First Aid room at the far north end of the temple factory. I had never noticed it there before, but I had no choice but to listen. My feet took me there before I had a chance to think.
What had I done?
The nurse, a young man about my age, said, "You are making excellent progress. Look at me. I barely have any relax reflex and am still whole and unbroken, all but a couple toes I managed to kick to smithereens and get upgraded."
"Thank you. I'm sorry if I've somehow shown you up. Judging from the appearance of your post, you are obviously my senior, and I did not intend to be presumptuous," I said, not really sure what I was saying or what I meant.
Apparently, to smash one's body was in one's best interests, a shortcut to success.
In the morning I had a hangover from the anesthesia or shock. While under, they had restored my hand--the latest in Sony bionics, they said. All flexed well--as if I'd been flexing all night in my sleep. The neurotransmitters seemed in perfect harmony--perhaps due to some drugs in the tea or electrostimulants that go into any matrix of perfection.
It seemed that the purpose of the factory involved more than just building tables and chairs on our workstations, but to build us monk laborers into something far more technologically advanced. But why and to what end?
I asked Yamamoto, "Hey, what's up with this place?"
As he unbuttoned his shirt in a very macho gesture--more like a low-ranking yakuza than a monk--he said, "Check out my iron abs, man."
A patchwork of lights and gizmos surfaced in the shape of an inverted cross ripping his abs. "Six-pack launching silos hard-wired," he said, turned around, and added, "more where these come from," and modeling his lower back in a Hercules position. With just a thought he flicked open another hole, with a missilette slowing emerging, and said, "match this."
"You've been in this temple too long, dude," I said. He was nuts.
He scowled at me and made to swipe me with his brushed platinum hand, but my new hand was faster, of a lighter, stronger alloy, and without even thinking I'd grabbed his arm and crushed it.
Guess what he said, his hand dangling from his forearm? He said "Thank you," and smiled like an idiot--a very happy idiot at that.
"Yeah, you go see mommy. Do that," I said.
I hadn't meant to hurt him, or to say what I said, rubbing it in. But, truth is, I think he set me up--wanted a hand like mine.
When Brother Yamamoto came back to our hatch area, he knocked on mine and said, "check this out." His arm unfolded and telescoped into a body-brace that supported his six packs when fired in battle, so that he could have a better chance of reaching and hitting the target, one to the west I would guess from the news.
I asked, "Hey, so you're not a conscientious objector, like me?" "Sure, I'm a CO. I'd never hurt an ant."
"But, can't you see what they are doing to you? You're a bloody war machine incarnate, man," I said.
"The master is helping me overcome my limited functionality for the sake of the peace and the Order. We are a warrior order, of course you must know. We once ruled half of Japan, made the daimyo tremble," he said.
"That was hundreds of years ago," I said.
"Then, now, we are the same Order. Now we must prepare, as giants surround us, and we are weak. We wear makeup and have grown flaccid and gentle as cats. Our Order makes men of us hopeless 'shopping boys,' as master calls us."
I said, "Why don't they just make more drones and leave us out of it?"
He said, "It is not in a proper fighting spirit to leave the battle fully protected. What is the sport in that? Besides, bots or us, the line blurs nowadays. It's making the news, you must know."
At meditation, the Master was especially happy with Yamamoto. But scowled at me. Certainly our exchange had been monitored.
That morning, I woke up at sea. I could feel the heaving of tall winter waves.
Apparently our cubicles are not called bullet capsules willy-nilly. I had been transjected by way of a conduit of some sort so that I awoke on this submersible.
I realized my arm had magnetically attached to the side of my cubicle, which had been feeding me intravenously. Perhaps I had been there for days.
I freed my arm and turned on the screen: no weather, no sermons, no news or soaps. It was all military reports from the front with marches chanted in synth-voices to the patter of snare drums and the drone of shakuhachi flutes.
Suddenly I could hear the bolts of my cubicle retracting and it tipped until it latched below and sent me down an interminable ride. Then it slowed, tipped again, and I felt the vibrations of interlock parts. It grew still. Belts strapped me in tight during a countdown. Then came a sudden thrust, soon accelerating to Mach speeds.
My console graphics showed me flying low, hugging the East China Sea, speeding west of Naha.
I wanted to turn it off--how distasteful, all these schemata of wars and battles gyrating before my eyes.
Instead, just as my body had at the factory, my mind became riveted to the data flow, absorbing all the statistics running in a jagged rainbow of six banners overlaying the fisheye visuals filling the world of the screen. My thumbs readied at their grips.
The screen flashed and a voice announced, "Thank you for your devotion. May the Divine Wind blow you far and your soul find the gates of Yasukuni."