THE MIRACLES

My hand reached forward, half-covered by my overlong school uniform sleeve, the fingers slightly splayed and probing. It touched the outer layer of the papers, books, and binders inside my desk, then I pushed harder and managed to get my hand in. I went past all the junk stored inside until my hand at last secured the prize I sought. I pulled it out amid all the clutter, and I spread it on my lap to read.

"I think that Hachiro-kun is simply engrossed in our discussion right now," my teacher said loudly, his eyes glaring at me. He lowered the false chalk he held from the screen-board and frowned. "The textbook got thinner since I last looked, huh?"

"Um, yeah, it did," I agreed with a nervous smile, trying to shove my magazine back into my desk, without success. A few people giggled as the teacher stomped forward and whisked it out of my hands, studying the cover. His face darkened.

"This is not appropriate for the class, Hachiro-kun," he snapped, marching to the recycle bin and dropping the issue into it: shredders inside tore apart the paper, sending it to some bin far away to be re-used.

"I think a detention this Friday should set your mind straight," the teacher leered at me, leaning his face close to mine once he walked back to me. I cowered in my seat. "Don't you think?"

"Uh, sure," I complied, knowing better than to make a smart comment.

The teacher pursed his lips and pulled away, going back to the front of the room. "My lecture was essentially over, anyway. You may all go to your work stations to continue your History reports. They are due this Thursday, and you wouldn't want to miss the deadline."

Twenty students got to their feet, whispering and giggling to each other. We filed into the back half of the extra-long classroom and sat at our computer terminal stations, setting to work. I slid into the seat of mine, slouching into a comfortable position. My black hair fell into my eyes, and I pushed it away.

"Proper posture is required, Hachiro Tanaka," my computer's voice told me. The chair vibrated persistently until I righted myself and started work, first looking up information in the database of education. I lazily scanned the material, not really taking it in.

HISTORY OF JAPAN

Revised edition, number XXIV

The 21st century saw many great and groundbreaking changes take place in our country. By the 2080's, the use of fossil fuels had become prohibitively expensive as the natural supply became almost non-existent. Alternate fuels had been largely neglected for decades, and the world began to feel the effects. A world-wide panic began as people scrambled to convert to alternate fuels, but the alternate fuels could not keep up with demand. The crisis deepened, until in 2093, a substance named Miracle was discovered in Hokkaido, northern Japan. Abundant, environmentally safe, and highly potent, this new energy completely solved the energy crisis and promoted a stimulated period of technological growth, mainly involving the use of Miracle. Almost all modern machinery and technology relies on this substance, including cybernetics, the technology of infusing the human body with complimentary machinery.

As is human nature, conflicts arose over this new fuel source. Multiple companies making business with Miracle squabbled heatedly over the desired substance, until full-scale war erupted. Each company employed mercenaries and private armies, ushering in a new feudal era. The Japanese government was only one side of many in this conflict, and it dragged on for numerous miserable years until finally, the companies and government were united into the United Japan Assembly (UJA). This brought peace and ensured that all of Japan and the rest of the world received fair business with Miracle; Japan is the only source.

To safeguard the newly formed UJA, in 2141 the Six Defenders were commissioned, people with advanced cybernetic weaponry and unrivaled combat ability, as well as mechas, the robot police of our nation…

My attention was really starting to flat-line after that point, and my mind and eyes soon became out of sync as I day-dreamed of the newest episode of my favorite TV show that was coming on tonight, plus the dinner I hoped my mom would make. I also looked forward to simply relaxing on my unkempt bed, snacking or napping or petting my cat, Rei. Anything but this.

I churned out a few measly sentences on my already-short history paper and gave a yawn, feeling a tear break loose from my eye and going down my cheek. I tossed my hair and rose out of my seat, hoping I could sneak back to my desk to find something more interesting buried in my desk.

I rose out of my seat, only to notice my teacher passing behind me like a specter, pushing me back down.

"It's not quite time for that yet," he told me quietly with a hint of humor. Everyone made their amusement heard.

I did what I could to bite my tongue and tossed my head back, giving an exaggerated noise of irritation as the teacher passed along. Then, I made the most out of my situation by laying my head on my arms on the computer keyboard, giving me rest and causing many random keystrokes to appear on the screen. There was no way anyone was going to get the best of me.

"Hey, he might punish you this time!" someone commented.

"Shut up," I mumbled, shifting my arms a little for comfort.

"Still having a hard time in History, huh?" Masaru grinned has he and I walked down the spacious hallways of one of Tokyo's public high schools. "I guess I can keep it on the list, along with Pre-Calc and AP Bio."

"You keep track of that junk?" I asked, in minor shock. "Really?"

"I doubt you ever got the will to do it on your own," Masaru laughed, saying after saying hi to someone in passing. "I'm doing a favor!"

"Not really," I said, looking for someone to say hi to myself. "I just basically stay out of really big trouble and try not to miss any of my favorite shows. That's where my effort goes. And maybe joy riding around the city, too. My apartment and its area are boring as hell."

"Hm," was Masaru's response. I knew that he considered my living conditions to be really sub-par: he was the nephew of the President of the entire UJA, his only one. I had heard that he grew bored of hanging around high-class people all the time and his elite private school, and decided to go to an "ordinary school" instead for a change of pace. I was one of his many friends; his family's wealth was an obvious magnet.

"Want one?" he asked, pointing to a candy bar in the vending machine in the rec area, and I nodded. He raised his arm to the scanner, and pulled back his sleeve to reveal the smooth, silver-white portion of his skin that had computer-like lights and displays. The vending machine scanned a portion of his cybernetic enhancement, and two candy bars fell to the bottom of the machine, where Masaru collected them, holding mine up.

"What's wrong?" I asked, even though I knew what he was probably doing.

"Umm," he started, then brought the bar closer to his right eye. Thin, shell-like silver pieces of soft metal slid into place over his eye, forming a glowing green iris with metal whites, analyzing the food wrapping before it. I could faintly hear computing noises as the artificial eye sent information to his enhanced brain.

"This has got 326.462 calories in it," he announced, handing it to me. "And today, you have consumed 1,967.30 of them. You sure you can afford this?"

"Oh, come on," I laughed, tearing off the wrapper and starting down the hall again. Like everywhere else in the school, and most buildings, the hall was built with soft silver and white-colored materials, curving and organic for eye appeal. The ceiling was thick glass with support beams, revealing the cheery blue sky and silvery-gray office towers and apartments overhead. "I don't think I'll have an appetite for dinner. Does anyone ever ask you to scan them for tracking their diets?"

"Well, Mei did yesterday," Masaru laughed, catching up to me and restoring his eye to normal. He hefted his backpack. "She was happy to hear that she was well ahead of schedule. I think I got some points there."

"Cyber-Co is proud to hear that its marvelous technology is being used to its full potential," a mecha stated from my left, making me jump. "It is one of the miracles of our exalted Assembly, other than Miracle itself."

"Can't those things stop bragging?" I complained, hurrying past it. "Or was it being sarcastic? I can't tell."

"Ha ha, who knows, man?" Masaru said. "Maybe they get commission for how many times they say stuff like that."

"Yeah, right," I said lightly. "Just flaunting Cyber-Co's stuff again, like a part of their programming. That makes sense, doesn't it?"

"Businesses do what they must," Masaru shrugged. He of all people would know — his uncle was the President of the UJA, and knew a great amount of insider information, little of which he was allowed to divulge. Only the wealthy and those working for the Assembly had access to cybernetics, and thus having cybernetic body enhancements were considered a sign of status. The Cyber-Co was the UJA-owned company that researched and manufactured all cybernetics (with the President as its CEO), as well as constructing the mechas, the police robots that safeguarded our country. The robots were stout and human-height, black-and-white-and-silver colored, programmed to efficiently and unfalteringly uphold the law and order, no matter what.

"Sure," I said, mostly to myself, tearing a big bite out of my candy bar. By now, Masaru and I had exited the wide front doors of the high school, walking across the wide, circular soft-metal front pavement cris-crossed with shallow lines to form squares. Hundreds of students milled about, talking and laughing, or else walking home or driving their Miracle-fueled, streamlined cars off school property. Long, thin panes on the cars' chassis' displayed the glowing green Miracle flowing within, part of an endless supply of the miraculous energy source; hence the name. Several small trees grew in designated areas.

"Well, I'm going to cruise around town a little before heading home," Masaru told me, starting towards his sleek, red car parked next to a black one. "Want to join me?"

I gave this a second of thought. "Naw," I decided. "Just wanna head home. Maybe on Friday, then."

"Okay. See you," Masaru asked, unlocking his car with his arm enhancements. ("Good afternoon, Master Masaru. Today's date is Monday, April 14th, 2149," the car stated.)

Ten minutes later, I was slouching on the firm seat of a Miracle-powered, bullet-shaped bus, in the middle where no one else was. The silvery, pristine cityscape flashed by as the bus hummed along its route on puncture-proof wheels. Just another boring day at school, one of the waning days; it was mid-April, and graduation was looming close. I knew what that meant: college, work, or joining the UJA's many sub-divisions, including a lowly position at Cyber-Co. I did not look forward to the prospect; the future was just something vague and annoying, not worth straining my brain over. The farthest into the future I ever considered was a week for my TV shows to come on.

I gave a sigh, not taking in much of my surroundings. People read newspapers, manga volumes, or nodded off like me. I didn't pay any attention to a girl with long, bright blue hair sitting five seats ahead of me on the opposite side, wearing a school uniform I didn't recognize. Not even a faint, steady beeping kept my interest for long — wait, what was that? No one had a PDA out right now, or other device. The sound seemed to be coming from the truck's front, and now grew more rapid. My eyes widened as I realized what that sound must have been —

The resulting explosion confirmed my suspicions: the blast tore apart the front half of the truck, splitting and rending it all over as fire rushed everywhere. Everyone cried out as the calamity unfolded, and I gave a cry as I threw my arms over my head and tumbled away from the flaming wreckage.

"What in —?" I cried to myself, a delayed reaction. Traffic stopped as the scene unfolded, many pedestrians stopping to stare or scream, some thinking fast and alerting the authorities.

"She's stuck!" someone shouted, and I scrambled to my feet at that instant. Starting forth, I saw that a piece of the ruined ceiling had trapped the girl with electric blue hair, pinning her. The other people were either injured and had crawled away, or were relatively unhurt. I dashed forth, moving people out of my way as they stood staring. After struggling and getting some help, I was able to lift the ceiling chunk and drag the girl out of her prison.

"Hey!" I told her, trying to get her attention as I partially held her in my arms. "Are you all right?"

The girl gave a moan, her body battered and damaged, yet she still managed to open her startlingly emerald green eyes and looked at me. She started to breathe her thanks, then fell unconscious, going limp in my arms.

I jerked my head around, my eyes locking on a fleet of ambulances that were loading victims of the explosions. My attention was diverted for a second to a flash of white somewhere near an alley entrance, then flicked back to the vehicles. I took the girl in my arms entirely and, with effort, made my way to the ambulances.

"We've got another one," the paramedic told the other workers, and they took the girl and loaded her onto a stretcher and into the ambulance's rear. The paramedic looked at me. "You're not hurt, are you, son?"

"No," I told him, rubbing my leg. "Just a bit out of whack. I'll be all right."

"Okay, then," the paramedic said, then returned his attention to his work. Still shaken, I eventually tore myself away from the dire scene and walked home; I wasn't ready just yet to get on another bus.