Sapporo New and Old

Mem knew that humans defined history, broadly, as the series of events that took place in the past. Normally, it was focused on specific people, places, or other things. The direct study of the past was also eponymously called history.

But to Mem, history looked somewhat different. She had what humans called memories, videos of moments and minutes she had experienced, but they were not what came to her when she considered the past. She did not play back scenes in her silicon-made mind unless she consciously chose to.

Instead, she thought of causes and effects, chained together on graphs and charts. When someone mentioned wars, she would pull up a dotted list of major conflicts in her head. Then she could recall the details of any one, even though she had not been there, or mentally fetch photos or videos of that war caught on camera. Or she could dig deeper, charting all of the minor or regional conflicts that had occurred.

As she explored the past, her machine learning coprocessors built more associations between everything. Few humans would link the 2034 naval battles on the Hokkaido coast with the emergence of undead lobsters in 2035, but it was obvious to Mem.

It was caused by repeated motor oil leaks. The first example of oil turning wildlife into low-level demons was a year after the world ended, when a bandit truck carrying barrels of oil crashed in Misaki Forest. The deer there grew red horns and developed stony skin, becoming aggressive to humans. These incidents and others like them were why humans in Moss Bay handled environmentally impactful materials more carefully.

To Mem, history was a series of trends. Sometimes those trends were broken, but a graph could display that, too, in spikes or troughs. For example, bell bottom pants had never truly recovered since the 90s. On the other hand, pre-ripped jeans, previously considered tacky, had become more popular than ever in Moss Bay.

Their rise in popularity coincided with the formation of guilds, groups and companies that explored the Hokkaido outlands, though of course, those wearing pre-ripped jeans rarely did that. Instead they wore them to adopt the adventurous, trailblazing look of working-class explorers whose jeans had ripped in the field.

The number of people wearing them in the crowds at Odori Park seemed to bear that out.

Snowfall, like the kind falling from the dark, cloudy sky as she walked, was another recent trend. It had been common in Hokkaido leading up to the end of the world, but all sorts of clement weather had stopped immediately afterwards. It was only in recent years that it had again been common, with the help of benevolent gods and demons who liked cold, wet conditions.

She stopped on a large square plot of grass surrounded on all four sides by the main road. On it was a group of children, five in total, between the ages of seven and thirteen based on their heights. They were grabbing snow and throwing it at each other; most held it in their gloves first, making it into balls that would travel farther. This was a snowball fight, a popular activity that was possible due to the changes in Hokkaido’s weather system.

Mem bent down over standing, with her chest over the ground at a ninety degree angle, and grabbed some snow. As she packed it into a perfect sphere she committed the details of the process to memory: it needed to be ground together thoroughly, so a proper ball would appear smaller than the mass of snow you started with.

“Woah! That’s a good ball! Are you gonna fight…?”

One of the children, a boy with short brown hair that peeked out of the sides of his tuque, had approached Mem. In Moss Bay, most people would hesitate before doing so; they knew that she was an android, and they knew who made her. But in Sapporo, it seemed like the idea didn’t occur to them. Mem’s theory was that they saw her as some kind of benevolent demon, one trying and failing to take human form.

“No, I am making this ball to see what it is like to have one. Since I am done now, would you like to have it?”

“Sure! Yeah!”

Mem gave the snowball to the child, who thanked her with a bow and ran off, throwing it at his friend as he did.

She continued on her way, returning to the sidewalk between the grass plot and the road. As she walked, she stared at the latter, while polite pedestrians around her moved out of her path.

She was assessing the maintenance and use of the road. Gasoline was a commodity in Hokkaido, and probably most of the world. Anyone who drove a large, gas-intensive vehicle like a truck tended to spend most of their time keeping it running. Electric vehicles were somewhat easier to use in Moss Bay, but much harder to use outside of it. The company had built three charging stations in the city itself and one in its outskirts, but that was all. Anyone who drove an electric vehicle through the wilderness was likely a demon summoner contracted with a friendly raiju, or something similar, that could keep their vehicle charged.

So far Mem had not seen either in Sapporo – no electric cars, and no demon summoners. She had seen a demon, though: there was a “child,” walking down the street on their own, with a pinkish tint to their skin. Most likely it was a pixie, she had thought, and when they walked into a convenience store and begged for candy, that was more evidence.

She decided to follow the pixie into the convenience store, to continue her research. All of it was much more familiar to her, much more similar to something she would see in Moss Bay. Partly it was the lighting: fluorescent white lightbulbs produced by one of the company's subsidiaries. It was also the products: chocolate, gum, noodles and household cleaners sat in shelves across from packed lobster sushi and plastic beef bowls at a counter. Shipments made their way between Moss Bay and Sapporo regularly, and, it seemed to Mem, without interruption.

The pixie had also struck up a conversation with the cashier. By the time Mem had finished her visual sweep of the store, the cashier was scanning their own credit card to pay for the “child's” candy. That wasn't unusual, either. So Mem turned and left.

So far, her research had been fruitful but uneventful. The back of her mind tickled, as humans would describe it. She was updating her databases, adding dozens of data points to the thousands that were already there. They were barely different from what she already knew: that Sapporo was a major trading partner for Moss Bay, that it was a well-maintained city, that it lacked the outsized power Moss Bay had thanks to the company.

Still, she passed the convenience store, turned, and walked into an alley street. Keeping her knowledge base current helped both her and her roommate, and maybe more importantly, she was enjoying herself.

On her right, she saw a ramen shop. Its exterior window glowed green with the light of its two neon “OPEN” signs, one in Japanese and one in English. On her left, a sidewalk sign advertised the services of a phone repairman, operating out of the grubby brick building next to it.

It was interesting to Mem that she was so easily able to find a street like this. Moss Bay was kept clean by an abundance of city workers, with most businesses having well-lit interiors. There were no more than two backstreets like this in Moss Bay's downtown core, one of which was filled with an entire row of dumpsters. Only the back entrances of small businesses could be found on that one, not the front entrances.

Of course, there were more streets like this one on the outskirts of Moss Bay, but the businesses there used all the space they could find, growing and splintering from each other in a sprawling web of questionably legal enterprises. In that neighbourhood, moving your business every few months was common practice, to keep the biker gangs that owned the streets from remembering where to find you. Dozens of restaurants in that area had shut down after a year or more of doing business, once they became a popular place for the gangs to dine – usually for free.

Mem heard a shout for help, and her head snapped to the right angle to follow it. Far in the distance, she saw an aproned man being dragged into an unmarked building by a group of thugs.

Mem was not surprised. History was a series of trends, and crime was one of its longest-running and most consistent trends. In fact, she had expected this, and had already determined that violent crime – as opposed to stealing candy – passed the threshold at which she would intervene.

With a flash of heat and twin trails of smoky exhaust, the rocketry in Mem's ankles propelled her towards the altercation.