“Pray ba,” Heishi said, “for your futures.”
Editor(s): jelly, namio
Heishi rose and nodded. He gave a look filled with meaning to everyone in the conference room, before he and A-Ka turned and left.
For the sake of not having anyone disturb them, the Mercenary Association cleared out a small unit for them on the top floor. There was even a small flower garden on the balcony; it was where the previous president had lived. In the night, flying patrol units flew around, their yellow beams of light scanning the ground below, and in the distance came indistinct sounds of static over the radio waves.
In the middle of the night, A-Ka woke up for some reason. He took a look at Heishi sleeping beside him, before clambering to his feet quietly, walking out of the small house. He inhaled a breath of fresh air, before climbing onto the rooftop, sitting up high while hugging his knees, looking over the entirety of Phoenix City. In the distance, the central tower controlled by the clones glowed bright with lamplight, causing him to recall the day they escaped the City of Steel.
Heishi also got up. A-Ka turned his head and looked at him, gesturing for him to come up. The two of them sat shoulder to shoulder on the rooftop, looking into the distance. For a while, neither of them spoke.
“You also can’t sleep?” A-Ka asked.
Heishi didn’t respond.
A-Ka murmured to himself, “I wonder how Feiluo and Percy are doing now.”
He leaned on Heishi. In the distant darkness, the flames dimly lit up the night sky a bright red. There was still no news from the Mercenary Association, which indicated that they were so far unsuccessful in forcing Angus to give up the termination command.
“You didn’t need to treat Feiluo like that,” A-Ka said.
“I don’t understand the emotions you humans and clones feel,” Heishi replied indifferently.
A-Ka recalled that scene of Feiluo beating up Heishi. Back then, Heishi actually hadn’t returned the blow. This small detail, for some reason, was preserved in his heart, causing him to go back to it, musing over it again and again.
A-Ka kept feeling that Heishi’s existence was more like a machine left behind by the Creator, but of course this was a secret that only he knew. Technically, a messenger of God would not be equipped with many emotions, just like ‘Father’.
“I feel that…” A-Ka said tentatively.
“What?” Heishi asked.
A-Ka was a little hesitant. He looked at Heishi as he said, “Do you think you have the emotions of a human?”
He couldn’t help but recall the first time he had met Heishi, up to the moment they were separated and reunited; aside from the pure emotional reactions that he had when they were escaping, Heishi was equipped with the emotional characteristics of a human. Plus, as they deepened their understanding of each other on this journey, these characteristics became more and more obvious.
When he was injured in the sewers and Heishi revealed the anxiety that he felt, A-Ka was even more convinced of his conclusion. Though this feeling was immediately dampened by the accompanying truths that Heishi revealed, now that he thought back to it, Heishi was feeling concerned for him.
“No,” Heishi said.
“You do,” A-Ka insisted. “I feel like you do. You were actually designed with humans as the model.”
Heishi responded mildly, “When the Creator made me, you humans did not exist, and neither did the clones. You think it’s possible?”
When A-Ka thought about it, that was correct, but he still responded, “It is like that, correct, but the Creator is also an intelligent being. How would you know that they aren’t like humans?”
“Impossible,” Heishi responded, without even needing to think about it. “Logic, communication, identification, and judgement; these all are part of reason, but joy, grief, sorrow, and happiness, these are emotions.”
“But you also get angry and impatient.” A-Ka tried to explain the essence of being a human to him, but Heishi didn’t even look over, instead staring off into the distant night sky.
“Basic reasoning skills are observation and judgement, while higher reasoning skills are perception and analysis,” Heishi explained. “By the same principle, the basic emotional skills are emotional reactions caused by external stimuli, encompassing all kinds of emotions; these are the basic skills for any living being. Whereas higher emotional skills are things that I am not equipped with.”
“What are higher emotional skills?” A-Ka asked.
“Higher emotional skills,” Heishi thought for a moment, before telling A-Ka, “are the ones that only you humans have: body language, instinct, grudges, and the thing that you all call ‘love’.”
A-Ka then said, “But back then, when Feiluo reached out to attack you, why didn’t you dodge or return the blow?”
Heishi froze for a moment, and A-Ka observed his expression, before smiling. “So, actually you’re the same as us humans. You have complicated emotions, and you even feel loneliness and unease.”
Heishi was only silent for a short while before he recovered his usual cold demeanor. He responded, “Because I was sure that he was only acting to vent his anger and not trying to kill me.”
“Then why do you need to accept his anger?” A-Ka asked.
This time, Heishi couldn’t resist thinking over it deeply. He didn’t respond verbally, merely shaking his head.
A-Ka continued. “After parting ways with Feiluo, did you have some sort of uncomfortable feeling in your heart?”
Heishi continued to maintain his silence, but A-Ka knew that he was definitely pondering over this in the depths of his heart, thinking about some things that even he himself hadn’t realized. At this point, from afar came a muffled explosion, and Heishi immediately grew alert, squinting his eyes in the general direction it came from.
“Infrared telescope,” Heishi said.
A-Ka went back to his room to find it, but right at that moment, the transceiver in the bag began to sound, beeping with the chime of an incoming message. He immediately turned on the transceiver, and on the other end was Percy’s anxious voice.
“A-Ka, I see that their army is moving out,” Percy said quietly. “I don’t know why, but they’re going to fight again. You guys have to leave that skyscraper quickly.”
A-Ka asked, “Is Feiluo there?”
Percy responded, “He went to go persuade the army to not attack now. Why are things like this?! Isn’t there a ceasefire already?”
A-Ka repiled, “The people from the Mercenary Association have detained Commander Angus. Listen to me, Percy, keep yourself safe, and no matter what, don’t go outside…”
“This is too insane…” Percy said. “Can’t they send him back? Just now, Feiluo and the temporary leader were arguing very loudly, that scared me to death --”
“This brat’s sending messages to the enemy!”
A frenzy of sounds issued from within the transceiver, and A-Ka’s expression immediately changed. “Percy!”
Percy let out a shrill cry, as if he had been caught by someone. The transmission cut off, and A-Ka knelt in front of the bed, breathing rapidly.
Heishi was standing behind A-Ka. He had heard the entire exchange. He said, “I’ll go notify Huixiong.”
Another battle broke out unexpectedly, but this second time around, the fighting was fiercer than before, and the fires of battle once again baptized Phoenix City in catastrophe through this long, sleepless night. Six magnetic flyers swept towards them from the tall tower in the north, flying to the human gathering area, and the entire Western Quarter woke within moments.
The tall tower of the Mercenary Association was filled with chaos. Heishi rushed down the staircase, asking, “Is Angus willing to hand over the code?”
“Not yet!” Huixiong said. “He’s not willing to answer, no matter what! We must first fight off their attack! Mercenaries! Pick up your weapons! Prepare for battle!”
With a huge hong, the entire building shook as thousands of bullets made of light shot out of the flyers, shattering the glass that made up the facade of the building. The clones began to shoot at the skyscraper as they began their efforts to rescue the captured Angus. The scene was one of tumult as Heishi protected A-Ka, the two of them rushing out of the skyscraper.
In the dark night, the fires of battle rose all around as Huixiong’s voice issued forth from the speakers.
“My human brothers! Please support us!”
“We have already found the weak point of the machines, and we are counting down the days until our victory! Now is the most difficult time, Mackenzie has betrayed us and the Rebel Alliance…”
The humans and the clones had been struggling over resources for a long time, and when they heard this, they all let out angered roars, raising the guns in their hands as they threw themselves into the battle! But the clones’ firepower was still too strong, and with three rounds of sweeping bullets, they suppressed the human rebellion troops. A-Ka equipped his mechanical limb, and Heishi’s wristband turned into a heavy machine gun, accurately shooting down the flyers coming right for them.
The airships of both the humans and the clones turned into fireballs as they spiralled in twos and threes into the earth below, where they exploded with loud booms.
For a while, there was nowhere to hide. Just as A-Ka was about to escape to somewhere with less people, someone rushed at him from the side and covered his mouth, dragging him towards the skyscraper that was going to collapse!
Heishi’s expression changed, only for him to realize that it was Feiluo.
“What exactly are you all doing!” Feiluo roared.
Under the hazy, dark sky, A-Ka explained what had happened to Feiluo in a loud voice. Feiluo let out an anxious breath, watching Heishi rush over.
“Where’s your son?” Heishi asked.
“He’s been detained by the Rebellion soldiers because he was passing messages to you guys,” Feiluo said. “Come with me, let’s go.”
Even now, Feiluo’s face was still dark with anger as he brought Heishi and A-Ka around the defensive line, approaching the base of the Rebellion. They came to a stop in front of a vent, and Feiluo spoke. “A-Ka, I know you can open this entrance to this pipe. If we crawl upwards along the vent, we’ll be able to reach the command center.”
A-Ka lifted his head, looking up towards the tall building enshrouded in the dark of the night, where he saw that there were surveillance machines patrolling up above. He finally put on the infrared mechanic’s goggles before digging out a few tools from his pack, testing out unlocking the security system here.
Heishi and Feiluo stood silently to one side.
Heishi, “Why did you come back?”
Feiluo said harshly, “Percy got captured, and he’s also being held in the command center, so I must go in to rescue him.”
“The termination command is a magnetic disk that can be wiped,” Heishi said. “If nothing’s gone wrong, then there should be thirty megabytes of code in there.”
Feiluo thought deeply for a moment, before answering, “I’m not sure where General Angus put it. In theory, since Libre received it as well, there should be at least one backup. I’ll take the two of you into the building, where you can search through the deceased’s belongings. Perhaps you’ll find something there.”
A-Ka asked curiously, “Why would this command be in the hands of you clones?”
“You think that launching an assault on the machines on all fronts is a joke?” Feiluo said. “If Heishi didn’t bring up the shutdown codes, then you humans wouldn’t even know about this secret weapon.”
A-Ka instantly remembered. When he had just picked up Heishi, Libre had made secretive but extremely complete arrangements, mobilizing all of their forces to the City of Machines. Perhaps back then, he had been relying on the shutdown codes he had in hand.
“Yes,” A-Ka said. “The headquarters of the Rebellion must have that backup! Thank you, Feiluo!”
Feiluo said coldly, “I’m not planning on helping him. It’s only that, with the current circumstances, the battle will only stop if we retrieve the command. Otherwise, without waiting for the Iron and Steel Corps to fight their way in, we’ll already have died at the hands of our own.”
Heishi said mildly, “This is your guys’s original sin.”
When Feiluo heard these words, he immediately flew into a great rage. Grabbing Heishi’s collar, he shouted angrily, “Say that again!”
“Don’t fight!” A-Ka called from his squatting position in front of the vent.
Feiluo let out a vicious hn as he pushed Heishi aside. Heishi then said, “Libre still died.”
“Before, we did not despair,” Feiluo said, “exactly because Angus knew that the chip that would execute the program to shut down ‘Father’ was still in our hands.”
Heishi, “Foolish. Even if you were to get both chips, they would only be able to be used once to temporarily turn off its nuclear core for three minutes. Aside from this, with the external defenses and the Iron and Steel Corps’ continued patrolling, don’t you find it strange?”
Feiluo forgot his conflict with Heishi, lifting his eyes to look into Heishi’s as he asked, “What?”
But A-Ka seemed to think of something, and he let out a full-body jolt.
“The previous movements of the troops,” Heishi said uncaringly, “was only a trap that ‘Father’ set in place via Mackensie.”
In that instant, the blood running through Feiluo’s veins seemed to congeal. Heishi’s expression however, was wholly unchanged, as he explained. “Mackensie was being controlled by ‘Father’, and he obtained these two original chips from the Creator’s Laboratory. From this, he learned of the shutdown codes for the nuclear core, and he lied to Libre and Angus, telling them that this was the only opportunity to completely destroy ‘Father’.”
Feiluo’s voice trembled. “So… including General Libre, the strongest battle power of the Rebellion was sent to… the City of Machines.”
“Yes,” Heishi said mildly. “Everything fell within the predictions of that computer. Libre, believing that he could use the termination command in his hand to save this world, initiated that attack on all fronts. And as expected, it failed.”
With a click, the security system outside the exit of the vent was unlocked.
A-ka rose. “It’s done.”
Feiluo murmured, “If General Mackensie had long since laid this trap, then perhaps the chips have already been destroyed by him.”
“Not necessarily,” Heishi said casually, his voice not carrying even a hint of emotion. “‘Father’ hasn’t yet wholly exterminated you all, or perhaps it was planning to use the original chips to once again lay down an identical trap. But this time, Mackenzie’s plans had only been half-carried out when he was sniped by me.”
“Pray ba,” Heishi said, “for your futures.”
And saying this, Heishi bent his body and squeezed into the vent.
The three of them crawled along in the vent, and in front of them was a field of lasers that criss-crossed. Every time they approached a laser, A-Ka pulled out a card that he had made himself, pressing it against the pressure-driven security system. The lasers blocking the section of the path ahead of them disappeared with a weng.
“When did you become this strong?” Feiluo asked.
A-Ka replied, “After we left the City of Machines.”
“He’s always been like this,” Heishi answered from up ahead, where he was inching his elbow forward. “Even in the City of Machines, he was able to develop his own humanoid mecha.”
From afar came the sound of numerous unending explosions. They came to a fork in the road, and Feiluo lowered his head to study the fluorescent map in the pipes as he said, “The place where they’re keeping Percy is to the left. I need to go save him quickly, otherwise he’ll be disposed of when the sun rises.”
A-Ka said, “Let’s go together.”
But Feiluo answered, “You guys go find the codes, the greater good is more important.”
The three of them fell silent for a moment, before a rare smile grew on Feiluo’s face as he said, “I’ll save Percy, don’t worry.”
In the darkness, Heishi reached out a hand, looking into Feiluo’s eyes. Feiluo was still for a bit, before he too reached out a hand and tugged his. This movement indicated that the two of them had made up again, before Feiluo opened the cover of the pipe, sinking into the hallway outside.
Heishi and A-Ka continued to crawl forwards. A-Ka began to smile.
“What are you smiling about?” Heishi seemed to be able to sense all of A-Ka’s movements, even in this pitch black tunnel where they couldn't see their hands in front of their faces. A-Ka grinned. “Feiluo’s a pretty good friend.”
“Oh shut up,” Heishi said, a little impatiently.
Dawn approached, and A-Ka continued to worry about Percy’s life as the sky slowly began to lighten outside. With one kick, Heishi removed the iron bars blocking the exit of the vent.
“Head down in a moment,” Heishi said.
The instant that Heishi leapt down, he turned in mid-air, tossing out an electric whip, and with a sizzling crackle, the robotic guards all toppled over. With this, A-Ka finally came down from the vent, stepping on Heishi’s shoulder as he landed on an office desk.
“Hurry up,” Heishi said. “The guards here are going to come over any minute now.”
A-Ka began to crack the code for the table, but Heishi was more impatient. He had him back up, before shooting right at the table!
The report echoed loudly as A-Ka shouted, “You can’t break it open with brute force! Otherwise the contents will be automatically destroyed!”
This shot startled even more guards, and Heishi said, “It’s too late! Find it quick! I’ll help you hold off the guards!”
Footsteps came from inside the hall; it was the clone troopers. Heishi rushed out in a flurry, his back to the door, and A-Ka trembled as he searched through the drawers, which were all filled with documents.
Someone shouted from outside, “Who’s there!”
Right after, there were several successive gunshots, and a bullet hole appeared on the door. Fresh blood sprayed through, and A-Ka’s heart tightened with worry. He shouted, “Heishi!”
“Finish your job…” Heishi’s voice was at times near and at times far, clearly hopping and leaping about. A-Ka searched through all of the cabinets, but he didn’t find anything, so right after, he inserted the decoding chip into the second cabinet, beginning to undo the password-protected lock.
Such an important thing as the termination command, would it be kept in this kind of place? A-Ka thought deeply for a moment, and he couldn’t help but turn his thoughts in another direction - perhaps they were being kept where the other disks were. But, Angus’s office was their only clue, otherwise, searching for a miniscule disk drive in such a large building was the same as searching for a needle in a haystack.
“You still have three minutes,” Heishi panted outside. “The guards here aren’t easy to defeat.”
“Don’t rush me,” A-Ka said in a quiet voice.
Where exactly could it be? A-Ka’s nervousness seemed to have reached a critical point as the guards increased more and more in number. If he didn’t find this key item quickly, then both he and Heishi would definitely lose their lives in this place. His blood rushed to his head, causing his limbs to turn icy, and the gunshots and explosions in the corridor grew immeasurably distant in the span of a moment.
All sound disappeared, and the structure of the building appeared as clear as day in A-Ka’s eyes, every steel wire and brick defined down to the smallest of details. The desk was connected to the floor, where there was an activation switch. The circuitry led towards the wall, where it was linked up to a safe embedded in the bricks.
There was an incredibly complicated alarm system set up in front of the safe.
With a huge peng, his surroundings returned to their normal state, and Heishi said, “You’re still not done?!”
A-Ka pulled out the decoding chip, running to the wall. There was a bookcase there, and after thinking deeply for a second, recalling the route of the wires, he returned to behind the desk, turning the knob on the swiveling armchair. The bookcase swung open silently, revealing the safe hidden behind it.
Heishi roared angrily, “A-Ka!”
“Here!” A-Ka shouted loudly in response. “Don’t rush me!”
His hands trembled uncontrollably as he turned the knob of the combination lock on the safe. Heishi rushed into the office, pressing his shoulder against the door, before using the electromagnetic light gun to draw a circle, welding the steel door shut. But behind the door, the clone guards began to shout and shoot their lasers, and the steel door silently began to turn red and cave in.
“Hurry up! There’s too many of them!” Heishi said anxiously.
A-Ka held his breath, recalling the internal structure of the safe. Heishi turned his head, watching A-Ka, before he asked, “You found it?”
“What was the location of the last gear…” A-Ka’s head hurt greatly, and Heishi was once again ready to break through with brute force, but A-Ka’s expression instantly changed. “No! There’s a bomb inside!”
The last digit was currently set to 0. A-Ka turned it to the 1, before turning it back to 0, anxious beyond belief, but unable to once again sink into the condition where he would forget everything else and be able to see the structures of everything around him. The entire steel door was about to be opened, and Heishi thought deeply for a moment, before saying, “Let’s bet on this once.”
A-Ka’s back was covered in cold sweat. “No way… it’s too dangerous. There are high explosives in the safe. If the numbers are wrong, then the disk will be melted down, and we’ll also die in the explosion.”
The future of mankind was like a huge spinning disk of red and black that once again, in this historical moment, began to move. The marbles of fate rolled full-speed towards a position filled with fog, and everything would be decided in this brief second.
Without giving him any time to protest, Heishi pressed down on A-Ka’s hand, rotating the knob towards the position of the 1, before depressing the button.
“Capture them --” the clone guards shouted.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.