“This world is fated to be destroyed. There is already no more hope left.”
Editor(s): namio, jelly
A-Ka couldn’t resist turning his head and squeezing his eyes shut. In that instant, Heishi pulled him into his firm embrace.
The passage of time seemed to become extraordinarily slow, and within the cacophonous world, with a light sound, like the most delightful of music, the safe sprung open, revealing an aged, old chip inside.
The door of the safe activated.
A-Ka opened his eyes.
Heishi reached out his hand, grasping the chip with it, before turning. With one hand hugging A-Ka and the other protecting his forehead, he turned his body and rushed to the floor-to-ceiling windows in two steps, before ramming into it with his shoulder.
A-Ka shouted dramatically, before he roared, “Heishi, you’re crazy!”
With that hit from Heishi, the bulletproof glass actually shattered into small pieces, shooting with a hua into the air. They looked like a shower of gems as they dispersed under the first ray of the early dawn sunlight. The guards rushed into the office, but Heishi and A-Ka had already leapt off the building some hundreds of meters off the ground.
In that instant, time seemed to completely stop. The only thing that A-Ka could hear clearly within that complete silence was the slow beating of his and Heishi’s hearts.
In the next moment, the two of them drifted through the sky some hundreds of meters above the ground like a kite with a broken string.
A-Ka couldn’t help but let out a loud shout, but Heishi’s armband split into countless metallic shards in an instant, and with a shua, layer upon layer, they formed into a pair of silver wings. With a hula they spread open, acting like a hang-glider, taking him and A-Ka flying into the distance.
“This is too insane, aaaahhh!” A-Ka shouted with great emotion.
“Shut up,” Heishi said coldly. “You’re too noisy.”
But when A-Ka lifted his head, he found that the corners of Heishi’s mouth were actually raised up slightly, a faint trace of a smile on his face. Accompanying the glow of the early morning, the two of them flew into the distance.
At noon on this day, the battle finally came to a conclusion. The entire city resounded with the military song, “The Black Plains”, and the defeated humans were escorted into the plaza like prisoners of war. Up on a nearby building, Heishi bent over and looked down.
“It worked?” Heishi asked.
“Not yet.” A-Ka’s brow was furrowed deeply. “This chip with the main program is very ancient, and if I’ve guessed correctly, it should have been retrieved directly from the ruins that the Creator left behind…”
He put the chip from Mackenzie’s head and the main program chip together, but he found that aside from these, there was still another port to connect to.
What was this port for? A-Ka had a dim, ominous premonition: was there another piece?!
“This was a technology from tens of thousands of years ago,” Heishi said coldly. “Now, all the computational techniques that you humans and clones are using were all stolen from within the Primeval Heart.”
A-Ka had no more effort to spare to study the other port as he connected the chip containing the main program to the data cable. He said somewhat helplessly, “I don’t really agree with calling it ‘stolen’... but alright… let us take a look at what’s inside.”
Just as he finished speaking, the decoder spat out a cramped, packed 256-faced encoded volume, like a huge, glowing ball.
Heishi said, “If you’re sure that’s it, then we must immediately head down to tell Huixiong.”
A-Ka’s pupils expanded slightly as he looked at that encoded ball. His breathing paused.
“Is there a problem?” Heishi studied the strange shape.
With a finger, A-Ka moved the encoded ball, turning it in a different direction. The red, glowing encoded ball was only two-thirds complete, and the last third was blank space facing Heishi. Heishi also realized this, and he murmured, “What? There’s a third piece?!”
“I guess that this is something else that ‘Father’ prepared ahead of time,” A-Ka said, his voice trembling. “At its core, it’s still afraid of the stop commands being leaked out, so it deleted this section.”
Heishi said, “Impossible. How could General Libre not have found this blank space? If one part has been deleted, then the entirety of the command can’t be used, so how could he have gathered the armies to storm the City of Machines?”
A-Ka replied, “This is the original chip, and what General Libre had was the backup. When he copied it, the entire shutdown encoding must have been complete. As for where that last chip went… only the heavens know…”
Heishi glanced at A-Ka, and the two seemed to come to some tacit understanding. A-Ka quickly came to a realization, and he frowned. “What if the last piece is in Angus’s head?!”
“Quick!” Heishi said.
A-Ka immediately stowed the chip away, and the two of them ran down the building.
At twilight, the sun shone over these black plains that had been scorched by the fires of war. The mercenaries that had been captured were escorted out to kneel on the ground in a line.
“Hand our people over,” a clone officer called, pressing a gun to the back of a prisoner’s head. “Otherwise, for every minute that passes, we’ll kill one person.”
The mercenaries were gathered behind the defensive line, but though the crowd’s emotions were turbulent, none of them went forward at that time.
A moment later, Shahuang pulled Angus out, pressing the gun to his forehead, saying, “If you guys kill one person, then I’ll kill him.”
The clone officer jeered. “Shoot all you want, the clones have never had a leader. Even now, you still don’t understand? We are all one body, if you kill Angus, anyone else can take his place.”
Heishi and A-Ka passed through the rubble as they ran towards the mercenary headquarters. As others spotted them, they began to mutter amongst themselves. When he looked forward, A-Ka saw Feiluo kneeling on the ground, one hand hugging Percy as he used his body to shield him.
Percy’s eyes were closed, and he leaned against Feiluo in his embrace.
“Feiluo! Percy!” A-Ka wanted to rush over, but a mercenary grabbed the collar of his shirt and dragged him back.
That clone officer that was issuing orders said darkly, “These are traitors of ours that were colluding with the humans. Since you all seem to care about them so much, we’ll kill them first…”
After saying this, that clone officer walked towards the father and son duo of Feiluo and Percy.
“No!” A-Ka shouted angrily.
“Wait!” Huixiong’s voice suddenly sounded.
There was a disturbance created within the mercenary base camp. Huixiong exchanged a few words with Heishi, before saying, “We accept your terms, give us a few more minutes.”
The clone officer put his gun away, saying, “Ten minutes. If General Angus isn’t handed over to us then, I will kill ten of you humans.”
A-Ka shot him a vengeful glare before turning and running towards his own side’s base camp, only to see when he entered that the high-level members of the Mercenary Association were gathered together, with Angus standing as straight as a pen in the midst, his expression cold and set.
“Even if you guys kill me now, there’s no use,” Angus answered decisively, as if he already knew that he himself was going to die no matter what.
“Where’s that blank part that was deleted?” Heishi said coldly. “I don’t believe that you don’t have a backup.”
Angus fell silent. Shahuang put his gun away and walked up, grabbed Angus’ collar, and was about to hit him.
“Don’t be hasty!” Huixiong said anxiously. “No one is allowed to attack right now!”
“I suspect that the encoded bit is right here, in this bastard’s head.” Shahuang pressed his gun aggressively against Angus’s head as he spoke impolitely. “How about we saw open his head and take a look?”
Heishi said, “It’s not in his head.”
“I also suspect it’s not there,” that red-haired man called Gerb said. “Hand it over ba, Angus.”
“I don’t have it,” Angus said measuredly. “This world is fated to be destroyed. There is already no more hope left.”
As soon as those words were spoken, everyone’s breathing stopped for a brief moment. A strange expression appeared on Huixiong’s face, while A-Ka’s heart beat extremely violently as he dimly thought of the worst case scenario.
“You guys can kill me now,” Angus said. “If you kill me, you guys will also never be able to find the third chip. Input, output, and execution, the three main sequences, we each are taking care of one part, and that last part was inserted into Libre’s brain.”
In this instant, everyone had the same thought flash through their mind: damn it.
A-Ka’s brain was a patch of blank white. Libre had already been lost during the battle to take the City of Machines, so where exactly were they supposed to find it?!
Heishi was silent for a moment. He then said, “Better prepare for your funerals soon.”
“No!” A-Ka said. “There’s still hope, let’s think about it a little more…”
Everyone’s faces were as grey as ash, and for a while no one said anything.
“There’s still five minutes left,” Huixiong said after glancing at his watch. “Should we give up?”
“There must be a way,” A-Ka said. “Let’s think about it a little more… perhaps Libre hasn’t died yet…”
“He’s already dead,” Angus said calmly. “Every time a clone brother dies, a signal will always be sent through the quorum sensing system, to Phoenix City. Halfway through the battle, in the instant the mothership crashed into ‘Father’, General Libre had already perished.”
A-Ka said to them, “I’m familiar with the City of Machines. I’ll go back to search, perhaps I’ll be able to find the chip.”
The mercenaries maintained their silence, before finally Huixiong let out a sigh.
Though A-Ka kept persisting, he knew in his heart, how could going back to the City of Machines to find a single chip be considered easy? That last explosion was like an energy wave that had even pulverized the mothership into powder, and perhaps the chip had already long since been destroyed by that. Even if it had survived the explosion, by now, the City of Machines would have already been flattened and rebuilt.
“Three minutes,” Huixiong said.
“Surrender ba.” Shahuang put his gun away as he let out a long sigh. That sigh held within it a limitless hesitance and despair.
Their shadows stretched long under the light of the setting sun, landing on the blackened plaza.
“A-Ka and I will go back,” Heishi said.
“You won’t be able to find the chip,” Angus said. “Don’t immerse yourselves in pointless hope, because what comes with that hope is an everlasting despair.”
Tears welled up in A-Ka’s eyes. In this instant, he hoped desperately for a miracle to happen. When he glanced towards Heishi, he felt that Heishi definitely had some way to deal with this, but even Heishi was at the end of his rope.
On the plaza, the clone officer reminded them, “There are still forty seconds left.”
“Go, Angus,” Shahuang said. “Your duty is done.”
Angus walked towards the center of the plaza, but just at this moment, a huge boom echoed in the distance, as if something had split open spacetime, rushing utterly silently towards Phoenix City!
“The Iron and Steel Corps!”
“The Iron and Steel Corps have invaded!”
“It’s not the Iron and Steel Corps! Be careful!”
A huge shadow enveloped the entire plaza as a golden airship flew over. The clones all backed up swiftly; they had no time to kill the human hostages as they each pointed their guns towards the sky, shooting out bullets of light!
“Percy!” A-Ka rushed out despite the danger of being hit with a bullet. With his body hunched over, he activated the rocket propellers in his boots, flying towards Percy and Feiluo. Feiluo roared, “Watch out!”
In a flash, the golden airship shot out a beam of magnetic light amongst the hail of light bullets, which dissipated with a weng across the field. All of the guns let out crackles of electricity as they all turned into hunks of useless metal!
Heishi’s powerful arm grabbed A-Ka, before his other arm dragged Feiluo and Percy back into the humans’ camp.
The clones all retreated a little bit, and Angus took the opportunity to also run back to his own camp. The golden ship came to a stop between the two sides. The door to the cabin opened, and a middle-aged man walked out, observing his surroundings.
That middle-aged man said, “General Angus, you have violated the sixth commandment.”
“This is a conflict that the humans started!” Angus roared angrily.
The human side was entirely silent, and A-Ka asked quietly, “Who is this person?”
“The Curia requests that you all immediately stop fighting,” the middle-aged man said solemnly. “If any commandment is violated again, we will take back all the humans in Phoenix City to Dragonmaw City in batches.”
Angus chuckled coldly. “Pass this message along to the Curia for me, I’d be very glad if he did so.”
The middle-aged man then said, “Angus, you should know who came up with the commandments on the peace treaty. Your ancestor gave you clones a place to stay in Phoenix City, so if you were to make light of starting such a war, you all should be very clear on what the consequences are.”
“We aren’t starting a war,” Huixiong, who had been silent all this time, finally spoke up. “Mackenzie had been implanted with a controlling chip by ‘Father’, becoming a spy of the City of Machines that was planted in the Alliance camp. Before he could begin a second battle of moths clustering to a flame, our brother carried out an assassination to stop him.”
“The Curia already knows of what happened,” the middle-aged man said. “The Curia requests that General Angus, the President of the Mercenary Association, Huixiong, as well as all parties involved in this matter to gather in Dragonmaw City and undergo mediation. Everyone, please get on the boat.”
The middle-aged man turned and stepped back onto the boat. There was a minute of silence on either side, before Huixiong took the lead and stepped out, saying, “Let’s go.”
Percy said in a small voice, next to Feiluo’s ear, “Dad, let’s go, they’re not bad people.”
On the ship that was headed to the Western Mainland, A-Ka had previously heard the bard Moran bring up that the Curia believed in the God of Astrolabe, which was that extraterrestrial Creator that had created this very world. With Heishi there, there shouldn’t be any danger, and when Heishi walked onto the ship, A-Ka followed him. Angus and Huixiong also got on, both of them commanding their troops to temporarily halt the battle. The airship slowly rose into the air, flying towards Dragonmaw City in the southern part of the Western Mainland.
The ship kept flying at a low altitude, and from the portholes in the cabin they could see the devastated land below their feet, as well as Phoenix City charred by the flames of war. After Heishi got on the ship, he stood on the deck, watching this land below him through the transparent glass.
“A-Ka,” Percy said in a small voice.
“Percy.” After the two of them had been reunited, A-Ka had finally found the time to speak with Percy. He lowered his head to inspect the rope burns that had been left on Percy’s wrists, asking, “Are you okay?”
Percy smiled. “I just sent Uncle Moran an electronic message, telling him about the things that happened here. He said before that if we ran into any difficulties in the future that we could go find him.”
No wonder, and with that, A-Ka finally let out a breath. Feiluo wiped Percy’s face, saying, “You guys ran into an official of the Curia? Why didn’t you say so?”
“I wasn’t clear on his position,” A-Ka said. “He told us that he was only a wandering bard.”
But now that he thought about it in detail, A-Ka could sense that Moran had left the Eastern Mainland aboard a ship as the battle to kill Father took place. For him to appear in the Rebel Alliance’s headquarters at that time, in that place, to board that ship, meant that perhaps he and General Libre had communicated before in some fashion.
As for what the Curia did, A-Ka wasn’t very clear on. When he saw Heishi, Huixiong, Angus, and that middle-aged man sent by the Curia standing together and chatting, he rose and walked towards them.
“...The last chip has already been destroyed,” Huixiong said. “It was in General Libre’s hands.”
“The Curia has already received the news of General Mackensie’s betrayal,” the middle-aged man said as he bowed politely towards Heishi. “He asked me to pass along his regards to you.”
Heishi’s expression was placid as he asked, “Does he still have a backup copy in his hands?”
The middle-aged man thought silently for a moment, before shaking his head. He then said, “Perhaps there’s still a way, do not give up hope.”
Huixiong let out a long sigh and leaned back against the railings as he spoke. “With the current situation, the only hope is to once again seek refuge with the Curia.”
A-Ka asked, “Are you guys friends of Uncle Moran?”
That man turned around and said politely, “I am Archbishop Igor, my friend, and on behalf of the Pontiff, I would like to express his regards. He greatly respects the bravery and effort of each and every one of you.”
A-Ka waved his hand, indicating that he didn’t need to be polite. Heishi explained to A-Ka, “The precursor to the Curia was founded by one of those original four explorers from all those years ago.”
With this, A-Ka finally understood. Back then, after the four adventurers had entered the Primeval Heart and left the Creator’s laboratory, they parted and went their separate ways, each establishing their own forces. Amongst them, Doctor Callan had obtained the cloning techniques, and with himself as the father, he cloned the group now known as the clones, becoming known as the father of the clones.
General Gallo took command of the humans. Using the Creator’s techniques, he built Phoenix City to allow humans and clones to co-exist peacefully, creating the first republican regime. Professor Ricard had taken the computational techniques and the chip that made up the core of the Creator’s various programs, and created a huge, primordial computer. After undergoing evolution and changes written into it, the computer became “Father”.
The last explorer had arrived in Dragonmaw City, gathering many followers, and taught them the faith of the Creator.
“Does the pontiff have any method to restore this chip?” A-Ka’s heart rose at that thought. In this bleak, dark situation, he thought he saw a single beam of hope. But Archbishop Igor sighed and said, “It’s very difficult. Aside from a small number of modes of transportation and defense mechanisms, the Curia doesn’t use any computer-related methods, to prevent ‘Father’ from sneaking in. But there are quite a few records preserved in the Church. Perhaps we may be able to find another way to deal with ‘Father’.”
A-Ka held that chip out for Igor to look at. Igor was wholly ignorant about this, and he could only respond, “In a while, when you see the Pontiff, you can discuss it with him in person. We are just about to arrive.”
The airship approached Dragonmaw City steadily. This was a land that was covered with fresh wildflowers, and along the road from Phoenix City to Dragonmaw City, the earth that was blackened and barren slowly turned green; this was a true paradise. In a quiet voice, Feiluo was describing the scenery below to Percy, before Archbishop Igor explained to the gathered people, “Ever since Dragonmaw City was founded, we have never taken in any humans that grew up in modern technology-based civilization, or clones, as believers. Welcome, everyone, to the Country of God.”
moon: and that’s when they knew… they were screwed
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.