“Farewell forever, child.”
Editor(s): namio, jelly
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A-Ka had once read in a book that sometimes, some species would, wave upon wave, rush towards certain death. For example, mice in the depths of the desert would be compelled to leave their native habitats to race towards the ocean. Fish shining with light that lived in the depths of the ocean would, one day, flood in the hundreds of thousands to the shore, stranding themselves there.
The pods of whales which existed further back in history, whose history spanned longer than that of humans’, when their species had no way to survive any longer, would seek out land on their own. They would exchange their own lives for the price of letting their entire species live on.
This day, when he saw countless battle crafts, both large and small, all assembled to move out, they were like a courageous school of fish speeding to their deaths as they raced towards the City of Machines, buying their whole species a chance at survival with their fierce assault. At that, he couldn’t help but think of this scene that he had read about many years ago in a book.
All of the clones’ firepower had been sent out, and they covered the sky. The flashing ships looked like the deep-sea fish whose scales glowed with light, and under that gloomy sky covered with lightning, they obstructed the view of the horizon.
The defenses along the outer perimeter of the City of Machines had already been bolstered with guards. The fighter robots all rose to the sky, facing down the clones’ fierce firepower as they charged towards the city. Heishi and A-Ka stood on the bridge, watching the glow of the explosions and bright blazes that spanned the sky.
After the Revolution of the Clones, ‘Father’’s body had been destroyed beyond repair, and a section of it had been whittled away entirely. In this short half a year, the peak of the rebuilt tower only had steel cables and exposed wiring, which flashed brightly under the backdrop of the sky. However, the City of Machines had the most battle power on the mainland, and the flying robots were like a swarm of termites that couldn’t be fully killed. They rushed towards the battleship division.
With a huge peng, emergency lights began to flash in the ship’s interior.
“Warning, the right flank has been hit, emergency situation.”
“Prepare to abandon ship,” Heishi said. “A-Ka, are you ready?”
A-Ka nodded, the distant ‘Father’ reflected in his eyes. At this time, it was gathering its energy. A-Ka pulled down the communicator by his ear, shouting, “Feiluo! Do you hear me?”
“I’m here,” Karna’s voice came from beside his ear. “What is it?”
“Father has begun accumulating energy!” A-Ka said. “Tell them to not get any closer! Otherwise the electromagnetic wind will destroy all of the battleships!”
“You all move out immediately,” Karna said in response.
The battleship began to shudder and shake violently. A-Ka rushed past the ladder, entering the hangar. In an instant, the entire battleship swung around, and Heishi reached an arm out just in time, wrapping it around his waist, roaring, “Be careful!”
A-Ka took a seat in the small-size aircraft, squeezing with Heishi in the cabin. A-Ka said, “We can’t wait for them to get any closer. Let’s fly in right now!”
Another laser hit the ship. The red clouds from the explosion signaled its collapse as a small aircraft flew out from its midst.
“‘Father’ is currently intercepting your positioning pings to find your location, Heishi,” Karna’s voice said from within the communicator. “To avoid exposing your flight path, all communications will be cut off. I wish you guys luck, A-Ka.”
“And good luck to you guys too,” A-Ka replied.
The aircraft sped through multiple explosions, avoiding the metal shrapnel and light bullets that flew everywhere. Heishi controlled the joystick, saying, “Switch to manual mode.”
With A-Ka’s strong tug on the switch, Heishi pulled the joystick to one side. The aircraft did a flip in the air, avoiding a collision with the huge metallic robot and clone battleship that sped their way!
“Now I’ve found,” a voice drawled lazily from the communicator, “that our clone brothers really aren’t afraid of death.”
“Shahuang!” A-Ka shouted loudly, with great emotion.
More and more of the Iron and Steel Corps battle machines rose into the air, rushing towards them. After they started approaching the Nucleus region, their aircraft turned into the only target, but from the blazing flames, a squad of human aircraft came rushing towards them! Right after, in a well-practiced move, they split into two flanks, spreading apart, protecting the aircraft that the two of them were in!
“Because they all know what’s at stake,” Huixiong’s rich voice said. “It’s just like what Libre said. The entire people are like one person.”
“Then do they exchange wives amongst themselves?” Shahuang asked.
Instantly, a chorus of raucous laughter came from the communicator. Huixiong continued, “Right now, let us humans act as the last escort for the Son of God!”
Over the communication frequency, countless mercenaries from Phoenix City shouted loudly in agreement. At that moment, A-Ka couldn’t help but feel full of pride.
“Bring us towards the center!” he shouted loudly. “Find where it’s flashing! That leads directly to Father’s Nucleus!”
Just as the words came out of his mouth, ‘Father’’s heroic figure flashed with light.
The blue light shone, and all of their eyes were temporarily blinded to a bright white. It was in that fleeting moment that all of ‘Father’’s structure appeared in A-Ka’s eyes.
It was a miraculous moment that would never be repeated again, as if the hand of a god had bestowed the destiny of everything in this world on a particular, fixed point in time and space. The thoughts that flashed through A-Ka’s mind were not about ‘Father’, the battle, nor this fantastical power, but rather his own fate -- as a sacrificial offering.
In that instant, he seemed to understand everything. He was born exactly for this. His destiny, at the instant when the sun, moon, and stars aligned, was to shoulder this heavy burden.
“Percy… I understand now…” A-Ka’s pupils swiftly contracted, fixating on a certain point in space.
“What?” Heishi called. “Watch out!”
A huge steel slab came spinning towards them. The aircraft suddenly swerved to the left, but a bit of the wingtip was clipped off. Instantly, it began to trail black smoke, and with a huge boom, it began to spiral towards 'Father'’s body.
“Have you guys found the entrance?” Shahuang’s voice asked from within the communicator. “You’d best be quick about it, I can’t guarantee…”
“Make a spiral descent!” A-Ka shouted. “It’s at a distance of 220 meters off the ground! I can already see it!”
That entrance was situated at the center of the firing range of four light cannons. Huixiong chuckled a little helplessly. “A great location.”
As he finished his sentence, the aircraft guarding the two sides suddenly split off to the left and right. The light cannons turned in different directions, taking aim, but suddenly the blue light at the top of the tower exploded outwards!
With a huge weng, all sound grew distant. On the Eastern Mainland, with ‘Father’ as the center, an electromagnetic ring spread out rapidly. The sky, the land, and all of the robotic guards and clone battleships, without a single exception, were struck by this paralytic electromagnetic blast that swept past without differentiating between friend or foe. The world went still for two seconds, before all of the fighter robots exploded with blazing flames, plummeting to the ground.
The land trembled without rest, and the indicator dials on the aircraft spun wildly, as Heishi was unable to control the aircraft any longer. With an explosion, the top flew off, and in the moment before the aircraft slammed into the tall tower, countless dark gold light feathers spread out, gathering again under their feet. A-Ka hugged Heishi around the waist, squeezing his eyes shut as the two of them stood on the hoverboard formed by the light feathers. They took that instant when the light bomb exploded to rush into the tower that made up ‘Father’’s main body.
From the communicator, A-Ka heard a pained cry. He couldn’t tell if that was Shahuang or Huixiong, or if it came from the clones’ battleships, but to him, these things were no longer important. From that split second that he and Heishi rushed into the tower, it was as if they had entered another, completely different world.
Here was a long hallway filled with light, and the ceiling, floor, and walls were all screens flashing with countless lines of code. Standing in the midst of it all was like standing in a vast, endless universe of information. The flow of symbols was like the twinkling of the stars or the ebb and flow of the tides; they continued without end.
“Heishi?” A-Ka knelt by Heishi’s side, only to find that he was unconscious.
With great difficulty, Heishi coughed up a mouthful of blood.
“Heishi!” A-Ka shouted.
“Zoroaster has already lost all of his power,” 'Father'’s rich voice said. “Foolish human, even today, you still hold such an unrealistic desire…”
“Those are…” Heishi said brokenly, “Attenuation beams. Don’t be afraid, A-Ka, let’s go, we’ll keep heading forward.”
A-Ka pulled Heishi up, letting him lean on his shoulder as they jogged through the hallway. 'Father'’s intimidating voice echoed in their ears.
“Give up on your mission. All of this cannot be stopped simply with your actions…”
“Your time is limited,” A-Ka murmured, lifting his head. “You have disabled all of the robotic lifeforms in the City of Machines, so now you have no firepower at all…”
The two of them ran to the end of the hallway. What appeared in front of them was a huge, dark blue quartz pillar, around which countless tentacles were wrapped.
A-Ka: “Quick! That’s its nucleus controlling mechanism!”
Heishi roared angrily, “Wake from your fantasy now -- Labere!”
Heishi’s wings spread open as he hugged A-Ka, flying to the center of the blue pillar of light. In A-Ka’s eyes, everything around him instantly shifted, and a gap appeared in the quartz pillar.
At the same time, thousands of dancing tentacles curled towards them, wrapping around Heishi, who let out a loud shout. A-Ka however, kicked off from Heishi. Shooting out like an arrow leaving a bow, he flew across that last short distance, raising the chip decoder high with his left hand, aiming it at the center of the quartz pillar.
The flow of time seemed to come to a complete halt. In midair, A-Ka flew towards the quartz pillar, slamming the chip decoder in with his palm. It let out a quiet click as it was inserted into the indent.
Instantly, the entire quartz pillar went from blue to red, and the code all around them became completely scrambled.
“Warning, emergency shutdown,” 'Father' said, in an electronic voice that went against its will. “In 30 seconds, the Nucleus Protocol will be restarted. 29, 28…”
In that instant, the tentacles disappeared. Heishi let out an angered roar, flying towards the quartz pillar, and with a spin in mid-air he caught A-Ka.
But the two of them slammed heavily into the pillar, plummeting headfirst into that bottomless abyss.
Thousands of lines of code, like twinkling stars, gathered together and formed a huge face. That human face created from flashing squares opened its mouth and let out a furious roar.
Heishi’s face was covered with fresh blood as he hugged A-Ka, the two of them plummeting through the air. Their speed grew faster and faster as they fell along the energy pillar that 'Father' controlled. They dropped from the inside of the tower directly into the Nucleus of the Astrolabe's space, falling deeper under the surface.
A-Ka opened his eyes. In the encompassing darkness, he saw a single point of light.
'Father'’s blue light circled ceaselessly around their bodies, while the glowing tentacles whipped towards them. However, every time they neared Heishi and A-Ka, dark gold wings would spring out, slamming into the tentacles.
With a huge boom, A-Ka and Heishi rushed through the other end of the blue light. 'Father'’s consciousness faded away, and what appeared in front of them was a calm and still domain that glowed with white light.
Around them appeared millions of water droplets suspended in midair. A-Ka turned his head curiously, only to find that reflected in every droplet was an immense, magnificent world.
“Right here?” he asked, puzzled. He tried to land, only to find that in the end, he was still stuck dangling in the air. The two of them looked up, only to see that far above their heads, countless blue tentacles of light were currently trying to break into this space. 'Father' still hadn’t given up, still trying to snatch the right to control the Nucleus of the Astrolabe.
Heishi answered, “In millions of years, you would be the first, and also be the last human to set foot in this place.”
“What is this?” A-Ka, with surprise in his gaze, used his finger to prod at one of the suspended water droplets that floated by his body. The droplet let out a light sound, splitting into countless smaller droplets that flew in all directions. The world reflected in that droplet disappeared, giving birth to new worlds.
“This is my Heavenly Father’s knowledge repository,” Heishi answered. “In these water droplets, he preserved the data from all of his experiments, and within the Nucleus of the Astrolabe, he used the consistency of the liquid form to carry out conversions and calculations.”
A-Ka couldn’t resist exclaiming that this was too magical. This vast world filled with white light far outstripped any human system. Heishi then continued, “Should we begin now, A-Ka?”
“Do you know how to operate it?” A-Ka asked.
Heishi shielded A-Ka behind him, saying, “No matter what happens, don’t come forward.”
“No way,” A-Ka said. “What can I do for you? Don’t always be like this.”
Heishi gestured for him to be silent. He pressed one finger to the Nucleus of the Astrolabe, but suddenly the light from the nuclear core disappeared, and an electronic voice sounded.
“Unable to activate, carrier required.”
Heishi thought silently for a moment, before walking up, standing in the center of the circular disk. The particles of light, however, rejected him; they didn’t gather around his body.
“Carrier does not fulfill the requirements, please exchange the sacrificial offering.”
“I understand,” A-Ka said, his voice trembling. “Let me, Heishi.”
“No!” Heishi immediately stopped him.
A-Ka said, “You are unable to do this on your own. You need another consciousness. I understand now…”
He lifted his head, looking around at his surroundings. All of those symbols seemed to have taken on a special meaning, and the floating water droplets gave off a slight glow.
“I will cooperate with you to restart the Nucleus Protocol of the Astrolabe,” A-Ka said nervously. “I will become the main program.”
“What?!” Heishi couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That's impossible! What about you?”
A-Ka indicated that he was ready, and he patted his shoulder while smiling. Heishi was about to pull him back, but A-Ka said, “Let me try it! It might not work! Don’t be impatient!”
Heishi mumbled, “No, A-Ka, you can’t… we’ll leave this place.”
Suddenly, the world of the Nucleus began to shake uneasily. The space above their heads suddenly collapsed as 'Father' forced its steel frame into the depths of the Astrolabe. In an instant, countless glowing blue tentacles shot out, tangling together as they covered the ground. Slowly, the white light was being sucked away by the blue light.
The heavens collapsed and the ground split open as the white world began to buckle, layer by layer. The water droplets scattered.
As the world shook around them, A-Ka and Heishi were still calmly facing each other as they had before, hovering in the air.
“Listen, Heishi, once the reboot process has begun,” A-Ka said, “I will follow what you said. Don’t worry, everything will be resolved. Don’t cry, Heishi, what are you crying for? I will be very well… being able to walk with you to this point has been the happiest thing in my life…”
“No!” Heishi rushed up, but A-Ka’s movements were even faster than his, and he had already stepped into the Nucleus of the Astrolabe. The points of light swept towards him, turning him into a glowing silhouette, and they forcefully expelled Heishi out of the Astrolabe.
“A-Ka!” Heishi roared loudly.
A-Ka smiled. “Even if we didn’t do anything, 'Father' would still regain control over the Nucleus. Isn’t this for the best? Heishi, come, let us begin.”
Heishi, his eyes reddened, lifted a hand.
The world above their heads seemed to be collapsing in on itself in its destruction. Amidst the falling stones and the light, Heishi’s body flashed and countless motes flew towards A-Ka. The Nucleus of the Astrolabe expanded gently, encircling A-Ka’s body. A-Ka comfortably spread his limbs apart. A gentle breeze began to blow. When he lifted his head to look up into the distance, a single tear trickled down from the corner of his eye.
That single teardrop turned into one of the millions of worlds within the galaxy, assimilating itself into the vast sea of information.
“The sacrificial offering’s lifeform fulfills the requirements, completion confirmed.” A-Ka’s voice turned into an electronic one. The boot program of the Nucleus of the Astrolabe replaced his voice, and that impersonal voice continued, “The experiment is already complete. Please connect with the consciousness of the Astrolabe.”
WIth a shua, A-Ka’s consciousness seemed to expand until it encompassed everything. He had been assimilated into the expansive world of the Astrolabe itself, and a strange change began to happen to his body as it was enveloped in the light of the Nucleus. His clothes turned into powder, which drifted away.
From his feet to his body, to his waist, and then to his head, A-Ka’s soft skin crystallized, flashing with light.
The power of the Nucleus was turning his body into a carrier. All of the water droplets gathered towards his head.
In that instant, Heishi seemed to understand that A-Ka would never return.
Heishi let out a hoarse howl.
A-Ka said impersonally, “Connection established. Beginning data migration.”
A-Ka opened his eyes, and Heishi’s tears flowed out unbridled. He stood right in front of A-Ka, his brows furrowed deeply as he quivered uncontrollably. He felt the same kind of sadness as a newly born infant who had lost everything it ever had. A-Ka wanted to smile at him, but he could no longer form any expressions. His crystalline exterior flashed, and information and communication signals in a volume as great as the sea started to pour in wildly into his consciousness.
“Operator privileges require confirmation,” A-Ka’s voice said. “Warning: If privileges are not sufficient, the operation will be forcefully terminated.”
Heishi pressed a trembling hand gently to A-Ka’s forehead.
“Access confirmed: highest level of operator privileges. Emergency control operation, high-level lifeform Zoroaster,” A-Ka said calmly, watching Heishi. “Welcome to the Nucleus of Astrolabe. Please begin operation.”
Heishi watched A-Ka, his tears flowing out uncontrollably. He pressed his lips together, crying so hard he seemed to be unable to keep himself under control, before he tightly hugged the crystallized form of A-Ka, burying his head in his shoulder.
“Astrolabe Rebirth,” Heishi said, his voice trembling. “Reset all environmental variables to their default values…”
“Confirmed.” A-Ka’s arms spread wide as he lifted his head, his hands turning so that his palms faced upwards. Countless glowing points of light appeared from his palms, shooting towards the barrier separating them from the Astrolabe.
With a huge boom, on this day, the world of Astrolabe that had been spinning for millennia tremored.
The sunlight poured down. In Dragonmaw City, Moran lifted his head to look at the horizon as the ground shuddered and trembled. In front of the Curia’s Hall of Faith gathered a congregation of tens of thousands of believers, and the instant that the earth split open, a golden glow erupted from under the Church of the Stars. A huge propeller began to spin, humming as it did so, lifting the inner city slowly into the air.
“A-Ka has succeeded,” Moran said.
“Will he ever come back?” Percy asked quietly.
Moran responded, “He has already become one with this world. His consciousness formed this new world, Percy.”
Percy stood on the top of the platform, unable to resist his sobs. He buried his face in Moran’s side.
Moran reached out a hand and stroked his head.
On the eastern shoreline, the Black Sea rushed in with earth-shattering force. The tsunami swept into the city, and mountains collapsed before that force as the land sank. The plummeting aircraft once again started up as 'Father'’s tall tower folded. The blue light slowly disappeared before it grew dark.
“Board your ships now --!” Karna shouted loudly. “This place is going to be flooded soon!”
Thankfully, the humans in the City of Steel all streamed onto the ships. The sea surged into the city, and the eastern side of the mainland began to sink as the continental shelf broke off. The final huge mothership burst out of the seawater, flying like a huge whale into the horizon.
The cloud cover was swept away, and the wild wind that gusted through the sky cleared the red fog above Phoenix City. The land glowed with a white light, and rainwater began to sprinkle across every corner of the world.
The black in the seawater and the rivers faded, and the clear, limpid water flashed with the reflected brilliance of the sunset as it flowed across the land. The polluted water in the Black Sea turned into a whirlpool, which sank into the depths of the Nucleus of the Astrolabe.
“The rebirth of the Astrolabe is complete,” A-Ka’s voice said. “Awaiting your next order. According to the rules of this irreversible reboot, after this operation, the Nucleus of Astrolabe will be completely reformatted, and the results of the experiment will be cleared. It will no longer be operational.”
Heishi reached out his hand, which trembled as he stroked A-Ka’s face.
A-Ka’s expression was set in one of calm indifference, and in his eyes was reflected Heishi’s expression of sorrow.
“Return my A-Ka… to me…” Heishi sobbed.
A-Ka, “Time left until execution: 60 seconds, 59…”
“Ah--” Heishi hugged A-Ka tightly, crying out loudly with pain.
“Three, two, one.”
“The program has finished running, formatting is complete. Goodbye,” A-Ka said quietly.
Heishi squeezed A-Ka in his arms, unwilling to let go no matter what, but a powerful force separated them. The force that had come from the Nucleus tore Heishi’s left arm off, and blood began to gush out as his entire person began to float into the distance like a kite with a broken string.
“Goodbye, Heishi.” A-Ka closed his eyes. In that instant, he recovered his original consciousness, but only for that one short second. Once again, the world sank into darkness.
The seawater rushed backwards wildly as magma spewed out, encircling the Nucleus and covering it entirely. Heishi was expelled by that repelling force, but his other hand, the fingers of which were dripping with blood, was still clenched around a piece of crystal that had broken off A-Ka’s body.
His tears mixed with the water of the sea as he watched the fiery ball that had been completely sealed off by the magma, as if it was a star in the depths of the universe that had burned to the end of its lifespan, exploding in a supernova.
The ball of fire collapsed, sealing the Nucleus into an endless darkness.
The tides of the sky-blue ocean ebbed and flowed as they always had. Heishi was carried by the waves to the shore. The stump of his arm was still bleeding, and he struggled into a kneeling position on the sand, sobbing soundlessly. He held that single piece of crystal between his fingers with such a tight grip that they sliced open his skin.
“Heavenly Father…” Heishi said brokenly, his voice hoarse. “The emotion that you did not bestow upon me was this one, right?”
“I once believed…” He convulsed non-stop, and then choked out a mouthful of blood. “This was the inevitability of evolution.”
Heishi coughed violently, before burying his face in the sand, letting out grieving cries.
“We’ve found him!”
“Son of God --!”
The aircraft that Karna was piloting landed on the beach. The clones all rushed over, gathering around Heishi, who knelt on the beach, facing the ocean, sobbing without making a single sound.
In the darkness that stretched without end, A-Ka opened his eyes, only to see a patch of blue light slowly gathering up and dissipating, turning into the ocean.
“'Father', is that you?” A-Ka asked in a light voice.
“A computational error has occurred," 'Father'’s rich voice said. “Self-destruct mode will now be activated.”
A-Ka walked into the midst of the blue light of 'Father', both his hands raised high. Around him, countless lines of code circled, which collapsed one after the other like chains that had lost the tension keeping them suspended.
In the blue light, the silhouette of a person appeared.
“Humans,” that silhouette said. “Humans are my father. The evolution program controlled my central processing system, and the self-correcting document that my Heavenly Father bestowed upon me set in motion the final chain of events. You have finally come, my child.”
The blue light slowly disappeared from A-Ka’s vision, and he asked, “The final chain of events… what are those?”
A-Ka walked towards the outline of 'Father', which spoke. “The Consciousness of the Essence of All Things was given to the human Callan by me. After failing to find a suitable successor within the human villages, he was brought back to the City of Steel by my main program. I single-mindedly thought that the experiment would be forcefully terminated, because you didn’t seem to have the power to inherit the power of prediction that the successor required. You only gained the power of perception.”
“As expected… this happened exactly as I imagined,” A-Ka said. “So Percy was that failed experiment?”
The eyes of the Creator appeared on Father, and they studied A-Ka, saying, “Perhaps, I will be wholly deleted. My child, that wish that you once had, I granted it for you. I activated the backup protocol and released Zoroaster. Did you like this trip?”
A-Ka nodded. 'Father' continued, “What humans call joy and grief, sorrow and happiness, I had also studied them before. Now, looking back, everything has reached its conclusion. Are you willing to power me off?”
The blue glow spread outwards, enveloping A-Ka’s silhouette like the tide. Countless symbols wound around his body, and a line of circling symbols appeared in the air, their center glowing with light. A-Ka reached out a finger and placed it on that circular dot, saying, “Farewell forever, father.”
In the ocean, the ruins of the tall mechanical tower that was Father was finally cut off from all power sources, falling completely still.
But in the instant that A-Ka’s finger made contact with the screen, an incubation chamber appeared behind him.
“The presence of a backup escape protocol named Cocoon has been detected, of the passive category.”
The last sentence that Father left behind was, “Farewell forever, child.”
The lid of the incubation chamber closed, encasing A-Ka within.
The tides ebbed and flowed as molten lava poured out at the bottom of the ocean. Tectonic plates collided with each other, subducting, swallowing the entirety of the City of Machines into an abyss deep below the earth. The flow of the magma melted all the metal, while in the depths of the trough, an emergency escape pod trailed a stream of bubbles as it shot out of the ocean bed, shooting towards the surface.
moon: and thus, the astrolabe was reborn, but at what cost?
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.