"Humans were intelligent animals."
Editor(s): namio, jelly
After A-Ka entered the prison cell, he stared dazedly for quite some time. He didn’t understand why he had walked out under such circumstances to confess that Heishi was looking for him.
He hugged his knees and sat in the corner, thinking it over countless times, what would his own end be like?
Humans were intelligent animals. For the sake of his own life, he had long since memorized the many articles of the law, time and again. As A-Ka thought it over again and again, he felt that the problem at the moment was not necessarily that he would be disposed of, because the law did not mention how to punish the humans that were brought back.
The only crime that they could connect with him was the crime of crossing between worlds. But A-Ka was very careful to not reveal any of his traces in front of the surveillance cameras. As long as these robots who followed the rules couldn’t determine if he had secretly left the Ant Nest, his guilt would be absolved.
And the question of Heishi was even easier to resolve. Since he didn’t have an identity, and he was not an escapee from the other sections, with this series of events, it was very possible that he and A-Ka would both be deemed innocent -- the crux being that Heishi wouldn’t reveal the truth to these robots, the fact that A-Ka had originally snuck out before.
But as soon as that clone brought up the lawsuit, A-Ka would be arrested for the crime of theft, and then be immediately disposed of.
A-Ka was extremely pleased that he had made a correct decision subconsciously. On the surface the decision looked like it had saved Heishi, but in reality it had saved himself.
Thinking to this point, A-Ka took a look at Heishi sitting across from him, thinking about how he would communicate his thoughts to him, if they were not being surveilled and their every movement recorded down. Just as he lifted his head, he found that Heishi was also staring at him. They were two cells apart, and the bars of the prison cells were made out of criss-crossing horizontal and vertical laser beams.
“Heishi,” A-Ka said.
Heishi took a look at A-Ka.
A-Ka: “What exactly did you come here to do?”
Heishi answered, “It has nothing to do with you.”
A-Ka had no way to deal with Heishi, who just looked around at his surroundings, eyes filled with suspicion. Just as he was about to reach out his hand to touch the laser bars, A-Ka immediately said nervously, “Don’t touch it, don’t touch anything!”
Heishi said coldly, “Shut up!”
A-Ka responded simply, “Then go touch it. If you die don’t blame me.”
Heishi was silent for a long time, and finally he decided not to test it out and put his body in danger.
“Don’t say anything. "In the end, A-Ka could only tell him like that.
Heishi stood there quietly, watching A-Ka. In his heart, A-Ka mulled it over again and again: how was he supposed to explain it to Heishi? This grown man that he had picked up and brought back seemed to be like an inexplicable lunatic.
He didn’t know anything. When he was being interrogated, he probably wouldn’t lie either. The deadlier thing was, he knew absolutely nothing about the current situation, the City of Machines, or the status of humans in society and their relations with the robots. A-Ka only felt that this situation was quite thorny.
When A-Ka lifted his head, he found that Heishi was watching him.
"Listen, Heishi,” A-Ka said. He realized that maybe there was a need to demonstrate the reality of how everything around them was dangerous, so he pulled out a thin screwdriver from his shirt pocket and tossed it towards the laser cage where, with a chi sound, the plastic screwdriver was cut cleanly into two pieces that clattered to the ground.
Heishi stared at the screwdriver.
“Don’t say anything,” A-Ka said. “No matter what you’re asked, don’t say anything, or else you’ll die. First, tell me honestly, why did you come here?”
Heishi answered, “No real reason. I need to find a way out, you can stay here and keep waiting.”
A-Ka gritted his teeth and spat, “I saved you twice! Heishi! Do you treat the person who saved your life like this?”
From outside came a sound, and the two of them raised their guards as they each sat down in their own cell. A-Ka couldn’t stop sizing up Heishi, thinking of him now and then, and then to the clones’ revolution. He closed his eyes, when suddenly he heard a muffled boom from afar and the walls shook slightly.
Soon after, the entire prison region turned dark, and the laser bars blinked out.
From afar came the sound of shots being fired.
A-Ka instantly rose up - the power source had been cut! What was going on? According to the information that he had received from the chip, wasn’t the revolution of the clones supposed to happen on the twenty-seventh?
The lasers hummed, weng -- weng --, as they lit up the faces of the two people. The circumstances were extraordinary, and after a few more seconds, all the lights vanished.
A-Ka ran out of the cage, and with one tumble, he slammed into someone’s embrace. He was held in place by a powerful arm, and his heart jolted.
A-Ka said, “Let me go!”
That person coldly grunted with Heishi’s voice and pushed him to one side. A-Ka thought in his heart, I’ve really had enough… As soon as the prison cell opened, all the prisoners were thinking of ways to escape. In the pitch black there was no way to figure out the way out, so A-Ka could only remember the path from before and shouted, “This way! Heishi! Come with me!”
He turned and ran out towards the left side exit, but near the exit he heard the sound of the continuous tracks on robots moving, as if there were many patrolling guards currently coming their way. He subconsciously turned his body, running back into the depths of the prison cage.
A-Ka: “There’s danger! Turn around!”
A-Ka ran into the depths of the tunnel, where there was row upon row of prison cells. As soon as the lasers disappeared, all the humans grew alert, and the prison was filled with chaotic shouts as they pushed and shoved at each other. A-Ka was pushed into a stagger, and he steadied himself on a person.
“Heishi! Heishi!” A-Ka shouted anxiously, but there was no response; he had probably run off, but A-Ka couldn’t spare any more time to go find him in the darkness. Chaotic words sounded.
“Get out quick!”
“Something’s gone wrong with the energy system!”
“Everyone be careful! Get down!”
In the span of an instant, A-Ka felt that someone with a robust physique threw themself onto him, and they rolled about on the ground as the lasers flew in every way overhead. The robotic guards opened the main door to the hallway, and the light beams zipped through the air as pained cries and freshly spilled blood filled the air. A-Ka’s heartbeat seemed to stop in that instant; he had felt some slippery fluid, and his head swam.
“Here.” Heishi’s voice was as cold and calm as usual, and it was so cold and calm that it seemed unrealistic. A-Ka only felt that his body was lifted up as they leapt. He was tugged by Heishi into some place, followed by a period of tumbling about. The main entrance suddenly closed tight; they had entered the tunnel outside the prison complex.
He couldn’t see anything, but A-Ka managed to feel his way around until he bumped into an overturned manhole cover, which he knocked on for a few times, before asking, “Heishi, are you still there?”
There was no sound, and their surroundings were intensely quiet. Soon after, there was a deafening boom, and the cover in front of them was blown to pieces. A-Ka was greatly startled, and he felt out his blue-toned light and turned it on, only to see that Heishi’s hand was covered with blood. If it weren’t for the blood, he would even have wondered if Heishi was a robot.
“You have a lot of strength,” A-Ka said, a little bit of fear lingering on in his heart. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
He inspected Heishi’s hand. The skin on the back of his hand had been sliced open.
Heishi didn’t respond, but rather said, “I’m going, you be careful.”
Heishi turned and left, and A-Ka’s anger was completely gone. He could only hold that cold light up as he moved forward.
In the blink of an eye Heishi had already disappeared off to who knows where. A-Ka used his light to illuminate the path in front of him, and anxiously but cautiously began to search for tunnels to travel down. He was deathly afraid of running into any robots, but after circling around for a while, he found that there was a person in front of him, and he once again ran into Heishi.
“Let’s go together,” A-Ka said. “You’re not familiar with the passageways here.”
Heishi didn’t respond, but neither did he fall into step with A-Ka, instead continuing to walk towards the depths of the tunnel. He stopped in his steps in front as he turned back to observe A-Ka before turning his head again, one hand seemingly holding on to something that didn’t exist, as if he was holding his own blue light. A-Ka vaguely seemed to realize something: Heishi was learning.
He guessed that Heishi was probably imitating him to understand his own movements. In other words, other than language, a section of Heishi’s memories on movements and thoughts, were completely empty, like that of a small child. However, he didn’t have the luxury to interrogate Heishi right now; the most important thing was to protect his own life.
As he caught up with Heishi, he mulled over how to explain his thoughts to him.
A-Ka: “This place is called the Ant Nest. It’s where the humans live, and you are a member of the human race.”
Heishi still bore an expression of “I won’t pay attention if I don’t want to”.
A-Ka: “We currently need to think of a way to escape this place.”
Heishi had no reaction, and A-Ka continued, “The light can help us see the road clearly. This kind of light is usually reserved exclusively for clones, which aren’t robots. Robots have infrared sensors installed on them, and even if it’s pitch black, they can still see the people. So…”
“You’re too noisy,” Heishi said.
A-Ka finally exploded, and he roared angrily, “Getting to know you is considered my misfortune!”
Heishi turned around, looking threateningly at A-Ka, and in that instant A-Ka backed off and didn’t dare to roar at him again.
Heishi said coldly, “What did you say?”
A-Ka didn’t dare to say anymore, but thankfully Heishi didn’t move to beat him up. He only turned and kept walking forward.
“Outside there are other people fighting in the rebellion.” A-Ka followed behind Heishi, realizing that right now was not the time to argue with Heishi, before he continued, “So we can take the opportunity of this chaos to leave this place.”
Heishi perfunctorily en-ed once, before he tilted his head, as if he was distinguishing the noises within the darkness. A-Ka knew that he had fully understood, so he followed him forward.
The cold light shone upon the tunnel, revealing the sections of the path ahead of them: a large hall, a tunnel, a large hall, a tunnel, most of their dividing steel doors open. Once in a while there would be a steel door halfway closed, probably from its movement pausing midway due to the problems with the energy source. A-Ka shone the light several times over the walls, trying to find a map of the tunnels, but he slowly grew aware that it was futile.
Only the Ant Nest’s living region had a guidance map, but after leaving the Ant Nest, the robots and the clones both had navigation systems installed in them, so they didn’t need maps. Since they were blindfolded when they were brought in, he also didn’t know where he had been brought to, so he could only follow along blindly behind Heishi as they walked forward.
After Heishi appeared, A-Ka suddenly found that his own luck had become pretty good, as if he had brought A-Ka a goddess of fortune, and he had also brought about change. If there was no Heishi, there was a large probability that A-Ka would have been taken away by the clones and disposed of. As for whether the clones had been warned early due to the loss of that navigation chip, subsequently kickstarting their battle, that was also wholly outside of A-Ka’s predictions.
After walking for an unknown amount of time, A-Ka’s body gradually grew unable to hold up, and he said, “Wait for me for a bit, I need to rest.”
Heishi looked impatiently at A-Ka, before finally saying, “I’m going.”
A-Ka said, “Where are you going?”
Heishi responded, “It has nothing to do with you.”
A-Ka was at a complete loss as to what to do with Heishi. He seemed to hold a grudge over the words the two of them spoke when he woke up after being picked up by A-Ka by the shore. That first conversation was an unhappy one. But at the root of it all, it was also due to the hostility in A-Ka’s face when Heishi first knew him.
A-Ka said, “Wait for me, you can’t survive on your own here.”
Heishi’s footsteps slowly faded into the distance as he left A-Ka in his spot and walked away.
A-Ka cocked his head, placing his ear up against the wall of the tunnel, but he didn’t hear a thing. In front of them was a long tunnel used to transport supplies for basic living needs. There were many of these throughout the Ant Nest, crossing over each other, shuttling back and forth in the space under the earth, transporting the goods that humans needed. Finding the tracks meant that they had basically gained access to the network of thoroughfares.
A-Ka rested for a while, before he once again slowly began to follow the rails, but he didn’t expect to once again run into Heishi.
In front there was no exit, but Heishi was currently tilting his head up to study something that looked like an electrical box installation.
A-Ka said, “Pull down the switch on the outside. This is a magnetically controlled one, it won’t be affected if you cut off the electricity.”
Heishi pulled the switch, and there was a rumble of steel scraping as it opened a door embedded in the ground.
“Well done,” A-Ka said. “If you went on your own, you wouldn’t have been able to find the exit.”
Heishi didn’t respond, and A-Ka went down the tunnel so deep that he couldn’t see the end, walking forward along it. Heishi also followed. From afar came the faint sound of an explosion.
He didn’t know if the clones’ plan had been put into motion, and A-Ka grew a little worried. If he didn’t manage to escape in time, and the clones as a whole lost, what would he do then? As he walked along, Heishi suddenly pulled A-Ka to a stop - the two of them had almost walked headfirst into a minecart.
The road was blocked.
“What now?” A-Ka asked.
Heishi went forward and pushed the minecart with both hands.
That minecart was at least one ton, and Heishi arched his body as he threw his entire strength and forcefully pushed. A-Ka was just about to stop him, but when he saw that the minecart had slowly begun to move, A-Ka then also arched his body, joining Heishi in pushing that steel-wall-like mine cart into movement, panting heavily as they moved forwards along the tracks.
After an unknown amount of time, they finally reached a turn in the tunnel. The rails that extended forward like thin strands of spider silk existed within a large hall, the walls of which were riddled with cavern entrances. Heishi listened for a while longer, before he chose a path.
A-Ka stood at the entrance of one of the caverns, hearing moans coming from inside. Could that be the exit?
Their surroundings gradually chilled. The originally functioning air conditioning system had been temporarily halted due to the lack of power.
“What’s wrong?” Heishi asked.
“It’s cold,” A-Ka responded.
Heishi obviously didn’t understand the meaning of “cold”, so he callously walked away.
A-Ka was extremely miserable, and he couldn’t help but vent in his heart, then why did you ask… He was shivering a little, and his attention fell on the sackcloth clothes that he had given to Heishi, which he had worn since. He thought that though his body was strong, A-Ka should still find some more clothes for him to put on… otherwise if he got sick then it would be even more troublesome. As they walked along the rails in that tunnel that was so dark he couldn’t see his fingers with his hand outstretched in front of him, he tripped over something.
The bodies of several clones lay on the tracks, and from afar there was someone moaning, “Save me… save me…”
A-Ka took a deep breath, and his heart began to beat violently.
“Which squad are you from…” That lucky clone turned his head and saw A-Ka and Heishi.
His head had already been destroyed, one eye protruding out of the socket, and his abdomen had been shot clean through by a bullet. Seeing that A-Ka was a human, he said, “Humans.”
His hand lifted up tremblingly, as if he wanted to catch A-Ka, but Heishi pulled A-Ka back, making him stand a little further away.
“What happened?” A-Ka was also desperate to know whether they had won or lost this battle.
“Human,” the clone said weakly. “You can go.” His eyes closed.
A-Ka raised up that cold light and shone it over their surroundings. It looked like this place had experienced a harsh battle; in front were many destroyed robot guards, and the circuits fizzled and sparked now and then in the destroyed shells of the robots.
A-Ka peeled off the clothes on the clone’s corpse and gave them to Heishi to wear. Heishi untied his sackcloth clothes before reaching his two hands into the vest. When he put it on, he eyed the clone, and A-Ka knew he had questions. As expected, in the next moment, Heishi opened his mouth.
“Why do all these people look the same?” Heishi was very suspicious and confused about the scene he saw before him.
“They’re clones,” A-Ka said. “They were built by the robotic system, to be their servants and messengers.”
“How about you?” Heishi asked again.
A-Ka answered, “I’m a human.Within the City of Machines, this class is even below the clones.”
“Class?” Heishi heard a word that he was unfamiliar with.
A-Ka had Heishi put on his clothes properly, and as they walked he explained the concept of classes and the City of Machines in an absentminded way, as well as the organization of human society into multiple constituents. He also included how the clones carried out the commands of the robots and helped them to control the humans, along with helping them complete a few tasks that these steel lifeforms were unable to perform on their own.
The clones were controlled by a unified operation. They were not afraid of being hurt or falling ill, and as soon as their organs were damaged, they would naturally be able to obtain replacements. Their blood types were all the same, and their organs could be swapped out at will, so the clones’ existence could be said to be a much easier one than that of the humans’. They were just like living robots.
“How did they come about?” Heishi asked his second question.
A-Ka answered, “They were built by humans.”
“Humans conquered the sky and the land during their Golden Age, and there was nothing they couldn’t do,” A-Ka explained to Heishi. “The army of robots with ‘Father’ at their head and the clones were both made by humans, created specially to serve humans. But the clones first betrayed mankind, and afterwards it was ‘Father’. And when the robots gained control over the clones’ production lines, they finally brought the clones under the control of the mechanicals.”
“What about humans?” Heishi asked once more. “Humans like me.”
“Some of them stayed here and were turned into slaves,” A-Ka said. “I am one of those. As for the rest of them, some of them ran off, and I hear they created a new country on the other side of the Great Ocean.”
Heishi nodded his head, and A-Ka’s heart jolted as he thought of the moment that Heishi was washed up on the shore. Could he have come from the distant continent far away? As for the imaginary country on the other shore of the Great Ocean, the humans had all kinds of rumors about it. Some people said that the imaginary country was a realm of magic, where they could call the winds and summon rain, control the forces of nature, and use their mental abilities to change the world. Others said that the escapees had all died, and the so-called imaginary country was only a misty and unrealistic legend.
And there were people who believed that the armies of the imaginary country would one day arrive at this City of Machines, destroy ‘Father’, this great demon that they had personally created many years ago, and free the humans here.
But instead, it was the clones within the City of Machines that had first started this bout of revolution.
When Heishi finished listening to A-Ka’s elaboration, his expression grew even colder. A-Ka suddenly thought of something, and he guessed, “Did you come from the imaginary country?”
On this journey A-Ka had thought many times about Heishi’s origins. Maybe he was a lucky survivor that floated away from a ship that perished; or maybe three thousand years ago, he came to the Third Mainland with some orders. But now Heishi had already completely forgotten, and all A-Ka could do was hope that some day in the future he would remember.
moon: Many thanks to Fayt as well, who provided me with the actual physical extras!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.