Editor(s): namio, jelly
After Heishi and A-Ka grew acquainted, aside from asking questions, he spent most of his time sunk in silence, observing the outside world. A-Ka also didn’t want to disturb him, so he just tossed him a pair of boots and had him put those on.
The air grew colder and colder, and the breaths that A-Ka puffed out turned into white fog. The two of them were wrapped in thick layers of clothing. As they passed through the aftermath of a large battle, as far as the eye could see, the ground was covered with the corpses of clones and the destroyed wreckage of robots. Clearly this place had experienced a soul-shakingly huge battle.
The further in they went, the more corpses they saw, until they saw a dense pile of bodies outside a door. A-Ka realized that this could be a very important place. In this very ordinary hallway, there stood this door with no markings.
“Why would they have died here?” A-Ka asked, puzzled. This hallway had almost a hundred corpses and shells, as if they had been protecting something important, but at the end there was only this door.
When he turned around he saw that there was no path of retreat, and so they could only stubbornly push ahead. A-Ka suddenly realized, could the Central Control Chamber that held “Father” be inside? However, he immediately overturned that hypothesis. This was only an area where many tracks from the lifestyle goods transportation system crossed, and there was no way that “Father” would be sealed away in this remote underground space.
Heishi moved the corpses and the destroyed shells of the robots aside, revealing the entirety of the door. He used his shoulder to push at it, but it didn’t budge. After a moment of contemplation, A-Ka said, “Let me try.” He opened the control panel next to the door, inside of which were some tens of password locks, extremely tricky.
Subconsciously, he found that the clone lying closest to the door tightly grasped a card in his hand. He then understood that the rebels were only half a step away from entering through this door.
What exactly was behind the door? A-Ka’s curiosity was almost impossible to control. He used the security card to open the door, which had its own external power source, and he was greeted with nothing but darkness. The cold light illuminated his and Heishi’s faces as they saw emptied nourishment chambers all around the room, and in the middle of it all sat a human on the brink of death.
An old person.
“You’re finally here…” the old man opened his mouth and spoke.
The voice coming so suddenly greatly scared A-Ka.
“You… who are you?” A-Ka hurried up front, scanning over that old man’s condition, and he found that he had many multicolored tubes sticking out of him, all of them serving as life support.
“Where is General Libre?” The old man lifted up his murky eyes as he looked towards A-Ka.
“Li… General Libre?” A-Ka said. “I don’t know… there were many clones that died out there, are you still okay?”
“The revolution failed…” The old man’s voice faltered. “How did you come to this place?”
A-Ka briefly told him the narrative of how they had escaped, and the old man managed to hold himself together to hear it to the end, before he said weakly, “In the end, it was actually a human who came in front of me… my own mother’s kind…”
“What… what does that mean?” A-Ka asked, puzzled. He tried to lift up that old man, and asked, “Are you able to move?”
“I am about to die…” the old man said. “Child, help me out… take these things away…”
Heishi lifted up the cold light, shining it on the old man’s face. A-Ka carefully observed his wrinkled features, feeling as if there was a sense of familiarity, as though he was someone A-Ka knew. Especially that pair of indigo blue eyes; it felt like he had seen them somewhere before.
“Do we know each other?” A-Ka felt as if he was in the middle of a great puzzle; he kept feeling that he had known this old person before.
The old man didn’t respond; he merely reached out a trembling hand to grab A-Ka’s own, and A-Ka hurried to give his hand over. The old man pressed A-Ka’s finger against the handle of his wheelchair, and immediately there was a light ka sound as A-Ka felt something prick through his fingertip, and it hurt so much he yowled.
A-Ka shuffled back a few steps. Heishi went up and grabbed at that old man’s collar to toss him out, but A-Ka said loudly, “Wait!”
The old man’s body was connected to several tens of tubes, and he was lifted off his wheelchair by the throat. This movement hastened his oncoming death, and his eyes rolled back as a complicated and strange faint smile appeared on his face as he struggled greatly to lift up his finger.
“Don’t be so rough, put him down,” A-Ka hurried to say.
Heishi put the old man back onto the wheelchair, and A-Ka lowered his head to look at his own ring finger, where a drop of blood was beading on the tip.
His head spun dizzyingly just as he heard the sounds of mechanicals from afar, and thought to himself, damn. The old man then said, “Take this… and give it to General Libre…”
He handed a chip to A-Ka before closing his eyes. A-Ka said anxiously, “Hey! Wake up!”
The old man’s head drooped down. He was dead.
The mechanical sounds drew ever closer. A-Ka speedily hid that chip, before turning his head back and saying, “Go.”
Heishi dashed towards the tunnel just as lasers shot in from the outside. A-Ka hurried to shout, “Be careful!”
“Quick, go back! There are enemies!” Heishi responded.
A-Ka slid the security card, and the main door immediately slammed shut. Explosions resounded in twos and threes from the other side; they were trapped in this room.
“Find an exit,” A-Ka immediately said.
A-Ka and Heishi speedily split apart to find the exit out of this place. As A-Ka searched through all of the possible places where an exit to a tunnel would be, he couldn’t help but recall the indigo eyes of that old man, as well as his familiar face. He kept feeling like he had seen this old man somewhere, and very often at that… Just as he was musing, he suddenly saw Heishi stop, standing within the great hall, staring at the old man’s body with suspicion.
“What’s wrong?” A-Ka straightened his body and asked.
Heishi responded, “I know him.”
A-Ka’s heart jolted, and he asked, “What is he called?”
Heishi shook his head and said nothing.
A-Ka wanted to inquire more about the old man’s origins, but Heishi didn’t have an answer for any of his questions, wholly forgotten.
A-Ka could only say, “Then let’s search carefully for the exit.”
Heishi answered, “No need to search anymore, this place is a prison.”
In an instant A-Ka snapped out of his daze – Heishi’s conclusion was correct. From the moment they first stepped inside, every sign indicated that the old man was a prisoner. That was to say, aside from the entrance, there were no other ways they could take.
What should they do?
Just then, from outside came another series of loud banging, which began to change the shape of the door. A-Ka wanted to find a place to hide, but the door had already started to warp under the force from the outside as sparks flew from the crack of the door. A-Ka subconsciously turned and ran towards Heishi, but Heishi cleanly and efficiently took a flying leap. The two of them collided in midair, hugging each other tightly.
At the same time, the door blew open with a hong, sending sparks flying everywhere. Heishi hugged A-Ka as they landed on the ground and rolled towards a corner.
“Quick! Take him away!”
“Heavens… he’s already dead!”
“There are two humans here!”
“What’s going on?!”
The inside of the room devolved into chaos as many clones rushed in. A-Ka’s head throbbed with pain as he stood up, protected behind Heishi, as a strong light swept back and forth.
A-Ka explained, “We escaped in here.”
“When did you come in?” a clone asked him anxiously. “When you two came in, was Dr. Callan still alive?”
Heishi was just about to open his mouth and answer, but A-Ka pinched his palm and replied, “He was still alive. He asked me to pass on a message to General Libre.”
From the outside came the sound of more explosions, and this time, the bangs were as clear as crystal, as if the entire world was going to be overturned from the force of those blasts. The earth trembled, and several people almost couldn’t stay upright. The clone squad’s leader said, “There’s no time to explain more! Take them away!”
Under the protection of the clone squad, they once again rushed out into the tunnel. The robotic guards surrounded them on all four sides, their numbers growing by the minute, and once in a while someone would loudly shout, “Hold them there! They’re counterattacking!” and similar phrases. A-Ka didn’t know why, but his head spun and he felt nauseous as he staggered out quickly, a wave of dizziness washing over him.
A-Ka scrabbled desperately in the air a few times before he caught Heishi’s hand, but Heishi pushed him aside. He couldn’t hold on any longer, and he plummeted headfirst to the ground.
Heishi came back, and he frowned, “Why are you this weak.”
A-Ka said angrily, “Then don’t bother with me!”
A-Ka couldn’t stop panting as his vision blurred, feeling as if he had a bad fever. Heishi lifted him up in his arms before running along with the clones. Behind them members of the rebellion followed, carrying the old man’s body as well as his wheelchair.
They bumpily passed through the passageway. A-Ka drifted in and out of consciousness for an unknown amount of time, before a sudden burst of thousands of rays of bright light had him reeling.
They had come out, and the sunlight was blazingly bright. A-Ka used his hand to block his eyes; he had never really breathed the fresh air of the surface so vividly until now, and he felt that the burning hot sunlight was like a ball of fire currently radiating heat so strong it scorched his soul.
Everything around them turned a brilliant white, like they had been enveloped in a burst of solar wind that came from a star.
“I’m going to die…” He didn’t know why, but A-Ka felt extremely weak.
“Hang in there!” Heishi anxiously shouted next to his ear.
All this time, Heishi had been hugging A-Ka around the waist, and as they jolted, A-Ka felt that Heishi was sprinting along, and next to his head came the sound of the clones talking.
“He’s only temporarily faint and weak…”
“I can’t see a reason for it…”
“Humans, come with us! We’re almost about to start!”
“Let him soak up the sun, don’t move him now…”
The voices washed over him like waves lapping against the shore, and in an instant A-Ka grew calm. This was the most mysterious moment he had experienced in his life. The movements of his surroundings seemed to be infinitely distant, but he also saw them with extreme clarity, as if there was a magnetic field extending out across the vast expanse of the earth and sky from a part of his brain, and he was keenly aware of every single minute movement in that magnetic field.
Slowly, the magnetic field retreated, and its final focal point only encompassed the outline of one person by his side – Heishi.
Heishi’s outline grew clear. He said something towards A-Ka, as A-Ka’s five senses slowly returned to him.
“Are you alright?” Heishi’s brows furrowed into a pretty knot.
A-Ka responded, “I’m… I’m okay.”
He recovered his wits, body soaked with sweat, and subconsciously lifted a hand. Seeing that Heishi was currently watching him with worry, he grabbed Heishi’s hand and interlocked their fingers. Heishi grew slightly more at ease. A-Ka thought back to his period of weakness just a moment ago, and connected it to the needle that the old man had pricked him with. What exactly had he injected him with?
“Humans, hurry and get on the ship! Don’t stay here any longer!” a clone came over to inform them.
Heishi once again lifted A-Ka up in an embrace, but A-Ka said, “I can walk on my own.” He then shuffled along behind the clone onto a small airship. The instant he walked into the lift, what A-Ka saw with his eyes left him tongue-tied.
On the platform that took up almost a thousand square kilometers, millions of war airships turned and launched off, flying into the sky, while the protective magnetic layers surrounding the launch platform shot down the mechanical aircraft that came to ambush.
The sky was filled with balls of fire, and in deafening explosions of lighting-bright light, an airship exploded, trailing a plume of smoke as it plummeted into the ocean.
Like a wasp nest that had been poked until it exploded, tens of thousands of airships left the earth behind as they lifted themselves into the sky, letting loose row upon row of laser-guided bombs, which flew towards the direct center of the city.
moon: apologies for the delay, it is up now!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.