Chapter 4.1 - The Battle to Escape

Astrolabe Rebirth


"K rushed out from the firelight, slamming into “Father”’s outer wall"


Translator(s): moon
Editor(s): namio, jelly

A-Ka had been brought into a small fighter airship, inside of which only had a single clone as the pilot.

“Find a spot and sit down! Fasten your seatbelts! I’m in charge of sending you guys over to the mothership!” the pilot shouted.

A-Ka was reminded that that old man had something that he wanted A-Ka to hand over to General Libre of the clone camp, so he quickly sat down. Through the windows of the cabin, he could see that the skies were filled with the glow of flames, while mechanical troops swarmed out like a hive of wasps, obstructing the sky from view.

The aircraft shook heavily, and Heishi tightly grabbed the roof handle over his head as the pilot shouted, “Watch your heads!”

The fighter craft flipped over in midair before very narrowly turning to one side and slipping through the gap between the metal tentacles of two giant jellyfish-like craft. A-Ka asked, “Can you guys win?”

“Can’t say for sure!” the pilot shouted. “I don’t know which bastard leaked the news, but the rebellion plans were completely pushed forward!”

A-Ka felt a lingering fear in his heart. The pilot continued, “We’re going to arrive at the central region of the Country of Machines! You guys be careful!”

A-Ka said, “Don’t go! You’ll die!”

“The main body is there!” the pilot said. “General Libre is on the front lines! There is no turning back!”

A flash of bright light in the distance lit up the entire world, and the ball of fire radiated outwards as it whistled towards them. The blinding brightness blotted out the entirety of the battlefield.

In that instant, all sound grew distant, turning their surroundings incredibly peaceful. Heishi seemed to have seen something, and he slowly got up, walking towards the cockpit.

A-Ka grabbed him; he wanted him to sit down. It was far too dangerous, but the words that A-Ka shouted were drowned out by this space and silence. He immediately realized that the sound of the explosion was so loud it had rendered everyone temporarily deaf. Just as he grabbed Heishi’s hand, interlocking their fingers, he felt that the light seemed to carry a wave of energy in it that was faintly calling to them.

What was that? For a while A-Ka forgot that his body was stranded in a dangerous situation, and he fixedly watched the thing inside the white light.

It was then that the small fighter craft broke out of the circle of light, and as sound returned, A-Ka clearly saw his surroundings.

It was a truly breathtaking view. The clones’ mothership was as large as a city, floating in midair, and from it spewed millions of fighter craft, rushing towards the Central Computer like a giant wave.

But the Central Computer, “Father”, stood firm against the onslaught, letting out a blindingly bright light as it controlled the dense masses of flying robots, blocking the charge of the mothership. In the sky, black clouds roiled as they gathered into a vortex, as the magnetic field split the world into countless little broken sections.

This was a battle of gods, and as A-Ka stood in front of it, he couldn’t help shuddering at the sight.

And just at that instant, “Father”’s defensive foundation once again shot out flash bombs, one of which pierced through the mothership’s flank. The broken shrapnel and steel body exploded apart, shooting in all directions.

“Be careful!” Heishi pushed A-Ka to the ground.

A piece of high speed shrapnel flew towards their cabin and pierced through the pilot’s forehead to the background noise of the sonic boom. Blood spurted everywhere inside, and the fighter craft shook wildly, spiraling downwards to the earth below. A-Ka slid to the tail end of the cabin.

“Don’t worry about me! Go take the pilot’s seat!” A-Ka shouted.

Heishi was of the same mind, and he scrambled over the chairs in a fierce headlong charge, pulling aside the pilot’s body before grabbing the joystick.

A-Ka, “Keep it steady, pull towards you!”

Heishi fiercely yanked the joystick, and A-Ka fell towards the front, landing near the cockpit. He speedily took the co-pilot’s seat as he rapidly flicked his thumb, manning the anti-air machine gun. The laser turrets on the craft activated, pulverizing the shrapnel that flew at them like meteors.

Heishi, “Now what!”

A-Ka, “Do you know how to fly a ship?! Fly towards that large one!”

Heishi, “I don’t know!”

A-Ka, “Hurry up and grab the joystick! Quick! We’re going to die!”

Heishi shouted angrily, “You’re so noisy! We can’t go into the middle and take bomb blasts!”

A-Ka only remembered this mission, but had forgotten that they had to keep their lives as well. Just as he was about to mull things over, reality forced him to skip past it as time ran out.

“Quick, run!” A-Ka said resolutely.

But another piercing boom caused another sky-shaking moment, and the small-sized fighter airship was ejected outwards, shooting towards the Central Computer. Outside of the cockpit came the glow of firelight, and with that huge boom A-Ka slammed into the bridge headfirst. His head hurt so much it felt like it had split.

The explosions lingered in his ears as A-Ka blurrily felt Heishi patting his face.

“Wake up!” Heishi shouted anxiously.

A-Ka’s forehead now had a fresh bleeding wound. He hazily lifted his head, only to be struck dumb.

The two of them were stuck on the edge of the cockpit, and below their feet was empty air, as they were some thousands of zhang off the ground. Not too far from them, the huge mothership was being bombarded incessantly, the defensive layer shuddering violently under the onslaught of the exchange. Any time now, it would toss them and the rest of the fighters all down.

The small fighter ship was tilted almost 70 degrees as it stuck on that turret, and it could detach and fall at any point.

A-Ka recovered his wits and immediately flipped the switch on the emergency button, and the emergency lights indicating “damage” lit up. The power was low.

“Do we leave the ship behind?” Heishi shouted loudly over that eardrum-shattering sound.

“No way!” A-Ka replied. “There are over six hundred layers in the Central Tower! If we ran all the way down, then we definitely would die --!”

Heishi frustratedly but helplessly let out a sigh.

“What now?” Heishi said loudly.

“There’s no more power!” A-Ka responded equally loudly. “We need to find a way to recharge the ship’s energy supply!”

How could they find a way? A-Ka watched that 12% left of the power supply bar, his face filled with confusion. His head was ringing. Heishi slowly calmed down as well and he asked A-Ka, “Are there any transportation devices nearby?”

“It won’t work…” A-Ka lifted his gaze and looked towards the heavens, where the fight between the mothership and the Central Computer was entering its most chaotic stage. In such a short period of time, multiple thoughts passed through his head:

One, abandoning the ship and escaping for their lives was too dangerous. Returning from here to the ground would still result in them being caught in the middle of the crossfire, and if they escaped on foot they could not run fast; at any point in time they could be exploded to smithereens by a bomb.

Two, finding a new mode of transport was not logically possible. In the City of Machines, almost all of the flying ships were controlled by “Father”.

“Here, there is only ‘Father’,” A-Ka explained. “We cannot break the control that he has over the flying robots…”

Heishi also lifted his head to watch the sky, and seeing that there were countless human-shaped mechas shuttling back and forth, he asked A-Ka, “What about those?”

A-Ka said, “Those are the mecha suits of the clones, we have no way to use them.”

Heishi said, “Maybe there are broken suits…”

A-Ka, “There’s no way to fix them right now! We’ll have to rely on blind luck! Let’s find a way to recharge the power.”

Heishi could only nod. A-Ka was extremely anxious, but after thinking for a moment, he suddenly lifted his head to look into the depths of the tall computer tower, and he came up with a daring thought.

“Father”’s energy source could be used, and there were even slots outside for robots to charge… A-Ka suddenly had a plan.

“Hold onto me,” A-Ka said.

Heishi pulled on A-Ka’s hand, and A-Ka climbed out of the ship. He peeked down, and instantly he felt the earth spin underneath his feet.

“Be careful!” Heishi warned.

Performing such acrobatics on an airship that was leaning dangerously to one side, A-Ka thought in his heart that he must have gone crazy… Before, he would never have imagined that such a thing could happen. Clearly, when humans were at the gates of life and death, they could do anything.

He activated the charging port on one side of the ship, tugged out the power cable, wrapped it around his own waist, before looking all around for the closest opening to “Father”, which was only ten meters above them.

But the entire Central Computer tower was shaking, and the outside was completely smooth with no purchase, how would he climb up?

Heishi saw what A-Ka was trying to do, and he shouted, “Come back! I’ll think of a way!”

A-Ka said, “How will you think of a way? Every wall is made of extremely hard metal!”

Heishi pulled A-Ka back into the cabin and took the cable, asking, “How does this connect?”

“Clip the latch on and that’s it,” A-Ka said.

Heishi looked around his surroundings, before he found a rubber plunger used to clean out the inner pipes of the generator, saying, “Use this.”

A-Ka, “...”

That was a toilet plunger.

A-Ka said, “It… it won’t work, it’s too dangerous.”

Heishi didn’t respond. He suddenly rushed forward, leaping up towards the high platform, toilet plunger in hand, and with a peng it stuck against one side of the tall Central Computer tower. Instantly, A-Ka was dumbfounded. Below his feet was a thousand foot drop, and Heishi’s body shook with the force of the explosions and the trembling, while that power cable was still wrapped around his waist.

A-Ka didn’t dare to breathe. He could only watch Heishi steadily, just to see him press one hand against the outer wall and use the friction of his palm to steady his body, while with his other hand he pulled off the toilet plunger and speedily stuck it in a higher spot.

This also worked! A-Ka stared dumbly as Heishi used a toilet plunger to climb higher and higher on “Father”’s body. He was at once both absolutely terrified and greatly amused.

Heishi approached that opening, and he hung the cable over. In an instant the power in the cabin reached its peak, and all of the lights came on.

“It worked!” A-Ka shouted loudly. “Heishi, come back quick!”

But Heishi did not move even an inch. He maintained his original position, and though A-Ka was anxious beyond belief, his voice was drowned out by the continued explosions.

Damn! A-Ka turned his head again, only to see that the huge mothership that spanned the sky was almost unable to hold up anymore. A blue light shot out of “Father”’s tall tower, piercing the mothership’s abdomen. A wild gust of wind blew by from the explosion, and one of Heishi’s hands pressed against the connection point as he fixedly stared at the power cable connector.

Where the cable plugged in there was a blue glow, and a voice faintly reverberated in Heishi’s mind. It was a man’s voice, but it was too blurry to comprehend.

The charging of the airship had already completed, and A-Ka was shouting at him anxiously, but Heishi was still sunk in that trance. A-Ka was almost ready to fall into despair.

Explosions happened in twos and threes on the mothership far above their heads, and debris began to shoot out from high above. A-Ka’s breathing quickened, and just as a fireball was about to engulf Heishi, a shabby, tattered robot rushed out amongst the glow of the fire. A-Ka’s eyes widened and his tongue was tied. He couldn’t believe the sight in front of him.

That broken robot was K!

How was K here? That was his robot!

K rushed out from the firelight, slamming into “Father”’s outer wall, before reaching a hand out to grab Heishi. Immediately, Heishi woke, and with a face filled with astonishment, he was picked up by one of K’s arms, and they flew towards the small fighter.

In the next instant, before A-Ka could process all of the irrational things that had happened in this short span of time, Heishi was already tossed into the cabin by K.

“Leave quickly,” K said.

That robot turned and trod onto the roof of the small ship, which wobbled gently. A-Ka’s scalp tingled; he could not accept this reality where K stood in front of him, alive.

“You… K, how are you…”

“Hurry and go!” The voice that came out of K’s body was anxious, and with another solid kick, K helped the ship out from its confines. Right after, it turned and flew towards the mothership.

Just as the airship was about to fall down, A-Ka turned his body and pulled up the joystick. Right then, with another sky-shattering explosion, the mothership broke through the Central Computer’s defensive layer, smashing into “Father”’s tall Computer Tower. The piercing blue light instantly spewed out like an energy tsunami, overturning all the flying robots in the air.

That energy tsunami radiated outwards like a chain reaction, first sending the dilapidated mothership flying, before cracking open the ground of the entire Country of Steel. The cracks widened to the sound of explosions.

A-Ka had never realized that he was witnessing the birth of history, the first time the tides had turned against the might of the robots in three thousand years. His only thought was: they had already come this far, so no matter what, they had to stay alive.

All of the locating systems had already lost effect, and he couldn’t tell where the sky and earth were. He could only rely on his own instincts to figure it out, and place his trust in Heishi’s steering.

The huge energy wave first washed the entire ship away, turning it into a grain of sand caught in the waves as it was swept far away.

Finally, all of the blue light disappeared, and in front of them was the constantly-rotating ground.


Translator's Note:

moon: apologies for the delay in getting this chapter out, the other translations took over my time for a bit haha… in the future I will try to announce if a chapter will be delayed significantly


This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.

Contributors

moon

Translator, writer, avid reader. 吃刀群众.

princess qinghe enthusiast

namio

gege simp

jelly

yolk heathen

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