Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 11: The First Night at the Refuge
The sound of water flowed from the bathroom as Tang Yibu was taking a bath.
Nowadays, Ruan Xian was no longer surprised by the android’s habit of approaching living things. Since it was necessary to eat, it meant that Tang Yibu had a metabolic ability similar to a creature. Twenty square meters of space was very narrow, but it was fortunate that Tang Yibu wasn’t in front of him now.
The moment he heard the message from the other “Ruan Xian”, Ruan Xian wasn’t sure if he could control his emotions.
But it didn’t matter.
Stuffing the remaining nutritional supplement into his throat, Ruan Xian propped up his crutches and moved two steps, stacking his metal lunch box on top of Tang Yibu’s. There wasn’t a sink in the room, so he guessed that this thing would be uniformly recycled.
The metal scrapping sound made a harsh sound. Ruan Xian arranged the tableware neatly and lowered his gaze.
There was definitely shock, but panic wouldn’t be talked about. Meaningless panic couldn’t solve any problems. He adjusted his breathing harder as he tapped on the wooden desktop with his fingers.
His own intelligence was indeed seriously lacking, but on the other hand, he also had a great advantage.
A healthy body, a functioning brain, and a resilience that he wasn’t sure was a blessing or a curse but could temporarily be attributed as an advantage for now. Even if he had to leave the group, he had the physical capability to survive alone. At least for a short time, he could live normally as long as there wasn’t any major problem with Tang Yibu’s cooperation.
Right now, he had a perfect fake identity. Unless another “Ruan Xian” suddenly appeared and picked him out and investigated his information, no one would know who he was.
He had quite a lot of time to investigate.
Ruan Xian dragged himself to the rehabilitation machine in the corner of the room and inserted a metal box called the Introduction Manual into the reading table in front of him. Several robotic arms stretched out, firmly wrapped around his body and legs. They pushed him to move just right and began to stimulate standard marching movements.
The manual was once again pulled to the very beginning of the table of contents so he could scrutinize the video again. At the same time, he strove to relax his body and cooperate with the machine to learn to balance and walk.
However, not long after his rehabilitation plan began, it was interrupted.
The door beeped twice, and a visitor profile appeared in front of him. Ruan Xian looked at Ding Zepeng’s smiling face on the file, shook his head, and slid his finger over to the words “agree”.
Ding Zepeng’s ankles were still wrapped in fixed machinery, and both legs had an extra exoskeleton. He could still stand normally, but his walking speed was much slower.
“Ruan Ge, I’m here to see you!” The young man had a big smile on his face. “Oh, you’re doing your rehabilitation—you don’t need to come down. No need. Let’s just talk like this. It’s a hassle to stop and start again.”
Ruan Xian never hated cheerful people. He smiled instinctively. “Don’t you need to rest? Your ankle injury…”
“It’s not a problem with this thing supporting it.” Ding Zepeng patted the exoskeleton on his leg twice. “I just heard Zhang Ge say that you came to see us. I was sleeping at that time, so I thought about coming to see you. Although 231 is here… How can I put it, I was upset for a long time when I was new here. Haiming certainly don’t have the patience to explain to you, so I thought it would be better to have someone to talk to.”
He pointed to the manual in front of Ruan Xian. “I stayed up late and finished reading that thing and then had nightmares for weeks.”
Ruan Xian wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel. “You’re very kind. Thank you.”
“It’s nothing. Zhang Ge and Chi Ge are discussing the new robot, and I don’t understand that stuff. Ruan Ge, do you have anything you want to ask?”
“This refuge seems a bit old.” Ruan Xian picked out the most natural breakthrough point. “I think there are messages from Fan Linsong and Ruan Xian in the manual just now. They are both scientists, right? How did they mobilize so many resources at the end of the world? Even with machines, this kind of movement certainly isn’t small.”
“I thought about it back then. The environment was so good that it seems fake, right?” Ding Zepeng scratched his head. “Later, I heard Chi Ge say that this place was originally a refuge, but it was used for other things. The power facilities were changed by Professor Ruan and the others after they came over. It turns out that this was a bunker.”
“Chi Ge won’t tell me. I had asked Haiming before, but he didn’t want to tell me, but I’ve been here for more than three years, and I’ve been doing really well. Don’t worry, Ruan Ge.” Ding Zepeng sat down on a chair and rested his chin on the back of it.
“Speaking of this… The manual says they left. Are they coming back?”
Xiao Ding’s face became bitter. “Who knows. They just left when I arrived. It’s been three or four years. Professor Ruan left Haiming here, but Haiming isn’t very sociable, so many people don’t have a good impression of him… Haa.”
“No contact?” Ruan Xian swallowed his spit back and sped up the simulated walking speed of the rehabilitation machine to cover up his emotions with gasps and sweat.
“No. Any contact may expose the location of the refuge. You can only rely on people to deliver the message. In the first half of the year, some people said they saw them in the city, but then there was no news.”
Ding Zepeng’s mood faltered. “I have seen Professor Ruan and them. Professor Ruan is a very kind person—Professor Fan led the MUL-01 project, while Professor Ruan was responsible for quite a lot of work. You know about the rebellion… Anyway, I don’t think it’s their fault. The Masterbrain ran properly for five years, and they weren’t responsible for the daily maintenance.”
“But they still didn’t stay here.” Ruan Xian could fully guess the subsequent development.
“That’s right.” Ding Zepeng nodded. “Many people couldn’t swallow that fact.”
“But I have no impression of the MUL-01 project…”
“Oh yes, I heard Haiming say that Ruan Ge’s memory was still in 2095. MUL-01 was a project completed in early 2096. It was highly publicized that year. It was said that it was completed since 2090.”
Ruan Xian’s feet became so unsteady that he almost fell on the rehabilitation machine.
Since 2090, there had been only one artificial intelligence project. The project name is NUL-00, not MUL-01. The leader wasn’t Fan Linsong but himself—Fan Linsong was more like his assistant than his partner. Back then, weak artificial intelligence had reached its peak and could perfectly dominate most fields and almost pierce through that thin layer of window paper*, but for various reasons, a strong artificial intelligence that truly “surpasses humans” had not been born.
*Metaphor referring to how they were basically on the cusp of a breakthrough. The window paper represents a fragile barrier that can be easily pierced through. This could also be used to describe the relationship between two people who want to date (they need to pierce through the window to take the next step). || In this context, it’s saying AI had advanced leaps and bounds but they couldn’t pierce through that window paper yet to achieve an AI that could surpass humans.
Ruan Xian thought that NUL-00 was still far away, but Fan Linsong insisted that it was already “perfect” and wanted to publicly announce the news of success.
For this reason, they quarreled a lot, which was most likely one of the reasons why Fan Linsong killed him.
[I fucking told you countless times. If we drag on like this, we’ll have to hold on to the finished product and watch them pull the plug on it! Now, are you satisfied? I got wind last week that Plan Corp will disclose their research results by the middle of next year at the latest!]
[NUL-00 has passed all the security tests in the world. What are you still procrastinating about? The sooner it’s put to use, the more people it will save. Ruan Xian, have you ever considered that those ordinary people struggling in hospital beds and on the battlefield will have to pay for your nonsense alone?! How many people can NUL-00 save? You know better than me—]
It wasn’t that Ruan Xian didn’t try to explain, yet what was waiting for him was a bullet straight to the head.
The fear and consternation of the moment of death were still imprinted in the depths of his memory, and Ruan Xian shivered subconsciously.
“I don’t know much about this.” He reluctantly smiled at Ding Zepeng and decided to switch the topic elsewhere. As a result, before he could speak, someone helped him out—
“Hello, Mr. Ding.” Tang Yibu wiped his hair and walked out of the bathroom. His upper body was bare. “It’s ten in the evening. Do you need me to help you register for your stay?”
“No, no, no. Haiming will scold me to death. I just came to take a short look. I’ll leave now. Ruan Ge, Chi Ge, and I were injured recently, so our group has no tasks. You’re welcome to come and talk to me at any time!” Ding Zepeng jumped from the chair like his ass was on fire.
“Wait. I’ll send you off—” Before Ruan Xian had time to open the fixed arm of the rehabilitation device, there was no shadow left of Ding Zepeng. The young man pushed the exoskeleton’s walking speed to its limit, leaving a “no need for Ruan Ge” behind as it floated in the corridor in the distance.
Tang Yibu ignored the hair that was still dripping water and closed the door with a standard movement. “Do you want to continue your rehabilitation exercises?”
As soon as he got off the machine, the fatigue completely overwhelmed Ruan Xian. He shook his head wearily, turned off the manual, glanced at the soft bed, and just wanted to climb in early to rest for a bit, but it wasn’t appropriate to be slumped on the bed while he was sweating profusely. Ruan Xian strengthened his energy, supported his crutches, and decided to take a shower.
“In return for dinner, I can give you a massage.” Tang Yibu obviously deduced his intentions and generously offered.
“…No need, thanks.”
“Oh.” Tang Yibu dried his hair and folded all his clothes into tofu blocks by his sleeping bag, then carelessly dragged out the simple sleeping bag from the bottom of the bed and laid it straight on the floor next to the bed.
Ruan Xian: “…” This didn’t feel good.
“I will keep the light for you.” Tang Yibu put his hands on his chest. He folded his posture so that it looked like a corpse in a coffin.
Ruan Xian felt worse.
Although maintaining the identity of an artificial intelligence in Tang Yibu’s mind was the safest choice, it was also a lot of trouble not to be regarded as a human at all. This ridiculous feeling also helped him dilute a lot of tension. It wasn’t exactly a bad thing to think about—Ruan Xian simply rinsed his sweat off while soothing himself.
The mental exhaustion was stronger than his physical one, but after lying down in bed, he couldn’t sleep much.
After the lights went out, the faint sounds of wind and insects played intimately at the bedside, and Tang Yibu’s uniform breathing came from the bedside. Ruan Xian looked at the false night sky on the ceiling glass screen and became more awake.
Ruan Xian tightened the blanket. Feeling the strange touch of being wrapped in soft fabric, the comfortable friction made him tremble all over. He then turned his body sideways, pulled the pillow to the edge of the bed, and looked at the rise and fall of Tang Yibu’s chest that was less than a meter away.
The android’s eyes were tightly closed and looked as if he was asleep.
At least so far, in front of him, Tang Yibu hadn’t disguised his emotions. He was like an open book. Accordingly, he was also convinced that this dangerous android was withholding a great deal of information.
The contradiction was extremely confusing.
Does this “administrator” with great authority really have his own “emotions”? Is the little loss and joy he saw a true expression or just a simple calculated result?
Suppose Tang Yibu did have emotions. He hadn’t noticed any negative feelings from the other party so far. Even if he did have other purposes, it didn’t make sense to have repressed emotions when he was being used as a prop by a human whose strength is lower than his own.
Putting aside emotions and only talking about purpose…
If he just wanted to find the “S-type prototype”, Tang Yibu could take him away directly and leave this refuge. On the other hand, according to Tian He, Chi Lei’s team had been using 231 for almost two years—with Tang Yibu’s abilities, it didn’t take a full two years to investigate such a refuge.
If he had good intentions, Tang Yibu wouldn’t have spent a full two years disguised as an ordinary android. Ruan Xian couldn’t think of what the other party wanted.
This feeling was extremely weird. It was like being asked to put your hand into a dark box and touch an abnormal creature born from the unknown. Ruan Xian took a breath and wrapped his blanket tighter.
Then his eyes met the golden eyes in the dark.
“The frequency of your heartbeat and breathing has changed. You’re afraid,” Tang Yibu stated in an affirmative tone.
Ruan Xian didn’t respond, but turned his back to Tang Yibu, and then breathed out quietly.
“This is the first night in the refuge, and you’re still in the period when you are most affected by past memories. Discomfort and fear are normal.” There was a rustling sound from behind, and Tang Yibu seemed to have crawled out of his sleeping bag.
Soon, his bedside sank, causing Ruan Xian to freeze, not daring to move.
A warm hand leaned into his blanket, and then tore it apart mercilessly. Tang Yibu squeezed himself into the blanket, stretched out his arms, and encircled Ruan Xian’s waist from behind.
“A hug will make you better.” It was still a familiar, serious tone.
For a second, the image of the other party strangling him appeared irrepressibly in his mind, but Tang Yibu was right. Even if he knew that the “thing” behind him wasn’t human, the warmth from his body made him subconsciously feel a little reassured.
He could feel the heartbeat of the other party’s chest and the moist breathing sprayed on the back of his neck. Never had he been close to anyone like this before. He wasn’t sure if it was out of tension or confusion, but Ruan Xian’s mind blanked for a few seconds.
“You are much stronger than me. There’s no need to worry about my mood.” Ruan Xian pressed his index finger hard with his thumb nails, trying to regain his peace by the pain.
“Since we’re already in a cooperative relationship, I need to consider this factor. Otherwise, we’ll not be able to properly control the situation.” Tang Yibu slowed down his speech and answered solemnly. “Don’t worry. Go to sleep. Like I said, I will keep you safe.”
Ruan Xian was silent for a long time. Countless responses flashed through his mind, and finally he sighed softly.
“Good night,” he said.