Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 21: Replication Factory
The city ruled by artificial intelligence was getting closer and closer. Over the city, the giant device that looked close to a daddy long-legs was sticking out its long feet and adjusting its posture.
Ruan Xian didn’t speak anymore. He numbly hugged Tang Yibu’s neck, waiting for the android’s next words, but Tang Yibu didn’t speak again. He just stepped on the branch of a tree like a feline, and noiselessly advanced forward. He dexterously crossed the brushes, and the rustling friction merged into the evening breeze.
The possibility that Tang Yibu was MUL-01 was extremely low, and Ruan Xian knew this, but the silence that followed told him that Tang Yibu had no intention of giving him an explanation, so it wasn’t wise to continue asking too much.
“Now it’s my turn to ask you.” After a few minutes of silence, Tang Yibu asked briskly, “Since you don’t want to stand idly by, why don’t you forcefully intervene?”
“You deliberately falsified information for them to communicate and induced Tian He to express his thoughts, thereby terminating Zhang Yazhe’s rescue plan. The result is obvious. You failed.”
Ruan Xian looked at the three hoverbikes under the tree. Zhang Yazhe took the lead, while Chi Lei and Ding Zepeng’s hoverbike leaned back, protecting the left and right sides, respectively. There was no hesitation or confusion in the movements of the three of them.
“Forcefully intervene… I guess you mean secretly sabotaging Zhang Yazhe’s actions until Tian He dies or killing Tian He one step before Zhang Yazhe’s actions.” Ruan Xian tightened his five fingers that were clutching on to the fabric of Tang Yibu’s chest. The voice that came out was calmer than he expected. “It’s best they don’t know, so that the variables are minimal.”
“Yes, these are much wiser approaches.” Tang Yibu sounded quite approving, and he even nodded seriously. This action caused the android to break a few branches with his face. “The Ruan Xian I know would do this, but as his creation, you didn’t follow his will.”
“Because I am not him.” Ruan Xian’s voice was very low.
He wasn’t worried at all that Tang Yibu would discover the smell of lies—his body no longer belonged to the human category. Even if memory was emphasized, in the case of the black box, all the criteria of “self” had become confusing, and he couldn’t completely determine his identity.
Unexpectedly, Ruan Xian didn’t feel depressed or at a loss.
If one wanted to modify their memory, they tend to remove the worst parts. However, the pain of the past was still lingering in a certain corner of his heart, making it difficult to dispel like a vulture who found a corpse.
On the contrary, this was reassuring.
He was still alive and well. As long as the other “Ruan Xian” was still living somewhere in the world, he would have the chance to get his answer.
Ruan Xian stroked Tang Yibu’s collar with his fingers, and the touch of the fabric penetrated through the skin and climbed the nerves into his brain. Tang Yibu exuded a faint smell of soap, and the oncoming wind carried the smell of burning plastic. The outline of the dark bushes was sharp and clear. Retreating quickly from his side, he could see every vein of the leaves clearly.
The speed of the three hoverbikes was getting faster. Zhang Yazhe and Chi Lei’s expressions were calm, while Ding Zepeng looked a little nervous, but his eyes were firmer.
If he compared everything right now to an experiment, the variables weren’t complicated. He couldn’t control his thoughts, and various solutions naturally appeared in his mind. There were at least ten ways to allow Tian He to rest in peace and Zhang Yazhe to stay in the shelter obediently. What the two discussed earlier was the safest solution.
But that was only the optimal solution he unilaterally determined.
The guilt, gratitude, and attachment, just like the hair tightly clenched in the hands of those corpses, would take root in the end and gradually entangle the lives of others. If Tian He couldn’t be rescued, would Zhang Yazhe and the others suffer for it? How painful? Perhaps this pain wasn’t worth mentioning compared to death.
But he couldn’t be sure.
Ruan Xian adjusted his posture and quietly touched the scar on his left wrist with his right hand. He was also part of a certain “optimal solution”, and he didn’t like that answer.
“We’ll only provide cover and let them handle the rest,” Ruan Xian said.
“Okay.” The destination was right in front of him. Tang Yibu turned over and got out of the tree, letting Ruan Xian jump off his back to the ground.
The hoverbikes driving in front finally stopped. The group of people stood at the edge of the artificial intelligence city. The deformed building was quietly immersed in the night, and the sponge-hole-like windows emitted hazy light. From a close distance, the huge spider-shaped device made people’s hair stand upright. He wasn’t sure if he was seeing things, but Ruan Xian always felt that it was tilting in the direction of where they were.
The goal of Zhang Yazhe and others wasn’t in the city.
Outside the towering wall, a group of termite nest-like buildings reclined obliquely. After the three of them hid their hoverbikes, they went around the bushes and headed straight towards the dull, odd buildings.
That was probably where the internal organs could be reproduced. Ruan Xian held his breath and listened to his surroundings, but found no strange sounds. He clasped the two blood guns tightly in his hands, bent down, and followed Tang Yibu.
The detection birds flew over their heads, causing everyone to sink down and activate their infrared camouflage as they buried themselves into the bushes.
“Don’t try to attack the system here. The city is too close to the control center of MUL-01, and it’s difficult for me to act.” Tang Yibu pressed Ruan Xian’s head lower. “In case this area is completely reset by it, we will all be in danger.”
‘I hope reset isn’t what I’m thinking,’ Ruan Xian thought dryly.
Zhang Yazhe’s ability was really outstanding. His movements were smooth, and he led the other two beautifully through all the blind spots. The auxiliary machine followed them quietly, carrying a suitcase-sized box.
Ruan Xian kept a distance of about fifty meters from them and dared not expose himself. All kinds of unexplainable noise floated out of the city, making the work of guarding the surroundings particularly difficult. Fortunately, the night sky in the early hours of the morning was as dark as ink and relatively peaceful.
After a line of dangling spherical machines floated by, Zhang Yazhe finally approached the entrance of the building. Tang Yibu shot out the grappling hook from his wrist and hoisted Ruan Xian’s waist as he pulled them up to the upper level.
Through the glass, Ruan Xian could see the scene inside the building clearly.
There was no light indoors, and the building was as quiet as a tomb. The intricately constructed machinery was quietly piled up in a pile, taking up most of the space, and the wires hung densely, like dilapidated cobwebs. Only a small part of the machinery was still on, as indicated by the light, emitting a nuisance sound of operation. The sound it made was as small as a butter knife scraping through butter. Several large water tanks were gurgling and spitting water bubbles, covered by a thin layer of accumulated dust on the glass. It obviously looked as if it hadn’t been taken care of for a while.
But Zhang Yazhe didn’t rush forward. He leaned down and threw a few small balls the size of marbles onto the ground. The small ball crossed the floor silently, and finally stopped slowly in the center of the room.
“Temporarily safe, the alarm system has not been upgraded,” Zhang Yazhe whispered.
“Nn. If the records are correct, the organic matter printer is nearby.” Instead of activating his electronic wristband, Chi Lei pulled out a piece of paper. Ding Zepeng was still holding a long gun, vigilantly surveying the surroundings.
“Wait another five minutes, just in case.” Zhang Yazhe raised a hand. “I’ll go in a while.”
“Are you really going to inherit the refuge?” Chi Lei retracted his outstretched foot and stood in the corner.
“Yes, that’s the boss’ intention. Once I start the inheritance process, I won’t be able to sneak out in the next few days.” Zhang Yazhe nodded. “Tonight is our only chance.”
“The boss is very stubborn. What if he refuses to accept it?” Ding Zepeng muttered.
“When the time comes, we’ll put the organs in front of him and see if he’ll throw them away in front of us. Before, he was just afraid that we… Ahem, die on this mission.” Zhang Yazhe laughed dryly. “He has worked hard for so many years, and in the end, he didn’t have a single good day. Watching him go, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
“Who wouldn’t,” Chi Lei’s voice was soft. “If it wasn’t for the boss, grass would’ve grown on my grave a long time ago.”
“Shh,” Ding Zepeng suddenly interrupted the two. “There’s movement outside.”
The three of them simultaneously pulled out their grappling hooks and spidered up the ceiling. A cylindrical machine came in from the entrance and rotated around for a while. It slid into the middle of the room and packed the small balls into its metal body, then slowly walked out.
“Not bad. It’s the oldest scouting type.” Zhang Yazhe breathed a sigh of relief. “There should be ten minutes before the next patrol. Let’s go, Lao Chi. Xiao Ding, you continue to be vigilant. Remember not to run too far. This is the blind spot for the auxiliary chip signal.”
Chi Lei’s movements were quick. He glanced at the machine in the dark and quickly found their target—an organic matter printer with flashing lights, and the connected sink was full of tiny water bubbles.
Putting down his backpack, Chi Lei held a small screwdriver in his mouth, and cut the metal skin like leather, exposing part of the circuit board. He quickly twisted a few wires and connected them to a small test tube with wires in it. With Zhang Yazhe as lookout, Chi Lei didn’t even bother checking his surroundings.
He summoned the auxiliary machine, and the abundant power made the printer screen light up. Chi Lei quickly entered the data, and the printer let out low beeps.
“There’s still six and a half minutes,” Zhang Yazhe prompted.
In the window above the two of them, Ruan Xian held his breath—
The outline of a person gradually appeared in the sink, starting with his feet, then his legs, crotch, abdomen, and chest. Like an old-fashioned 3D printer, a human body was being constructed layer by layer.
However, when the printing progress extended to his neck, Chi Lei moved again.
The printing stopped abruptly. The sink opened, and a human body without a head was drenched and drawn out of the chute.
“There are five minutes left.” Chi Lei glanced at the time and kept the machine in the starting state. “Lao Zhang, switch.”
Zhang Yazhe took out his pocketknife, smoothly took the suitcase-like object on the auxiliary machine, and opened it wide. There were multiple compartments in the box, and each compartment was full of liquid. They were folded inward like mercury, and the faint bright blue halo broke through the darkness.
“Yo, it’s an antique. Nanorobot α-092? Which version?” Chi Lei tore off something like a water bag from the auxiliary machine.
“Talk less and help.”
Chi Lei breathed a sigh of relief and held down the headless body.
Zhang Yazhe moved quickly. He cut open the chest and abdomen of the body, causing the headless body to twitch a few times, and soon it stopped moving. As the blade wove, fresh organs were stuffed into the suitcase one by one and quickly submerged in liquid.
“Has the blood been collected yet? It’s useful for surgery.” Zhang Yazhe wiped the blood from his hands and closed the suitcase.
“It’s collected. There’s still a minute and a half left. I’ll decompose the remnants.” Chi Lei tied the filled “water bag” back to the auxiliary machine, manipulated the chute to rise, and the blood-soaked empty shell was poured back into the sink. The remaining flesh hissed and dissolved as if it had been submerged in strong acid.
“It’s done. Let’s go.”
“Lao Zhang, something is wrong.” Chi Lei frowned.
“The feedback data seems to be a bit abnormal.” Instead of turning off the machine, Chi Lei quickly looked up the historical data.
“There’s one minute left.”
“There’s still time, there’s still time—Lao Zhang, Tian He’s sample data has been corrected just now. The sample seemed to be a little contaminated, and the machine filtered out the impurity of the data.” Chi Lei’s voice shook a little. “But without Tian He’s complete body data for comparison, it’s impossible to tell what the error is. It’s just a printer…”
“As long as the organs are fine, Lao Chi, let’s get out of here first.”
Chi Lei touched the operation interface of the machine with his hand, skillfully connected the electronic wristband to the printer hardware, and began to crack it quickly. “I have to make sure. In case there is a problem with the printing, this trip will be in vain. Give me some time, we can’t hurt the boss…”
He suddenly froze.
He didn’t know what the hacking command triggered, but the circuit board suddenly emitted a few traces of green smoke. With a beep, the originally dark space was instantly brightly lit. Heavy steel plates instantly fell at the entrance, and all the silent machinery started at the same time. It seemed that the place was filled with thousands of hornet’s nests in an instant, as the entire space was filled with buzzing sounds.
The space here was much larger than they thought.
The depths of the darkness, where no light could be seen day or night, were illuminated by lights. Cylindrical glass silos, like can drinks on a shelf, were neatly built together. Human bodies floated inside each glass bin. Men and women with their eyes tightly closed and their heads showing a bit of pink brain tissue—cybernetic brains that weren’t like androids but were filled with fine connecting wires.
The familiar faces were all there, and there were many copies. The elites of the refuge, accompanied by countless “selves”, slept quietly in the glass warehouse.
Chi Lei shivered and took a step back.
Among those faces, he saw his own.