Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 196: Life and Death Experiment
Professor Ruan woke up in the middle of a bumpy ride. He knew something was wrong.
In fact, the word “reboot” was more accurate than “woke up”. In a physical sense, he was nothing more than an organ that was wrapped in layers of machinery, and this was how he survived. If he was judged by a species other than human, there was no essential difference between “him” and the lungs, liver, or heart connected to a life-support device.
It was just that compared to those barely powered life-support devices, the one he designed himself was better, so that he could put his brain in it with peace of mind. The nutrients in the concentrated liquid in the liquid tank were enough for this brain to last for more than ten years, not counting the autonomous production capacity device mounted on the three-legged machine. As long as the Mainbrain wasn’t the source of the attack, the hard shell and the well-designed system defense could resist most damage.
It would never be taken down by an EMP bomb pieced together by a child, unless the child had a “helper” with similar capabilities to his own. Unfortunately, even though he understood this, when Zhong Qing activated his homemade EMP bomb, he didn’t have time to react.
When he woke up again, the world had changed. Zhong Qing was curled up in the back seat of the car in shock, wearing the hat Ruan Xian had given him. His body was still sticking to the soft skin of the leather cushion that had already leaked. Ji Xiaoman was patiently helping him get off fragments of the cushion. Tang Yibu was sitting by the window. His golden eyes were wet, and the tip of his nose was a little red, as if he had just cried.
“Finally, someone reliable woke up. We need more information about the route.” Yu Le grabbed the steering wheel. “Tang Yibu, didn’t you say we’d talk about it after… Ahem. Well, now’s the time. What the hell are you guys up to?”
As soon as he spoke, Zhong Qing curled up sheepishly, his eyes darting about.
“We just left the intense surveillance area of the Mainbrain.” Professor Ruan didn’t immediately answer Yu Le’s questions but looked out the window instead.
NUL-00 didn’t disappear with Ruan Xian. No matter what Ruan Xian’s plans were, they still had a chance to continue.
Tang Yibu twitched his nose. The physical characteristics after crying hadn’t completely disappeared. He fondled the canned food in his hand, avoiding the iron bead that was bouncing back and forth trying to bite at it. His voice was a bit stuffy, but his mood was extremely high. “He should have calculated it.”
“Mm-hmm,” Yu Le responded.
“It’s all my fault!” Zhong Qing, who had been shivering, cried out.
“When I was seeing the doctor these past few days, the person in your team told me… I—my condition isn’t good. You guys have no intention of acting, and I’m a stranger in poor health. I began to wonder if you planned to give up on me.” He started to spill the beans. “Then he said he could… He could secretly support me, as long as I stole the employee’s access device so he could make a copy and we would leave earlier…”
“I have seen your test results. You’re still healthy.” Professor Ruan pointed out. “He lied to you.”
Professor Ruan had to act as an auxiliary machine, so it wasn’t suitable for him to have too much communication with Zhong Qing. Ruan Xian was put in charge of analyzing Zhong Qing’s condition. He communicated with Zhong Qing for a period of time every day, so God knew what he said to the child.
After learning the truth, it wasn’t that Professor Ruan wasn’t wary of Ruan Xian, but with his ability to read people’s words and his long-honed social interaction skills, it couldn’t be any easier for Ruan Xian to trick a teenager.
“Then, in order to show his support, he willingly provided you with a homemade EMP bomb, right?” Tang Yibu continued while still in a good mood.
“Yes… Yes.” Zhong Qing took a tissue handed over by Ji Xiaoman and blew his nose on it vigorously. “He said that Tang Ge and the others are more realistic and may not be willing to take the risk. I’m small and familiar with this place. No one would be suspicious if I disappeared for a while. He was willing to give me cover. He’d been following me, so I began to think he was here to help me…”
“And then what?” Ji Xiaoman asked in a low voice.
“I was about to steal the employee’s wristband when I accidently knocked something over. I swear it wasn’t there when I looked. Anyway—anyway, we were discovered. He told me to run and genuinely looked anxious for me.”
“Then you fell out the window and into the cushion?” Yu Le sighed.
“I was in a daze at the time. I didn’t know what to do. The employee activated the alarm and armed machines climbed on both sides of the corridor. He… He gave me the only cushion he had and then pushed me out.”
Zhong Qing hugged his head, turning it back and forth in a daze.
“Now I realize, after I’ve escaped, he didn’t hack Tang Ge’s surveillance like he said he would! He just delayed the alarm time. I have no idea what he’s going to do. It looks like…”
He wiped his face. “Like he wanted to be caught on purpose.”
Professor Ruan tightened his nerves. He didn’t trust the position of the other Ruan Xian. At least judging from the information he had now, Ruan Xian himself had a certain antisocial tendency, which wasn’t serious, but those bad memories were enough to push him to the edge of a cliff.
During the past few days of observing everyone and obtaining information, Professor Ruan paid special attention to everyone’s reaction. Although Ji Xiaoman and Yu Le weren’t considered good people, they still maintained a basic sense of conscience and morality. Facing the possibility of the destruction of families, the two had produced a visible resistance and guilt.
Putting the inhuman Tang Yibu aside for now, Ruan Xian didn’t seem very shaken by it.
Now it seemed that the other Ruan Xian had sympathy for his kind, albeit only a bit, which wasn’t really enough. He was more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. For some reason, he lived in the flock, but if the butcher stuck out a knife covered with sheep’s blood, Mr. Ruan might still be able to use his tongue to roll away some meat on the blade.
But that Ruan Xian was in love with NUL-00 in his own way. He could see it in that person’s eyes.
Professor Ruan didn’t plan to bet much on this relationship. There was nothing more untrustworthy than the love of a lunatic. No one knew how crazy “Ruan Xian” could be.
He was the one who peeled off his brain and lived in a tin can.
With Ruan Xian turned to the Mainbrain side, Professor Ruan’s spirit was a bit tight—fortunately, he didn’t reveal the key parts of the plan to the other party, and in order to hide his identity, Ruan Xian wasn’t stupid enough to rush up and confess everything indiscriminately and directly swore allegiance to the Mainbrain.
That kind of person wouldn’t seek death. However, at this point, Professor Ruan had already begun to consider the details of the plan that Ruan Xian needed to adjust after his brain would be scanned.
“He got caught on purpose.” Seeing that no one responded, Tang Yibu happily accepted Zhong Qing’s words. “And when he’s arrested, he’ll behave like a righteous man.”
“Oh—” Yu Le stretched out his tone, as if he had already returned to his senses. “That kid privately induced Zhong Qing to steal something and made it all look like an accident?”
“If it was Ji Xiaoman, me, or you who did the stealing, the Mainbrain would immediately become suspicious. Zhong Qing is different. The Mainbrain is still on guard against him and would be prepared once things come to a head with the guard. With Zhong Qing as an excuse, no matter how it analyzes and surveils afterwards, it would be hard for it to find any lies in his behavior.”
There was no flaw, no trace of duress or bribery. All emotions and logic were reasonable.
The Order Supervisors could only see a genuinely frightened and all too anxious teenager who was stopped by a human raised by NUL-00. Unfortunately, the stopper didn’t succeed, and like any qualified rebel, he rescued the child and was caught himself. Regarding why Zhong Qing could run away, Ruan Xian could definitely come up with a convincing enough excuse.
For the Mainbrain, exact emotional values and images were more trustworthy.
…As for whether Zhong Qing was considered a human, this didn’t need to be factored in.
The Mainbrain wasn’t aware of their communication. If it hadn’t been for Guan Haiming, who had studied the disease specifically, whether it was Professor Ruan or Tang Yibu, none of them would be able to make a judgement on the disease since they had no semblance of relevant clinical experience.
Professor Ruan couldn’t help but sigh in his heart. Most likely these past five days, Ruan Xian had devoted most of his energy into this plan.
“He’s caught by the Mainbrain in an image of a ‘good person’,” Professor Ruan concluded, trying to make his voice sound as non-emotional as possible.
“Yes.” Tang Yibu smiled. “There’s quite a lot of surveillance near that building, so we didn’t know where it would go wrong. He also lied to me as well—my emotional outburst just now was quite severe. Even if I were to do it again now, I wouldn’t be able to do it at that level. MUL-01 definitely needs to mull over this for a while.”
As he said this, he showed a smugness on his face.
“He didn’t leave a message because he couldn’t control when I would find it, and also as a precaution, in case the information was somehow found by another party, everything would fall short.” Tang Yibu kissed the canned food, which made the iron bead give a wistful rattle. “So he left me this.”
“A can. How touching.” Yu Le rolled his eyes.
“This one? This is what he had when we first met.” Tang Yibu carefully put the canned food in the pocket of his chest. “At that time, he deceived me as a ‘likable good guy’ and now he’s going to use the way trick on MUL-01.”
“What if you think wrong?” Ji Xiaoman held her breath nervously. “What if we should help him…”
“That’s not the primary problem we’re facing.” Professor Ruan’s tone was calm. “N… Xiao Tang, can you be sure that he won’t side with the Mainbrain’s camp?”
“I’m not sure,” Tang Yibu announced happily. “I understand what you mean. I don’t know if he will be persuaded by the Mainbrain, if he’ll betray me, if he’ll leave us to die like this.”
The android turned his face. His golden eyes made him look like a hungry panther.
“The thing is, we can’t eliminate those potential possibilities when we’re together. As an old metaphor says, it’s like waiting for another boot to drop after one has landed*. My Mr. Ruan knows this very well—if we continue to whitewash the situation like this, solutions will not appear out of thin air, and everything will only get worse.”
*Idiom refers to deferring action or decision until another matter is finished or resolved. The story behind it was explained in the previous chapter. || In this context, he’s saying that since the first boot has fallen (Ruan Xian taking action and getting purposefully caught), they shouldn’t wait for the second boot to fall as it may not lead to a desirable outcome (and Ruan Xian can’t be trusted) or may not come at all.
Professor Ruan vigilantly blew out a string of bubbles that filled his glass tank.
NUL-00 was abnormally excited. His body was dripping with the tension and bloodlust of a carnivore on the eve of a hunt. His eyes were still moist, but his whole body carried the relief of escaping from a cobweb of endless problems.
“Now I understand what it means to ‘face it positively’.” Tang Yibu licked his chapped lips as he spoke with excitement in his voice.
Professor Ruan understood the other party’s unspoken words.
It was almost impossible for these two dangerous people to encounter an unknown that was more dangerous than the current situation. Whether Ruan Xian’s original plan was to persist, betray, or escape, it was no longer a problem for NUL-00.
The game had started, and they were all officially involved.
Professor Ruan could almost see the tip of the claw that was popping out before the other side rushed towards its target. Thanks to Ruan Xian’s blessing, NUL-00’s mood was more stable than ever before. The AI in front of him no longer has suffered from those messy calculations. Its goal was now simple and straightforward…
To the Mainbrain, to capture Ruan Xian and get him back. In comparison to the illusory assumptions and fantasies, it could grasp an exact answer this time.
This wasn’t even a so-called “test”, Professor Ruan thought to himself.
Even if it was himself, he had to be cautious when dealing with the Mainbrain. It was impossible for Ruan Xian to have the confidence of “not being swayed by the Mainbrain”. He had tasted too much suffering in advance and wasn’t so naïve.
This was more like an experiment. A cold experiment that pushes oneself to the limit in the process of seeking victory and observing the results. Regardless of the outcome, those two paranoid guys could find some kind of relief in the answer.
…This game of chess may no longer be the outcome of him and MUL-01.
The author has something to say:
Mainbrain: Caught the human that’s raised by my brother(?) who’s a kind-hearted technician in a conventional moral environment. The next plan is to do this…
Ruan: (crazy laughter)
Professor Ruan and the Mainbrain are playing a serious game, so the environment is gray and gloomy. The game is almost over, and the atmosphere is extremely tense.
Two cats meowed and rushed onto the chessboard, knocking all the pieces away with their paws, and then ran around the room continuing to meow.
…This is probably the summary of this chapter (?