Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 13: Dissonance
Counting the time, it was long past dawn. Unfortunately, energy was limited, so the underground canteen wasn’t extravagant enough to equip a giant glass screen to provide them with a large false and power-consuming blue sky.
Ruan Xian got up late, so there weren’t many people left in the canteen and breakfast service was about to stop. The light of the energy-saving lamp was a little golden, far less bright than that of artificial sunlight, and the air was filled with an astringent taste unique to boiled metal water.
He intently stuffed steamed eggs and boiled sweet potatoes into his mouth silently. After feeling the sight firmly glued to his forehead, Ruan Xian raised his head and faced Tang Yibu’s golden eyes.
“You still have five minutes and eleven seconds,” Tang Yibu said seriously. “In five minutes and nine seconds, the canteen will cut off the power supply. There are still four hours and thirty-three minutes left before noon to gather with Zhang Yazhe’s team. Considering the possible circumstances, I suggest you go to Guan Haiming early to obtain outing equipment and information. Using this time, you can still…”
Ruan Xian didn’t respond. He put down the spoon, broke the boiled sweet potato in half, got up, and stuffed it into Tang Yibu’s palm, successfully interrupting the android who was busy nagging. Tang Yibu stopped his mouth instantly, nodded happily at him, and nibbled at the sweet potato.
Tang Yibu’s attitude towards him had softened a little since learning from the ruins that his “information was not up to date”, and that kind of subtle tolerance always made Ruan Xian feel a little awkward.
It was like Tang Yibu was taking care of an unconscious drunk or a young fledgling that had just been thrown out of the bird’s nest.
At present, Tang Yibu firmly believed that he was an unlucky android who had been injected with human memories and, at the same time, knew that he wasn’t a human being. Interestingly, now Ruan Xian wasn’t sure whether the part about “being injected with human memories” was true or not.
But as a matter of caution, he wasn’t ready to exchange android-to-android information with Tang Yibu for the time being.
Now that he had been integrated into the exploration team and had a vague human identity, other normal humans were the safer objects for inquiry. The excuse of “playing Ruan Lijie” was very easy to use and was enough to make all the questions he asked about the outside world natural.
But at the moment, there was a problem that was more suitable for Tang Yibu.
“Since we are going to join the team… How is Zhang Yazhe’s strength?”
“On the comprehensive side. Chi Lei is good at machine retrieval and maintenance, and Ding Zepeng has excellent physical fitness, suitable for combat and exploration. Zhang Yazhe as a veteran, is the oldest, but because of his age, his physical strength isn’t as good as Ding Zepeng, but his combat ability is still high, and he has a lot of experience in dealing with various situations.” Tang Yibu continued nibbling on the sweet potato making his voice a bit vague.
“What about now?” he asked meaningfully.
Tang Yibu stopped chewing and looked over. Ruan Xian couldn’t read the emotions in those golden eyes. “Everything is as usual. Now his state has not significantly declined, nor has it improved much.”
Since Tang Yibu had promised to protect him, there was no need for him to lie on this issue. No matter what Zhang Yazhe was now, his abilities were still roughly human. Ruan Xian breathed a sigh of relief.
“But it seems that I need to repeat it again. Don’t get too close to humans,” Tang Yibu said calmly, swallowing the last of the sweet potato. “I understand your reason for designating me specifically. You want to use my strength to protect that team.”
Ruan Xian didn’t deny it.
“There is no benefit to excessive intervention. When humans were still prosperous, they wouldn’t interfere too much with wild animals.” Tang Yibu shook his head.
“I remember, but you know my situation. You can’t change your habits for a while.”
Ruan Xian smoothly ended the topic. He got up and put the bowls and spoons in a nearby metal box. “Let’s go. Is Guan Haiming in the office?”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu stretched out his hand, wiped off the crushed sweet potato stuck to the side of Ruan Xian’s mouth with his thumb, and licked it off carefully.
The other party’s expression was so upright that after Ruan Xian pondered for a while, he decided to abandon his half-hearted protest plan. He wiped his mouth hard with his handkerchief, turned his head, and walked to Guan Haiming’s office.
Fortunately, this time he no longer needed Tang Yibu’s company. Guan Haiming was very direct. “The android can wait outside. I get upset when there are too many people.”
At the same time, after the soundproof door was closed, Ruan Xian and Guan Haiming breathed a sigh of relief.
“I thought you would want a more powerful auxiliary machine.” In order to have a normal conversation, Guan Haiming turned down the volume of the music that was enough to blast the ceiling and rested his two legs on the table. His tone was neither salty nor light.
“Zhang Ge and the others are a bit scary.” Ruan Xian had already thought of a response to say.
Guan Haiming was obviously not the type who liked to be nosy. He hummed hastily and ended the topic.
“I put all your things in the bag and glued the instructions on. You still have a few hours before you act, so take it back and look at it yourself.” Guan Haiming knocked his heel against the table to the beat of the music. The fast-paced music played in the room was still the same as last time, Ruan Xian listened for a while and felt inexplicably a little dizzy.
“Don’t listen too much if you are not used to it.” Perceiving Ruan Xian’s small movements, Guan Haiming glanced at him obliquely. “This is alcohol music, and if you are not used to it, it will have a drunken effect.”
“Are you used to it?”
“It’s similar to the effect of drinking, but it won’t damage my brain and liver,” Guan Haiming responded stiffly. “Take your backpack. If you need information, you’d better say it now—”
“Is there any information for auxiliary machines?”
Guan Haiming raised his eyebrows. “It seems you still want to change yours?”
“I just want to take a look first. After all, I don’t know anything about them.” Ruan Xian glanced at the rows of metal shelves full of electronic paper. “Dr. Guan, do you have any entry-level information here? The kind that started with the initial machine.”
“…Yes, I do.”
Guan Haiming knocked on the table. A drone flew up and pulled out a piece of electronic paper from the top of the shelf. Putting the gray electronic paper flat on the table, he took out a blank piece of paper from a wooden box at hand, folded the two pieces of paper together, and clasped his five fingers. After the beeping sound indicating the fingerprint verification had passed, Guan Haiming handed over the freshly made copy of the information.
“From now on, this piece of paper will belong to you. All text-based information can be copied into it.” Guan Haiming smacked his lips. “See if it’s what you want. If it’s not enough, you can ask me again. It’s best to solve everything at once. Ah, how troublesome. It’s better for you not to be an explorer. I think indoor work is fine.”
Ruan Xian didn’t answer. He glanced at the closed soundproof door and quickly looked through it.
What he wanted was written in the preface.
[In the early days, machines would be mixed with biological cells, but with the development of technology, these biological cells were completely replaced with artificial cells. The S.A.D. are three type of prototypes that was born as a result. After proper stimulation, the artificial cells of the prototype can freely differentiate and form, providing materials for various models.]
[S-type products focus on recovery and perception. A-types focus on attack. D-Types focus on defense. The prototypes had too much freedom of performance and uncontrollable capabilities, so to ensure safety, we didn’t equip them with any artificial intelligence.]
[In the 22nd century rebellion, the S-type and A-type prototypes were successfully destroyed by us, while the D-type prototypes were obtained by the Mainbrain MUL-01. Except for a small amount of machinery left behind by human civilization, all bionic tissues of the new machines belong to D-types, which makes them difficult to destroy through normal means…]
“Can you understand?” Seeing Ruan Xian frowning, Guan Haiming pulled the corners of his mouth.
“The prototype is something similar to artificial stem cells? I’ve studied it a bit.” Ruan Xian smiled reluctantly. “If I understand correctly, they once provided a source of bionic materials for all machinery? This is basically tantamount to a monopoly, right?”
“Almost. Stem cells—Not a bad metaphor… Professor Ruan was initially in charge of these three prototypes. They contained the best technology available to mankind back then.”
When it came to “Ruan Xian”, Guan Haiming eyes glowed with a little vitality.
“The monopoly wasn’t really a monopoly. It’s just because other people were too stupid. Plan Corp wanted to design its own prototypes but lost when they ran out of funding. It was inevitable that MUL-01 wanted them. No matter how powerful artificial intelligence is, if it’s stuffed into a toaster, it won’t be able to make many waves. The best system is best matched with the strongest hardware. That has always been the case.”
“It says that both A-types and S-types have been destroyed, but the Mainbrain is so terrifying, won’t it restore them and create a bunch of offensive armies or something…”
“Don’t worry. Only Professor Ruan knew the core technology, and in order to guard against the current situation, he didn’t record it in any form. No matter how powerful MUL-01 is, it can’t hack into the human brain from space… I say, you’re here to inquire about the auxiliary models, right? Why do you care so much about the prototypes?”
“It’s the first time I heard about it, so I was a little curious.” Seeing Guan Haiming’s keenness, Ruan Xian immediately stopped the topic. “This one is very interesting. Dr. Guan, just give me a few more similar ones like this.”
Guan Haiming curled his lips. Just as the drone was about to fetch them, he let out a stifled grunt and swept everything that could fall around him to the ground. In a flurry of mechanical debris, he slid off the seat and curled up with his head in his arms. His body was twitching unnaturally.
Ruan Xian was extremely startled. “Dr. Guan?!”
“Turn on the music! Maximum volume!” Guan Haiming yelled while beating his head frantically with his fists.
Ruan Xian recalled Guan Haiming’s movements for half a second and then slapped the music icon floating on the table. The sky-shattering alcohol music rang out again. Guan Haiming shrank and trembled for a few minutes before he finally stood up slowly.
“Dr. Guan, do you want me to call someone—”
“No need. It’s just a headache. It’s an old problem I have. Can you leave now? It’ll help me.” Guan Haiming’s face paled, and he waved his hand weakly.
Ruan Xian hurriedly put away the information, carried a heavy backpack full of equipment, and quickly rushed out of the room.
“Guan Haiming’s health is not right. Do we need to notify other doctors?” Ruan Xian wiped off his cold sweat, making sure the soundproof door was closed.
“His body has never been healthy.” Tang Yibu took the initiative to pick up the heavy backpack with a calm expression and no surprise. “I guess this is one of the reasons Ruan Xian was willing to make an exception to accept him as a student.”
Ruan Xian was stunned when he heard Tang Yibu spoke his real name for the first time.
“Guan Haiming was one of the first humans whose genes were completely optimized. All known pathogenic genes were eliminated, and appearance, IQ, and personality were all re-customized.” Tang Yibu lowered his voice while maintaining an indifferent tone. “It’s just that the first batch was a bit flawed. A small miscalculation. Their skull size and brain didn’t match.”
Ruan Xian’s blood ran cold. “That’s why he has headaches?”
“Well, the skull isn’t big enough.” Tang Yibu nodded. “There’s no cure. They can’t escape intermittent headaches, and they tend to be irritable. This problem was exposed after the first batch of test subjects stopped developing. Humans successfully fixed this hidden danger in the ninth batch of optimization.”
Ruan Xian didn’t know what to say for a while. He felt he was being suffocated. Taking in such a student did seem like something “he” would do.
What had the world become like in the twelve years since he was in a coma?
He mechanically changed his clothes, mechanically read various instructions, and mechanically carried his backpack on his shoulders. It wasn’t until he saw Zhang Yazhe’s face again that Ruan Xian managed to free himself from the endless distraction.
Chi Lei and Ding Zepeng were wearing the same camouflage uniforms as last time when they rescued him, while Zhang Yazhe’s suit was darker. The three of them were carrying light backpacks while the police auxiliary machine stood silently behind them. Its green aperture resembled the eyes of a wolf.
“Ruan Ge, what’s wrong with you? Your face doesn’t look very good.” Ding Zepeng was the first to find the anomaly.
“Nothing, maybe a little nervous.” Ruan Xian wiped his face and patted the young man on the shoulder.
“It’s okay, Zhang Ge said we’re just going to pick up parts, so there won’t be any danger.” Ding Zepeng grinned, showing off his snow-white teeth.
Chi Let’s still had a flat face, while Zhang Yazhe smiled at Xiao Ding, but there was no smile in his eyes. Ruan Xian retracted his gaze from Zhang Yazhe’s face, glanced at Tang Yibu behind him, and finally looked in the direction of Guan Haiming’s office.
The elevator was rising. They were about to return to the sunny surface. The spring flowers were blooming outside the building, and everything seemed to be full of hope.
But he only felt cold.
The author has something to say:
The information of the prototypes is given ☆-σ(>ω0)b