Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 89: TCR-mother05
Tiantian-Q2’s stumbled as she walked. She was running faster, but not conspicuously enough to stand out in the crowded streets. The curfew was over, and there were quite a few people running hurriedly on the streets. Almost everyone wore all kinds of gas masks, and occasionally there were a few who didn’t wear them—An elderly man was huddled in an alley; his face was as pale as a corpse. The loud and difficult gasping sounds were like bellows piercing through the poisonous mist and into one’s eardrums.
The thin Tiantian-Q2 clutched her mask tightly and whimpered through the crowd. Not many people bothered to pay attention to her, and helpless sobs on the streets weren’t uncommon. If she laughed at this moment, it would be more noticeable.
With the tracking device in his hand, Ruan Xian deliberately distanced himself to ensure that people wouldn’t associate him with the running girl. Tiantian-Q2 ran straight to the junkyard where Qian Yigeng’s headquarters was located. When she reached a relatively sparsely populated area, she didn’t even dare to make sobbing sounds anymore.
There was more than one person running towards the junkyard. Many beautiful men and women, wrapped in faded coats, moved stiffly towards it, like a group of marionettes. Coupled with the rotting and smelly garbage, Tiantian-Q2 couldn’t help shaking again.
But her legs kept dragging her forward.
“The little girl is quite strong.” Yu Le, who arrived at the edge of the junkyard, sighed, “Laozi is sweating. This is just heinous.”
“There are fewer old-fashioned cybernetic brains than I thought.” Ruan Xian hid behind the wreckage of a refrigerator that had mold gushing out of the freezer as he stared at the zombie-like figures without blinking. They ignored the cybernetic brains that weren’t activated, but before detonating the bombs in the basement, he and Tang Yibu had created enough chaos to give the androids on the ground time to escape.
Counting the numbers, there must have been hundreds of people who fled, but the number of people currently drilling into the junkyard was less than 20.
“Judging from the distance of influence of Return South Wild Geese, there should be others on the way. This is the nearest batch.” Tang Yibu poked at the yellow gushing mold. “Calculating the time, Ji Xiaoman is almost…”
Before he finished speaking, he was interrupted by a slight engine sound. Ji Xiaoman rushed into the junkyard on a dilapidated floating hover bike, especially conspicuous among the unnatural people. Her android mother was quietly tied by a safety belt. Seeing Ji Xiaoman’s speed slowing down, her struggling movements became more obvious. Her entire body was stretched towards the center of the junkyard.
“Hold on a little longer, Mom.” Ji Xiaoman stepped off the motorcycle and raised her gun.
Almost at the same time, Ruan Xian turned his gaze in the same direction—seven or eight men in black jackets rushed out of the depths of the fog, each with a gun in their hand.
“Get out of the way.” In a rare instant, Ji Xiaoman raised her voice. “I want to see Qian Yigeng.”
“I have been looking for you for some days.” A familiar voice came from behind the mask of the leading man. The man sighed and took off his mask. “As your supervisor, I have suffered a lot.”
“It’s very simple. I was kidnapped, and now I managed to escape because of my mother.” Ji Xiaoman straightened her waist and barely shielded her mother, who was trying to move towards the center. “Qian Yigeng started the Return South Wild Geese. I have no other choice. Let me say it again, get out of the way, He An.”
He An simply smiled. He made a gesture, and the men behind him instantly aimed at Ji Xiaoman with their guns. Ji Xiaoman didn’t intend to shirk in the slightest, even if those guns were enough to turn her into a sieve.
“It stands to reason that the emergency passage doesn’t allow humans to enter. No, he asked us to come out and watch to see if there were any unseen followers that gathered.” He An himself raised his gun. “…In short, it’s all a mess now. Do understand. Now put the gun down. Don’t make the friends behind me too nervous.”
He An had golden eyes that were extremely similar to Tang Yibu. Ruan Xian held his breath and observed carefully for a while but failed to find the same strange beauty in those eyes. However, he hadn’t looked at it for long when a hand stuck to his face and slowly forcefully pushed his face in the direction of Ji Xiaoman—Ruan Xian slanted his gaze and saw Tang Yibu looking serious, as if that hand didn’t belong to him.
Ji Xiaoman didn’t say a word, and slowly put away the gun. Ruan Xian could perceive the opponent’s subtle movements—Ji Xiaoman was secretly adjusting her center of gravity and bowed slightly to He An, showing a calm expression unique to hunters.
“I think Qian Yigeng will be very happy to hear what you have to say. Your mother’s memory refresh deadline hasn’t arrived yet, right? What are you panicking about?”
He An seemed to know nothing about the coming danger as he continued.
“Oh, in this situation, I suppose the mind access needle will come out again. Trust me, you’ll have to set aside a portion of your time budget to allow Qian Yigeng a whole hour of bragging on how he got the needle from Ruan Xian.”
Behind the android, several men in stormtroopers had already shown a little tired posture.
“One last time. Get out of the way, He An.” Ji Xiaoman obviously had no plans to talk.
“You really don’t know how to give up.” He An shook his head. “Do you really believe you can get that needle and then crack Qian Yigeng’s—”
“I can.” Ji Xiaoman sounded quite determined and had some anger in her tone. “It’s you who just quit your job as a City Defender and directly became Qian Yigeng’s dog…”
She didn’t have time to finish.
He An fired, but not in front of him. The android twisted his body to a level that was impossible for humans to do. A series of gunshots ran out and all the others who were behind him fell down as red blood slowly seeped from the gaps in their bodies. The one with the fastest response only fired two shots, but none hit He An.
He An had shot everyone squarely in the throat, leaving a large gaping hole behind.
In the gap between their conversations, most of the androids that came disappeared into the thick mist. The area was full of mechanical garbage that made it look like an isolated stage with only two people left. Tiantian-Q2 was hit in the thigh by a stray bullet, and the severe pain and blood loss slowed her movements. Her breathing became extraordinarily difficult, so she took off her sultry gas mask and gasped for breath.
A dozen steps away, Ji Xiaoman reacted quickly. She didn’t ask much, nor did she hesitate. Like everyone who had lived in this chaotic Underground City for a long time—Before He An had adjusted his posture, she attacked him without saying a word.
He An didn’t dodge. He let Ji Xiaoman’s fingertips pass through his shoulder. Blood quickly soaked his coat, and the color became pitch black against the fog.
“It’s more convincing to have some color.” He took advantage of the situation to grab Ji Xiaoman’s wrist. “How about cooperating? I’ll help you get rid of Qian Yigeng, and you can help me get rid of the thing in my head.”
“What an appropriate time to cooperate, City Defender.” Ji Xiaoman quickly withdrew her hand, too lazy to hide the sarcasm in her voice. “If you were willing to bring it up even a month or two earlier, I would have thought about it.”
“You can’t say that. Who can guarantee that you’re telling the truth? As the saying goes, don’t lose the falcon until you see the hare*. If you don’t have the ability, would I lose out?”
*(不见兔子不撒鹰) Idiom referring to if there’s no clear goal, you will not take practical action.
The smile on He An’s face was motionless, as if there was no pain near his wound.
“I need to see a real guarantee that ‘the brain device can be removed’—for example, daring to take your mother to the door in person, yet not looking desperate. Is it more useful to deliver charcoal in the snow*, or are you willing to take a greater risk just to get out?”
*(雪中送炭) Idiom referring to giving people material or spiritual help in times of difficulty or crisis. || What he’s saying here is that she’s coming to help Qian Yigeng (deliver charcoal) or fight against him (taking a bigger risk).
He didn’t even look at Tiantian-Q2 who was trying to suppress a groan not far away. He pointed to the female android who was struggling behind Ji Xiaoman with his chin and raised his hands with confidence.
He An’s deduction was indeed correct. It was impossible for her to gamble with her mother’s safety. Ji Xiaoman’s expression became gloomy.
“All right, little girl.” He An shrugged and simply bandaged the wound that was still bleeding. “My things are still in your hands, so surely you can trust me that much?”
Hearing this, Ji Xiaoman’s expression twisted strangely. She was stunned for a few seconds, and finally let out a long breath. “…I see. Take me to see Qian Yigeng. Mom, don’t move, come with me… Mom?!”
The female android finally broke free from her restraints. She changed direction and walked slowly but firmly down the other path. Tiantian-Q2, who hadn’t had time to put on her mask, gulped and moved to the far side with strong support.
“Nursing model TCR-mother05. Target age confirmed, gender confirmed, appearance confirmed. Visual fingertip command restarted. Open secondary permission.” The expression of the female android changed convulsively for a few seconds, finally resting on an extraordinary gentle smile. “…Xiaoman, why did you run out?”
She stretched out her hand to Tiantian-Q2, who was paralyzed on the ground. The latter shook her head with difficulty, with a confused expression on his face.
“A leg wound? How naughty. Come back with me—go back. There’s still memory therapy to be done on Sunday.” The female android had become relatively fluent in communication, and the expression on her face had become gentler. It was a pity that with the junkyard full of corpses lying in the poisonous fog as the background, this only made the scene bizarre.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Tiantian-Q2’s voice became sharp. She squeezed the gun in her pocket tightly, waved her head helplessly, and finally determined her target to ask for help—she reached out her hand to Ji Xiaoman, the only suspected human present and also related to this woman. “This this—Is this your android? There seems to be something wrong with her!”
But Ji Xiaoman didn’t look much calmer than her. The young female mechanic held her breath with a blank expression.
He An raised his brows and let out a slight sigh. “No wonder Qian Yigeng never puts them in the same shop.”
“Xiaoman, come home with me.” The female android still maintained her body and hand posture, but her expression became sterner. “You have shed too much blood. You have to go home and take your medication… Ji Xiaoman, do you hear me?”
“I’m not Ji Xiaoman!” Tiantian-Q2 grabbed an iron pipe for support and finally stood up, shivering. “My name is Bai Tian. I don’t know anyone named Ji Xiaoman. You have the wrong person. You…”
“I won’t mistake your face, child.” The female android was unrelenting. “Be obedient. Don’t let your parents worry. Put down that dirty stick. Otherwise, I can only execute… Only…. Only…”
Her expression became wooden again. Return South Wild Geese’s priority was obviously higher than the thought program she planned to run. The female android stood up again and headed towards the center of the junkyard, while Tiantian-Q2 gritted her teeth and looked as if she was still trying to restrain her uncontrolled legs.
Ji Xiaoman was silent for a long time.
Finally, seeing that the familiar figure of her “mother” was about to disappear into the fog, Ji Xiaoman stepped forward quickly and took out the syringe from her backpack. She injected a little potion into Tiantian-Q2, who was trying to resist the procedure, causing the latter to slide softly along the steel pipe to the ground, gasping for breath.
“You… What did you do?” Tiantian-Q2 asked with difficulty, touching the hidden gun in her hand again.
“A little special paralyzing agent for the cybernetic brain. Don’t worry, your limbs still have the ability to move, but your legs can’t hold your weight anymore.” Ji Xiaoman spoke extremely quickly with a pale face. “Anyways, in short, go find a place to hide and wait for me to finish things… I have something to ask you.”