As a result of my weakened state, I was allowed to take one day off. During that time, I thought up a plan for installing ASA inside my OMNI unit. I normally would have drafted a blueprint, but I was paranoid that someone might find it. I decided that it was best kept inside my head.
I would need certain tools to install the core successfully. Most of all I required a power drill to gain access to the OMNI’s internals. I would also need electrical tape, wire cutters, and both solder wire and a soldering gun. I was certain that these items could be obtained from the local OMNI repair depot, but getting them would be the tricky part. Nothing I was planning to do with these tools was legal.
Then there was the matter of booting ASA. As the OMNI and ASA were not compatible, I would have to recode the controller chip. The only way to recode the controller was via a terminal, and there were only two terminals around that I knew of. One was in the repair depot, and the other was in the overseer’s office.
I began to question every thought I had, wondering if I was just too naïve to think that this was possible. I thought back to when I had first arrived in the Pits, how I had stared the impossibility of escaping in the face, only to give in to my powerlessness and accept the fact that I would never see my parents again.
This time was different. This time, I had a real chance at escaping. This is what would keep me going.
I concluded that because Hanzou already knew about the core and my life’s story, he would have to be involved. I was certain he would be willing to help me, and when I asked him his response had been exactly what I had expected.
“Just tell me what you need me to do,” Hanzou said that night, just before we were about to go to sleep.
“I’ll need to get some tools in order to install the ASA core into my OMNI unit,” I explained. “I think everything I need should be at the repair depot. We just have to find a way to borrow them.”
“You mean steal them?” said Hanzou.
“Well, yeah,” I said. “But I’m going to return them.”
Hanzou laughed. “You’re really doing this, aren’t you?”
“I have no choice,” I said.
“That’s right,” said Hanzou. “I want to help you, Takuma, because I know it’ll make you happy to be back where you really belong.”
“I appreciate that,” I said. “But let’s be real here. This won’t be easy. I’m not even sure it’s guaranteed to work.”
“Only one way to find out,” said Hanzou, holding out his fist for me to bump it.
“So, what comes after you install the core?” Hanzou asked as he now fell onto his bed.
“I have to recode the controller chip,” I said, still sitting on the edge of my bed. I didn’t feel sleepy at all.
“How do you do that?”
“I need access to a terminal. There are two nearby. One is in the depot and the other is in the overseer’s office.”
“How do you know there’s a terminal in the overseer’s office?”
“It just makes sense,” I said, shrugging. “How else could he connect to the Net and communicate with the city?”
“True,” said Hanzou. “So, which terminal are you planning on using?”
I had thought long about this and still had not settled on an answer. “I don’t know. There are risks to using either one.”
“Well,” I said, now lying back on my bed with my legs still touching the floor, “concerning the one in the depot, it’s always in use. The engineer there has been backed up with work for two weeks after that compactor accident. As for the overseer’s terminal, there’s the fact that he rarely leaves his office. He also has a secretary. If I’m caught, the overseer will probably have me beaten.
“Then there’s the possibility of firewalls blocking me. If that happens, I know of one possible work-around, but if that fails I’m out of options. I thought about maybe trying to persuade the depot engineer to help, but that would be way risky.”
Hanzou was silent. I thought that maybe he had fallen asleep, so I sat up to see. He was still awake, only thinking.
“What’s your take?” I asked.
“I think you should go for the overseer’s terminal,” said Hanzou. “I can cause a distraction.”
“Really?” I said. “What kind of distraction?”
“You know that gunship?” said Hanzou.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I think it’s funny how much the overseer likes that piece of junk. I think if something were to happen to it, he’d come running like flies to rotting meat.”
“What could you do to it?”
“Well,” said Hanzou with a devilish grin, “the gunship’s been loaded onto a flatbed for transport. What if I had my OMNI unit steal it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “That would put a big target on your back.”
“I can handle the old man,” said Hanzou with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Okay, let’s say we go through with this.”
“Okay,” said Hanzou.
“How long could you keep the overseer away from his office?”
“I don’t know,” said Hanzou. “It depends on how far my OMNI unit takes the gunship. How long do you need?”
“At least thirty minutes, approximately.”
“Hmm,” said Hanzou, thinking again. He then shook his head. “On second thought,” he said, sitting up, “it all depends on how pissed off I can make Shota, and I know how to piss him off.”
“Are you sure?” I said. I didn’t think Hanzou understood what he was planning on getting himself into. Shota was loud, but he was also known to be unpredictable.
“Yeah, I got this.”
“Alright,” I said. “Then that’s the plan for now.”
Our plan was heavy on my mind the next day. During our break, I stopped by the repair depot to scout out where the tools I needed sat in the shop. Some of the tools I was searching for were there on the workbench and in plain view. I just needed to find the right window of opportunity to take them.
The depot closed at eight o’clock. After eating dinner, I walked back to the depot and watched from afar. The engineer seemed to be cleaning up for the night. I ordered my OMNI unit to follow Hanzou back to our shanty and then I headed for the depot.
Earlier in the day, I had noticed that there was a circuit breaker box on the outside wall of the depot. After making sure that no one could see me, I walked up to the breaker box and flipped the switches to off.
The power in the depot died.
Moving as quickly and as quietly as I could around the back of the depot, I came around the opposite side to hear the engineer curse out loud in spite of the power dying. Peering around the corner, I watched as the engineer exited the depot, headed for the breaker box.
As the engineer left the depot, I entered it. Pulling a drawstring bag Hanzou had borrowed me from the inside of my coveralls, I tip-toed with haste through the depot. Finding the solder wire and solder gun, I quickly placed them into the bag. A power drill stood nearby, which I took as well. Time was running short. I had to leave.
As soon as I stepped from the depot the lights flickered back to life. I hesitated, feeling the sudden urge to sprint back to the shanty, but managed to suppress the urge knowing that if I did the engineer would see me. Therefore, I turned the corner and crouched against the depot wall.
I heard the engineer’s heavy footsteps walking along the gravel-covered ground. Peaking around the corner again, I could see that he was back inside the depot. I now carefully walked back the way I had come, back to where the circuit breaker box was. Based on the angle of the depot, the engineer would be less likely to see me leaving from this side.
Having made it back to the shanty, I showed Hanzou what I had managed to take from the depot.
“I only got the hand drill and the solder wire and solder gun,” I said, taking said items out of the bag and displaying them on my bed. “The good thing is that these are the most important tools I needed.”
“That was pretty ballsy, man,” said Hanzou, sporting a wide grin. “I never thought you could do something like that.”
“I’m just borrowing these tools,” I said. “Don’t get it twisted.”
“Fine, okay,” said Hanzou, holding up both hands as if he were guilty. “It’s just borrowing.” He said this last word as he made air quote gestures with his fingers.
I still needed the wire cutters and electrical tape. Hanzou had found a pair of rusty scissors out in the scrap pile, and as for electrical tape, Hanzou had asked if duct tape would work. I said that duct tape could work, but asked where he would find it. Hanzou had pointed casually to the ceiling of our shanty, one corner of which was covered in duct tape.
As the following day was Saturday, we worked only a half day. After we had finished our work, I began work on transferring ASA into my OMNI unit. While I worked, Hanzou periodically kept watch from outside whilst also cracking jokes.
Removing the back panel of my OMNI unit was simple with the power drill. Once inside, I removed the insulating sheet and gained access to another panel that had to be removed. Once this panel had been removed, I had access to the OMNI’s internals.
Removing the OMNI’s core came next. There were twelve screws that held it secure. Once I had removed these screws, I was able to unlatch the core as designed. The OMNI’s core now hung by three strands of braided wires. Each braid had to be unwound and disconnected from the core.
After all of the wires had been cut free, I was able to remove the OMNI’s core completely. ASA’s core was similar in shape, just more compact. It didn’t require every wire that had once been connected to the OMNI core, hence why I had needed the electrical tape to cover the remaining exposed wires.
Now taking hold of the solder wire in one hand and the solder gun in the other, I carefully soldered the correct wires to the appropriate leg of each chip on ASA’s core. It was lazy, but I didn’t have time to open up ASA’s core and rewire whole inside. I also made a point to remove the controller chip.
Once this step had been completed, I secured the ASA core with as many screws as I could and then put the inside panel and the insulator sheet back into place. Finishing, some two hours later, I drilled the last of the outside panel screws back into place.
The hard work was done.
That night after eating a well-deserved dinner, Hanzou and I mused about how far we had come. There was no going back now.
“When do you want to try recoding the controller?” Hanzou asked as he folded up his work uniform to be sent to the laundry.
“Lunchtime tomorrow, I think,” I said. “That way everyone is occupied.”
“Good point,” said Hanzou.
“So are you still planning on taking the gunship for a ride?” I asked.
“Yup!” said Hanzou, giving me a thumbs up. “It’s going to be hilarious.”
“I’ll stand by the common area and wait until the overseer leaves,” I said. “He’ll probably have one of the managers drive him over in his truck. It’s not too far, so make sure you know what you’re going to say before he gets there.”
“I know, I know,” said Hanzou, holding up his hands. “Who made you leader?”
“I just like to be sure everything is good to go,” I said. “We can’t really afford any errors here.”
“Trust me,” said Hanzou, “if this works, and Shota show’s up, which we both know he will, once he finds out that the OMNI unit is mine, he’ll be too winded to make it back to his office.”
Since Hanzou was willing to open up these flood gates, I didn’t feel guilty letting him go through with it. Besides, I trusted Hanzou to get the job done. “Sounds like we’re ready then,” I said. “As long as you keep the overseer away from his office until I can recode the controller, I don’t foresee any other complications.”
“You can count on me, senpai!” said Hanzou, bowing stiffly.I groaned as I rolled my eyes.