As lunchtime approached the next day, I began to feel nervous. Despite what nerves I felt, the plan could not be abandoned. What really worried me was that we had no back-up plan, something given more time I would have actually worked on.
At 11:55 AM, Hanzou started for the gunship as I headed to the overseer’s office in the common area. I heard the siren for lunch as I entered into the common area to see the last of the people who had been in the common area leave for the canteen.
All I could do now was wait.
I sat on a bench and stared up at Kamikoshi City. The heat today was a bit more bearable than it had been the past week. I watched as transport after transport left the docking bay at the base of the city, some headed for the Pits, others I guessed headed for the Chinese city. I looked across the city again. This was the closest I had ever been to making it back.
After waiting close to fifteen minutes with no sign that Hanzou had ordered his OMNI unit to steal the gunship as planned, I began to get worried. What if he had been caught? What would I do? What I did know, however, was that if Hanzou had been caught, he wouldn’t rat me out. Our trust ran deep.
Twenty minutes came and went. What was he doing? I thought, my legs restless with nervous energy.
Just as I was about to go and find Hanzou, a worker came sprinting into the common area, his OMNI unit jogging along behind him. “Overseer Shota!” he bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the common area. “Overseer Shota! Code Blue! Code Blue!” Code Blue meant that an OMNI unit was malfunctioning, which everyone in the Pits took seriously based on how dangerous a rogue OMNI unit could be.
Shota now appeared from inside the office building. “What?!” he screamed. “Where?”
“It’s the gunship, sir,” the worker said. “An OMNI unit has driven off with the gunship.”
“Get my truck!” demanded Shota, limping down the front steps from the door. “Drive me there! Now!”
The worker did as he was ordered, jumping into the driver’s seat of the truck, which sat in the carport nearby, and starting the engine. He then picked up Shota, who clambered into the passenger’s seat, and the truck sped off.
Hanzou you brilliant fool, you did it, I thought to myself.
It was now up to me to make this worth it.
As I reached the front door into the office building, I peered inside to see if anyone was around. I thought that the overseer’s secretary might still be present, but the front room and adjacent room of the small building were unoccupied.
Now entering the building, I made for the overseer’s desk. There was the terminal. Now standing in front of it, I sat down in the chair and pulled the controller chip from my pocket. I quickly opened the command prompt window on the terminal and began to type the commands necessary to access the controller chip’s wireless functionality. I managed this in no more than two minutes.
Now that I was connected wirelessly, I had to download the controller files onto the terminal. I imagined that this part would take up to ten minutes, but it completed in seven. Opening each file, I found the ten that I needed to rewrite. I only had to rewrite several lines of code each, as ASA had been built based on the OMNI’s general controller design.
As I typed, every few minutes I would look out the nearby window to see if anyone was coming, to see if the overseer had returned. To my relief, I didn’t see anyone. Sweat dripped down the sides of my face as my fingers continued to race across the keyboard only to then save each new file back to the controller chip. Soon I had finished two files, then three, then six.
A door now opened at the opposite end of the room. I froze as a woman entered, carrying a large brown bag. She looked at me as I stared at her.
“What are you doing?” she asked, looking at me inquisitively.
“Oh,” I said, trying to keep my cool and think of something to say on the spot. This woman was most definitely the overseer’s secretary, back from lunch early to my dismay. “The overseer asked me to wait for you to tell you that he’s gone out to respond to a Code Blue, and that he’ll be back soon.”
The woman laughed, brushing a lock of her dark, shoulder-length hair behind her ear. “Silly man,” she said. “He probably wants me to call control services if it’s a Code Blue.”
“Yes,” I said.
“But why are you sitting at the overseer’s desk?” the woman asked.
“Oh,” I said, trying to think fast again. “I thought that I would contact control services since you weren’t here yet,” I said.
“Oh yeah?” said the woman. “You don’t have to do that. Let me just put this stuff upstairs and I’ll call them.” The woman now left, walking upstairs as stated.
I had to hurry. In less than five minutes, I had finished editing the last of the files. As I clicked save for the tenth and final time, I deleted the downloaded files that had saved to the terminal and closed the command prompt window.
The controller was ready.
Leaving the office building saw me practically sprint back to the canteen. I didn’t know what had become of Hanzou, so I planned to go out to where the gunship was as soon as I had caught my breath and calmed myself down a bit.
The thing was that I didn’t need to go and find Hanzou. As I listened to people talking in the canteen, I heard Hanzou’s name mentioned.
“That Ishida guy, it was his OMNI unit that did it,” a worker was saying.
“Ishida?” said the other worker. “I don’t think I know him.”
“Yeah, you know, he’s that guy who’s always bouncing off the walls. Annoying kid.”
I felt my blood pressure spike a bit, but I couldn’t allow myself to get angry. Not here, not after what I had just done.
“Hey,” I said, getting their attention. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Ishida,” the first worker said. “Hang on, isn’t he your roommate?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What happened to him?”
“His OMNI unit went nuts and drove off with that gunship squad two found. The overseer practically lost his mind. An OMNI police unit managed to deactivate Ishida’s OMNI unit and Ishida was detained.”
“Seriously?” I said, feigning surprise. “That’s a shame. I know his OMNI unit had been acting off lately. Well, see ya.”
I now walked from the canteen, thinking about what to do next. I wasn’t sure where Hanzou was being held. Wherever he was, the police were now involved.
I decided to go back to the shanty. Once there, I pulled the recoded controller chip from my pocket and stared at it. I then looked at my OMNI unit, mute and powerless. ASA was waiting to be reborn inside. I made the decision to wait until tonight to try installing the controller, as I was unsure whether Hanzou would show up again, or if any of the authorities would to possibly question me. And so I waited. I was used to waiting. I had been waiting for four whole years.
As day fell into dusk, Hanzou showed up at the shanty. He had been escorted by an OMNI police unit, which stood guard outside the door as Hanzou entered.
“Hey,” I said. “What’s going on?” I was happy to see that he hadn’t been injured in any way, knowing that he had dealt with the overseer.
“I can’t talk long,” said Hanzou, nodding in the direction of the OMNI police unit behind him. “Just tell me you got it.”
“I did,” I said. “Thank you.”
“It was pretty sick what happened,” said Hanzou, shaking his head in reflection, his typical sly smile forming at his lips. “Though I will admit it went a little too far.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The gunship fell off the flatbed,” said Hanzou, his eyes staring at the ceiling.
“Damn,” I said, my hand on my forehead.
“Yup,” said Hanzou.
“I heard your OMNI unit was deactivated,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Hanzou. “Takuma,” he said. “There’s something else too. I’m being transferred.”
“What?” I said. “You’re being transferred? To where?”
“I don’t know yet,” said Hanzou, shrugging. He had begun to look a bit melancholy.
“No,” I said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“It’s fine,” said Hanzou. “The goal was for you to get what you wanted.”
The OMNI police unit now stuck its head inside the shanty. “You have ten minutes remaining,” it said in its garbled, robotic voice, then stepped back out to stand arrow-straight again.
“So, when do you leave?” I asked.
“Tonight,” said Hanzou. “Shota was pretty mad, like you said he would be. He wants me gone.”
“Hanzou, look,” I said. “If I manage to do this, to leave, I will come back for you. I want you to experience the city, to see the good side of it.”
Hanzou smiled, a glint in his eyes. “I’m going to hold you to that, man,” he said.
“I promise,” I said.
It took Hanzou minutes to gather up his belongings. We said goodbye, with Hanzou holding out his fist for one last fist bump. I obliged him, and then bowed.
Sitting on my bed, my hands on my head, I focused on my racing thoughts. This plan of mine, this burning desire to make it back to Kamikoshi City, had lost me my only friend in the Pits. If I somehow failed to see my goal through, all of this would have been for nothing, and I would be left alone in a place that was still as alien to me as it was when I had first arrived.
Standing, I took the controller chip out of my pocket. It was time to finish what I had started. I got to work unscrewing the back panel of my OMNI unit, and then removed the insulating sheet and the panel underneath. The ASA core seemed to glare at me, awaiting its final piece to become whole once again.
With careful fingers, I reconnected the controller chip. As it snapped into place, I froze for a second, expecting ASA to spring to life, to instantly engage in a stimulating conversation as I was used to. Realizing that I was being paranoid, I prepared to power on ASA.
“Good morning, ASA,” I said.
I heard the whir of the fans inside spin up only to stop seconds later.
I cocked my head. “ASA, good morning,” I said again, changing the word order a bit.
“Attention ASA,” I tried.
Still no response.
“Attention OMNI unit 00647,” I said, thinking that ASA would only answer once the OMNI unit was turned on, but to no avail.
My hands began to shake. This had to work. There was no alternative. I thought for a bit, then remembering that there was a manual power switch inside the OMNI unit. Looking inside, I located it and flipped the switch.
I sat on the ground, practically pulling my hair out in frustration, wondering what I could have done wrong. Had I done anything wrong? Was all this just pointless?What was I going to do now?