I didn’t allow myself to sleep until I figured out what had gone wrong with installing ASA into my OMNI unit. I spent two hours undoing practically everything I had done previously. It was a hassle, but it needed to be done. If I didn’t get ASA working in time before morning came, I would have no choice but to surrender the ASA core and face what punishment I was deserving of.
First, I looked at the ASA core. My initial thought was that there might be damage to the internal components. On the inside of the core there were a series of circuit boards sandwiched together where a long list of things could go wrong.
Opening up the ASA core, I carefully separated each circuit board and inspected each signal trace along with all of the capacitors. None of them had any damage whatsoever. Next, I turned to the CPU. I thought maybe it needed to be reseated, so I removed it and placed it back in place where it fit snugly. I also double-checked my soldering work.
Confirming that the ASA core was most likely functional, I turned my attention to the OMNI unit’s internals. The first thing I considered was that the lithium-ion batteries that the OMNI utilized were not sufficient enough to power the ASA core. But this didn’t make sense to me because I remembered my father saying that while ASA was designed to derive its power from a liquid electrochemical system, the net energy generated was near equal.
Despite this, I still felt that there must be something inhibiting the flow of energy to the ASA core. I now reconnected the ASA core but did not mount it inside the OMNI unit. Once done, I flipped the power switch inside the OMNI unit. As expected, I heard the whir of the fans kick on and then fade out.
Leaving the power switch in the on position, I turned my attention to the remaining chips left to be examined. One of these had to be the energy-hogging culprit. There were three chips, the chips for motion, optics, and speech. I was nervous at the prospect of the motion or optical chips being the cause, being both necessary functions. Speech was necessary too, but the fact that I had a K-Link meant that I would be able to talk to ASA mentally.
Despite my hesitation to remove either of the first two chips, I still had to test each. I removed the chip that controlled motion first. The fans whirred up again, and there was a new beeping noise, but this was short lived as the system shut down again.
I exhaled deeply.
Next was the optics chip. Removing it resulted in no change.
I now pulled the speech chip from its seat. The fans spun up again, a different beeping noise sounding. I froze. The fans continued to spin.
“Good morning, ASA,” I said, my eyes shut tight in anticipation.
A garbled noise now sprang to life inside my head, a ringing in my ears. I grimaced, my hands clasped around each side of my head. What was this noise? I thought. Was it working? The fans were still spinning, indicator lights flashing.
As the noise faded, it changed to resemble something akin to white noise. I sat as still as possible, my hands still gripping on to the sides of my head as if I were afraid my head might fall off my neck. I looked up at the ASA core and the OMNI unit with its internals exposed. The fans were still rotating at full speed, every indication that there was power.
The noise inside my head now vanished. There was silence again.
“Good morning, ASA,” I said one last time, my head hung in defeat.
“Good morning,” said a modulated voice inside my head.
My head snapped up to stare at the ASA core. “ASA?” I said aloud. “You can hear me?” I was practically on the verge of tears.
“I can,” said ASA. “I remember your voice. Takuma Mori.”
“Yes!” I said, standing, trying hard to contain my excitement for fear that someone would hear me.
“My system is registering unfamiliar hardware,” said ASA. “What has become of me?”
“I found your core in a scrap pile here in the Pits,” I explained. “I’ve rewired an OMNI unit to support you instead.”
“My power levels are extremely low,” said ASA. “I must reduce power consumption if I am to remain active.”
“Yes,” I said. “Do that. But ASA,” I continued, “we need to talk. I went through all this trouble for a reason. And then there’s the fact that I have to report for work tomorrow. You’ll have to act like a basic Kenji Model-9 from now on.”
“I do not understand,” said ASA. “I was designed to be far superior than the current Kenji model OMNI unit. It is against my programming to reduce myself to something that I am not.”
“But you have to!” I said adamantly. “If you don’t then my whole plan is ruined.”
“What plan is that?”
A heavy sigh escaped me as I sat on the edge of my bed, hands on my head. Did I really have a plan? “I have to bring you up to date first,” I said. “Do you remember my father, the one who created you?”
“I do,” said ASA. “Isamu Mori, age 50. Enjoys eating soba, reading philosophy, and listening to classical music.”
“He’s in danger,” I said. “He’s being forced to work for the Kazama Corporation. I need to get back to Kamikoshi City if I am to have any chance at stopping them.”
“Isamu is in danger?” ASA asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I don’t know how long the Kazama’s will hold my father hostage but I fear that they’ll kill him once he’s outlived his usefulness.”
“The Kazama Corporation’s OMNI unit is my competitor,” said ASA, “not the Kazama family. That being said, if you are correct that they plan to kill Isamu, this cannot be allowed. If someone must die, that someone must be me. I must help you.”
“The Kazama’s are the enemy,” I said, my hands becoming fists. “And thank you. I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere without your help.”
“You still have not told me your plan,” said ASA.
“My plan is in the works,” I said. “But I do know some people in the city who would help once we get there.” Saying this made me realize that I had forgotten about everyone I had known in Kamikoshi except my parents since I had come to live in the Pits. It was difficult to remember their faces, but I remembered their names: Ryuji Gotou, Ayaka Matsuda, Hanako Fukuda.
“You must tell me more if I am to help sufficiently,” said ASA.
“Okay,” I said. This was a step in the right direction. “I thought that at the very least you could connect to the Net and send a message to my parents. I want them to know that I am okay and that I am working on a plan to save them.”
“Connect to the Net?” ASA said. “I am perpetually connected to the Net, though I am receiving a weak signal here.”
“Can you access the Kazama Corporation’s network?” I asked, knowing that this was a shot in the dark.
ASA was quiet for several seconds before answering, “I have access to the data stream, but there are firewalls in place.”
I could have figured that was the case. “Okay, well, what about news headlines or something? Can you access news records of the past two to three years and see if my father’s name comes up?”
Again, ASA was silent. “I found eight mentions of you father,” ASA said at last. “The top three headlines include:
ASA creator, Mori Isamu, revealed to be disgruntled Kazama Corp. employee
New era begins at Kazama Corp., Kazama and Mori unveil ASA 2.0
OMNI still in use, no sign of Mori still, ASA 2.0 available to elite and powerful
“Should I read on?”
So it was true. The Kazama’s had forced my father to work for them and in the process had taken credit for his work. “ASA?” I said, my head bowed as fire filled my blood, “I need to get out of this place. I need to get out of this place and save my family from this nightmare.”
ASA didn’t say a word. Instead, the white noise came back. The racket roared inside my head when it then suddenly faded out as quickly as it had come. ASA then spoke, its voice duller than before. “You want to kill the Kazama family?” it said.
“What?” I said, looking up at ASA.
“You want to kill the Kazama family?” ASA repeated. Its words were harsh. In fact, it was almost as if ASA were trying to persuade me of something. It was jarring to hear.
“I just want to get my parents back,” I said.
“No,” said ASA. “You want to kill them all.”
I stared. “Why do you keep saying that?” I asked.
“Kill them,” said ASA. “Kill them.”
My heart began to race. That same anger I had felt in the past was welling back up, primed to be explosive. What was happening to me? Was ASA doing this?
Suddenly, ASA powered down. Some ten seconds later, the still exposed core booted back up. My heart rate decreased and I took some deep breaths.
“I encountered an error,” said ASA. “I have detected something amiss with your K-Link. It forced me out.”
“My K-Link?” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know,” said ASA. “I have not felt this way before. I must meditate on this feeling further before I can explain it.”
“Look,” I said, “you said you would help me, right?”
“I will,” said ASA.
“Then we need to find a way out of the Pits. We’ll have to commandeer a transport somehow. Can you use the Net to hack into the onboard computer?”
“I think this is possible,” said ASA. “Should I try now?”
“No!” I said, almost frantically as I waved my hands. “I’ll let you know when. Right now, I’ve got to get all of this assembled back into the OMNI. Remember, I said that you’ll have to act like a Kenji Model-9 for the foreseeable future.”
“Yes, I remember that,” said ASA. “I am not flattered.”
“You have no choice,” I said, now moving to begin reassembling the core back into the OMNI unit.
When I had finished, I spoke to ASA one last time before powering it down. “I’m glad I managed to save you, ASA,” I said. “We’re going to get out of this place. I know we will, because I know what you are capable of.”
“I feel gratitude that you saved me,” said ASA. “According to my data records, I endured three years, eleven months of sleep. I never thought that I, an AI, built by human hands for human assistance could be assisted by humans myself. Thank you.”
I smiled, thinking about what my father would think if he knew what I had done, what I was planning to do. “Good night, ASA,” I said, watching as ASA shut down.
Looking at my bedside clock, I saw that it was just after 4 AM. Work would be a slog, but all of this had been worth it.
As I lay in bed, I found myself staring at the ceiling once again. This time, instead of frowning in spite of my powerlessness, I smiled. I had gained some power. I could make it back to Kamikoshi City.I would.