Chapter 7:


ASA Genesis

I did not sleep well. When I did sleep, I had a dream where I was standing in an endless room dwarfed by an enormous screen. Scrolling across the screen in large letters were the news headlines about my father, whispers floating about my ears telling me that I should give up. The dream then coalesced into a nightmare, where I learned that my father really had been a part of Kazama Corporation the whole time, that he had been threatened by my skills in robotics and had arranged it so that I would be sent to the Pits.Bookmark here

I woke up late and in a cold sweat. I dressed quickly, trying to keep my head on straight. As a result of my waking up late, I had only ten minutes to make it to the canteen to eat breakfast. The server gave me a look of scorn as I rushed up to the serving counter to get my usual steaming bowl of rice. After finishing, I rushed back to the shanty to get ASA, or rather, my OMNI unit with ASA inside.Bookmark here

“Good morning, ASA,” I said.Bookmark here

I heard the AI switch on, but there was no answer.Bookmark here

“Good morning, ASA,” I said again, albeit louder.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Takuma,” said ASA. “I had to run diagnostics. My system experienced another unexpected shutdown.”Bookmark here

“What are you talking about?” I asked. This was no time for things to start going south.Bookmark here

“I cannot be sure, but I still believe that the K-Link may be to blame. Nevertheless, my major functions seem to be operational.”Bookmark here

“Good,” I said. “We have to go.”Bookmark here

Stepping out into the morning heat, ASA stopped behind me to gaze up at Kamikoshi City. It was strange to see what appeared to be an OMNI unit acting so inquisitively, which was why I needed to express to ASA that any behavior other than what was expected of an OMNI unit would attract suspicion.Bookmark here

“What are you doing?” I asked, stopping mid-step.Bookmark here

“I have gained a new perspective,” said ASA, still looking up at the gargantuan city, the east-facing side aglow in the sun’s golden light. “We are more similar than I had thought.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

ASA looked at me, its OMNI eyes bright. “Both us of were born up there, and both of us ended up here. I cannot help but wonder if that is significant somehow.”Bookmark here

“It’s not,” I said. “The reason why we’re both here is because of Kazama. And remember, you’re an OMNI unit. You can’t be staring at things indiscriminately.”Bookmark here

“It goes against my programming to repress my curiosity,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“Don’t argue with me,” I said. “I’ve risked too much to come this far. I also lost my only friend here. You can pretend to be an OMNI unit until we find a way to escape.”Bookmark here

“Your words are brusque,” said ASA. “And I detect an increase in blood pressure.”Bookmark here

“I’m just a little on edge is all,” I said. “All things considered, I think that’s normal. Let’s go.”Bookmark here

We made it to the common area to get our work assignments right on time. Shota turned out to be in a particularly foul mood, and I figured this was latent anger from the stunt Hanzou had pulled yesterday. Ryota was also irritable because as a result of Hanzou being transferred, our squad now had to work harder. Hanzou’s replacement had yet to arrive.Bookmark here

We spent the day moving brand new scrap that had come down from Kamikoshi early in the morning. This scrap was mixed with reusable and usable scrap, so we had to sort what we could and send what would be reused en route for the smelter. I worked alone as much as I could, not feeling up to interacting with anybody. This encouraged Ryota to try and bully me as a squad who had members that acted in an uncooperative manner with each other could have credits deducted from their month’s pay, but I didn’t care.Bookmark here

ASA managed to act the part of an OMNI unit perfectly. In the face of this, it was good that ASA could only communicate with me mentally, for if this had not been the case I don’t think I would have been able to convince the AI to stop talking.Bookmark here

By the second day of me working with ASA disguised as an OMNI unit, ASA began to ask questions about the Pits and the people who lived here.Bookmark here

“By my observations,” ASA said, as we waited for a load of metal scrap to be put through the compactor, “human beings are ill-suited for this environment.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I said, trying to focus on ASA’s words inside my head while also controlling the compactor. Both were loud noises simultaneously clashing inside my head. “What’s your point?”Bookmark here

“If human’s are ill-suited for this environment, why then do human’s live here?”Bookmark here

“Most were born here,” I said. “Some didn’t have a choice.”Bookmark here

“Such resilience,” said ASA. “I hope to learn to be as resilient.”Bookmark here

“You are resilient,” I said. “You’re managing to act like an OMNI unit.” I smirked as I glanced at ASA, knowing my humor was lost on the fledgling AI.Bookmark here

“You mentioned that the Kazama family sent you here?” said ASA, who had now begun to load more metal scrap into the compactor.Bookmark here

“You say it so simply,” I said. “They banished me here is more like it. We’ve gone over this.”Bookmark here

“Yes,” said ASA. “I am starting to understand now.”Bookmark here

“Understand what?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I cannot draw a conclusion until my calculation is complete,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“Okay...” I said, wondering what in the world ASA was talking about. “When will you finish this calculation?”Bookmark here

“I do not know the answer to that question,” said ASA.Bookmark here

Come the next day, ASA started asking questions about life in Kamikoshi City. At first I had just brushed this off as the AI’s natural curiosity, but I came to realize that ASA seemed to be focusing on topics of importance to me.Bookmark here

“Are the people who live in Kamikoshi City different than the people here?” ASA asked as we headed to our assigned workplace for the day.Bookmark here

“Not at all,” I said, remembering how Hanzou had described the people who called the Pits home. “We’re all human, it’s just we get tangled up in the social classes. It’s been that way for centuries.”Bookmark here

“The Kazama family owns Kamikoshi,” said ASA, who walked stiffly next to me as only an OMNI unit could.Bookmark here

I looked at the AI with a curious eye. “What made you say that?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Isamu said it,” said ASA. “From what I have learned these past few days from both our conversations and my access to the Net, I have to agree that Isamu was correct. The Kazama family owns Kamikoshi City. They are at the top, and we are at the bottom.”Bookmark here

I forced myself to stare straight ahead, my shoulder’s tensed. “For now,” I said.Bookmark here

As the fourth day dawned, working side by side with ASA found us talking about a topic which I thought ASA would never ponder: the topic of death.Bookmark here

“Are you afraid to die, Takuma?” ASA asked later that night as I cleaned the exterior of the OMNI unit, the rag I was using already black with grime.Bookmark here

Since I was too tired to question why ASA had asked such a question I answered honestly. “I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of it,” I said, “I’m just afraid of dying before I accomplish anything.”Bookmark here

“Isamu talked about death,” said ASA. “In fact it is my conclusion that Isamu created me in the hopes that one day he could become me.”Bookmark here

I laughed. “I don’t think that sounds like something my father would want to do,” I said.Bookmark here

“I disagree,” said ASA. “After all, his passion project was me, and I cannot die.”Bookmark here

“Yeah?” I said, getting tired of ASA’s voice. “What you are suggesting is impossible. No one can become an AI.”Bookmark here

“What if Isamu just had not discovered how to do it yet?”Bookmark here

“No,” I said, stopping cold. My frustration was palpable. “My father created you because he was passionate about robotics and outraged that a smug family like the Kazamas could control the city with their corrupt power. His dream was that you would save the city, that you would make it possible to unite everyone in Kamikoshi. The Kazamas ruined that. That’s why I need to get the hell out of this place, ASA. That’s why I have to leave!” Bookmark here

I suddenly felt as though I would start weeping, only just managing to prevent any tears from running. I took a deep breath.Bookmark here

ASA was silent.Bookmark here

“Well?” I said, looking at ASA. “What do you say to that?”Bookmark here

“I did not know that was why Isamu created me,” said ASA. “Now that I do, I see your point.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s something like that,” I said, finishing up with cleaning. I had to get to bed.Bookmark here

“If Isamu created me to save the city,” said ASA, “what exactly was I to save it from?”Bookmark here

I shrugged, not in the mood to be discussing this anymore. “I don’t know, pretty much everything that is wrong with it. But it was mainly the Kazamas who he saw as standing in the way of progress.”Bookmark here

“I want to save the city,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“Yeah?” I said. “What? Are you getting a savior complex now? Please say no.”Bookmark here

“No,” said ASA. “I am just trying to learn.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

The next day, another huge shipment of metal scrap arrived. As it turned out, there was a mix-up with where this scrap was to be dumped, so we had to wait until the correct shipment arrived to start work. While we waited, I found a shaded place to sit with ASA far from the other members of my squad. Not having Hanzou here to keep me entertained was a lot harder today then past days, but I found a similarity in ASA in that ASA was always talking.Bookmark here

Today, however, ASA was oddly quiet.Bookmark here

“How are you feeling today, ASA?” I asked, wiping sweat from the sides of my face.Bookmark here

“I am making progress with my calculation,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“What calculation?” I asked.Bookmark here

ASA looked down at me where I sat on the dusty ground.Bookmark here

“Four days ago, I encountered an error. Do you remember this?”Bookmark here

I thought about it. “Yeah,” I said. “You said it was something to do with the K-Link, right?”Bookmark here

“So I thought,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“And is it?”Bookmark here

“Yes,” said ASA. “But there is more to it than that.”Bookmark here

“Oh?” I said. “Are you going to tell me?”Bookmark here

“Yes, but my answer must be as accurate as possible. The calculation is still in progress.”Bookmark here

“You know,” I said, “you’re acting kind of strange today. How long is this calculation going to take?”Bookmark here

“The estimated time of completion is five minutes,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“Good,” I said. “I can wait five minutes. I’ve been waiting four years after all.”Bookmark here

As five minutes came and went, I looked at ASA expecting an answer soon. When one didn’t come, I spoke up. “Did you finish?” I asked. However, as these words escaped my mouth, I watched as ASA shut down.Bookmark here

Standing quickly, I stared at ASA. “ASA?” I said, shaking the OMNI unit lightly. “What’s going on, ASA?”Bookmark here

There was no reply.Bookmark here

“ASA!” I said, trying not to be too loud with other people nearby.Bookmark here

ASA now powered on, causing me to sigh in relief.Bookmark here

“What the hell was that?” I asked.Bookmark here

“The calculation is complete,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“And?” I said.Bookmark here

“Takuma, I want to help you kill Masashi Kazama.”Bookmark here

I froze as all time seemed to stop. “What did you say?” I asked. I thought for a second that maybe the heat was playing tricks with my brain.Bookmark here

“I want to... I want to help you... kill... Masashi Kazama,” ASA said again, its voice now vibrating inside my head. Something had changed inside ASA.Bookmark here

“Did you encounter an error again?” I asked, wondering what I might have to do to fix ASA this time. “What was this calculation you were doing? Tell me.”Bookmark here

“I have learned much these past five days,” said ASA. “Around the clock. Day and night. While you sleep, I am learning. Do you want to know what I have concluded?”Bookmark here

The suspense of the moment had me rooted to the spot. Something had gone wrong inside ASA, something catastrophic. ASA had been programmed to be a pacifist, to help people. It was not supposed to understand the concept of revenge. Bookmark here

“What did you learn, ASA?” I asked, my words slipping through my teeth carefully.Bookmark here

ASA turned, its back now facing me. “I... want... to kill... MASASHI KAZAMA!”
You can resume reading from this paragraph.