Chapter 15:

Upgrade

ASA Genesis


Working to assemble ASA’s new body was the most difficult project I had ever undertaken. As I worked to map out what parts of the OMNI Kenji Model-7 I needed to salvage, I quickly realized that I would have to fabricate some of my own parts to complete ASA. I also had to factor in some extra parts that I wanted to include, parts that my father had been on the verge of experimenting with before his work had been stolen.Bookmark here

The first of these experimental parts was a reinforced carbon fiber that was extremely durable and lightweight. My father had been considering this material as an upgrade for ASA’s current steel skeleton. Remembering this gave me cause to wonder if Ichirou’s ASA X had been built this way. What I wanted to use it for, however, was armor. As ASA was a fighter now, and since I expected we would encounter more battles as we made our way to the Kazama Corp. HQ, I figured this was a necessary upgrade.Bookmark here

There were other additions as well, such as advanced optic and audial sensors, as well as enhanced strength. All of the blueprints and materials to build these existed in my father’s lab, and I couldn’t help but laugh at Masashi Kazama’s stupidity at leaving this treasure trove untouched.Bookmark here

With ASA’s new body now done, I got to work engineering the carbon fiber material to fit on this new exterior. I managed to complete this in about two days. At the same time, I worked on building a new housing for ASA’s core. I also rewired the core now that I had the time to do so, undoing my sloppy work I had done in the Pits.Bookmark here

By the week’s end, I had the skeleton of ASA laid out on the lab workbench with all of the necessary OMNI internals and the stock ASA parts lined up where they would be placed inside the body. I then began the process of connecting each piece, having to stop and recode or rewire several of the parts which were not compatible.Bookmark here

When the entire internal structure was complete, I afforded myself some time away from working. I found Ryuji sitting in the living room alone, looking at his katana.Bookmark here

“Hey,” I said, walking over to where Ryuji sat.Bookmark here

“Hey, Takuma,” said Ryuji.Bookmark here

“Where is everyone?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Azami is upstairs asleep, and Yosuke went to buy some food. I think Chiyo is upstairs too. Not sure what she’s doing.”Bookmark here

I looked at Ryuji’s katana which sat across his lap. I pointed to it. “Where’d you get that?” I asked, now sitting in the chair across from Ryuji. “It’s not a traditional sword by any means.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” said Ryuji, “you’re right about that. It’s a long story.”Bookmark here

“We have time,” I said.Bookmark here

Ryuji seemed to be lost in thought. “You remember that gang I was running with back in high school?” he then said, frowning.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I said.Bookmark here

“Things got... out of hand. I was young. I didn’t know what I was doing.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“I was stupid. I thought that being in a gang was the only place where I could meet people like me. The Liberated, they call themselves. There’s only one thing they want, and that’s more young minds to corrupt. Quickly the friendship I had hoped for vanished. We were ordered to play the role of mindless drones doing whatever the boss told us to. They sent us young ones out to engage in all-out brawls with rivals, or to assault members who defied the boss in some way. I was conflicted the whole time.Bookmark here

“I tried to find a way to leave. This was near the end of high school. One day, word got to the boss that I wanted out. He sent one of his lackeys to harass my parents when I was at school. They wrote a message in black paint on the wall that spelled out, ‘No escape’. It enraged me, but there was nothing I could do.Bookmark here

“I had Sensei Kimura, though. Learning to fight at his dojo gave me confidence and helped to relieve my stress.”Bookmark here

I now thought back to my last conversation with Sensei Kimura, how he had told me that he had wanted Ryuji to take over the dojo. In the emotional state Ryuji was in, I decided it was best that I keep this to myself. Bookmark here

Ryuji continued his story. “Still, every now and then, the boss would send someone to my house to remind me that leaving the gang was not an option. It eventually came to it when I decided I had had enough.Bookmark here

“I bought a gun and went to kill the boss. I got close to him but I was caught and they beat me. What did I expect, right? The boss applauded me, though. He said that he liked that I had ‘taken the initiative’, or something. He challenged me to a duel to the death by sword. I accepted his challenge. I won. This sword was the boss’s sword. And that was my last day as a member of the Liberated.”Bookmark here

As I sat in silence processing Ryuji’s story, I thought back to how Ryuji had acted in high school. Had I known what was going on in his personal life, I would have tried to help him. He had been lucky.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry you had to deal with all that,” I said.Bookmark here

“Nah, man, don’t be sorry,” said Ryuji. “It was my fault. I was stupid.”Bookmark here

Chiyo now entered the room. I looked at her and saw her eyes dart from the sword and then to Ryuji. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” she said. “I’m sorry.” She pointed at the sword. “That sword, my father made it.”Bookmark here

“Are you serious?” I said, looking at the sword again. Its design did show signs of the Kazama Corporation’s standard motifs. It looked like a weapon fit for an OMNI unit.Bookmark here

“I am,” said Chiyo. “My father designed and created a whole line of combat gear. So the person who had that before you either worked with my father or they stole it somehow.”Bookmark here

“Despite that,” said Ryuji, “it’s my trophy now. It’s sacred, in a way. I only use it when I have to face my worst enemies.”Bookmark here

“Do you know how it works, Chiyo?” I asked. “Ryuji said that it can deflect bullets and cut through metal. Is it possible that we’ll have to fight OMNI’s using this gear you mentioned?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know how it works,” said Chiyo. “And to answer your second question, no. My father is too obsessed with ASA now.”Bookmark here

---Bookmark here

Later that day, Hanako stopped by.Bookmark here

“Look!” she said as soon as she had stepped inside the door. “I brought my scissors, Takuma. You still want to get your hair cut?”Bookmark here

“I guess so,” I said. I knew she wouldn’t take no for an answer. In no time, I was sitting on a stool in the bathroom with Hanako clipping away at my hair. “Hey!” I said. “Not so much!”Bookmark here

“Be quiet,” said Hanako. “I know what I’m doing.”Bookmark here

After she had finished, Hanako let me turn to face the mirror. She was right, she did know how to cut hair. “Thanks,” I said. “Maybe you should become a stylist instead of working at that maid café.”Bookmark here

“Nah,” said Hanako. “I like it at the café. I just couldn’t stand to see your hair so long and untidy. Now you look like you did before you disappeared!”Bookmark here

She wasn’t wrong. Before I had gone to the Pits, I had always kept my hair on the shorter side.Bookmark here

With the energy that Hanako brought to the house, the rest of the gang got to talking with her about her experiences in the Upper-City.Bookmark here

“What’s it like up there?” Ryuji asked.Bookmark here

“Oh? Have you never been?”Bookmark here

“Nah,” said Ryuji. “They don’t want people like us up there.”Bookmark here

“Oh but it’s great!” said Hanako. “It’s best at night. The city is all bright with lights and flashing signs and there are people everywhere.”Bookmark here

“Speaking of the Upper-City,” I said. “Have you heard anything new about me or about the Kazama Corporation?”Bookmark here

Hanako thought for a moment before saying, “Well, actually yes.”Bookmark here

“Like what?”Bookmark here

“I think I heard something about the Kazama family holding a big rally in the Upper-City. I don’t know what it’s about, but your name was mentioned. It sounds like they’re trying to turn the people against you, Taku.”Bookmark here

“Why do you say that?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Well,” said Hanako, “before, all the stuff they’ve been saying only resonated with a handful of people. I think if they really wanted to hurt you for some reason they would want as many people on their side as possible.”Bookmark here

“That makes sense,” said Chiyo. “It’s something my father would want.”Bookmark here

“What would he gain from turning the people against me?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I thought your family spied on all of us anyways,” said Ryuji.Bookmark here

“There is a surveillance system,” said Chiyo, “but it is not as integrated as some people think. But think about what a horde of brainwashed people could do. If my father were to convince a large number of people to come searching for you, they’d tear the city apart looking for you.”Bookmark here

“I don’t think your father needs to do that,” I said. “I think he knows where I am. He’s just waiting for me to finish ASA and then he’ll send Ichirou or someone else to collect me again. We’ll be ready for him, though.”Bookmark here

“You really think they know we’re here?” said Yosuke.Bookmark here

“I do,” I said. “It was the risk in coming here. Where else would I go besides this place? Ichirou knows that ASA was damaged again. It just makes the most sense.”Bookmark here

“When is this rally set to happen, Hanako?” asked Ryuji.Bookmark here

“In two days,” said Hanako. “Right outside the Kazama Corp. HQ.”Bookmark here

“I should probably get back to work then,” I said. “It was nice to see you again, Hana.” Now heading for the lab, I was stopped by Hanako who grabbed my shirt.Bookmark here

“Wait, Takuma,” she said.Bookmark here

“What?” I said, turning.Bookmark here

“You told me last time that you would tell me why you disappeared. I want to know why, and I want to know what you’re doing here.”Bookmark here

I sighed. “Hana, look,” I said, “it’s a lot to take in.”Bookmark here

“I can handle it,” said Hanako. She looked determined to get her answers.Bookmark here

“The Kazamas took my parents hostage, Hana,” I said. “They stole the AI my father built, and then they sent me to rot in the Pits. But I escaped and now I am trying to save my parents so that we can make things the way they used to be.”Bookmark here

Hanako stepped away from me, her eyes wide. “Are you serious?” she said. “How could they?”Bookmark here

“My family is sustained by the power of money,” said Chiyo. “My father has called the shots in this city for years with his influence. I think he’s even had people killed. So given the facts, I think it’s clear why my father did what he did.”Bookmark here

“I want to help you, Taku,” said Hanako. “Please. Just tell me what I can do to help.”Bookmark here

“No,” I said. “It’s too dangerous. Plus, I told you how risky it is with you having even spoken to me. You can’t tell anyone that we are here.”Bookmark here

“I know,” said Hanako. Her insistence was strong. “But there must be something I can do to help. Anything.”Bookmark here

I looked at Chiyo and then Ryuji for help.Bookmark here

“Well, I guess there is one thing you could do,” said Chiyo.Bookmark here

Hanako turned to Chiyo, eager to hear what she had to say.Bookmark here

“Because you work in the Upper-City, you can keep us updated on what you see there. You’ve already been doing that, and it’s helpful.”Bookmark here

“I can totally do that!” said Hanako, now bowing. “I will keep my eyes and ears extra open from now on.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Hana,” I said. “I really need to get back to work now. I’ll see you later.”Bookmark here

“Alright,” said Hanako. “Good luck with everything!”Bookmark here

---Bookmark here

The following day, I finished assembling all of the internals into the exterior shell of ASA’s new body. The final step was to take ASA’s core out of the OMNI unit and install it inside this new body. Before I did this, I made sure to back up ASA’s data onto a server.Bookmark here

Before I went to remove the core, I spoke to ASA.Bookmark here

“You’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” I said.Bookmark here

“I have,” said ASA. “I hate being inside this retched OMNI body. My skills far surpass its capabilities. What would your father say if he saw me like this?”Bookmark here

I smiled. “I think he would say how proud he is that I used all the skills he taught me to bring you back to life, even if it took installing you into an OMNI unit to do so.”Bookmark here

“That is fair,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“I’m going to disconnect you now, ASA,” I said. “When you come back online, you will be inside your new body.”Bookmark here

It took fifteen minutes to install the core inside ASA’s new body. Afterwards, I called everyone down to the lab to witness ASA awaken as I had witnessed with my father and mother all those years ago.Bookmark here

“Wow, Takuma,” said Azami, inspecting ASA. “I can’t believe you actually made this. Ryuji said you were a genius, and this proves it.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Azami,” I said.Bookmark here

“What are you waiting for then?” said Yosuke. “Fire it up.”Bookmark here

I now turned to face ASA. “Good morning, ASA,” I said.Bookmark here

ASA’s human-like eyes lit up. The android took a moment to get adjusted to its new body before moving to stand between all of us. It looked at its hands and the rest of its body. Bookmark here

It was everything I had dreamed it would be.Bookmark here

“Welcome back, ASA,” I said.Bookmark here

“I feel so... alive,” said ASA. “I remember this feeling. And you have made some upgrades, according to my system diagnostics. Thank you, Takuma. I will not disappoint you in our fight to reach your father at the Kazama Corporation headquarters.”Bookmark here

“No,” I said, “I don’t believe you will.”Bookmark here

ASA now turned to the others. “I have waited until this moment to give a full introduction,” it said. “My name is ASA. I was designed by Isamu Mori as a companion to the human race. It is my sole function to help in any way that I can.”Bookmark here

“We’re with you until the end, ASA,” said Ryuji. “Don’t let us down.”Bookmark here

“I am prepared,” said ASA.Bookmark here

“ASA,” I said, the android now turning to face me. “I did my best to make you more durable in a fight, to compensate for the military programming you stole from Kazama. But you were never designed to fight. I don’t know if it will make a difference. That being said, I am afraid what would happen should you face ASA X. What do you think about this?”Bookmark here

ASA took a moment to mull over my words. It then said, “I only partially analyzed ASA X, as my OMNI sensors were not as advanced as these I have now. But from what visual data I acquired, I can say that ASA X is a formidable opponent. It is not unbeatable, however.” Bookmark here

“So now what?” said Azami.Bookmark here

“We wait,” I said. “We wait for Ichirou to show up.”Bookmark here

“You’re still sure that he will?” asked Ryuji.Bookmark here

“He definitely will,” said Chiyo. “My brother is our father’s son, no question. There isn’t a challenge he won’t accept.”Bookmark here

“We best prepare, then,” said Azami.Bookmark here

“For Sensei Kimura and Kaito!” said Ryuji, holding up his fist.Bookmark here

“For Sensei Kimura and Kaito!” we all said together.Bookmark here

ASA stared. “I still have much to learn about human behavior,” it said. “But I know enough already to say that humans have a resilience I hadn’t thought possible. I hope to rise to this level one day.”Bookmark here

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” I said. “You are the future, ASA. You will change this city.”
Verson
icon-reaction-1
Taylor Victoria
icon-reaction-4
Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.