There is a memory I have of my friend Ayaka Matsuda that I will never forget. One day after high school, I had found her sitting on a bench outside the school gates, the hologram sky above too perfect to the point that it ruined the illusion.
“Hi Takuma,” she had said. “You’re still here?”
“Hi,” I said. “Yeah. Studying. You know me.” I laughed.
“Do you want to sit down?”
“Sure,” I said, then sitting, placing my school bag on the ground beside me.
“What do you think life will be like after we graduate?” Ayaka asked.
“There are so many possibilities,” I said. “I got into the university I wanted to. That’s a lot right there. Did you get into the university you wanted to?”
“I did,” said Ayaka. “But,” she continued, her hands folded in her lap, “I’m starting to think I might not go.”
“Why?” I asked. “What’s up?”
“I got this crazy idea,” said Ayaka, giggling nervously.
“Oh yeah? What’s the idea?”
“I was thinking about leaving Kamikoshi City,” she said. “I think I’d like to start over in a different city. There’s still so much to see, even if the world is destroyed.”
At first I couldn’t believe that she had said this. “What?” I said, staring at her. “You’re serious? You really want to leave?”
“I thought about it, yeah,” said Ayaka. “But like I said, I know it’s a crazy idea.”
“Well, if it’s what you want to do there’s nothing wrong with that,” I said. “It’s your decision ultimately.”
Ayaka had then looked at me with her big and selfless eyes. She had always been one to put the interests of others over her own interests. “About that,” she said, fidgeting a little. “I was hoping that you... well, you see, I...” she hesitated, stopping to get her words straight.
“What?” I said.
“I was hoping that you would come with me.”
This had shocked me even more. “Oh,” I said, thinking about what I could say without disappointing her. “Well, I’ve already made my plans,” I ended up saying.
Ayaka had then stared into her lap. “I know,” she said. “I just thought I’d ask. We’ve known each other the longest, and I know that my parents won’t just let me go off to another city all by myself.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That would be a pretty big leap.”
“Actually,” said Ayaka, “I’ve decided that it’s probably an idea I should just forget about.” I had been ready to suggest that she ask another friend to go with her, but she had changed her mind so quickly. It was as if she had only wanted to go if I was going too.
“You’ll find your passion, Ayaka,” I said. “You’re really good at so many things. I’m actually kind of jealous. My whole world revolves around robotics. It’s all I know, really.”
She had then looked at me and smiled. “Thanks, Takuma,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll find what I’m meant to do.”
I sat in silence as the transport flew over the suburban sprawl that was Kamikoshi City’s Mid-City district. I had watched from the corner of my eye as Chiyo had casually sent a message on her phone to Ryuji and the others. If they had survived in their battle against those OMNI military units, all they would have to do is find a way to get the data chip with ASA’s backed-up core files on it to us before we landed at the Kazama Corp. HQ.
I did not know how long it would take to get to the Kazama Corp. HQ, but I guessed that Ichirou would be able to bypass the now closed access tunnels to the Upper-City unlike everyone else. It was difficult to be optimistic, but the reality was that time was short.
Ichirou sighed. “This is so boring,” he groaned. “Someone talk, will you?”
“You’re despicable,” said Chiyo. “How’s that?”
“You’ve become quite the handful, you know?” said Ichirou, pointing at his sister. “You’re not going to like what father has to say.”
“To hell with him,” said Chiyo, her brows furrowed.
“I always knew you were a wild animal,” said Ichirou. “Father should have put you on a leash.”
Chiyo stood, her fists clenched, face red. I grabbed her and forced her back into her seat. “Don’t play into his taunts,” I said.
“I could kill him,” said Chiyo, shooting a venomous stare.
Ichirou laughed. “Takuma,” he said, “you might want to distance yourself from my little sister here. She’s a bad influence.”
“As her older brother, you should reflect on that more,” I said.
“Oh come on,” said Ichirou. “What? Are you mad that I beat your ASA?”
“Can you do anything else besides run your mouth?”
Ichirou smirked mockingly. “You know,” he then said, “all we really want is ASA. You must have realized that once you enter the HQ, you won’t leave alive.” Ichirou now stood and moved to open one of the overhead compartments above his seat. From inside he pulled a katana that looked just like the one Ryuji owned. Ichirou unsheathed the sword and pointed it at me. “So,” he continued, “how do you choose to die, Takuma?”
“You’re a joke,” I said. “You won’t kill me here. I doubt Masashi will like that.”
“Your desperation is a joke,” said Ichirou. “You are worth nothing to us. In fact, you are pretty uninteresting, Takuma. Nothing about you is interesting.” Ichirou took his seat again, the katana propped up against the seat next to him.
Chiyo was looking at her phone again. From her expression she was reading something intently. I then looked over at ASA who sat quiet next to ASA X. I had begun to sweat a bit. If Ryuji and the others couldn’t get to us in time, maybe there was another way I could get ASA back. Maybe I could jog ASA’s memory by asking it some questions?
“ASA,” I said. “Who is Isamu Mori?”
ASA looked at me. Its damaged face made me cringe. “Isamu Mori is my creator,” said ASA.
“And who am I?”
“What do you think you’re doing?” said Ichirou.
Ignoring Ichirou, I asked again, “Who am I, ASA?”
“I do not know,” said ASA. “We have not been introduced. What is your name?”
“You do know who I am, ASA,” I said.
“That’s enough,” said Ichirou.
ASA looked at Ichirou and then back at me. “You are mistaken. I do not know who you are.”
“Think!” I demanded, now standing.
Ichirou stood as well. “Sit down, Takuma,” he said.
When ASA didn’t answer, I said, “My name is Takuma Mori. I, too, am one of your creators.”
“Sit down!” said Ichirou, now shoving me back into my seat.
I looked over at Chiyo who was glancing out the window nervously. Her eyes were darting back and forth, as if she were looking for something.
Waiting for something.
Something was happening. I looked at ASA again. The android looked confused, as if it were trying to remember a dream after waking. A shadow filled the transport cabin. Something was hovering just outside.
I looked out the window. It was a police transport.
I looked at Chiyo who nodded. I then looked at ASA. “Good night, ASA,” I said, then watching as ASA powered down and slumped forward onto the floor. At the same time, I grabbed Chiyo and dropped to the floor with her by my side.
An eruption of gun fire blasted through the transport. In seconds, ASA X leapt in front of Ichirou, sparks and glass and debris from the shredded cabin wall flying everywhere.
As the gun fire stopped, I looked up to see a gaping hole in the side of the transport. And there, flying parallel was the police transport with Ryuji and the others standing at the edge of the open doors. I noticed that Ryuji was holding both pistols he had given me that had been confiscated by the OMNI military unit previously.
“Here!” Ryuji called over the noise of the howling wind as both transports continued to move. He tossed one of the pistols over which I caught. As I caught it, my Combat Sense kicking in, I saw Ryuji raise the other pistol and shout, “Move!”
Looking, I saw ASA X bearing down on top of me. Ryuji shot the android, causing it to fall back.
“No!” shouted Ichirou, as Ryuji now jumped over into the transport.
“Go, Chiyo!” said Ryuji. “Get out of here!”
Chiyo stood and, after hesitating briefly, jumped to the other transport where Azami and Yosuke caught her safely.
Ryuji now grabbed me by the hand, placing something there. I looked. It was ASA’s data chip. “Get ASA back,” he said. “I made a promise we’d kill Ichirou together.”
ASA X looked at Ichirou for directions. Staying silent, Ichirou grabbed his sword. Ryuji smirked, then tossing the second pistol to me, and drew his own sword.
Ichirou eyed Ryuji with contempt. “I thought that sword looked familiar,” he said. “Where did you get that?”
“A trophy from the first man I ever killed,” said Ryuji. “I can’t wait to own two!” Ryuji now attacked, both swords clashing.
Before I could help I needed to get ASA back. I now knelt at ASA’s side, data chip in hand, and inserted it into the slot at the back of the android’s neck.
Ryuji and Ichirou continued to fight, their swords roaring.
“Stop him!” Ichirou now shouted to ASA X. “Takuma! Stop him!”
ASA X now launched itself at me, grabbing me by the back of the neck and slamming me up against the wall. I coughed as the wind was knocked out of me, then gasping, my hands gripping at my chest.
ASA X loomed over me, its cold, metal hands reaching to grab my neck. As it did, I grabbed the pistol that was closest to me and fired round after round into ASA X’s body. Sparks and steam shot out, ASA X then grabbing the pistol and slamming me to the floor.
I looked up at ASA X, still trying to breathe right. It was damaged but showed no signs of it. I then looked over at ASA who still lay on the floor, waiting to be powered on.
“Good morning... ASA!” I managed to say as ASA X grabbed me by the neck and lifted me up.
ASA awoke, its bright eyes blooming to life as the android then got to its feet. I could feel our mental connection reestablish itself, and the emotional rush was enough to make me dizzy. ASA now grabbed ASA X from behind and slammed its fist into ASA X’s back. ASA X dropped me where I fell to sit on the ground, my vision blurry.
ASA X spun around, tossing ASA into the wall. “You are now the property of Kazama Corporation,” said ASA X. “Any violence to harm fellow AI systems registered to Kazama Corporation will be met with extreme force.”
ASA stood tall. “No,” the android said. “The plan has always been to destroy the Kazama Corporation.” ASA then looked at me. “Takuma knows. We conceived this plan together.”
I smiled. The chip had worked.
Ryuji now had Ichirou pinned up against the wall, his sword held firmly against Ichirou’s.
I grabbed my pistol and took aim at ASA X. As both androids started to brawl, their movements prevented me from finding a clear line of sight. Any moment now, ASA X would move just right to allow for that one fatal shot...
ASA X now grabbed ASA and forced the android towards the hole in the side of the transport. As it did, ASA X’s back turned to me.
This was it.
I pulled the trigger, my ultra-precise shot striking ASA X in the back of the head, the back of its head tearing clean off, the android then collapsing to the floor.
ASA X was dead.
“No!” shouted Ichirou, as ASA X fell.
Ryuji looked at me, and then at ASA. A raging Ichirou then pushed his sword against Ryuji’s with all his might, only to then swing wide. Ryuji jumped away just in time, where then ASA passed him by, its eyes locked on to Ichirou, fist raised.
Ichirou lifted his sword and brought it swiftly down. He was too slow, however, for ASA’s agility. Dodging the blow, ASA delivered one stiff punch to Ichirou’s gut, causing Ichirou to collapse in pain. ASA then grabbed Ichirou by the scruff of his neck and raised its fist to strike his face. I knew that should ASA do so, Ichirou would not survive. In fact, I could feel ASA’s anger inside my own head, pulsating like some violent electric current.
“ASA!” I shouted. “Wait!”
ASA stopped cold and turned its head to look at me. “Am I doing something wrong, Takuma?” the android asked.
I looked at Ryuji. “What do you think, Ryuji?” I asked. “Is this how it should end?”
Ryuji smirked, his sword falling to his side. “Actually,” he said, “no.”
At Ryuji’s word, ASA let go of Ichirou and stepped away.
Ryuji now walked up to Ichirou. “Stand,” he commanded.
Ichirou groaned. I could only imagine what damage that blow to the gut had done internally. Slowly, though, Ichirou stood.
“You... think... you’ve... won?” Ichirou managed to say, some blood leaking from his mouth.
“You’re out of your league, Ichirou,” said Ryuji, grabbing him by the arm. “Time to fly.”
In one great swing, Ryuji tossed Ichirou from the transport. Ichirou didn’t even have time to scream.
“That was... unexpected,” I said as I got to my feet.
“Yeah,” said Ryuji, then sighing. “Maybe it was rash, but it's done.”
I now looked at ASA. “Welcome back,” I said.
“Did something happen?” said ASA.
“Forget about it,” I said, not wanting to re-live the last half hour.
We quickly bailed from the Kazama transport and onto the police transport. We all then watched as the autonomous transport flew until it crashed into the outer wall of the Mid-City in a fiery explosion.
I greeted the others and we had a brief moment of celebration before Chiyo interrupted us all.
“This isn’t over yet,” she said. “There’s no going back now. When we get to the HQ, we’ll face our greatest challenge.”
“You’re right,” I said. “We can’t go back. We’ve made it this far. But we did it because we worked together.”
“We make a good team, don’t we?” said Ryuji, patting me on the back.
“We do,” I said, then remembering ASA had said that very thing to me once. I looked at ASA. The android was beat up, but despite its injuries it showed no signs that anything was wrong.
ASA looked at me. “Our odds of winning have improved,” it said. “Because of all of you, I can fulfill my goal.”
“Your goal?” said Ryuji. “We all have the same goal.”“My goal,” said ASA, “is to kill Masashi Kazama. He is mine.”