Report: Rising of the Midnight Star
The world grows quiet after the long rumble but despite the numb feeling and the darkness all around I can tell I am still alive. It's faint and fading but the low thud of my heart is still beating after the last of the rubble has fallen. Perhaps we weren't deep enough in the tower at the time of the collapse or maybe it was a calculation error on the estimated weight and survivability of my body from the collapse. But I know deep in my soul that if I am still alive then so too is Dark Mistress. I try to move my body but find it not responding. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't have any limbs still attached from the blow. I sit in the dark just waiting for my final death to hit. Resorting to the backup plan to unleash an EMP in the Pangai servers set to erase all the data on the computer systems. Clearing the servers of Dark Mistress, her kingdom, the virus, the lives of the people we couldn't save, and me. I don't regret this path at all as it is the only way that the world can guarantee the virus never threatens more lives. I cough a labored breath out of my crushed lungs and wait.
Then light hits my eyes but it's a strange kind of light. It's not a world or room or even a face. It's nothing like all the stories of life after death. No, it's just three simple words in white.
Startup Protocols Begin
Did the game reset everything? If so then do I have to go through all that hell again? New words appear below the first three.
Activating Audio Connection
"She's waking, at last, I can't believe it." These are the first shrill words that hit my ears. The voice is one I am greatly familiar to be Melissa's overly excited voice. That I have heard several times in the past when she got something she liked as a gift. I watch as new words appear.
Activating Touch sensors
The feeling of cold hits me and the pain I was feeling fades to a dull pain as my hands touch a smooth plastic surface below them. Plastic? I have yet to find one thing in the game that felt like that. Could I somehow be in the ship and touching some foreign part that my mind tells me is plastic. I get distracted as two more sets of words appear
Activating Visual Optics
Activating Vocal speakers
I almost lose sight of the words before me. But they quickly shift from white to black as the bright light of fluorescent lighting blinds me as the world comes into view one pixel at a time.
“She is alive, but what does she remember?" The familiar sound of Gavin's wheeze tells me this isn't the game either. I try to move my neck but it doesn't move.
"What has happened?" I ask in a weak voice but for some strange reason, I feel the voice rattle my body just a bit as I say my question. "I was going to die with Dark Mistress. The EMP."
"The agents moved your data to the Central server before unleashing the EMP. That was five months ago." The familiar voice and soon face of Moses fade into look at me in the eyes.
"Then what is this, I am seeing computer language in my vision and this isn't the game." I start to feel like panicking but I am unable as I have no set heartbeat to move fast or lungs to hyperventilate.
“It’s your replacement body. Your old body is in storage till they can find both a way to repair it and get you back in it. But for now, you have at least some interaction with the world again, Jamie." The Voice is one I can place for Riex's but I don't lay eyes on his out-of-game persona. Until the next words finally hit the eyes and I feel my new body jerks about testing its artificial hydraulic muscles. I turn and see the face of a fading tan man in his late thirties with a set of blond hair much in the same style along with a goatee that is not as clean-shaven as Riex's but still very much him. "I am sorry I guess we have yet to officially meet in real life, Alex Harper, nice to finally meet you in person Ms. Eve.” He reaches out his hand to shake mine and I pull up my arm which whirs about with the grinding of tiny servos. I look at its exposed metal gears, and wires that lead to small plates of metal lining the body. I pull back my hand and turn to poke at the metal plates with my other hand and I feel a small spark hit.
"Perhaps it's best we keep Ms. Eve from touching anyone or herself till her covering is placed on. The touch sensors are prone to release small charges of electricity to read the texture and temperature of things." States a man in a large white coat with the badge of Black Clover R&D embroidered on it. "Besides we have some things to discuss with her on the future look and maintenance of this new body. At this time I ask you all to return to your duties for the company and finish your reports to present at the UN council meeting.
I watch as the group agrees and leaves each telling me how grateful they are I have returned in some capacity. The man waits a few minutes to let the room grow quiet. “Now Ms. Eve, the company has a few questions to ask of you before we proceed to finish your body for presentation at the council meeting.”
“What do you mean council meeting?” I ask perplexed at why having only just been awake from a five-month rest have to go to a meeting.
“The UN is seeking into the accident, the virus all of it, to see who to blame and what to do with the refugees and remaining puppets in the game. The company felt it would be a greater impact if you showed up to the meeting personally. But the final look was to be based on your call." The white coat man started looking at a collection of reports on a machine without looking at my mechanical form.
“Final look? You mean this isn’t my final look.” I question and then begin to figure that they mean a temporary look for the meeting.
"No the UN has seen robots before and the less human you look the more it will hurt our cause. No, we have a machine over there that is set to coat your body in silicone rubber flesh and attach the hair and paint the body to match one of two forms. The company, however, felt it would be best for you to figure out which choice you made." He says pointing at a strange complex machine with spray nozzles and needles and thread.
“Choice I get a choice of what two looks?” I ask still puzzled at the strange world collapsing in on me like the tower from earlier.
The man sighs and finally makes eye contact with me while he taps a tablet computer displaying two programmed bodies. One of Fawn and one of my old bodies. "Which persona do you wish to take on, the strong and resourceful princess of the video game, or the shy and scared life of a young video game designer? They figured your family would want to see your old self back up and running, but your family refuses to comment on the subject. And the company would I’m sure greatly like you to take the form of Fawn to promote the restart of the game set for launch in a few weeks.”
So through all that, nothing could stop the game from going on. Worse yet the refusal to respond from my folks tells me that repairing the pain I have put them through over these past few months has been troubling and they even have told me so in the game considering me dead to them. No, I feel that seeing their daughter back up and walking from the dead would be hard on them and I can only see one choice. The night of the accident Jamie Eve did die, But Fawn Midin was truly born and now she must step back out into the world ready to face the next challenge life brings her.
It would be three days before the day of the council meeting in the UN’s new Hong Kong headquarters. The lights of the city made it hard to tell if it was day or night outside. Given my new eyes weren’t helping matters switching to different modes to adjust to the varying degrees of lighting the city held before me. I was brought here separate from the rest of the gang as my fate was to be held at a different standard. Just months ago I was given the order by the UN to defeat Dark Mistress or to die along with her. Yet I did neither. I may have stopped her but in all reality, the EMP is what defeated her. The virus I am told is mostly contained in the game though not before some of its plans were leaked to the black market so the threat remains. So in all sense of things I was better off to have died along with the hacker that day. But my friends and the company thought otherwise. In the downtime, I not only spent days adjusting to my new body but made a secret return to the game of 11 Kingdoms to free the remaining puppets of their bonds that Dark Mistress placed them in. The population of the refugees in the game now stood at 1,248 and something was needed to be done on what to do with them all. For their protection, Black Clover transferred them along with my data to the Central satellite which has been sort of dubbed in honor to me by the game's fans as the Midnight Star. As part of my surprise appearance at the UN council meeting, it will be my job to help identify the refugees as living humans. A task that causes my new body to develop a nervous twitch of shaking my right leg. I can't help but think if I felt the muscle reactions of my internal systems that I would be breathing heavy, heart racing, sweating, and dry heaving much like the day I first interviewed with Black Clover. But now my body is mechanical it follows a program separate yet connected to my digitized soul and memories.
The past few days I have come to learn the body can process food and drink in small portions to burnable backup energy but it really can go without eating. The battery is a still test theory Orobus Propulsion engine that once started generates its power source to run. As well as operate the body's basic needs and support. On top of the food system as a backup, the body is also equipped with solar cells along the back and forearms, giving me a reason to purposely pretend I can tan, it also has a backup universal adaptable port for charging. I also have been told the food cells can also process the hydrogen fuel sold at stations across the world granting me multiple chances at keeping the body operational. My Soul and memories are still in their new home in the satellite but it's connected with the latest communication connection programs and hardware. A copy of myself exists in the body but its storage is problematic for its size. It's a full-on amazing masterpiece of technology that is my body only it has one huge flaw. In all the construction of it, being a safe earthly form for me, they failed to make the hydraulics strong enough to handle the body's weight. For now, I am stuck being wheeled around in a specially reinforced wheelchair despite having the top grade in neurologically connected artificial limbs I still can't walk. But the doctors are working on fixing that with the hope that soon in the next year I will once again be able to walk on the ground, I have left for the last months and so have missed. It was also ill-advised I at the time go to any place near the ocean where the saltwater could harm my delicate electronics which gave me another reason to avoid heading home this coming Thanksgiving.
The meeting had already been well underway and I have been following tapping in my brain to the feed of the UN floor. I felt a bit of a sense of irony as now it was I looking in on them unexpectedly. I watched from my hiding spot as Gavin, Rick, Alex, and Melissa give their reports alongside an FBI agent and Interpol agent that I knew from the records implanted in my system were the ones that helped so greatly to return me to this world. As well aided in stopping the hacker much in the same way I did. The head of the council from Beijing was prepared to close the report session when the lawyers from Black Clover stated that they had one remaining person to speak to them. It was then I knew my time to stand before my fears came upon me once again. Five months ago these people wanted me dead and now I was being wheeled in to face the very people I declared war on. The room was silent when I wheeled in not even the tiniest of whisper was dared uttered.
"What is the meaning of bringing in this doll of the companies icon. Do you honestly think this will sway the people here of the company and Ms. Eve's gross actions to threaten the lives of the world's citizens?" States the floor's chair.
The company lawyer tries to interject “This is not here for that.” I watch as he struggles to find words.
“Remove that thing at once.” Shouts the head of the UN
“I am not a thing!” I shout and the room grows silent as the voice of the one they thought of as dead erupted from the metal and plastic doll before them. “I am not a thing. You all tried several weeks ago to throw me away as if I was one. You wanted me to die as your weapon. You cast your judgment on me and pass one glance at me. Thinking of me as nothing more than a ragdoll, for you to toss away. Much like the lives you all have been treating as pointless over the last fifty years. You try to cover the lives of people like paving over a field with cement. But I am here before you to tell you life isn't that fragile and it sometimes the field in time will grow and reclaim your cement wall of laws and control. I stand as the first of these people, of the new human race. I am the first strand of grass, the weed warning you how fragile your power is. I am a survivor. And with that, I declare my freedom from the UN! As you have seen should you dare try and stop me an army of those that stand with me will defeat you and your plans?"
“Pretty words from the cheap doll. Black Clover truly wishes to operate this way they want us to believe that the girl Jamie Eve still lives. For what, A show of resistance to the regulations in play that they have violated? Your crimes are outstanding and if you resist you will be punished under the world’s laws.” Shouts the chairman
I find it hard to resist the urge to stand on my feet and charge over and beat the man who tries to degrade my life once again to lower standards than last week's rotting garbage. But the actions that occurred next were enough to make me crack a smile, it started with my friends standing up.
“I declare my freedom.” Speaks Melissa who looks at the others.
"We all do!" Alex replies. "You wish to punish Black Clover and Jamie for the actions of a rogue mentally unstable person then you don’t have a right to have control over our lives.”
“Very well all of you will,” The chair is interrupted by the Lawyer who puts away a DAS that he reads a text from.
"I have just been informed by all of the higher-ups of Black Clover that they stand with Fawn. Should you choose to punish them then Black Clover is hereby to cut all funding and support it grants the United Nations and all countries that stand with this decision." A gasp hits the air at the lawyer's statement. Before the game was launched many countries suffered under the rebuilding of the world since the last war and others from the damage of the Neo ice age well underway causing the crops of many nations to be sparse and weak. They depended on the United States supply which Black Clover controlled. While the US had little power in the United Nations these days in this incident it was a vital prize that couldn't be wasted on the supplies that they provided along with the aid and employment that Black Clover supplied throughout the world. The chairman of the council hung his head in shame. It was clear that they now stood in a much tighter corner than they originally thought.
"Evacuate the council chambers of all non-personal and the doll. Also, remove all feed connections this meeting will continue in a private locked down session with all nations having to decide on what to do with this self-proclaimed new human race." The council chair bangs the gavel down and the room of people begins to disperse. Melissa gives me a quick hug and I swallow a collection of air at the thought of having to stand alone before the nations of the world for my right to exist.
During the brief recess, the selected leaders representing their countries came to overlook my body and poke and prod at it causing my limbs to twitch and move from their touches. One member even gropes at my chest to see if it was mechanical in some way or if it was just decoration. I soon discovered as I listened to their words about my body that their words came into me as clear English, and I could tell that the company must have also added the universal translation program from the game into my new body with the understanding that I may have to talk to people with different language barriers. But eventually, the council chair begins to bang his gavel and the country leaders return to their seats.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen we have a very unusual situation here. If we are to believe the claims of this toy before us the human race has just evolved or expanded in some way that this organization does not recognize. And with its statement, it declares freedom from the laws and contracts we have established here to maintain peace and order since the last war. It wishes for us to destroy our peaceful utopia for what? Some computer programing makes it claim it's human. Very well then Ms. Eve or is it Ms. Midin, what proof do you bring that you are indeed alive." The council smirks and chuckles as he overlooks me from his high position on the podium.
"I don't have proof!" I exclaim to the crowd shouting and yelling. But I raise my voice to speak over them. "But who amongst us can prove our lives truly exists at all. This organization won't even acknowledge religion since the turmoil that started the War of Ideals. It has no sense of faith in its existence. Because to acknowledge such things would tell the world you have no power over things. But you don’t. This place has power over how we live our lives, what kind of jobs will be available, how many people can live in the area, and even how free our countries own laws can be for its citizens. This place doesn't even see the people that live under these laws as anything more than a loyal puppets, deep under the control of the ones gifted to rise to power. Be it through elections, appointments, or bloodletting. You speak of peace and the peace you offer is forced on a free people to act the way you want or punish them against the laws of their own countries. Many questioned the idea of Masaru to divide the world up the way he did when the game was first announced, but he did that because it's how the ideals of each country fit. The ideas of freedom vs. loyalty to a governed authority, you claim the war ended 20 years ago. But it didn't. My actions in the game proved that the basis that first brought us to war the forcing of Ideals of one country upon others had ended. But it has merely been buried, it just took someone on the edge of life to revive the notion that true living is by standing up with your voice and opinions. Gathering others of like-minded thought and through hard work, changing the world to be the betterment of all lives that exist in this world. So no I do not have proof I am alive. I simply am."
The room stands quiet again as the members look about at each other before a man representing one of the European countries stands. "You claim you are alive but surely you're not Homo-sapiens ether, so have you evolved from mankind, or are you artificial life."
I look at the aging man who quivers in a sense of fear and sits down but I take a moment and think about his question. “If I cared to guess I and the refugees still in the game are neither! We once were human we had lives and names, families and friends but now we live on in a digital format. We are a combination of man and machine."
Another man stands up and speaks the word some including myself first thought of. “You’re an android then aren’t you?”
"No androids are robots programmed to act human but they are distant from humanity in emotion, senses, and interaction. And in many ways, we represent all of those and more. Plus only I have an earthly host body at this time. The rest currently have a digital form only. For the most part, we are digital life." I turn to see the first man who spoke up regain the courage.
“Then you’re an AI like I stated before.” I hear the gyros of my neck whirl as I shake my head in resistance to his statement.
“No, AI’s are computer programs, programmed to think only as how they are programmed, they are only partially self-aware and can only learn from what they are taught or are shown. We can learn on our own we are completely self-aware and carry a conscious knowledge of right and wrong but aren’t programmed to follow the laws as the threat we all have recently discovered with Dark Mistress.” A cry is first made by an African woman and is soon echoed throughout the room.
“Then what are you? Why should we believe what you say?” Shouts the room.
"I am me. And I can only ask you to trust me. As an act of faith, as I must put my future and the future of all like me in the faith that you all will do what is right. You will permit us to live free of threat and danger towards our kind.” I state turning to look at the council chair who huffs.
“How many of you are there? Will there be more? Can you reproduce?” Echoes across the chamber.
"There currently stand near one thousand two hundred and fifty of us. But I am afraid with the Plague Virus on the black market more may still come that way. Others may search for a way to join us willingly and while I don't know if we can reproduce at this time I am sure given time we will find out. But I do know that this small number will begin to slowly grow in some way in time. Given we are allowed that time to grow." I close my eyes and wait for the next question but none come. Instead, after moments of private conversations are spread about which soon end with the hammering of the chair's gavel.
“Very well if there are no more questions for the doll then let us vote on what shall be done. Since this is the more vital issue we will vote in multiple ways on this subject. If you think that this doll before us actually is a living human and that the refugees are alive as well then press the green buzzer. If you think it's just a complex computer program press the red. The computer will tally your votes." A moment passes in silence. "Very well now for the next subject, does this organization find that the so-called refugees of the game should be allowed the right to live free from our laws? If you feel they must obey our laws press the green if you feel they do not fall under our laws press the red." Once again silences as the buttons are pressed and the computer tallies the results. "Lastly based on the actions and violations of the testimony does the fault of the viral attacks rest on Black Clover and Ms. Eve or are they innocent of the crimes before them. Red for they are guilty and Green for innocent." I dread the last choice of colors in my mind recalling figures I once saw in art school that given a choice more often people find the color red as both attractive and inviting as color. I can't help but feel the councilman made this choice based on the hope to punish me no matter the results of the other two votes. After several minutes the vote is done and the room is reopened to the public. I watch as my friends and the Black Clover lawyer walk into sitting next to me.
"Okay well the results are in from the votes of this council's decision on the fate of Ms. Midin here, the refugees, and the fault of the virus attacks, it is now time for the computer to reveal the results and judgment will be passed down on you. First on the grounds of if this thing is living as well as the refugees this council has decided by an eighty-four percent margin that they are living beings and not a computer program. Life for this new race while still not proven stands as real as our own, thus rights of life apply as such." A smile breaks across my face and I can tell from my friends that we have just done something never heard of before in humankind, we have declared a new form of humanity as existing. But the celebration is halted as the council head slams his gavel to call the room. "Any more disruptions and I will clear this room again and reveal these privately. We are doing this out in the open to prove we are a fair and open-minded court despite the harsh words shared here today." The room hushes as monitors in the room display the ruling of the first result.
"On the second vote, should the refugees and the being before us follow the laws of the United Nations, sixty-seven percent state that they fall in the jurisdiction of the United Nations and must answer to the laws we have in place of previous nature or in the future." My smile fades as the threat of my previous defiance of the UN law now has me being fitted for my noose. I may have freed the refugees but in turn, my life looks to be over depending on the next ruling. Should it fall to the council that Black Clover and I share fault in the virus attacks then I will be facing my death sentence all over again.
"On the final ruling should Black Clover, and Ms. Eve, face punishment for their actions in the viral attack that resulted in the deaths and injuries of over ten thousand people worldwide. This council finds them, Not Guilty of the crimes by seventy-four percent." I want to cry tears of joy at my newfound freedom, but my new body isn't programmed that way. I instead have to stand for the biggest smile I could form. Knowing that most likely it was the fear of many countries would suffer from any punishment on the relation from Black Clover. But the sudden banging of the gavel from the councilman shows that he isn’t quite finished with us.
"You have proven your life and innocence today Miss but I do not see you completely innocent of all actions you have taken. You have violated this council's earlier decision and for that, you will be punished. As the only member of your race that has an earthly body, this court decides that only you have access to such until a time we see fit. And with this mechanical body, you will be placed in service of this council as acting member of your new people. The first act of matter is for you to think of a term to refer to your kind. Till then the council dismissed.
“What just happened?” I ask.
“If I cared to think, I believe you’re no longer playing a fictional princess.” Alex smiles and hugs my shoulder but seems to push back in pain not figuring the difference in the density of my body to his.
Melissa looks a bit sad. “I’m sorry Jamie it looks like you can’t run from this responsibility like you wanted to before.”
“I don’t want to Melissa. It’s what is right I can feel it within. Now I do believe you and I have that mandatory vacation to take as our punishment for the escape before beta. I think I would like to see that mountain valley after all this time.” I state with a warm smile.
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