Chapter 0:

The Life I Live

Silver Heart

The sound of my footsteps echoes through the pure white halls. No other living being in sight. Various types of cameras scan every part of this never-ending void, guarding what ‘they’ deem as the future.

A bit ahead of me the white hall changes. A glass panel was placed in the wall for scientists and guards like me to peek inside the facility.

Inside, children of various sizes stood in various lines, ordered from youngest to oldest. I stood still and watched as a man in a white lab jacket seemed to be explaining something on a portable hologram device.

The hologram seemed to explain the various career paths those children could take here. Ranging from simpler things like pharmacists selling medicine and remedies to the middle and lower levels, to scientists researching the void below and cybernetic organs or limbs.

Most of the children themselves had cybernetic limbs and organs. It would be more difficult to find someone who doesn’t have anything artificial. Someone like me normally doesn’t match up to someone who can make pinpoint movements with metal limbs or their physical strength for that matter.

I felt empty looking at them. Neither happiness that I would have more colleagues soon, nor sadness about their predicament. Those that fall outside the boundaries of acceptance have no place in this corporation or world. Those that fear being left behind the most should have been the first to accept a replacement in limbs or organs.

I couldn’t relate to them. I’ve always done whatever is necessary. Nothing more nothing less. That’s most likely the reason why so few of my old friends are alive or even consider me a friend. But that’s also the reason I now stand comfortably at the top as the head of security.

I continued walking down the white hall, which matched my hair tied in a ponytail perfectly. I already know the decisions those children will make. They’re not any different from the generations before them.

Who would willingly live a life in the dirtiest and most dangerous areas? One so filled with crime and dirt it disgusts me.

All of them will choose a job in the upper levels. Some of them will fail, while others succeed. The only difference between those children is the willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed and the willingness to sacrifice their bodies if need be. Even others can be pawns to make themselves look better…

After walking for a while, I reached a dead end. I placed my hand on a specific part of the wall just in front of me. A green light scanned my hand and I felt a small prick in the palm of my hand. I took my hand off the wall and after three seconds, the door opened up.

It was all routine at this point. I took a look at the palm of my hand. Despite it being routine, it is rather annoying. That just goes to show that they care about this part of the facility more than the children.

Floor 49, area C.

Muffled sounds could be heard through the various glass panels I saw before me. This hall was full of areas where you could observe what happened inside. Various desks also filled this space, where scientists were currently researching and noting down their observations of their experiments happening inside.

I quickly scan the faces of all the scientists with my eyes. All people with clearance for this level. Considering that these types of areas don’t have cameras that observe with light, it takes a bit more effort to guard, not to mention, I need to remember who is allowed here and their faces.

The only devices which could see inside these areas from the security office would be the sensitive electromagnetic scanners. Those are only useful to detect unknown cyborgs’ electric signals. Those without artificial limbs won’t be detected.

I took a look around the room, my focus grabbed by this particular scientist with a wide grin on his face. I walked up beside him, but he didn’t seem to notice me.

I took a peek inside the facility he was sitting next to. There, a child was currently undergoing an operation. The top part of his head wasn’t visible due to a darker tint of the glass, a product of smart censoring to protect the mental health of the scientists. A tasteful addition for rather distasteful people.

I shouldn't think like that. I owe these people too much.

The child’s eyes were open, yet soulless. No light inside. His mouth was opened as well, but no sound came through. He was just drooling at this point. The operation must have been going for a while.

For someone like me, who’s been here for a long time, it’s not too hard to imagine what is happening on the other side of the glass panel.

I took a peek at the scientist's note to confirm my suspicions and found them to be right. The experiment is called ‘Localizing the soul in the brain’. A topic at which this corporation excels. The child couldn’t have been older than ten. He must have wanted to curry favor with those above, but to do that at this stage seems a bit desperate.

I took a deep breath and looked at the child’s still body. His brain must have been taken out of his body, but what they’re doing with it… I can imagine various things. All of them are distasteful. But if the child gave permission, there’s nothing to complain about. He chose his fate.

I continued walking and headed out of the room. Luckily that annoying routine of opening doors to restricted areas is only needed when entering such an area.

After walking in the white hallway for a bit I spotted a security robot patrolling the area. Soon after, a voice reached my ears. It came from a small device placed inside my ear, invisible to someone just looking at it.

“The rest of the floor is being patrolled by the Cybers, so you can take a break Erity.” the dull voice reported.

Cybers are those security robots. They’re tall, powerful, have various weaponry at their disposal, and are powered by AI. Their bodies are covered in white plating made of an alloy of various materials such as diamond.

“Any abnormalities detected, Akihiro?” I ask with a stern tone.

“Nothing to report. I’ll take over your duties for a bit, okay? You haven’t eaten anything since morning, have you?” he said while mostly sighing.

“Does that matter? Work comes before anything personal.”

“I understand, but if you starve you’re not going to be able to do your job. Even your stomach will rumble and tumble.” He said with a smile. Not that I could see him, but I know him well enough to understand what he’s doing.

“I appreciate you worrying about my health, but I can take care of myself. Focus on your job as should be, Akihiro.”

Akihiro quickly agreed and went quiet after yawning. Not that I didn’t understand his attitude, but still. If he was as serious as me, he would’ve already overtaken me a while ago. I thought while sighing shallowly.

Akihiro always seemed rather different from anyone else I was raised with. Even then, this corporation, CLEAR, went well out of their way to nurture us, when our parents didn’t even want to, or couldn’t do it.

Those that don’t repay the debt they incur, have no place. Not here, not anywhere in this city.

I head towards the locker room a few floors below me. The elevator is as quick and silent as ever. There was one door with a label that said Aikihro, while another was labeled Erity. Not many people can get a job in security, those that do, have a little room they can relax in during breaks.

I opened the door with my name on it and entered the small room made for me only. The room had a bed, a desk with a chair, a small bookcase, and a locker. These rooms didn’t have any locks, nor any cameras, so the locker was used to store anything you didn’t want others to see or take.

I walked to the locker and placed my hand on the handle. Here, only my fingerprints were scanned, as opposed to the restricted doors that also scanned my DNA. After it confirmed it was me, the small door opened. The only thing placed inside was my homemade lunch, packed in a dull metal box.

I grabbed it and walked outside the personal room. The doors in the hallway opened automatically for me since I wasn't heading to any restricted area. The camera just needed to get a look at my face before it opened automatically within less than a second.

After passing one particular door, I reached my destination. A little terrace that had a nice view of the park on the ground floor. A cold breeze brushed my cheek and moved my ponytail a little. I took a deep breath and sat down slowly at a seat close to the railing.

The view was nothing short of beautiful. Besides being beautiful, it was also a small piece of history, for that park down below was present at the beginning of this city. Almost as old as the corporation I work for, CLEAR.

To think those on the lower levels have nothing like this… A life spent working for a corporation is a million times better than scurrying in the dirt…

But those less fortunate don’t have a choice.

Such is the way of life in this inverted pyramid I call home, in this city called Senshin Tokyo.

To think that this world was caused and created by us humans…

A world that stopped moving, stagnating in its place. And a void down below trying to swallow all that we once were.

But such things don’t matter anymore and are considered lost history to most.

The only thing that matters now is that CLEAR takes control, for all other corporations, SPEAR and VOID, are despicable.

After eating my lunch, I went back inside and ascended a few floors to head inside the security room. Before I arrived, Akihiro came in through the earpiece.

“You should come to the security room. A Xenos has been caught,” he said rather forcefully.

“I’m almost there.”

What welcomed me after entering were many screens showing the different parts of the building. A fully automated security system that would report any anomalies to us, and the security Cybers.

Some people were gathered on the central platform which was elevated so that it could see the entire room. Akihiro, my assistant, and a security robot almost twice the size of him stood still. Akihiro had his hand covering his mouth, with his thumb under his chin.

The security Cyber’s left hand was gone and replaced with a net that almost touched the ground. A person lay unconscious in its net.

Akihiro noticed me and quickly told me the situation.

“This person was someone raised by CLEAR, yet now he seems to forget the debt he incurred to them,” he said with a frown on his face.

Interestingly enough, the only time when he takes his debt to CLEAR seriously is when someone else seems to forget it. Or perhaps he just couldn’t stomach the thought of someone going against the system.

Those that do dare to go beyond the system are deemed ‘Xenos’ and they have no place amongst the living.

“To which group does he belong?” I asked indifferently.

“He didn’t want to say.”

“Is he dead?”

“Just unconscious. Electric shock. I don't like killing people, remember?”

“What about weapons and artificial limbs?”

“Weapons have been taken away and his artificial hand was disabled with a controlled EMP pulse. After a CT scan, we found he has an artificial lung. While it wasn’t disabled, I don’t think I need to remind you some disgusting people rig these things to blow up if their agent is in danger of being captured or tortured.”

“There’s no risk of that here. The building blocks any signals sent outside the allowed frequencies. He won’t blow up.” I said to calm Akihiro’s nerves. Though, he should know that there’s no danger of the Xenos blowing up. “S-Cyber,” I continued, “take him to the upper levels” I firmly ordered the security Cyber.

It started moving soon afterward and followed. The Cyber walked through the door that opened more than when a normal person enters. The Cybers are taller than any human should be, so this was necessary to allow them to exit and enter rooms with ease.

Before I left the room, I ordered Akihiro to stand by in the security room in case another traitor showed its pitiable face.

The Cyber and I entered the lift together, and while it was ascending to the roof, the person inside the net seemed to awaken.

“S-Cyber, make sure he doesn’t escape but keep him conscious.”

After that simple command, the robot tightened its net, making sure the person inside couldn’t move but still breathe. The person inside grunted a little and a hand covered with a glove pushed limply against the net.

Whoever he is, it doesn’t matter. Not anymore. He betrayed the corporation which allowed us to live and stood outside the boundaries of what should be allowed. The only thing giving value to his life is the information about the enemy group he belongs to.

“What happened,” the man said forcibly, his breathing ragged.

“Yes, what indeed happened for you to betray CLEAR?” I asked while looking at the elevator door, “did someone offer you money? Or were you a traitor from the start?”

“Who are you? Let me out of here!” The Xenos said, trying to struggle.

“My name is Erity, I’m the head of security for CLEAR. Do you understand what that means?” I ask him as I look straight into his eyes.

The man showed his teeth a little and I spotted a bit of sweat on his forehead.

“I never betrayed CLEAR. I would never do something to hurt the glorious corporation that gave me life,” he started spewing.

He went on about how CLEAR saved his life with their technology. I just stared at his eyes, not breaking eye contact. The elevator stopped and the man started talking faster.

I stepped out first, with the Cyber following me closely. A cool breeze hit my body as I move closer to the edge of the building. The Cyber stood there, quite a bit of distance away. The man began practically yelling, but his pleas were worthless.

“Akihiro? Can you tell a concierge team to head to the main entrance and stand by in the lobby?” I said softly whilst looking down at the floor hundreds of meters down.

“Gladly,” Akihiro responded quickly.

“S-Cyber, come here and make the traitor be able to see the ground floor below us.”

The robot complied solemnly without a sound, while the man was yelling louder and louder. His speech turned into incoherent screeching as he could see the ground so far below. His life was now in my hands, his body dangling in the air.

“Let’s get this over with quickly and I’ll give my superiors a few good words about you,” I stared into the man’s eyes.

Even this high up and with the danger of falling I feel rather–

“I didn’t betray CLEAR I promise!!” the man’s voice broke a little, “have some sympathy please!”

“S-Cyber. Shake him a bit around over the edge.”

The robot complied while the man voiced his pleas more and more. After 5 seconds I told the S-Cyber to stop and looked the man dead in the eye.

“You lost my sympathy before we even met. Understand?” I said without a trace of emotion in my voice. I wonder what my face looks like right now? “The only possible way you’re going to survive this is by complying with everything I, and the corporation, ask of you. Do. You. Understand?”

The man just nodded, his face soaked as he sniffled.

“Then let’s try again. The group you belong to?”

“They’re named ‘Mythical’” the man quickly responded, tripping over his words.

“What was your goal?”

“To steal and sabotage the research into cybernetic enhancements”

“Were you a traitor from the beginning, or did someone convince you to betray us?”

“I–” the Xenos struggled a little, “I was offered a lot of money,” he said whilst staring straight at me, “a man with an artificial eye and black hair named Hikaru the Dim Star approached me.”

Now he said something interesting. But I wonder why he named Hikaru, the spokesperson and head scientist of VOID?

“And with that, you have my thanks,” I said as I forced a smile softly, ending my interrogation there. These types of Xenos wouldn’t know their leader’s name, nor if any companions are around him.

The man in the net sighed and seemed to calm down. He probably misunderstood my words and actions. If I were to guess his thoughts, he probably thinks he’s safe.

But my gratitude came from him turning back his back on his group named Mythical. Now the Xenos truly was a CLEAR employee.

“S-Cyber,” I started, my smile faded, “release… the prisoner. Release him.”

The man smiled a little. It seems once again he misunderstood my words. Then again, someone who betrays those he’s indebted to is inferior to their very core. I wonder if there are more people like him in our ranks, those that lie and say they’re a part of CLEAR.

I pity the Xenos in front of me. He never had a place in Senshin Tokyo. He was nothing more than a shadow.

The net was released from the robot's hand, and with that, the man plummeted downward to the ground. He must not have realized what was happening at first because his screams fearing for his life only started after a few seconds.

Before his body hit the ground I ordered the robot to come with me in the elevator. And with that, business was finished. A few more hours and I can head back home.

I should report to Isao that traitors are in our ranks…

While I do that, I can give the good words to Isao that I promised to that Xenos.