Chapter 3:

Project: Secede

Project: Overthrow

The two hiked through piles of seemingly endless terrain littered with rubble, weeds, and trash, each step presenting a new obstacle. As they approached the city’s border, the piles of discarded rubbish only grew more condensed.

Daiki made a note to wear his tall boots, military pants, and jacket, all in black to help blend under the sky—hours before sunrise. Both he and Aiza wrapped themselves in a dark cloak, with Daiki lifting his hood to cover his hair. Aiza made sure to obscure her low-profile backpack as well.

They came to a halt before she kicked some dirt, revealing a large rusty metal plate. It looked to be a hidden manhole.

“This path will lead us to a local tavern,” she told Daiki.

“A tavern?”

“They’re our safe passage, don’t worry.” She gestured a small thumbs up. Reassurance would have been great, but the odor that plumed out of the opening said otherwise. Noticing Daiki’s reaction, Aiza giggled. “The Tokyo sewage companies have long abandoned this route, so a stench of hell should be the only thing you’ll have to deal with.”

“I guess smelling hell is better than going to hell.” He replied with a flat tone, climbing down with her.

Aiza unflinched at the dirt that soiled her exposed skin. Meanwhile, the thirty seconds felt like an eternity to Daiki, but they shortly found themselves entering a cool yet humid room.

Wooden racks that shelved hundreds of vintage and rare alcoholic beverages covered the walls, many of which Daiki recognized.

“The owner of this place used to be an outlander, part of the Thrashers, but he was lucky enough to fake his identity and start a small tavern without being under anyone’s radar. I… no, we still don’t know how the hell he got away with that.” Aiza shrugged. “But one thing’s for sure, he is one of the few we can trust.” Aiza then opened the door, which barely hung on by a single hinge.

As expected, it was a small, run-down tavern with only a few dubious guests.

A man stood at the bar, wiping a cup with a towel. “Aiza! You haven't dropped in for a few weeks. What can I get you today?”

“I’m actually here for a supply errand… but I wouldn’t say no to another day!” she said with a forced smile.

“Doors are unlocked,” the man promptly responded, noticing Daiki. “Maybe when he’s not with you, we can share a Dirty Martini again.”

Aiza rolled her eyes, pacing to the exit with Daiki following behind her. “Second thought, I wouldn't count on it.” Daiki raised an eyebrow at the sudden shift of their conversation.

As the front doors spread, a combination of a flare of light, echoing noises and warm air engulfed Daiki. The stimuli were more than he could comprehend.

Sky-scrapers towered miles across, with architecture so grand they defied gravity in itself. Many of them wore glass exteriors, with neon signs and lights embellishing every building and street. His eyes frantically shifted to the people, who wore pieces of tech even to the soles of their shoes. They held devices so thin they could shatter at a light grip, and headphones so sleek that they seemed to disappear a short distance away.

Though it was hard to focus from the ruckus of advertisement screens mounted to buildings on full audio, Daiki squinted at a person who seemed oddly inanimate. only for him to realize that it was not a person—but rather, a robotic figure.

Processing was nothing less than a struggle. It felt like a movie, or perhaps a bizarre dream. However, amidst all the rushing emotions came shock.

Haven—Police Agency.

Sweat quickly began to drip down his face. Surely but gradually, his heart began to thunder, so much so that it was the only thing he could hear.


Aiza palmed his shoulder, attempting to get his attention, but his back remained facing her, not budging a muscle.

“How is this possible? After everything that happened…”

Classifying the name displayed on the back of the robot as “familiar” would be a severe understatement. He was aware of the corporation’s rising dominance, yet he never imagined such advancements would be under their development.

Like a mirage of dominos, Haven's logo manifested. The shock only grew as he properly observed his surroundings. Advertisements stapled onto grand buildings, clothing people wore, accessories and technology they used, even the weapons carried by public security—they all shared the similar logo of the three-decade parasite Daiki recognized.

His vision began to blur, forcing him down on his knees from fatigue.


“Champ, Champ! Hey, are you all right?” His sense of hearing was abruptly restored as Aiza’s voice rushed through the mess within his mind. She quietly asked with concern, but had a confused expression after seeing Daiki suddenly act in such a way.

After a moment of restoring himself, Daiki stood once more, exhaling a deep breath. “I’m fine, just zoned out for a second.”

“That’s more like it, let’s move. Remember what I told you—don’t make those bio-borgs suspicious of you.” Despite her reply, the worry did not leave her. However, her gut told her that it was best to talk to him elsewhere, and she firmly decided to move on with it.

“Bio-borgs…? Is this what they call those robots? I’ll have to pretend I’m at least somewhat familiar with them.”  he thought, observing a few of them from where he stood.

Still draped with their blue cloaks, Aiza reached for her hip and grabbed a black rounded amulet with a narrow slot in the center.

Similarly, Daiki reached for his pocket and revealed an amulet.

“If you lose this, you lose your life.” Aiza did not hesitate to connect.

They passed numerous people, many of which seemed convoluted in themselves, Daiki noticed. There was an odd aura of gloom in the air.

“You’ve noticed, right?” Aiza kept her voice low.

“It’s been a while since I've been here, so there’s quite a lot to notice. Anything in specific?”

She looked in all directions with paranoia before continuing. “People here seem mindless, don’t they? They follow blindly, not questioning a thing of the twisted antics they witness in their daily lives. One could call them brainwashed, but I’ll tell you what. It’s true, but it’s not the complete truth.”

“Yes to the mindless part. But what exactly is the full truth? Are they terrified of the robots? Or… is it something greater than that?”

Aiza looked away, aiming her gaze to the floor as she let out a deep sigh. “You see, not only is this the sole society they’ve experienced their whole lives, but at birth, tiny microchips are surgically implanted into their necks, right below the brainstem.”

Daiki’s eyes narrowed in concern. “So that’s what you meant when you asked if I was ‘chipped’ that night.”

She nodded as she stared at her amulet. “Indeed. They say this is to keep a record on the growing population and to monitor crime rates through their AI chip security recognition, but that’s nothing more than a cover-up. In reality, through the Master Operation System, the government is collecting data and monitoring every move they do, from their location to every word they utter. As it stands, though, this is just a conspiracy waiting to be proven.”

“The government… Master Operation System...” Daiki doubted himself, catching glimpses of the same advertisements posted on multiple private properties. “If said government enforces chips for a person to be considered as a functional member of society, then I assume you outlanders—people they see less than human—lack them? Even if not, there’d be no regulations to ensure this down in the wastelands.”

Aiza raised her head, walking closer to Daiki with a faint smile. “Bingo. Us outlanders are seen as ‘human filth,’ so much so that we’re not even chipped. To them, how could we be capable of being a threat to them when we’re a threat to our own kind. This thing right here,” a blue sheen reflected across the gloss finish of the amulet, “it bypasses two tiers of security—in other words, it mimics the privilege of a normal citizen, an-”

“And without it, you’d be considered a trespasser, and so would I.”

“Correct. Unfortunately correct.”

Daiki could not help but notice the serious shift of tone Aiza took, as this was a stark contrast to her usual laid-back self. He internalized the new details, theorizing the motives behind such measures.

"So the 'MOS' they referred to back in the wastelands is known as the Master Operation System. Interesting." While they maintained their brisk walk, he neglected to consider his surroundings and bumped his shoulder into someone else's torso.


Daiki grabbed his shoulder, which radiated far more discomfort than he expected, until he realized that he had not bumped into a person at all.

The android, intimidatingly large, seemed more advanced than the rest, painted with dark red stripes over its gunmetal steel finish. It stopped in its tracks, and turned a full ninety degrees to directly face Daiki, revealing a bold print.

Haven PA—Autonomous Squad Commander.

Daiki’s heart-rate immediately began to triple.

The Police Agency—ASC machine had a robotic face with an uncanny resemblance to a real person. Daiki’s discomfort faded from the rush of adrenaline which took its place, and all three of them stood idly by, with not a single movement to break the tension.

Performing scanning analysis, please do not disrupt,” the voice and line was artificial. The android's pupils dilated, revealing a thin red ray of light which grazed Daiki’s body from top to bottom.

Daiki’s breathing was shallow, and Aiza, dead in her tracks, watched intently with the sole visual cue to remain calm.

Chip detected, performing record analysis, do not disrupt.

The android stood for seconds, reading into Haven’s internal databases in search of any abnormalities the decoy chip held. Naturally, the scan would fail, since the decoy chips had no record files associated with them. The two considered making a run, but being aware of the dire situation and the possibility of it escalating, they had no choice but to anticipate the worst.

Record analysis failed. No individual found in MOS under chip - PA579. Detainment issued.” The droid raised its beam gun, pointing straight at Daiki’s chest. “Do not resist for your own safety.”

At that moment, an exotic sports car zoomed past them at such speeds that the tires treading the road echoed and a whoosh of wind blew their hair over their heads.

The droid halted its gunpoint and faced the direction of the speeder, pressing a button built into its ear to communicate to droids in the general vicinity. It sounded as if it was repeating what it heard for everyone else to listen.

[Watchlist offender—armed robber and hijacker, last seen sixty-three hours ago - ‘Ayame Isa’ detected with additional speeding violation in green super vehicle. All HPA enforcers in a two-point-seven mile radius take positions.]

A small, blue flame trickled from the back of the squad commander bio-borg's jet pack, followed by a loud bang and a burst of orange flames. In seconds, the blazing combustion dissipated, and the robot was gone as fast as the car had vanished, far out in the miles of towering buildings.

They stood for a brief second, recollecting themselves from the all too close call.

Aiza frantically patted a small fire off her arm. “Luck is on our side today, but not for long.” She managed to let out a long sigh. “We should go elsewhere, it’s not safe here anymore”

“Trust me, I’ve been in worse situations.”

“I’m not even gonna ask.”

“Smart choice,” Daiki responded. The two put the close call behind them, continuing their trek in the restless city.

Aiza adjusted her hood and lowered her shirt. “So… uh, I think we’ll just get straight to today’s objective, which is to stock up on some necessities, like water filters, dehydrated foods, medical supplies, and some booze.”

“We definitely can’t forget the booze, or Jan will be the one ‘arresting’ us.”

Aiza giggled at the response. “You get it. Anyway, we’re gonna be meeting up with a guy just a few blocks down in an obscured alleyway. He’s a well known smuggler in this district who supplies us, and he just so happens to be one of the largest crime syndicate leaders’ higher-ups in these parts, too. Yakuza are not to be messed with, so let me handle it, and play your cards wisely.”

“I’m not surprised, since there aren't many others who’d be willing to put themselves in such a jeopardy. If it were anyone, a gang leader with power and inside connections would be the best fit for the role,” Daiki pointed out.

“Yep, that’s how it goes. For now, though, let’s lay low.” Aiza’s tone shifted to solemnity. “We need to stay wary, since all the androids are connected to a single AI database, where information is distributed and shared between any entity connected to it. Basically, if that fancy clunk we just encountered saw enough of our face, there's a chance that another will pick up its task and locate us simply by the twenty-four-seven surveillance, not even intentionally.”

“Why don’t we wear masks?” Daiki inquired.

“It would make us more suspicious. Wearing hoods is sort of a style these days, but wearing a mask shows you don’t want to be identified, which is counterintuitive since it would only attract more attention. Hold on—let me double check the meeting spot.”

“More attention, huh?” Daiki observed the way people practically begged for it, by carrying large firearms strapped to their backs, with modifications such as neon lights and strange decorative objects. They were playthings, not weapons, and this trend followed into their fashion and behaviors.

Daiki shifted his attention to a nearby group of highschool boys with haircuts he found rather repulsive. They grouped in a small circle, with one of the kids waving his smartphone flauntingly.

“I got the latest Haven Photon!” The boy told his group. “This phone is literally insane- I mean it has the technology to locate anyone using Haven Aviation space satellites. I even heard it can connect to certain helper androids for help!”

“That is sooo cool! Dude, I’m gonna get that for my birthday,” another boy praised.

“It’s kinda scary, though…” A softer voice spoke.

They all faced him with judgmental stares.

“Like, what if a criminal tries to locate you with that feature, or what if the droids are secretly spying on you…? I don’t know, I think I’m just gonna stick to my Macro smartphone. Haven phones are weird.”

The rest of the kids exchanged glances at each other, then burst into laughter, leaving the kid on the floor from embarrassment.

“Who the hell even worries about that kinda shit? Only you, Masa! Haven is our world and if you don’t get with the game, you’re just gonna be left behind with your crappy Macro phone, man.”

“Who invited this broke dork anyways?” The rest of the boys laughed.

Blood rushed to Daiki’s face from frustration, both at the bullying he witnessed, and at the cooperation he was all too familiar with.

Aiza interrupted his thoughts when she grabbed hold of his arm, as if to reel him in. “See that corner?” She nudged her head in the direction. “Right past the Motor repair shop—that’s where we need to sneak to avoid the constant surveillance, and also where we’ll be meeting him. If you see alleyways like that, you can take a decent gamble that you’re not being watched. We need to end up from here to there without any droids or cameras catching us, and to actually pull that off, we need to be stealthy just in case. Follow my lead.”

Aiza turned to a dome-shaped camera hanging off the ledge to an entrance; since it had a three-sixty degree view, the only way to stealth from it was to cover the camera itself.

Daiki took notice of an android and a security officer armed not far across from them, while noting that the road was the sole dividing line between them. With this in mind, he took a quick glance on the road and noticed a truck—tall enough to cover the camera, and long enough to cover the sight of the security.

“Actually, you follow my lead.” Daiki swiftly grabbed Aiza by the waist and took a small leap toward the truck the instant it passed their feet.

“Wait… wha- AHH!”

The two landed on the side trimmers of the truck, grabbing hold of a small pole on the back after regaining their lost balance. As fast as they did, Daiki thrusted off, landing with a roll and standing to his feet, unharmed and unbothered.

Aiza, on the other hand, followed, landing with a roll but a much rougher one. She, too, stood, and the two of them found themselves in the alleyway they had discussed just moments ago.

“Whoo! What…the… hell was that..?” Aiza swiped the dust off herself.

“Sorry, just old habits from-”

“That was the most badass thing I’ve seen in a while! You never cease to steal the show right at the perfect times, Champ!” But maybe just let me know beforehand so I don’t think we’re about to jump head on in front of a truck and get sent to another world.” She gave a thumbs up with both of her hands.” Midway through her praise, it felt as if the surrounding temperature dropped several degrees… for obvious reasons.

“Y-Yeah, no problem, I can manage that.”

Aiza started a confident pace down the alleyway, despite the chilling atmosphere. Piles of trash and leaking water dripped off the bloodstained walls. Unease curdled in Daiki’s stomach.

“By the way, I’m being serious, Daiki, you must let me handle this.” Aiza approached a corner where a tall and built man leaned against the walls, a blunt in the corner of his mouth. The man took a step forward toward them. The spiked boots he wore and his sleeveless red leather jacket reflected the orange colors of the surrounding dim lights.

“Rolly, my man!” Aiza clasped his hand and went for a pound hug. “How’ve you been?”

“Aye, Aiz, you know how it goes. I got some big-ass deals going down in the hideaway, money flyin’ my way.” He let out a loud laugh, taking a glance at Daiki. “Hm? Yo, who this wuss puss? Not your usual type, this skimpy bum.” Rolly towered over Daiki, giving him a wide-eyed smirk. “One punch atcho’ chin, you’d shatter like a hennessy bottle.”

“Uh - Rolly, he’s just an accomplice. Forget about him, for your own sake,” she mumbled the last words. “Let's talk business, come on!”

“Hold on, Aiz, lemme play a second.”

Daiki gave an empty stare in return of the tattooed face that was snarking and distancing closer.

“It’s all right, let the big guy play. The first forty years of childhood are always the hardest, after all.”

Dead silence filled the tension.

Aiza wiped sweat off her forehead, as she anticipated just about anything at this point.

“AH-HA-HA-HA-HAAA!” Rolly released an aggressively loud laugh, wheezing between his breaths. He backed away from Daiki, lowering his guard and banged the wall with his gloved fists.

Aiza let out a forced laugh as well.

“You got wits, smart ass! What’s yo’ name?”

“It’s Daiki…”

“Daiki, huh? Punk ass name, hah!” Rolly dismissed the petty talk. “Aight’, let’s get on with it now.”

“Finally.” Aiza rolled her eyes.

Rolly tossed his blunt and reached for a bag behind him, unzipping it to grab supplies. Daiki noticed a tattoo that resembled a dragon head peeking out from under his collar, and a black katana sheathed around his waist. “Roots to the classic Yakuza,” he thought.

“This'll last a few weeks.” Rolly handed Aiza compacted supplies. “Y'all better drop by the hideaway to give the boss the info soon. He’s gettin’ impatient real fast.”

“No problem, we’ve got them on file and I can drop by in a few to deliver them.”

“I’ll let the boss know for ya then,” Rolly lifted the duffle bag and continued down the alleyway. He lifted a hand. “Imma’ head out. See ya around, Aiz. And don’t test yo’ luck next time, tough guy,” he told Daiki.

The two made an exit toward the opposite end of the alley.

“Daiki, you had one job, you realize that right?!” Aiza slapped her forehead.

“I’ve dealt with these kinds of guys, Aiza. All bark, no bite.”

“He’s in the top rankings of one of the largest crime syndicates in the city. If he wanted to bite, I think he would.”

“Maybe I should be more calculated like I used to be. Something in me… just feels different. To put it simply, I don’t remember being like this.”

Aiza sighed. “Truth is, you’re more capable than any of us—but if you don’t have a clue about the world, then those talents mean nothing. I don’t know about your past and whether you truly remember it or not, Daiki, and if you won’t share it, fine—I respect that. All I ask is that you communicate what you can.”

“...I’ll do my best,” Daiki reluctantly responded. He wanted to show his gratefulness and full transparency, but the events of the past were too much of a risk—to himself and her alike. So, yet again, he held them to himself in a shroud of unanswered mysteries.


Daiki stumbled from the strangely firm but spirit-lifting slap Aiza gave to his back.

“Thanks, Champ. And with that, our mission for today is complete. Let’s head home~”

“You sure you wanna take him again, Aiza? Didn't this kid cause you a shit load of ruckus the first time around, then again the second time?”

“Relax, Marko! I had a talk with him a few weeks ago, and in his defense, he did save our asses a few times—during both scavenges, actually.”

“Whatever you say…” Marko shrugged. “What if he loses it and goes complete fuck up haywire again like that time with those cannibals? How’ll you handle that, huh?” He paced around their hideout, hands tucked behind his back.

“It hasn't happened since, and have you forgotten he saved your life? Marko, Daiki’s been with us for a whole month. Can’t you at least give him a little credit?”

“I give credit when it’s due, for your information—and all I see is a disobedient brat who can’t stop getting you two nearly killed.”

“Yep, he’s jealous,” Jan added while sitting against the cave, tipsy from the large bottle of liquor he casually sipped from.


“Sure. Personally, I think he’s proven himself fine. So, what if he can be a bit sarcastic and borderline disregarding at times? He’s a smart person who single handedly made our faction three times more equipped—plus, his sleeping positions are interesting to watch. I trust him.”

“You ha- hold up, what the fuck?” Marko shook his head.

“See? Jan understands!” Aiza and Jan shared a first bump. Gavner began laughing loudly, holding onto his belly with both hands until he fell backward from his chair.

“You guys realize that you’re supposed to have this conversation when I’m not here, right?” Daiki chimed in, sitting only meters away from the rest, tinkering with something.

“I don’t see an issue, kid,” Marko responded.

“No disagreement there,” Jan added.

Daiki let out a sigh. “Guess I’m not allowed to be surprised at this point, am I?”

Everyone laughed in sync, but Daiki hardly found himself getting by with a smile. He was well aware that things wouldn’t remain this way forever—much like how things were in the past. 

“These people… they’re great individuals. As much as I value them, things will eventually not be the same.”


His eyes dimmed the deeper he dived into the thought. A part of him wanted to avoid the thought, as it filled him with guilt and disgust. But such feelings could only go so far to stop him from his true goals.

“The only question is, how soon…”

- -

Tokyo city, deep into the hours of darkness, had a desolate crowd. Further into the heart of the city than before, the advertisements only clustered tighter. Household necessities, self defense, auto parts, and even university education—the majority was under the name Daiki despised the most—Haven.

"Welcome to the section full of rich scumbags, I'm sure you're gonna love it here," Aiza said enthusiastically. Noticing the lack of response from Daiki, she decided to get to the point. “As you know, there are districts in the city that are off-limits to certain civilians. To pass through, their implanted chips require status tier updates, kind of like a free pass ticket. They don’t just hand these off to anyone, I should note. Usually, politicians and Haven or government sponsors get these status raises, also known as tier three status."

Towering sky-skrapers had encompassed them for miles, but beyond a security zone not far from them, the buildings took a level of monumental glory Daiki did not even imagine was possible after witnessing the city.

“They’re living a lavish life. Undeserved lavish, underserved life.”

“The syndicate that Rolly works for—we help them get inside leaks for the right times to steal or attack, so in exchange, they supply us with everything we need to survive. We’ll be tracking down the property of a rich, self-made business owner who just so happens to be a large donor to Haven’s manufacturing sector. The hope is that by locating his property and leaking that intel, the gang can kidnap him in the late hours and hold him ransom."

Aiza turned to Daiki, expecting him to reply or say something, even if he didn't have a question. He simply walked beside her, hood slid on, with his eyes no longer visible through the shade. "Anyways… The issue is, tier three chips are impossible to come by or construct, unlike the tier two chips we mimic with these amulets, so we’ll be gathering what we can by other means,” she explained. “His son is supposed to be visiting a local diner with a Haven lobbyist, and eavesdropping should reveal what we need.”

“Aiza." Pausing in his tracks, Daiki froze before calling her name.

"Y-Yeah? Sheesh, finally you said something." Her voice briefly shook.

"Based on what you plan on doing—do you feel for these people? At least for their families?"

“I mean, morals are the last thing you worry about when survival is at stake. Plus, anyone who supports Haven can suck it.”

"I see." Before he could process further, she had more to say.

“When it comes to kidnapping, ‘they’ sure don’t seem to care when it’s us outlanders. For years now our numbers have been dropping, and my son wasn't the only victim. We even had some near recent incidents with men in well-dressed getups trying to snatch us in our sleep. It was… strange and sort of eye-opening. What value do we have to them after they throw us in the wastelands, a place of no value?”

Aiza continued her pace forward, but Daiki abruptly halted in his tracks, as if his own ambitions had grabbed the sole of his feet.

Well-dressed getups.



Daiki’s stomach coiled at the realization. He tightened his fists and clenched his teeth, in an attempt to hold back as much emotion as he humanly could.



"God dammit. I can't. I can't keep doing this..." His nails dug into his arms as frustration surfaced.

A small drop hit Aiza’s forearm, and she took a look at the clouded night sky. “Damn, we didn't anticipate rain.” She treasured the sight of the breath-taking architecture as it reflected vibrant hues under the drizzle, a content smile on her face. “Say, as bad as the people get, the city sure is beauti-” She peered over her shoulder.

Daiki wasn't anywhere to be seen.

“Daiki?” She frantically scanned the promixity of the area, turning her head nearly every second.


Aiza jogged as much as she could, which eventually shifted into a panicked run. The downpour picked up, roaring on the concrete harder with every desperate step she planted. She searched crowds, scanning through people for anyone with maroon hair and blue eyes. 

As a disheartened last attempt, Aiza shifted her head to the entrance of the tier three security gate, where she located the silhouette of her friend. An ounce of hope filled her when she realized that her search had ended, but the reality of the situation brought anything but relief.

Daiki had stepped through the gate, security not batting a foul eye.

Aiza felt a more than a month of trust, bond, and promises crumble, like the drops of rain that made contact with her soaked head.

"He… constructed his own tier three chip.. behind my back?"

With a feeling of betrayal, Aiza dropped to her knees. She stared at Daiki from a distance away, watching his hood lift lightly from the accelerated winds, revealing the upper half of his face.

After a second of making contact, the silhouette of her friend shrunk into the city horizon, with a gate of security and distrust being the only remaining gap.

- -

Author's Note: Well, there you have it. Daiki was a sigma all along. I won't blame any of you if you begin to dislike him from here, haha. But do not worry, since things potentially change for the better. You'll see what I mean~ ;)

Grad school finals are coming up, but expect the rest of the series to release in the next few days. I hope you enjoyed so far, as things only pick up from here! Thank you for reading! <3